The Cleobury Chronicles

The Cleobury Chronicles is an occasional series of collections of articles on topics of the local history of Cleobury Mortimer and surrounding parishes.  The Society has been fortunate to have articles written by both members and other writers, with local knowledge of topics that really interested them.  First published in 1991 (this edition in its third reprint!), the Chronicles have been very popular and a very successful publishing exercise.

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Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4
Volume 5 Volume 6 Volume 7 Volume 8
Volume 9 Volume 10 Volume 11 Volume 12

Volume 1 (1991)

Click each item for a short description. Members click here to read this edition online
• The Blount Family (Rev. Wm Elliott)

The Blount family came to England with the Conqueror. The local branch dates back to the early C14. The family home was Sodington, Mamble. Sodington was destroyed by the parliamentarians. A new home was built at the Lower Forge, and this was replaced by Mawley Hall in 1730. Sodington was rebuilt about that time. The Mawley family remained Roman Catholics .The last local Blount, Sir Walter died in 1958.

• Victorian Interlude: Part 1 (Kathleen Grove)

This consists of extracts from the parish magazine, 1865-1871. There are notes on a choral concert, the establishment of a reading room and other similar local events.

• Two Letters from Simon Evans (Dr Mark Baldwin)

Simon Evans, the local author and broadcaster, wrote only one book of fiction. The letters are comments on the background of ‘Applegarth’.

• Cleobury Mortimer from Doomsday (Dr Mark Baldwin)

This explains the origins of the survey and the holder of the manor, Ralph Mortimer. It then gives an explanation of the individual entries.

• A 14C Cleobury Document (Marion Roberts & Dr Mark Baldwin)

This is the earliest document relating to Cleobury Mortimer and Mawley known. It adds little historical information, except that it mentions the existence of burgage plots in the town, and the importance of the Manor of Mawlet

• The Census as a Source for Local History (David Dewar)

This explains the use of the census for family history and the local trades in the area. Over the years it has shown the development of the town in local importance.

• The Population of Cleobury Mortimer, 1601 - 1981 (Rev Wm Elliott)

The earliest records of local population are found in parish registers, inaugurated in 1538. The earliest surviving records for Cleobury date from 1601. Accuracy cannot be guaranteed because of careless entries and loss of books. Charts show fluctuations and a growth from about 400 to 1900. Other charts show death rates etc.

• Muller & Co (England) Ltd & Cleobury Mortimer (Jim Warren)

This Swiss firm of watch makers moved to London in 1900, and became a precision engineering firm. Due to air raids they moved to Long Bank Bewdley and later to Cleobury, attracted by the crooked spire, similar to their Swiss one. The company flourished in post war years and became a major influence in the town.

• Beaconsfield House, 24 High Street: A history since 1800 (Dr Mark Baldwin)

The house dates from c1700 and was largely built in 1800. It is Grade 2 listed. There is a description of the present house and details of the change of ownership since 1840. It has been a doctor’s residence before becoming the local book shop.

 

Volume 2 (1992)

Click each item for a short description. Members click here to read this edition online
• Cleobury Park (David Chapman)

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• The Gas Works (Betty Pardoe)

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• The Trow Family (Rev Wm. Elliott)

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• The Parish Registers (Rev Wm. Elliott)

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• Victorian Interlude: Part 2 (Kathleen Grove)

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• The Spire of St Mary's Church (John Wheatley)

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• Towards south Shropshire: Part 1 (John Davis)

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• The Downes Family of the Post Office (Winifred Evans)

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Volume 3 (1994)

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• The Wyre Forest Coalfield (Dr D Poyner & R Evans)

The Wyre Forest coalfied covers an area of around 50 square miles in Worcestershire and Shropshire. The coal is found in two distinct basins. In Worcestershire, the coal has a high sulphur content, making it generally hard to sell, except to hop-growers. In Shropshire, in addition to the sulphur coal, the sulphur-free “sweet” coal outcrops on the west margin of the coalfield. Large scale mining of the coal started in the 16th century and this developed in subsequent centuries. Around 1800, the Leominster Canal was partially built to help the mines at Mamble and Pensax and a significant colliery was opened at Stanley on the banks of the Severn in Highley, working the sulphur coal. A large mine working the sweet coal, latterly accompanied by a blast furnace also worked at this time at Billingsley. The Highley and Billingsley mines failed due to geological problems. In the mid-19th century, there was activity at Shatterford on the east of the coalfield, in an attempt to find a connection with the South Staffordshire coalfield. There was a revival of mining at Billingsley in the late 1860s that probably inspired a sinking at Highley, which revealed a large tract of sweet coal beneath the sulphur coal. The Highley Mining Company established mines at Highley, Kinlet and Alveley; Alveley was developed by the National Coal Board until closure in 1969. In the Worcestershire, the Bayton Colliery Company dominated activity until 1949; the last mine to close was Hunthouse in 1971.

• Towards South Shropshire: Part 2 (John Davis)

This article traces the development of south Shropshire from the 7th to the 11th centuries. South Shropshire came under Saxon control during the reign of King Penda of Mercia (d. 653). It was part of the client kingdom of the Magonsaete, ruled by Merewalh, perhaps a Welsh ruler who transferred his allegiance to Penda. His territory corresponded to the later diocese of Hereford and included much of south Shropshire. By the 8th Century, it had become integrated into Mercia. There are very few Welsh place names in Shropshire; there may have been an official policy of anglicisation as a result of King Offa’s efforts to establish a boundary with Wales in c780. The large number of place names ending in “ton” (meaning an estate) suggest that the land was divided into estates, possibly reflecting Roman or pre-Roman divisions and, in turn, laying the foundation for the system of parishes. A Celtic form of Christianity may have survived in south Shropshire, but the Saxon overlords were converted by missionaries from elsewhere. A monastery at Wenlock was established as the chief Christian site; “minster” churches were established at the more important estates from where teams of clerics would serve the surrounding countryside. The county of Shropshire was established in response to the Danish invasions of the 9th century. In the early 10th century, the shire towns such as Shrewsbury were established as fortified and garrisoned centres; the surrounding country was divided into hundreds and these were then grouped into the new counties.

• The Roman Fort at Walltown Farm (C J Walker)

A Roman fort bisects the Cleobury-Bridgnorth road at Walltown, in Neen Savage. This paper summarises excavations undertaken by the Kidderminster and District Archaeological and Historical Society subsequently published in Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society (1965, Vol 58, 8-18). The excavations explored the rampart and indicated the presence of at least two forts. The first had timber buildings which had been rebuilt at least once. It was demolished and the site levelled. The second fort is responsible for the surviving ditch and bank; a turf rampart was first constructed and later rebuilt and faced with stone. Evidence for stone buildings inside the fort were recovered and there may have been a civil settlement to its south. The article also describes previously unpublished results from a subsequent trench to the north of the fort, cut across a road with probable barrack buildings either side. A burial was also discovered. At the time of excavation, pottery from the fort was dated to 70-160AD; however, in the light of more recent research it appears that this is too late. It is suggested that the first fort was built around 51 AD, as part of the Roman drive into North Wales and was sited to control a ridge route running roughly south-north from Abberley to Monkhopton, with Baveney/Dowles brook providing easy access to the Severn. Subsequently this was replaced by the smaller, second fort, with the stone walls dating from around 100 AD.

• Field Names in Cleobury Mortimer (Rev. William Elliott)

Field names can give important clues to the history of the landscape. The best source of field names are usually the mid-19th Century tithe maps; that from Cleobury dates from 1846. Parts of Cleobury are also covered by estate maps from 1810 and 1782 and it is possible to identify some fields from documents going back to the 16th Century. Many field names in Cleobury relate to agricultural practice; “The Furlong” probably refers to strips of plough land in the commonly held fields and other names such as “Tyning or “Inhedge” mark the process of enclosure. Livestock are remembered in “Ox Pasture” and “Calves Close”. Some names indicate past owners, either by their personal names or by their occupations. It is common for names to reflect shapes of fields. Sometimes specific historical events are recalled; “Weeper’s Cross” may recall the funeral possession of Prince Arthur, from Ludlow to Worcester in 1502. These and other Cleobury names are discussed.

• The Spire of St Mary's Church - Postscript ((John Wheatley)

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• Ironworking in Cleobury Mortimer: Part 1 (Dr Mark Baldwin)

Iron making was revolutionised by the introduction of the blast furnace into the Weald at the end of the 15th Century. This produced large quantities of molten iron which could be used for castings or refined in forges to give wrought iron for blacksmiths. From the middle of the 16th Century, blast furnaces started to spread over the rest of the country. Queen Elizabeth granted Cleobury Mortimer in 1563 to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and by 1571 he had a blast furnace on the Dowles Brook in the Wyre Forest and a forge at Lower Forge on the Rea. By 1576 there was a second blast furnace in the forest and consequently a second forge, probably at Upper Forge. These were let to John Weston and passed to Alice, his wife, on John’s death. In 1598 the furnaces and forges were leased to Edward Broughton and Edward Blount. In 1602 Lower Forge was sold to George Blount of Soddington and it was to remain in the ownership of the Blount family of Soddington and Mawley for the rest of its history. In 1636/7, bar iron from Cleobury was supplied to Ludlow and a court case from 1630 indicates how the Blounts used large amounts of charcoal in their forge. In the 18th Century it is possible to identify William Hall as the manager of the forge from 1709-18 with George Crump as agent/operator from 1727-43, possibly in partnership with Richard Knight, Thomas Green and Richard Baldwin.

• Trial Excavations at the Lacon Childe School (Hugh Hannaford)

Trial excavations were carried out in 1993 in the vicinity of the Old Wing building of Lacon Childe School by the archaeology unit of Shropshire County Council to assess the survival of archaeological deposits prior to potential development. The school is situated in the probable bailey of the medieval castle of Cleobury, destroyed in 1154. A number of late neolithic/early bronze age flints were recovered, including an arrow head and a thumbnail scrapper. There were a number of sherds of Roman pottery. North-east of the school building, a small kiln or oven of probable medieval date was discovered. In a trench south-west of the building, adjacent to a footpath possibly marking the ditch around the motte of the castle, there was a stone wall, dated to early medieval times from pottery found within its bonding. Another trench yielded 12th/13th century pottery and double posthole. Post-medieval finds were mainly associated with gardening as well as fragments of writing slates, styli and buttons.

 

Volume 4 (1994)

Click each item for a short description. Members click here to read this edition online
• The Moultrie Family (Rev. William Elliott)

Members of the family are traced from 1292. George, born in 1772, was vicar of Cleobury Mortimer from 1800 to his death in 1845.

• The Mortimer Family (Rev. William Elliott)

The history of the Mortimers in Shropshire is described from the arrival of Ralph in 1066. Eventually a descendant, Edward seventh Earl of March, was crowned King Edward in 1461 and all Mortimer land and titles became royal property.

• Cleobury Park Furnace (David Chapman)

Field investigations reveal the location of two dams on Baveney Brook. They are proposed as sites a bloomery and the furnace at Cleobury Park.

• Norman Hicken and Spregdon House (extract from autobiography)

Spregdon was purchased, modernised and lived in for a short time. The author includes lyrical descriptions of surroundings and outings by the River Rea.

• Markets & Fairs in Cleobury Mortimer (Betty Pardoe)

Markets and fairs are traced from the first fair granted to Hugh de Mortimer in 1226. A grant for a market was made in 1615 which survived until 1960 while 'the Fair round the steeple' continues.

• Personal Street Names in Cleobury Mortimer

Five street names in Cleobury Mortimer are named after well known locals. Brief biographies are given of Paul Hartmann, Cyril Vaughan, Derrick Grove and Ralph Jones.

• The Catherine of Aragon Chasuble from Mawley Hall (Fr Paul Sidoli)

This Chasuble was bequeathed to the parish in 1958 and restored on advice from the Victoria & Albert museum. Its origin is traced from Catherine of Aragon's will to the present.

• The Churchyard during the 19th and 20th centuries (Dr Mark Baldwin)

Following structural repairs the church was deemed unsightly and changes were made. Later work on recording inscriptions and removing gravestones was carried out. Following structural repairs the church was deemed unsightly and changes were made. Later work on recording inscriptions and removing gravestones was carried out.

• The Langland Window and other memorial windows in St Mary's Church (Dennis Hadley & Dr Mark Baldwin)

A detailed description and history of the Langland Window and its designers is given. Six other windows are included.

 

Volume 5 (1999)

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• The Clee Hill Coalfield (Dr D R Poyner)

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• Clay Tobacco Pipes from Cleobury (Dr David Higgins)

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• Some notes on the early history of the Lacon Childe School (Rev A Perfect)

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• The Moated Site at Nickless Farm, Milson (Jane Evans)

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• Monumental Inscriptions from Mawley Catholic Burial Ground

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• Langland lives

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• The Lycett Family Bible (Myfanwy Baldwin)

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• Agnes Parry's story (Agnes Parry)

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• Wills and Inventories: a peep into the past (Kathleen Grove)

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• Another Blount Family? (Rev. Cyril Blount)

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• Ironworking in Cleobury Park: an update (Dr D R Poyner)

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• A Bloomery at Chorley, Stottesdon (Dr D R Poyner)

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Volume 6 (2002)

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• Cleobury Mortimer College |( G Andrews, M Jordan, G Poyner)

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• Mediaeval Ironworkings at Chorley & surrounding areas (Dr D R Poyner)

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• Frank Murray 1884 - 1970 and Cleobury Engineering (Glyn Mark)

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• The Growth of Methodism in South East Shropshire (Colin C Short)

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• Animal Care and Country Craftsmen (Geoffrey Andrews)

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• Jacobite Echoes (Kathleen Grove)

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• Furnace Mill, Wyre Forest (David Lloyd Jones)

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Volume 7 (2004)

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• The Manor House (Rev Bill Elliott)

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• Farlow Cotton Mill (Dr D R Poyner)

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• What you learn from Wills (Daphne Brown)

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• Cleobury Public Houses (Rev Bill Elliott)

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• Memorial Inscriptions at All Saints Church & Churchyard, Neen Sollars

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• My Childhood in the 1920s (W J Ridge)

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• Mediaeval Ironworking in Chorley: Fiddle Bloomery (Dr D R Poyner)

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• Curdale Farm (Rev Bill Elliott)

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• The Wheelwright (Geoffrey Andrews)

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Volume 8 (2008)

Click each item for a short description. Members click here to read this edition online
• The History Society(Rev. Bill Elliott)

This began as a Local Authority Class. It then became an autonomous Society. It is a working society with occasional lectures. It was decided not to write a new history of the town, but to publish articles of local historical interest, inviting contributions from non-members. We have had several meeting places, and now meet in Neen Savage Village Hall on the 1st & 3rd Wednesdays of the winter months.

• The Blount Family: a correction (Rev. Bill Elliott)

This is a correction of facts in Chronicles 1 about a cadet branch of the family

• Curdale addendum (Rev. Bill Elliott)

Additional information of the early history of the farm published in Chronicles 7.

• Thomas Bottfield (Rev. Bill Elliott)

The Botfields were an old Shropshire family from which the marquis of Bath is descended.. Thomas’s father owned mines & iron works & Thomas took over the Clee Hill mines. He purchased the manor of Hopton Wafers, built Hopton Court, rebuilt the church and Doddington church. He was a major landowner.

• Withypool Farm (Rev. Bill Elliott)

The farm is about 400 acres, and has the right to run 1000 sheep on Clee Hill. The house dates back to 1640 The Watmore family owned the farm in 1472 and it passed into the hands of the Earl of Craven. The Craven estates were bought by Beriah Botfield, nephew of 7 heir of Thomas. He willed it to members of the Thynne family. It was sold into private ownership in 1919. The list of tenants & owners is quite detailed, much information being found from local wills.

• Catherton Quarry (Dr David Poyner)

The Catherton or Magpie Quarry on Clee Hill was the last quarry opened and first closed. It was connected to Ditton Priors Light Railway by an aerial ropeway. The stone is basalt, known locally as dhustone, a lava deposit which covered the coal seams. It was first quarried commercially on the west of the hill in 1863 when it was connected with Ludlow by rail. The east of the hill was quarried in 1900 when the Ditton Priors line opened. In the early stages the stone was cut into ‘sets’ but later was crushed. Details of the ropeway are given. There are a number of charts giving geology and details of working.

• Paper Mills at Neen Savage: The Hall Family (Jeremy & Jane Hall)

In 1791 James Stevens, an experienced paper maker bought a mill at Neen Savage. This had been a blademill and also a corn mill. He was joined & succeeded by Thomas Lambert Hall, who bought Stepple Hall in 1813. Cleobury Mill was built in 1829. There are letters between Thomas & his son, who acted as a traveller for the firm from the age of 16. Thomas Lambert Hall jnr let the mill to Billings who went bankrupt 7 Thomas resumed working. He died in 1875 & the estate was sold. A daughter bought the mill to various tenants. It was burned down in 1887.

• Paper Making in the 19th Century (Jim Martin)

First, the general principle of paper making. Paper making came to Shropshire in C17 because of available water power after failure of iron industry. First recorded at Milson in 1650. By 1790 there were 15 in the county including 3 at Hopton Wafers. The setting up of Walford & Cleobury Mills is in the previous article. A chart shows the number of people employed, halving in 100 years. Census figures are inaccurate as women rap-pickers are not included. Rags were bought at 3dper lb white & 1d coloured. These were washed and bleached. At this stage rags were suitable for absorbent papers, but writing paper needed more treatment to prevent ink from running. Wages averaged 10/- a week. Travelling for sales cost £50 p.a. Excise duty was quite heavy. There are charts showing sales figures and illustrations of early paper-makers

• A Seventeenth Century Local Scandal (Chris Potter)

This involved Catherine Kettilby, aged 18, of Stepple Hall, and John Martyn, her music teacher. There is a series of letters in which John claims to have married Catherine. This was denied and he claimed compensation. Case dismissed

• Neen Savage War Memorials (Paddy Treves)

This is a complete list of every name on the churchyard war memorial, and memorials in Church, with additional information about each individual.

 

Volume 9 (2011)

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• Tom's story

This particular edition is devoted entirely to one item: Tom’s Story. A local resident found in their attic a hand written notebook of 84 pages which flowed with the memories of one man, Tom. Covering eighty years from 1903, Tom recalls his life in a uniquely vernacular style. His personal history appears to have been written over a short period and gives an insight into rural life in the early part of the 20C. Tom's Story was written anonymously and we have published it as a faithful transcription from the original as an example of a simple, personal history that relates to our local area. So much has changed over the last 100 years, especially in the way we live and work. Whilst books that document the change, and other works of research, are important for understanding the impact of change and the reasons for it, these personal stories bring the changes alive in a way that appeals directly to our own memories and imagination. As Cicero wrote: “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”

 

Volume 10 (2011)

Click each item for a short description. Members click here to read this edition online
• The Trial of William Handley (Robert Hodge)

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• Cleobury Mortimer in 1744 (David Poyner)

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• Memorial slab in St Mary’s, Neen Savage (Robert Hodge)

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• John Harcourt Browne and the end of paper making in Cleobury Mortimer (David Poyner)

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• Captain John Edward “Jack” Purslow MC (Kevin Burrows and Paddy Treves)

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• The Founding of Hopton Wafers School (Robert Hodge)

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• A tale of two Castles (Kathryn Forbes)

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• The Mediaeval Floor Tiles in Cleobury Church (David Poyner)

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• The 1851 Religious Census (Robert Hodge)

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• Memorial slab against wall of Bayton Church (adapted from an item by Peter Wardle)

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• The Royal Fountain Inn (Phil George)

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Volume 11 (2014)

Click each item for a short description. Members click here to read this edition online
• WW1 - The men of Cleobury Mortimer

This edition is dedicated to the men whose names appear on the Cleobury Mortimer War Memorial for World War One. Using original military records, census information and parish records - as well as personal reminiscences, the story of each man is told in as much detail as possible

 

 

Volume 12 (2016)

Click each item for a short description. Members click here to read this edition online
• A curious obkect - and a mystery (Robert Hodge)

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• Nail making in Cleobury Mortimer and district(David Poyner)

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• The battle in which Leofgar was killed (Robert Hodge)

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• Cleobury Mortimer, Bewdley and Ribbesford: boundary disputes in the early seventeenth century (Stuart Davies)

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• Cleobury Mortimer, Bewdley and Ribbesford: boundary disputes in the early seventeenth century (Stuart Davies)

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• Dendrochronolgy of St Mar's church, Neen Savage (Barry Treves)

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• Crime and punishment in south Shropshire, 1786 - 1898 (Robert Hodge)

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• Hyde and seek! (Colin Gough)

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• The Cleobury coach builders (David Poyner)

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• Some snippets from the cednsus data: 1841 - 1911 (John Barnes)

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• The house with the curious name (Gill Guest)

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• The execution of William Handley - appeals for clemency (Robert Hodge)

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