History

The earliest signs of civilisation around Church Stretton are found in iron age hillforts (e.g. Caradoc and Bodbury), but Church Stretton as a settlement has its roots in the post Roman era. It started as an Anglo-Saxon settlement near Watling Street, a Roman road that ran from Uriconium through the Stretton Gap to Leintwardine and thence to Gloucester. It is from its location beside this road that it derived its name - the 'tun' (settlement) beside the 'street'. It then belonged to the Saxon earls of Mercia and had a church and a priest.

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The Church of St Lawrence still stands on its original site, much of the building dating from Norman times. It retains a fine Norman nave, but it is one of only a few churches with a carved fertility symbol (a Sheelagh na Eigh), a remnant of Saxon Stretton.

After the Norman conquest Church Stretton was one of the manors given to Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, but in 1102 it reverted to the king. In 1336 Edward III gave the manor to Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, and it stayed with that family until 1579. Another notable family who held the manor for many years, from 1635 until 1802, was the Tynne family of Longleat.

In 1214 King John, who owned the manor, instructed the Sheriff to announce that a weekly market was to be held  on Wednesdays. This was changed to Thursdays by a Charter granted by Edward III in 1337. This weekly market is still held. A fire burnt down much of the town centre in 1593 and many of the present half timbered buildings in the town centre date from the subsequent rebuilding. A half timbered market hall was erected in The Square in 1617 by Bonham Norton, a wealthy London stationer (printer and publisher) who over time had purchased much land and property in the town and eventually acquired the market rights from the Lord of the Manor, Sir Thomas Thynne. This was taken down in 1839 and replaced in 1840 by a second building funded by public subscription, itself demolished as unsafe in 1963.

For most of its history Church Stretton has been a small rural market town servicing local agriculture, both arable and livestock. Six fairs used to be held each year at which farm labourers and domestic servants were hired and animals (mainly sheep and ponies) sold.

Another of the more important events in the history of the town was the coming of the railway in 1852. The original station can still be seen to the north of the bridge on Sandford Avenue. The formation of the Church Stretton Land and Building Companies about 1900 led to the development of a number of areas around the original town for housing of all types. Brought to a halt by the Second World War, housing development began again in the 1960's and has continued since. Whilst the town is not entirely free from the pressures of modern life, it still retains in its setting - and especially in its community spirit - a quality of life that enriches all those fortunate enough to live here.

Church Stretton Today

55Church Stretton is a bustling little town which, up till now, has not deteriorated into a mere dormitory, as frequently befalls attractive small towns.

Few places of our size can have such a wide range of small shops, which help to give the town so much of its atmosphere, variety and interest. The environment is rural without being remote, separate without being isolated, a focus for tourism without being encumbered by it, and in many ways we have the best of both worlds.

Our hills are, of course, our greatest asset, and we are indeed fortunate to have them in the custody of the National Trust. The Trust has a difficult path to tread, as by the very nature of what it strives to achieve, it is inevitably obliged to put restrictions on many people who consider that the hills belong to all of us as of right. The problems of overgrazing, horse riding, mountain bikes, four-wheel-drive vehicles, walkers, natural erosion, heath fires etc, put enormous stress on the frail natural ecology of the hills, and the National Trust is there to try to minimise the detrimental effects of all these pressures. There is room for everyone and for all the above activities, provided that they are pursued in moderation and with due respect for the environment and its need for conservation. We should all support the efforts of the National Trust to preserve them for us and our successors. By the same token The Strettons Civic Society deserves everyone's support in its aim of retaining the character of the town and preserving it as somewhere highly desirable both to residents and to visitors.

Town Status

Church Stretton has been a market town since 1214, when it was granted a market by King John. It had an Urban District Council at the turn of the last century, and this was changed to a Parish Council in the local government re-organisation of 1966, for reasons which we have been unable to determine.

On 14th May 2001, this council passed a resolution to change back to a Town Council, both to enable us to apply for grants under the Government's £120m Market Towns Regeneration Package, and to reflect Church Stretton's status as an historic market town.

All Stretton

56This charming, friendly, unspoilt village nestles between the Long Mynd and Caradoc at the entrance to the Stretton Gap. All Stretton has a unique identity, unspoilt by modern development, with several outstanding old houses scattered around the village. The centre of the village embodies the true tradition of old England with: its olde worlde inn, the Yew Tree, dispensing good beer, good cheer, and good food; and just down the road, a quaint old church. The Village Hall, just up the valley, is at the heart of the social life of the community, and stages a very wide variety of events, from dramatic productions by the All Stretton Amateur Dramatic Society to W.I. meetings and Christmas parties.

Little Stretton

Just south of Church Stretton, lying snug between the hills on what used to be the main road to Ludlow before it was by-passed, is the village of Little Stretton, now a quiet backwater unruffled by the rush of modern life and modern traffic. To the east are the steep wooded slopes of Ragleth, to the west rises the plateau of the Long Mynd.

57As a village it is worth exploring in its own right, for not only is there the quaint thatched church, but also there are a number of old and interesting buildings to see. The village has grown over the years, but its essential character has not been lost. The farms are still the core though they may no longer have the stature they enjoyed in 1851 when Old Hall Farm boasted one housekeeper, two house servants and five agricultural labourers. Look out for the Malt House and the Tan House, their names bearing witness to the activities in what was once a typical Shropshire agricultural village. From Little Stretton there are many rewarding walks along country lanes, up narrow valleys or steep slopes, to give extensive views in all directions.

A more compete history of the Stretton area may be found here.