The history of the church and parish of Cardington until 1918

From the notes believed to be written by G. B. H. Bishop, vicar of Cardington in 1914 and killed in action on 27 May 1918 while Chaplain to the 6th Battalion The Northumberland Fusiliers.

CardingtonThe parish of Cardington, north-east of Church Stretton is one of the largest in Shropshire with 6,685 acres. It includes the hamlets of Broome, Chatwall, Comley, Enchmarsh, Holt Preen, Lydley Heyes, Plaish, Wilstone, and a part of Gretton. In the 1911 census the population was 587, nearly all in farming.

It is hill country with magnificent scenery and the village nestles in a bowl among the surrounding hills. Most of Caer Caradoc, (1,506 feet above the sea level), all the Lawley Hill, (1,237 feet), Hoar Edge, and Chatwell Ridge, are in the parish. To the south-east the Cardington and Hope Bowdler hills are just over the boundary.

The remains of old trenches on the Caradoc and Lawley Hills prove the parish goes back to very ancient times. Great battles were fought here in the year 50 AD.

Then the country was not called England and the people who lived in Britain were the same race as the Welsh, Britons. They were tall, fair-haired people, brave and warlike, but too independent to join together under one king. They lived in small tribes, under a chief, hunting, tilling the soil, and guarding their herds of cattle. It is unlikely any lived here for the district was part of a huge forest inhabited by wolves, bears, and deer.

Roman Conquerors

In 43 AD the Roman Emperor Claudius came to conquer the Britons who, though brave, stood little chance against the well-armed and well-drilled Roman soldiers.

The south of Britain was soon conquered and Claudius went back to Rome, leaving his generals to complete the conquest of the country. Ostorius Scapula attacked the Britons in this neighbourhood. They were more savage than those in the south and the local hills and forest gave them some advantage.

Caradoc (or Caractacus) led the British and he was so brave and skilful that it took several years before the Britons were finally defeated. The three lines of trenches on the top of Caer Caradoc were held by Caradoc himself in a last brave struggle.

The Romans held Britain for centuries and left many roads and other structures which still exist today. Watling Street, the western boundary of the parish, was a military road passing from Wroxeter (Uriconium), through Herefordshire, to south Wales.

The Causeway was part of a similar road, paved in places running from the Roman camp at Rushbury to Watling Street through Gretton and Lower Chatwall. In a hilly country covered with trees these roads must have been invaluable for moving large bodies of armed men.

Christianity first came to Britain during the Roman occupation but they withdrew in 430 AD after 360 years. The Britons were again masters in their own land but not for long. A new and more terrible enemy began to attack them, a race of savage pirates from lands to the north of Germany. They belonged to several tribes but came to be known as the English.

English Conquerors

The English made their first serious attack less than twenty years after the Romans departed. They were still heathen and behaved with great cruelty, killing in huge numbers, plundering and burning property, houses and churches alike. Under the Roman peace the Britons had forgotten how to fight but they resisted bravely. It was more than a hundred years before the English reached what is now Shropshire, driving the Britons before them into Wales. Southern Britain became known as England.

The English armies eventually disbanded and different families chose a place to settle. The name ‘Cardington’ tells us what happened here. Among the English chiefs was a warrior named Carda, whose sons and followers were called the Cardinga. They made their home here, and the village they built became known as Cardington, or the town of the sons of Carda. Other early settlements in the parish were Grotington (Gretton), Plesham (Plaish) and Brame (Broome). They were probably all well established by the year 700.

In about 787 the Danes landed on the east coast and ravaged the country but Shropshire suffered little from these invaders being so far from the North Sea. The Danes gradually settled in the eastern counties and became peaceful subjects of the English kings. Of these the greatest was Alfred, king of Wessex, who ruled south-west England from 871 to 901. By his time Cardington must have become quite an important place, for the lord of the manor had authority to hold a court of law which ranked as a king’s court.

It is not known when Christianity became the local religion but it is certain that missionaries came from two different parts of the Catholic Church. South Shropshire was converted by missionaries from the church of Pope Gregory the Great, while north Shropshire was converted by priests from the old British church in the north. The parish records do not go back this far but an important place, such as Cardington was then, would not be without a church. It was probably a small building of stout oak logs from the local woods, with the joints filled with rough plaster.

St JamesNB: See SAINT JAMES AT CARDINGTON

After the death of King Alfred the country prospered under his descendants until a time of great unrest came to a head on the death of King Edward the Confessor in 1066. Cardington then belonged to two thanes or gentlemen, each of whom bore the name of Austin. Plaish belonged to the thane Godwin, Lydley Heys to Auti, Broome was shared between Turstin and Austin, and Gretton between Alric and Otro.

Norman Conquerors

In 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, landed with a large army and defeated the English King Harold at the battle of Hastings. William was crowned king of England in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day.

As a reward for their services his followers were given the estates of the English nobles. The King gave the whole of Shropshire to his cousin Roger de Montgomery whom he made Earl of Shrewsbury in 1069. When the English owners resisted, the King punished them harshly, killing, burning and laying waste to their land.

It seems that the thanes of Gretton offered resistance and suffered accordingly, for Gretton was given to the lords Rainald and Robert, and “when they received it it was waste”.

In five years William became the master of England. The English nobles were all either killed or ruined, and the people submitted quietly to the conqueror. All high offices of church and state were given to Normans. They were never turned out and many fine old English families like the Corbetts of Longnor are descended from a Norman knight who came with William the Conqueror.

The Domesday Book of 1085 records: ‘Rainald holds Cardintune (as tenant of the Earl Roger of Shrewsbury). Plaish was held then by the powerful Baron Roger de Lacy (of Stanton Lacy, and nearly one hundred other manors). Broome was held by the great Earl himself. Gretton went with Cardington to the lord Rainald, but Lydley remained in the possession of the old English owner Auti, though he lost it later, when it was given to Herbert FitzHelgot (or Holgate).

The Viscount Rainald, lord of Cardington and Gretton and of many other manors as well, was Sheriff of Shropshire and greatest of the nobles of the Earl of Shrewsbury. He left all his vast estates to his only child, a daughter, who married Alan Fitz-Flaald, founder of the great family of the Fitz-Alans, Earls of Arundel and later Dukes of Norfolk.

His grandson, William Fitz-Alan, thus became lord of Cardington, but he did not keep it long. Together with Enchmarsh and half of Chatwall he presented Cardington to the Knights of the Temple who were already owners of Lydley Heyes. From this time Lydley and Cardington were considered as one estate.

Knights Templar

In the year 1065 Palestine had been conquered by the Turks who hindered and mistreated Christian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. So much indignation was aroused in Europe that great efforts were made to drive the Turks out of Palestine.

In 1119 a number of Christian knights bound themselves by solemn vows to guard the roads to Jerusalem so that pilgrims could go in peace. These were the Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem who had very strict rules. No Templar was allowed to marry or possess property of his own, nor could he join in hunting or any worldly pleasures. But

the Templars were popular and honoured and were given many estates, becoming powerful and wealthy.

The first Shropshire manor given to the Templars was that round the Lawley, known as Lydley Heys where they set up their headquarters for the county. A few years later William Fitzalan gave them Cardington, Enchmarsh, and half of Chatwall. He also ordered the Rector of Cardington to pay them three merks a year and the tenant of Cardington Mill had to pay five shillings.

In 1167 the parish was known as Templars’ Cardington, and the people shared the privileges of the Knights. On three occasions in 1167, 1187, and 1200, the King’s Justice of the Forest fined the people of Cardington for taking trees from the woods but in 1187 and 1200 the Knights claimed that they could not be taxed or fined and the judge had to let them off.

The parish priest was a rector but before long the church with all its property was given to the Templars. The prior or head of the Templars was now rector of Cardington but as he was a soldier and not a priest he could not ‘minister the Word and Sacraments’ to the people. Instead he took all the money of the rectory and paid a poor priest a small sum to act as vicar in his place. From that time onwards a large part of the income of the church has gone to the lay rector, while the vicar has the remainder. (The word ‘vicar’ means one who does work on behalf of someone else).

An ancient paper found in the parish safe was translated by the Reverend W.D.G. Fletcher, Vicar of Shelton and Oxon which says “the Venerable Father, the Lord William by the grace of God, Bishop of Hereford” from 1186 to 1200, gave his approval to this bad custom of making soldiers and others rectors of churches”.

This important document was confirmed after careful examination by the Official of the Archdeacon of London on December 9th 1330. It is worth noting that after the church had been given to the Templars, the yearly tax which every parish had to pay to the Pope went to the Templars instead, and so Cardington was among the few places which were free from taxes to the Papacy.

The Templars had thirty four tenants in the manor of Cardington. Of these six paid a small sum each year ‘pro fraternitate’, that is to say for the privilege of being regarded as associates of the Templars and so having their protection. Among these six were Inard the Vicar, who paid six pence, and Matilda, his wife, who paid four pence per annum. This is interesting because in those days the clergy were strictly forbidden to marry.

Some time after the year 1200, considerable improvements were made to the Church. The chancel was pulled down and the present roomy chancel was built: the tower was completed, and several large windows were opened in the wall of the nave. These alterations were made in the new style of building called Early English.

In 1291 Pope Nicholas ordered a survey of all church property. For many years the Popes of Rome had received enormous sums of money from the Church in England but the pope wanted more. Cardington church and its property was valued at £17. 6. 8d a year in the money of those days. The vicar received £4 and the rest went to the Templars.

The Templars had become so rich and powerful that they began to interfere with matters which did not concern them and in about 1307 they fell into disgrace. They were disbanded in 1312 and their vast possessions taken away.

royal OakMany estates were returned to those who had given them and the rest were given to the Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, a similar order. The manor of Cardington was restored to the Fitzalans, who presented it to the Knights Hospitallers. By 1316, the Hospitallers had returned it to Edmund Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel. Eight years later the Grand Prior of the Knights of St John confirmed this gift, keeping only the rectory of the church with its endowments for his order. For nearly two hundred and fifty years the manor of Lydley and Cardington remained the possession of the Earls of Arundel.

In 1559 Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, sold the manor to Rowland Haywood, esquire. In 1570 Sir Rowland Haywood, Knight, Lord Mayor of London, let part of Cardington to Thomas Thynne of Botvyl. In1589 Sir Richard Haywood held a court in the manor and William Leighton of Plaish was his steward.

In 1622 Sir John Haywood, son of Sir Rowland, obtained the King’s licence to sell Lydley and Cardington to Edward Corbett, esquire, for £3,200.

Edward Corbett, a descendant of Sir Robert Fitz-Corbett, a Norman knight from Caux, was afterwards knighted and became Sheriff of Salop. The manor continued in the direct line until the death of Sir Richard Corbett, Baronet, in1774. He was succeeded by his cousin who died childless in 1804, and then the manor passed to another cousin, Joseph Plymley, the Archdeacon of Salop, who took the name of Corbett. From Archdeacon Corbett the present lords of the manor, the Corbetts of Longnor, are descended.