A Brief History of Chetwynd

Chetwynd lies a mile north of Newport, Shropshire. Today there is little left of the ancient settlement which was founded centuries before Newport.

The Chetwynd Medieval Heritage Society is dedicated to researching the origins of Chetwynd, its history from its beginings and then its slow demise as a village.

Chetwynd Park
Chetwynd, or Chetwynd Park as it is called today

This is a very brief history of Chetwynd as far as we know it at the moment. It is hoped that as we discover more facts we can add to our knowledge.

Before 1086 Countess Godiva was the lady of the manor. After the Conquest the manor of Chetwynd was confiscated from its Saxon lords and given to a Norman knight Thurold de Verley who held it under the lordship of another Norman noble Earl Roger de Montgomery

CATEWINDE. Countess Godiva held it. 3 hides which pay tax. Land for 8 ploughs. In lordship 3. 6 ploughmen. 2 villagers and 3 smallholders with one plough. A priest. A mill with 2 fisheries which pay 5 shillings and 64 sticks of eels. A small wood. Value before 1066 25 shillings now 50 shillings. He found it waste.

After the conquering of England by William of Normandy in 1066 life for the ordinary man of England was difficult and hard under the new Norman overlords. In the 20 years after the Conquest and until King William had commissioned his survey of all land in England many manors were without direction, crop production was reduced and places that had formerly been able to provide a tithe were 'waste'.

A Penny
A Penny from the reign of
William of Normandy 1066-1087

12 pennies made a shilling. A peasant could earn from a penny a day. A penny today would be worth about £30.

Eels were plentiful in the river and a delicacy to eat. A 'stick' of eels is a measurement of 25 eels, therefore the Chetwynd fishery had to pay a tithe of 1,590 eels a year to the king.

The 6 ploughmen would have had teams of up to 8 oxen and would have had nine acres to plough each. Land for 8 ploughs means over 600 acres

Altogether Chetwynd village probably had a population of between 30 - 40 people plus children in 1086

As the years went by the people settled under the Norman rule and prosperity returned to the villages. The village and manor of Chetwynd passed from the lordship of Thurold de Verley to Alan FitzFlaad, a Breton noble who had found favour with Henry I. He was granted the lordship of Oswestry along with several manors in Shropshire including Chetwynd In 1102 the family that became known as de Chetwynd held the manor under William FitzAlan, Alan's son. The first recorded mention of the lord of Chetwynd was of Adam de Chetwynd in 1180. Surnames, before this time, were not commonly used. Landowners took the name of the manor where they lived while peasants became known by their type of work such as Plowman, Miller, Reeve, Tanner, Freeman etc.

The village of Chetwynd continued growing despite the foundation of a new town Nova Burgo (Newport) on its doorstep. This new town was granted a market in 1135 and an annual Fair in 1292.

Chetwynd must have been large enough because in 1318 John de Chetwynd, perhaps the great-great-great grandson of Adam, was granted a weekly market licence,on Tuesdays, and an annual 3 day Fair to be held on the Eve Vigil and Feast of All Saints - that is October 30th, 31st and 1st of November to be held at the Manor.

A Medieval Plough

It is not known how long the Fair continued. Some historians have suggested that it only was created to make a market for the cattle being driven in from Wales. Prices were very high as there had been years of cattle disease (murrain) which had devastated landowners. The market was still in existence in 1334 as it was recorded on the Lay Subsidy as generating £106.75. But by 1340 the cattle murrain had returned again, harvests were ruined by bad summers with storms and floods and soon (around 1349) , The Plague reached Shropshire. Was this the end of the Fair?

From late in the 12th century until around 1330 a Chetwynd remained at Chetwynd. With the death of Reginald de Chetwynd, the manor passed to Richard de Peshale, his son-in-law married to Joan who inherited the manor from her father. A branch of the Chetwynd family continued to flourish in Staffordshire at Ingstre, and were ultimately created the Earls of Shrewsbury.

In about 1430, just before the outbreak of the 'Wars of the Roses' Jocosa de Peshale married Richard Pigott of Cheshire. Through her he now became the lord of Chetwynd Manor and village. Pigotts remained at Chetwynd until Robert Pigott, who was a bit of a gambler and had fallen on hard times, sold the estate in 1774 for £70,000. It had been in his family for 12 generations.

The Church at Chetwynd

A sketch of the original church

The original church at Chetwynd may have been a very simple building of stone with perhaps a single bell tower. It would have been the centre of village life with the bell tolling the numerous services of the day starting with Prime in the early morning.

The villagers would probably have attended Mass on Sunday but during the working week, the lord of the manor would have needed the men and women to work in the fields.

All the services would be said or sung in Latin which the ordinary villager would not have understood. Only the educated had a knowledge of Latin. The priest would have studied Latin at an early age and maybe also the lord of the manor and some of his family. Peasants could not read and maybe not all of the lord's family.

The priest at Chetwynd would have probably been to university and was well educated. From 1318 the names of all the priests are known up until 1404. In 1319 Reginald de Chetwynd, the son of Sir John de Chetwynd, was the village priest. His income was 7 marks a year (a mark was about 160 pennies). Plus he would receive a tithe, a ninth part of everything the villagers grew, such as corn, beans, peas, rye. He may also have kept his own sheep on his glebe land although the villagers would have tended them.

The Church
Chetwynd Church 1865

It is not know how many times the church was rebuilt or improved but by the time of the Civil War the church was an impressive building.

Chetwynd Knight

In 1645 King Charles 1 stayed three nights at Chetwynd Manor as the guest of Walter Pigott. One of the soldiers in the Kings Own Lifeguard, was Captain Richard Symonds. He was keeping a diary of the events of these terrible years but also writing about the places and churches that he visited whilst accompanying the King.

He describes Chetwynd Church and describes the monuments to Chetwynd Knights. One monument in the chancel against the north wall 'lies a knight crosse-legged, with a shield on his arme'. A cross legged knight usually denoted someone who had been on a crusade and there is evidence that one of the early Chetwynds went on the first crusade, 1095-1099

...a chayne about his neck

He goes on to describe two other monuments to knights from the time of Henry V or Henry VI. The monuments are of 'alabaster, very curiously wrought. Under their heads upon a helme, forth of a wreath, a fox head. He next the east end oldest and a chayne about his neck. The other in different fashioned armour, and a chayne of collar S and a rose at the end hanging about his neck' Alabaster is a beautiful white stone, these monuments must have been fabulous Where are they now?

The church was demolished in 1866 after a new church had been built on a new site and which stands to this day.

This short piece on Chetwynd was written by me when I became fascinated by the knowledge that, once upon a time, Chetwynd was a big enough village to have been granted a fair of its own. I was determined to find out more about this 'lost' village and have spent a number of years on my quest.

In 2008 we re-created the Fair, albeit in July instead of the original which would have taken place over All Hallows (30th/31st October & 1st November) so it would have been an Autumn Fair most probably based around the selling of livestock.

The new Fair continues (see the Chetwynd Medieval Fair page) with great success.

We have now formed the Chetwynd Medieval Heritage Society as I am not alone in finding the whole subject interesting. If you would like to join us and help in our quest, please go to the Membership Page, here you will find contact and subscription details.

Joanna Spencer
PR Officer
Chetwynd Medieval Heritage Society