Archaeological finds so far suggest a long history of human habitation in the parish, including the Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Mediaeval periods, as well as evidence from more recent centuries since the Reformation and English Civil War.
Wem Moss may conceal further evidence of early man’s activities in this landscape.
The town of Wem itself is of Anglo-Saxon origin, although there may have been earlier settlements in the area. The Saxon word ‘Wamm’, meaning a marsh or boggy heath land, is thought to have given the town and the area its name.
As a result of the Norman Conquest that followed the Battle of Hastings in 1066, many of the lands in the district were granted to Roger de Montgomery in gratitude for the support he showed for William the Conqueror. By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, Wem and its Manors (surrounding areas), is recorded as being owned by William Pantulph.
In 1202 Wem received a market charter from King John, and the growing relationship between the market town and its surrounding farmsteads and developing small hamlets connects back to this early time. Originally held on a Sunday, market day was changed to a Thursday in 1351.
Special sites – The Domesday Book mentioned a number of individual properties in Wem Rural Parish, including some moated properties that may possibly date from the time of the Norman invasion and subsequent settlement of Britain following the Battle of Hastings.
Of these Northwood Hall near Newtown is of particular note being a rare ‘double-moated’ site (i.e. a moated site within a larger moated enclosure, one of only two such sites in existence in Shropshire). Unfortunately there is no remaining visual evidence of an old Hall building but the moats are registered and protected as a Scheduled Monument.
Soulton Hall (the more ‘recent’ 16th Century hall is now a hotel) is believed be built on part of the early mediaeval site of the old Domesday manor of Soulton, and its single moated site is also a Scheduled Monument.
Lowe Hall is reputed to have been owned by Judge Jefferies (the ‘Hanging Judge’ of infamous reputation). He was created Baron of Wem in 1685 but is not thought to have actually lived at Lowe Hall.
Tilley and its surrounding farms represent a unique survival from late mediaeval times. Its timber framed buildings, all featured on a map dated 1631, are to be the subject of a major archaeological survey.”
There are in fact a number of protected and listed sites spread throughout the parish – Scheduled Monuments, Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II listed houses, churches, outbuildings, bridges and memorials, and even a collection of lime kilns and brickworks. These demonstrate a variety of building materials; ranging from timber (local woodland), wattle and daub (local lime), reed & thatch (growing locally), cob and peat/moss dwellings, locally quarried stone (from Grinshill), locally fired hand-made bricks (clay found in local fields), glass (made from the vast sand deposits of Cheshire), commercially produced bricks (initially from local brickworks, replaced by the emerging industrial area at Ruabon near Wrexham) and slate from the quarries of North Wales. Today, of course, materials can be brought here from all around the world.
There is inevitably less evidence of original dwellings made from materials such as wood and other organic materials, since they deteriorate more easily with the passage of time. But in fact, the wide range of vernacular and grander scale buildings of our parish present a wonderful historical record of ‘building through the centuries’ – beginning with materials readily available on the doorstep of the home builder, and then gradually incorporating materials from further afield as the transport links to the area opened up. These wonderful historical time capsules can hopefully be treasured and appreciated today, and into the future.
(An extract from the Community Plan)