Cleobury-Mortimer (St. Mary)

CLEOBURY-MORTIMER (St. Mary), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of Stottesden, S. division of Salop, 32 miles (S. S. E.) from Shrewsbury, and 137 (N. W.) from London, on the road to Ludlow; containing 1730 inhabitants. The name of this place is derived from its situation in a district abounding with clay, and from the Saxon word byrig, a town; the adjunct, by which it is distinguished from North Cleobury, in the same county, is taken from its ancient possessor, Ralph de Mortimer, who held it at the time of the general survey. Hugh de Mortimer, his son, built a castle here, which, when he revolted in favour of the heir of Stephen, he fortified against Henry II., who, with a powerful army, besieged and entirely demolished it. During the war between Henry III. and the barons, Cleobury suffered greatly from the incursions of the Welsh, who at that time made frequent irruptions into this part of the country. The town is situated on an eminence rising gradually from the western bank of the river Rea, over which is a neat stone bridge, and consists principally of one long street, containing many good houses, and the mutilated remains of an old cross; the inhabitants are plentifully supplied with excellent water from a spring that has its source in the Brown Clee hills, and falls into a spacious basin in the lower part of the town. From its retired situation, in a district almost inaccessible in consequence of the badness of the roads, the trade is rapidly declining; formerly there were some important iron-works, but there are now only two forges. A few of the inhabitants are employed in the manufacture of paper, for which there are two mills. On the Clee hills, about three miles west of the town, are large collieries, producing excellent coal; and on the higher part of them is a remarkably fine, though not extensive, vein of cannel coal, of which many beautiful specimens have been worked into snuff-boxes and ornaments of various kinds, Common stone is also quarried. The market, granted to Sir Francis Lacon in 1614, is held on Wednesday; the fairs are on April 21st, Trinity-Monday, and October 27th. The powers of the county-debt court of Cleobury, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Cleobury.

The parish comprises about 6000 or 7000 acres. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £13; net income, £448; patron, William Lacon Childe, Esq.; impropriators, the Earl of Craven, Mr. Childe, and others, with the exception of the corn-tithes of a small part of the parish, which belong to the lay deacon. The church is an ancient structure, with a plain tower, surmounted by an octagonal spire of wood, considerably curved from the perpendicular. There are two places of worship for Wesleyans; and a Roman Catholic chapel attached to Mawley Hall, the mansion of Sir Edward Blount, Bart., within a mile of the town. A free school was founded pursuant to the will of Sir Lacon William Childe, Knt., dated in 1714, whereby he bequeathed the residue of his personal estate, after the death of his lady, for its endowment: the income is about £500, including the interest of £1000 given by Mr. John Winwood, in 1810. An infants' school is endowed with £15 per annum. The poor law union of which the town is the head, comprises 17 parishes or places, namely, 13 in the county of Salop, 3 in that of Worcester, and one in that of Hereford; and contains a population of 8708. To the east of the free school are the remains of a Danish encampment; and within the distance of a mile and a half were the three castles of Cleobury, Toot, and Walltown, of which there is not a single vestige. An old farmhouse here is said to have been the first settlement of the Augustine friars. Robert Langford, author of the Visions of Pierce Plowman, a satirical poem on the clergy of the fourteenth century, was a native of the town.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.