Ellesmere (St. Mary)

ELLESMERE (St. Mary), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, chiefly in the hundred of Pimhill, N. division of Salop, 16½ miles (N. N. W.) from Shrewsbury, and 178½ (N. W.) from London; containing, with a portion of the parish in Flintshire, 7080 inhabitants. This place derives its name from an adjoining lake or mere, which, being the largest of several in the neighbourhood, was distinguished by the appellation of Aelsmere, or the principal lake. It had at a very early period a strong castle, which in the reign of John was, with the manor, given in marriage with the natural daughter of that monarch to Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales; but from the importance of the place as a frontier town, the government of the castle was reserved in the crown, as a necessary defence to the marches, and, after the death of Llewelyn, it was wholly given up by his son to Henry III. The castle was alternately in the possession of the English and the Welsh, during the period of mutual hostilities which preceded the final subjugation of Wales. In the reign of Edward II., the custody of it was entrusted to Oliver Ingleham, who had been the firm adherent of that king during the insurrection of the Earl of Lancaster; and in the reign of Edward III. the castle and manor were given to Lord Eubule le Strange, from whose descendant they passed by marriage into the family of the Kynastons, of whom Sir Edward Kynaston, Knt., obtained from Queen Elizabeth the grant of a market and a fair.

The town, which is pleasantly situated, consists of several streets tolerably well paved; the houses are in general well built and of handsome appearance, and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water. On the elevated site of the castle, of which there are no remains, is a fine bowling-green commanding a pleasing view; where a festival called the meeting of the Ellesmere Club, is celebrated at Midsummer. The trade is chiefly in malt, which is sold to a very considerable extent, and in leather, for which there are several tanneries; and many of the labouring poor are employed in spinning flax and in the manufacture of stockings. The Ellesmere canal passes to the south of the town, and, with its several branches, affords a communication with the Severn, the Dee, and the Mersey, forming a line of navigation from Liverpool to Bristol, and opening a communication with North Wales. The market is on Tuesday, and is abundantly supplied with corn, for which it is in high repute; the fairs are on the Tuesday after February 2nd, the third Tuesday in April, Whit-Tuesday, August 26th, and November 14th, for horses, cattle, and sheep. This place formerly gave name to a hundred, which, with its dependencies, was annexed to the hundred of Pimhill in the 27th of Henry VIII.

The parish is bounded on one side by the river Dee, and comprises by measurement 24,745 acres, exclusively of the chapelry of Penley, in the county of Flint. The surface is richly varied; and within the parish are six lakes, varying in extent from 50 to 120 acres, the principal of which, bordered on one side by the town, and on the other by the beautiful grounds of Oakley Park, in which are some of the finest elm-trees in the country, is a fine expanse of limpid water. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £17. 18. 1½., and in the patronage of the Trustees of the Earl of Bridgewater, to whom, with others, the impropriation belongs: the great tithes have been commuted for £2591. 10., and the vicarial for £430. The church is an ancient cruciform structure, in the decorated English style, with a handsome embattled tower crowned by pinnacles; the east window, in the later style, is enriched with delicate tracery of elegant design: on the south side of the chancel is the sepulchral chapel of the Kynastons, the ceiling of which is elaborately groined. There are chapels at Penley, Duddleston, and Cockshut, in the patronage of the Vicar. The Independents and Primitive Methodists have places of worship. The union comprises 9 parishes or places in Salop, and a like number in the county of Flint; and contains, in the English portion, a population of 10,993. The town gives the title of Earl to the Egerton family.

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