Shropshire History

Norman

Shropshire

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Between 1066-1154, England was ruled by the Norman kings.

 

 

1050 - Richard Fitz Scrob was a Norman knight granted lands by the Saxon King Edward the Confessor and he built Richard's Castle near Ludlow. It is believed that the origin of the name "Shropshire" is the Old English "Scrobbesbyrigscīr", perhaps taking its name from Richard FitzScrob. However, the Normans found it difficult to pronounce so they softened it to "Salopescira". Salop is the abbreviation of this.

 

1066 - Norman invasion where William the Conqueror defeated the Saxon king Harold Godwinsson.  King William placed Shropshire under the control of the Anglo-Saxon Earl Edwin of Mercia, who had accepted William as monarch. At this time, much of Shropshire was covered by forest, the largest of which was Morfe Forest which became a favourite hunting-ground of the English Kings. Other large forests were Wrekin (Mount Gilbert), Stiperstones, Wyre, Shirlot, Clee, Long Forest and Brewood.

 

1069 – There was resistance to the Normans in Shropshire, led by Edric Sylvaticus (known as Wild Edric), who was a big landowner in South Shropshire and Herefordshire. Having a lot to lose, he made an alliance with the Welsh and led the men of Shropshire, Hereford and Cheshire in a siege of Shrewsbury. This was only partly successful and, after burning part of the town, they left.

 

1071 – The Earl Edwin of Mercia was killed by conspirators from his own clan. After these two acts of defiance, King William installed Roger de Montgomery as Earl of Shrewsbury to control the dissent.  Roger was allocated seven eighths of the land in Shropshire and the others allocated land from King William were :-

 

Bishop of Chester

Bishop of Hereford

Earl Hugh Lasne

Nicholas the Doctor

Osbern FitzRichard

Ralph de Mortimer

Roger de Lacy

St Remigius Church, Rheims

 

King William retained a single estate at Farlow for hunting. The family of Fitz-Alan, ancestors of the royal family of Stuart, had supreme jurisdiction in Oswestry hundred, which was exempt from English law.

 

Roger built his main castle at Shrewsbury, on the isthmus between the two arms of the River Severn. To control the local inhabitants, he built about 70 other castles and Shropshire quickly became the most heavily fortified area in Norman England. During the marriage to his first wife, Mabel de Belesme who was cruel and oppressive, his policy was the same but after her murder, Roger married Adeliza de Puiset, who was a woman of very different character. Under her influence, his rule was milder and he founded various religious houses including Wenlock Priory and Shrewsbury Abbey.

 

1073 - Roger successfully fought the Welsh and secured a large tract of Wales stretching as far as Cardigan.

 

1086 - In the Domesday survey, Shropshire was divided into fifteen hundreds, each consisting of a number of manors.  Some Saxons who had previously owned the lands were now tenants where they had accepted William as King.

 

1094 - Roger died and was buried in Shrewsbury Abbey.

 

1087 – William II becomes king.

 

1100 – Henry I becomes king.

 

1102 - Robert de Belesme (the eldest son of Roger de Montgomery) rebelled against King Henry I and was besieged by the King in Bridgnorth Castle.  Robert escaped and, having slaughtered the garrison left behind at Bridgnorth, Henry followed him to Shrewsbury.  He made his way over Wenlock Edge via a new road that he made and thus arrived before Robert was fully prepared. Henry accepted his surrender and banished him from the kingdom but he carried on rebelling, thus a few years later the King arrested him and Robert ended his days a prisoner in Wareham Castle.

 

1120 – King Henry I lost his son and heir in the tragedy of the White Ship. Around 300 passengers, including many senior nobles, embarked one night on the White Ship to travel from Barfleur in Normandy across to England. The vessel foundered just outside the harbour, possibly as a result of overcrowding or excessive drinking by the ship's master and crew, and all but two of the passengers died. William FitzAlan inherited Oswestry and became Sheriff of Shropshire.

 

1126 - Henry decided to pass the throne to his daughter Matilda and got the barons to swear an oath to recognise her as heir.

 

1135 - Henry died and his nephew Stephen seized the throne while Matilda was in Normandy, pregnant with her third child. The English barons were suspicious of being ruled by a woman, especially as she was married to Count Geoffrey of Anjou who they regarded with contemp. Stephen did have a claim to the throne of England, being the son of Henry's sister, so for the barons this was a legitimate claim. Stephen was crowned at Westminster Abbey and the oath that had been taken to support Matilda's claim was argued to be invalid as it had been taken by force. Soon after Stephen had been crowned, some of the barons started to have serious doubts on his ability to be a strong king. He was found to be soft and made bad decisions.

 

1136 - The country was heading towards civil war, with many barons changing alliance to favour Matilda. The king threw many barons into the tower until they gave up their castles but, as soon as they realised that Stephen was soft and that no punishment was being imposed, they came up with a plan. They pretended to pay homage to Stephen in order to secure their release but then returned to their castles and set about the task of reinforcing them. Soon the land was filled with fortified castles, ready to be held against the King. William FitzAlan held Shrewsbury and Oswestry Castles for Matilda, while William Peverel was in possession of the towns of Broome, Ellesmere and Overton.

 

1137 - Stephen gave Ludlow Castle to Robert FitzMiles, who held it for the King.

 

1138 – Many thousands had died across England from hunger after their villages and farms had been burned by competing barons. Matilda had spent two years trying to raise an army to fight her cousin Stephen. Her half-brother, Earl Robert of Gloucester, joined her cause and she now had a base in England from which to operate. Earl Robert was an influential man and had plenty of supporters. The barons now had a strong, male leader to follow and very quickly joined his campaign against Stephen. Gilbert de Lacy seized Ludlow Castle for Matilda and Stephen responded by bringing an army into Shropshire. He re-took the castle and gave it to Joce de Dinan. During the siege, Stephen famously rescuing his ally Prince Henry of Scotland when the latter was caught on a hook thrown over the walls by the garrison. Gilbert still maintained that he was the rightful owner of Ludlow, however, and a private war ensued between Joce and himself. Gilbert was ultimately successful and retook the castle a few years later. Meanwhile, Stephen marched his army to Shrewsbury and, upon hearing of Stephen’s approach, William FitzAlan secretly fled with his wife and children, leaving behind those who had bound themselves by oath not to surrender. Stephen had still not captured the castle after many days so he ordered huge amounts of wood to be piled in the ditch and set on fire. The men on the wall fled from the billowing smoke that now filled the castle and Stephen’s army were able to enter. The defenders were quickly killed or captured and Stephen ordered that 100 of them be hanged as an example. Stephen then marched on to Oswestry Castle where William FitzAlan’s uncle, Ernulf of Hesdin, was forced to surrender to Stephen after long siege and was hanged as traitor.

 

1139 - Matilda crossed to England to take the kingdom by force, supported by her half-brother, Robert of Gloucester, and her uncle, King David I of Scotland.

 

1140 – The Welsh Prince Madoc ap Meredith of Powys captured Oswestry while attention was focussed on the civil war. It would bet two decades before it was restored to William FItzAlan.

 

1141 - Matilda's forces captured Stephen at the Battle of Lincoln but the Empress's attempt to be crowned at Westminster collapsed in the face of bitter opposition from the London crowds. As a result of this retreat, Matilda was never formally declared Queen of England and was instead titled the Lady of the English. Robert was captured following the Rout of Winchester and Matilda agreed to exchange him for Stephen. Matilda became trapped in Oxford Castle by Stephen's forces that winter and was forced to escape across the frozen River Isis at night to avoid capture. The war degenerated into a stalemate, with Matilda controlling much of the south-west of England, and Stephen the south-east and the Midlands. Large parts of the rest of the country were in the hands of local, independent barons.

 

1145 – Many of Matilda's followers joined the Second Crusade when it was announced, leaving the country for several years. Some of the Anglo-Norman barons made individual peace agreements with each other, to secure their lands and war gains, and many were not keen to pursue any further conflict. The character of the conflict in England gradually began to shift. The major fighting was over, giving way to an intractable stalemate with only the occasional outbreak of fresh fighting.

 

1148 - Matilda returned to Normandy, leaving her eldest son Henry to continue the campaign in England. In many parts of the country, the fighting and raiding had caused serious devastation. Numerous unauthorised castles had been built as bases for local lords and the previously centralised royal coinage system was fragmented, with Stephen, the Empress and local lords all minting their own coins.

 

1153 – Henry returned to England again with a small army. Stephen agreed to a temporary truce and returned to London, leaving Henry to travel north through the Midlands. Despite only modest military successes, Henry and his allies now controlled the south-west, the Midlands and much of the north of England.

 

1154 - After Stephen's death, Henry II succeeded to the throne of England. Henry vigorously re-established royal authority in the aftermath of the civil war, dismantling castles and increasing revenues,

 

 

Discovering Shropshire’s History

 

Domesday Book to 1300

 

Shropshire and the Norman Conquest

 

 

 

Gazetteer of Sites

 

There are many Norman churches in Shropshire. Go to the Churches page and they can be identified by the date, which will either be the 11th or 12th Centuries.

 

Bishop’s Castle (SO324891)

 

Bridgnorth Castle (SO716927)

 

Buildwas Abbey (SJ643043)

 

Caus Castle (SJ336077)

 

Chirbury Priory (SO262985)

 

Church Preen Priory (SO543981)

 

Cleobury Castle (SO681760)

Motte and bailey

 

Clun Castle (SO298809)

 

Corfham Castle (SO525850)

Motte and bailey

 

Corfton Castle (SO497847)

Motte and bailey

 

Donnington Wood Abbey (SJ8106)

 

Ellesmere Castle (SJ403347)

 

Haughmond Abbey (SJ542152)

 

Holdgate Castle (SO562896)

 

Hopton Castle (SO367779)

 

Knockin Castle (SJ335223)

Motte and bailey

 

Lilleshall Abbey (SJ737141)

 

Lizard Grange (SJ788101)

 

Ludlow Castle (SO508746)

 

Moreton Corbet Castle (SJ561231)

 

Morville Priory (SO669939)

 

Oswestry Castle (SJ291298)

 

Pulverbatch Castle (SJ432023)

Motte and bailey

 

Quatford Castle (SO73759072)

Motte and bailey

 

Ridgewardine Grange (SJ678381)

 

Rowton Castle (SJ379127)

 

Rushbury Castle (SO514919)

Motte and bailey

 

Shrewsbury Abbey (SJ499125)

 

Shrewsbury Castle (SJ494128)

 

Wem Castle (SJ511288)

 

White Ladies Priory (SJ826076)

 

Whittington Castle (SJ326311)

 

Wombridge Priory (SJ690116)