We continue with the forgotten history of South Oswestry.

When driving further along the Shrewsbury Road in the 1950s in the direction of Aston you would come across “Hisland” where there is mention of a Bronze Age barrow. Close by is Aston Hall with its prominent park and lake.

Many years ago, Aston Hall was once the home of the Lloyd family. (During the 1950s, the house was said to be unlived in). In 1594, a chapel of distinction was erected at the Hall by Richard Lloyd. Four Welsh sermons were to be preached in this chapel each year and as a result of this, certain funds were to be allocated to the more deprived people of Oswestry Parish Church during each sermon.

A most magnificent lake adorns the frontage of the Hall. On referring to this 1950s account, the lake was noted for its profusion of water fowl. The park (now the address of Oswestry Golf Club) is also impressive for its exquisiteness. At the entrance the two wrought iron gates which were erected in 1910 were manufactured by the Owen’s of Meifod.

During the 1950s you would not join the A5 when travelling along the route towards Shrewsbury from Oswestry until reaching Queens Head. This route where the A5 virtually runs today with miniscule variation was originally known as the A4083. At that time the then recently completed flat bridge crossing the canal would be noticed.

Many years ago, Queens Head with the heavy use of the canal would have been quite a busy area. There were two wharves in regular use. They would have to deal with cargoes such as sand, roadstone, grain, coal and various other consignments. It is interesting to know that used at the side of the canal at Queens Head was apparently one of the very first corn mills to be powered by way of steam. While close by, two donkeys at a sandpit were used to pull small trucks loaded with sand to the canal by means of travelling through a tunnel.

At one time a flower exhibitor who lived at Queens Head when showing his flowers etc at local shows would be asked by the judges where his garden was located. His reply would be “anywhere between Newtown and Ellesmere Port”. He was obviously working on the canal barges and along his route probably gathering his exhibits along the way!

Close to Queens Head further along the A5 is West Felton. (During the 1950s it would be 30 years or so before the present by-pass for the village was constructed). There is a place called “The Nursery” in West Felton. Born here in 1782 there was quite a famous writer and poet by the name of John Freeman Dovaston. When his father died, this man of literary talent resided in this house at West Felton until his death in 1854. The house is noted for its font which was originally placed in the church at Kinnerley. There was also a mention of a sundial consisting of no less than six dials at “The Nursery”.

Passing the old shoemaker’s shop in the 1950s you would apparently observe an old caption inscribed some sixty years or so previous to that time which said “The three wise men of West Felton, John Pearce of Yarson; Timothy Sides of Felton Cross and Tommy Hunt the Parson.” John Pearce came from nearby Eardiston and was well known as the local village Blacksmith. The word Yarson was a pronunciation of the locality. With reference to Timothy Sides, he was the shoemaker in West Felton. Tommy Hunt known as the Reverend T Hunt was vicar for no less than 45 years. There is no doubt that these three men were extremely well known in West Felton as was a certain Dr Lewis.

The Grange in West Felton was once lived in by a family called the Congreves. Some members of this family were famed soldiers of the Boer War and the 1914-18 conflict. At the entrance to the Grange were noted the gate pillars which were adorned with caps taking the form of eagles delicately carved. However it is apparently not known what they signify.

At Felton Manor it was noted that its motte and bailey was considered most impressive in so much that it could possibly be one of the finest examples in the country.

The person who owned this property during the 1950s apparently kept it in excellent fettle in respect of preservation. Felton Manor was stated as having wooden outbuildings where the beams and gables were fastened firmly in place not by nails or anything made of metal but simply nothing more sophisticated than wooden pegs.

On this 1950s journey an exploration of West Felton would no doubt reach St Michael’s Church in the village which it appears originated from Norman times in the twelfth century. It was erected by the original William Fitz Allan, although some sources quote the first John Le Strange organised the building of this old church. The latter was Lord of Felton during that period. (Perhaps it was a joint effort by these two people!).

This place of worship at West Felton was the solitary one in the old Oswestry hundred to keep hold of its membership of the Lichfield Diocese when the other concerned churches in 1160 were reassigned to be under the Diocese of St Asaph.

In 1305 there is the first trace of a vicar at West Felton by the name of John de Bireton (Acolyte). Much maintenance, restoration and alteration has been carried out on the church over obviously many years. (They built them to last in those days!). However, nothing is perfect, because in 1782 its tower unfortunately collapsed but was reconstructed in the due course of time.

St Michael’s Church in West Felton is adorned with some very impressive stained glass windows. During the 1950s, the vicar at this Shropshire church was Father Gilman. This clergyman was said to have kept the church very tidy and fine-looking. For no less than forty years he managed this place of worship by instigating several alterations to it. A churchwarden styled the High Altar with stone obtained from the locality. This altar was erected to memory of a man killed in a riding accident who it appears was the son of the aforementioned vicar of the church.

A metal tabernacle was located in the middle of the altar with an impressive working door. This work was carried out by a local blacksmith who was originally a choir boy.

In 1700 a sundial was placed in the churchyard. It was located in a manner to face the south door on three steps with a piece of a shaft of an aged preaching cross. Surrounding the large vaults here are some railings made of wrought iron which could have been made by a skilled blacksmith of the locality as far back as the 1700s. However it is not absolutely certain of the actual period when they were installed.

At nearby Grimpo in 1810 a parish school was founded with facilities for 150 children to attend. However, after a year or so it was eventually found not to be fit for purpose. This school was closed down and another one was established at Twyford.

There is a memorial in West Felton dedicated to a vicar who was killed in a climbing mishap during the early 1900s.

Apparently, Court Farm in West Felton is not the original one which was it appears demolished during the 1800s. There also used to be the Old Hall at West Felton which was a fine black and white house situated in its own grounds. In its later days as it was probably gradually decaying, part of this magnificent house was used as a changing area by the local cricket club.

Close to West Felton is the small hamlet of Eardiston. When journeying in this area during the 1950s you would certainly notice the blacksmith’s place of business which until 1894 was a maltkiln where I assume barley or other grain was soaked in water, allowed to sprout and then allowed to dry in a kiln used in brewing. Also at Eardiston until about 150 years ago, copper was mined. While close by there was once a race course. It is interesting to note certain famous bloodstock breeders of all those years ago used this course to race their horses.

In the area towards Tedsmore Bank on this 1950s journey was observed a small shaft mound where close to this mound could be seen that there had been workings years previously. This copper mine at Eardiston at one time was to be a most viable concern in the area. However it is many years since any work was carried out at this mine. There is a most prominent area of sandstone in this locality, which not only enfolds Eardiston but also Ruyton-XI-Towns, Grig Hill, Boreatton and Grinshill. It is small wonder that many of the older houses in these areas are built of sandstone.

The journey then continued towards Shelvock Hill but before that was noticed there was a dried up ‘bed’ where it appeared a lake had once been. There was however a stream which separated to flow in two different directions, one would flow into the River Perry close to Wykey while the other stream would run towards Pentre on its journey into the much larger River Severn.

The road travellers were under the impression that there may have been an old settlement or camp on Shelvock Hill many years ago. On Tedsmore Bank they commented on how they observed a magnificent view of the Shropshire plains and the hilly country beyond that. From personal experience on a clear day I can verify there are excellent views of Clive Church and Grinshill from this location.

Further on during their journey more than fifty years ago, our ‘intrepid’ motorised explorers reached Pradoe where they encounter a private church which was stated as being constructed by the Kenyon family during the 1800s. This church was apparently utilised as a burial facility/funerals etc just for the deceased in the immediate area of Eardiston and thereabouts. The travellers noticed a monument dedicated to the memory of two brothers and their sister situated in the churchyard of Pradoe Church. This memorial stone was said to be of a grey granite base with a cross of wrought iron assembled by a relation of the deceased brothers and sister. The oldest brother was killed in action while serving in the 1914-18 war in France.

After seeing the sights at Pradoe Church the travellers decided to return home but it was not quite dark so they made another decision to turn the car in the direction of Knockin where apparently there was once a castle by the church there. This was a castle built by the Normans all those years ago. It was during the twelfth century and instigated by John Le Strange whose family once lived in this stronghold. His descendents apparently resided at the castle for hundreds of year’s thereafter.

In 1955 the church at Knockin was said to be around 800 years old. The reason it was built was because it was a chapel for the then castle at Knockin. Around the church was mentioned the wall. The stone that makes up this wall was it appears taken from the castle when it was demolished. Knockin was stated to be a key border village in years gone by. The castle built here in 1160 was very important insomuch as playing an important part of protecting the English from the Welsh and it was the site of many skirmishes etc between them. However, in 1212 the castle was occupied by the Welsh and unfortunately torn down. The castle was later reconstructed and in 1228 the Welsh forces of Llewellyn attacked the stronger Knockin castle rebuilt of stone from Nesscliffe but were repulsed while the castles at Montgomery and Kinnerley succumbed to his attacks. When in 1284 England and Wales were united, these border castles such as the one at Knockin were no longer of any strategic importance and they eventually became remnants of a hostile past between Wales and England.

Over the years, the spelling of Knockin was changed quite a few times. It was once known as Le Knokyn, Knokin, Knucking or Knuckin. Come to think of it I have heard many people pronounce it as ‘Knuckin’!

The explorers then headed for Woolston and viewed St Winefred’s Well before journeying in the direction of Maesbury which was they said an old settlement when the actual Doomsday Book was originally compiled. An old paint mill was mentioned which was water powered and later to become a saw mill. On this 1950s trip these travellers had covered in the region of 18 miles in six and a half hours on one Boxing Day in the 1950s.

I have taken most of this account from that of a JM Pearce who had related this article in an April 1955 edition of The Shropshire Magazine. His two companions on this exploratory journey were an engineering friend at home on vacation from Chile and another friend from nearby St Martins.