EYTON's ANTIQUITIES OF SHROPSHIRE.ANTIQUITIES
THE REV. R. W. EYTON,
RECTOR OF RYTON. Non omnia grandior setas
Quae fugiannis habet.
VOL. I. LONDON:
JOHN RUSSELL SMITH, 36, SOHO SQUARE.
B. L. BEDDOW, SHIFFNAL, SALOP.
MDCCCLIV. TUCKER, PRINTER, PERRY'S MACE, OXFORD STREET. TO
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
ROWLAND, VISCOUNT HILL,
BARON HILL OF ALMAREZ, OF HAWKSTONE, AND OF HARDWICKE,
LORD LIEUTENANT AND CUSTOS ROTULORUM
County of Salop,
AS TO THE REPRESENTATIVE OF A NAME,
WHICH, WHILE LONG AND INTIMATELY ASSOCIATED WITH
Shropshire and its History,
HAS BEEN NO LESS IDENTIFIED WITH PATRIOTIC PRINCIPLES AND NOBLE DEEDS, THIS WORK,
WHICH HE WAS THE FIRST TO ENCOURAGE, IS, WITH HIS LORDSHIP'S PERMISSION,
BY HIS MOST OBEDIENT SERVANT,
THE AUTHOR. LIST OF ENGRAVINGS. VOL. I. 1. Between pp. 16 and 17. MAP OP PART OF SHROPSHIRE, STAFFORDSHIRE, AND WARWICKSHIRE.
2. To face page 42. CHANCEL DOOR, South Side, Morville. Rev. J. L. Petit, del.
3. " " " PILLAR and CAPITAL, Morville. Rev. J. L. Petit, del.
4. " " " CHANCEL ARCH, Morville. Rev. J. L. Petit, del.
6. " " " FONT, Morville. Rev. J. L. Petit, del.
6. To face page 66. BILLINGSLEY CHURCH. F. S. A. del.
7. To face page 116. CHANCEL, Quatford. Rev. J. L. Petit, del.
8. " " " FONT, Quatford. Rev. J. Brooks, del.
9. " " " INCISED SLABS, Quatford. Rev. J. L. Petit, del.
10. To face page 146. UPTON CRESSETT CHURCH. Rev. J. L. Petit, del.
11. " " " FONT, Upton Cressett. Rev. J. L. Petit, del.
12. " " " DOOR-WAY, Upton Cressett. F. S. A. del.
13. To face page 208. HEAD OF DOOR-WAY, Aston Eyre. F. S. A. del.
Antiquities of Shropshire,
THE REV. R. W. EYTON,
Rector of Ryton, Salop. VOL. I. Non omnia grandior setas
Quae fugiamus habet. ONLY 300 COPIES PRINTED. PREFACE. IN deciding on a plan for the present work, the author has felt his greatest difficulty to exist in producing that combination  which, while it need not offend the mere antiquary, may also be attractive and useful to those local readers, who feel a pride or an interest in the County to which they belong. Large in extent,  important in position, rich in fertility and productions, beautiful and varied in scenery, Shropshire has ever been inhabited by a race of men characteristic for uniformity of principle and energy of action. Great in its antecedents, and not unfortunate in its present, it may be no bad omen of its future, that those who have chief concern in its welfare be the slowest of all men to adopt any theory which identifies patriotism with a contempt of the past. Much does the antiquary congratulate himself in having chosen a field of research which promises such unusual advantages of encouragement and sympathy. The present series of volumes on Shropshire Antiquities will relate mainly to the interval which elapsed between the Norman Conquest and the death of Henry III.
 The documents which furnish nearly all the knowledge we possess of the earlier Anglo-Norman period are written in base Latin; the use of contracted forms is also general, though the forms themselves are various, no two scribes employing exactly the same. Translations more or less literal have therefore been given in the text, whilst the original has been added in a note, wherever its meaning was doubtful or unexpressible in another language. In the latter case all contractions have been resolved.
 Shropshire, with the exception of Wiltshire, is the largest of the inland counties of Great Britain. Its limits will have sometime been greatly in excess of that county. Its ancient position, on a hostile frontier, is that more particularly alluded to in the text. 2 PREFACE. That period involved two centuries of years, a succession of eight Kings, and the lives of six generations of Princes of the Norman dynasty. The contemporary Chronicles are not numerous, but whereever their aid has been available for the present work, they have been consulted. Their testimony is however seldom of local interest, as none of them, except Ordericus, had any connexion with Shropshire, and his was chiefly that of birth. As regards national records, a short account of those which have reference to the period must be given, if only in explanation of the more summary mode of citing them which will be adopted in the sequel. Domesday Book, or at least its general character, is known to all. This great territorial record was compiled by itinerant commissioners, in the years 1085-6, and the result of their labours returned into the King's Court at Winchester, in the Easter of the latter year. Its evidence in regard to Shropshire is most satisfactory, whether we apply such external tests as remain to us, or look to the better guarantee of internal consistency. The printed edition is a very creditable facsimile of the original, at least as far as this county is concerned. The national record, which comes next, both in point of date and importance, is the series of Pipe Rolls. The earliest of these Rolls is of the 31st year of Henry I (A.D. 1130), but unfortunately any portion thereof relating to Shropshire is either lost or never existed. The next Roll belonged to the 1st year of Henry II, but it is lost, and its former existence is only known by its having been epitomized by a later officer  of the Exchequer. The Pipe Rolls, from the 2d year of Henry II, to the end of the period with which we are concerned, still contain all that was ever entered  on them relative to Shropshire.
 Alexander de Swereford - who, at the time he made this abstract, viz. A.D. 1230, was Archdeacon of Salop (Lichfield diocese).
 It is a very usual subject of regret amongst antiquaries, that the Pipe Roll of 1 Henry III is lost from the series; such regret might be extended to the Roll of 18 John as well as to the Roll of the latter half of King John's 17th regnal year; though the absence of these seems not to have been observed. It is probable however PREFACE. 3 They are the accounts of the sheriffs of counties, of that revenue for which each was annually responsible at the King's Exchequer, and they include statements of the expenses of those officers in the Royal service. The Record, commonly called the Liber Niger, or Black Book of the Exchequer, is mainly the result of an order made in the year 1165, or beginning of 1166, on every tenant in capite of the Crown, to return a list before the first Sunday of Lent (March 17th, 1166), of all who held under him by knight's service, stating whether such tenure was of old or of new feoffment, that is, whether it had existed from the days of Henry I, or had arisen since. Subject to this order, there was a return made and enrolled of the following Shropshire baronies, viz.: that of Fitz- Alan, Castle Holgate, Clun, and Lacy, and of some tenures of less extent; but we miss from the record any statement of the Domesday Baronies of Corbet, Mortimer, Say of Richard's Castle,  and several other lesser, but then existent fiefs. Hearne's printed transcript of this document is unusually faithful as regards Shropshire, but several entries are distinguished in the original, by being written in a different hand and paler ink than the general matter. They were in fact supplementary, but Hearne's transcript takes no notice of this important distinction. The Rotuli Literarum Patentium, or Patent Rolls, are copies
that, owing to the disturbed state of the kingdom at the time, the business of the Exchequer was totally suspended, and consequently that these Rolls never existed. The Shropshire Pipe Rolls of the preceding and subsequent years supply some evidence of this fact which will be stated hereafter. Here it is sufficient to point out the general value of these records as tests of historical accuracy, for the national vanity of our Chroniclers has led them to understate the disorganization which prevailed at the period.
 Osborn Fitz-Hugh, the then Baron of Richard's Castle, made a return; but it was informal, and so was sent back to be amended. William de Beauchamp, who had charge to see to its correction, was Sheriff of Herefordshire and Worcestershire; yet the note of this transaction is erroneously given in the 'Libor Niger,' under Northamptonshire. Osborn Fitz-Hugh's amended return nowhere appears. The statement as to this barony, which is inserted under Herefordshire, is of the supplementary character noticed in the text. Hearne's reading thereof is, however, so incorrect as to leave it unintelligible. (See Hearne's Liber Niger, vol. i. pp. 159, 217.) The true reading is reserved for its proper place. 4 PREFACE. of such writs of the Crown as were engrossed on open sheets of parchment, and had the seal of the Sovereign pendent at the bottom. These writs have usually a public address or direction as to their execution, though they may treat of the concerns of an individual. They comprise documents on every variety of subject:- prerogative, revenue, judicature, treaties, safe-conduct, liberties, offices, wardships, ecclesiastical dignities, pardons, liveries, licences, creations of nobility, &c. They exist no earlier than for the third regnal year of King John (commencing May 3d, 1201), and from that time downwards, but not in quite an uninterrupted succession. The Rotuli Literarum Clausarum, or Close Rolls, were writs of the Crown, which were folded up, sealed on the outside, and usually addressed to individuals. Their subject was as diversified as that of the Patent Rolls. They exist from the sixth year of John (June 1204), but not continuously. The Rotuli Chartarum are the contemporaneous registers of Royal Grants of lands, dignities, liberties, and privileges. They commence with the first year of King John (A.D. 1199), and, with the exception of a few years, are preserved for the whole period with which we are concerned. The Oblata and Fine Rolle constitute one series, commencing at the same period as the last. They are records of sums of money offered to and accepted by the Crown, when a subject had to negotiate any favour or feudal right. The Placita and Assize Rolls are records of proceedings in the Courts of Law. No arrangement of these Rolls, founded on a distinct principle, has yet been made, and it is not easy to devise a plan for such arrangement. In general they are badly and inaccurately written, and ill preserved. More than half also are lost. Those which remain are, nevertheless, of the greatest importance, as containing information which no other source can supply. They contain minutes of trials both civil and criminal; at Westminster, and in the provinces; before the King himself, his council, and his justiciars. The present Deputy Keeper of the Rolls, edited for the Record PREFACE. 5 Commission all that was supposed to remain of them, for the reign of Richard I, and the first year of King John, but a few undated Rolls escaped observation, owing probably to the faulty arrangement which is not yet rectified. Two of these undated, and therefore unprinted, Rolls contain however internal proof of date, and of being earlier than any others. Nothing whatever remains of this kind which can be attributed to an older date than the reign of Richard I. The Pedes Finium, or Final Concords, are records of the terms on which any real or fictitious suit at law was compounded between the litigants. These documents are supposed to have been originally in triplicate. A copy was allotted to each of the according parties, whilst the third was retained as a record by the Crown. Their preservation is extremely accidental, but a few remain of the time of Henry II. Copies of many are preserved in Monastic chartularies, and other depositories, the originals of which are no longer existent in the proper custody. The Escheat Rolls, otherwise called Inquisitiones post mortem, are chiefly records of the writs addressed by the Crown to the proper officer, to summon a jury when the death of any tenant in capite involved a right of wardship, or marriage, or a fine by such tenant's successor for livery. The returns of these juries also form part of the Record, and usually contain statements as to the extent and value of the deceased's property, its tenure, and the name and age of his heir. In some cases the writ is lost,  whilst the return is extant, and vice versa. But these Rolls only commence in the reign of Henry III, and even then are not well preserved. The Inquisitions of this and the succeeding reign frequently involve matters which are not comprehended in the above description, such as perambulations of forests and inquests of the class afterwards entitled ad quod damnum.
 The printed Calendar of these documents notices the absence of some which an earlier index had registered as in the proper custody. One such I have myself found in the British Museum. It is the Inquisition of 81 H.3, No. 42, and is to be found in Harl. Chart. 46. a. 33. 6 PREFACE. By Chartae Antique are generally understood, those copies of certain ancient charters which are enrolled at the Tower. These are not all royal charters. Similar documents existent at the British Museum and elsewhere, and to which the same title would be equally applicable, shall be described when quoted hereafter, by the place of their custody. The Red Book of the Exchequer (Liber Ruber Scaccarii), a volume of great interest and most varied contents, was compiled previous to the year 1246. When quoted in this work, it will be so as a collection of scutage- rolls, of lists of knights' fees and serjeantries, and of abstracts of Pipe Rolls. The Testa de Nevill is also a compilation of similar matters. As regards Shropshire it contains lists of tenures by serjeantry, of other tenures in capite, of the knights' fees constituting particular baronies, also notices  of churches, wardships or marriages of the King's gift, and scutages. These documents are of the reigns of John and Henry III. The Hundred Rolls for Shropshire are of two kinds, and relate to two periods, viz., the years 1255 and 1274. The former is chiefly a territorial record, specifying the tenure and extent of each manor in a given Hundred,  its privileges and liabilities as ascertained by Jury. The latter is an inquisition by similar Juries of Hundreds as to frauds on the Crown Revenue, or oppressions of the people by public officers. The Placita de quo warranto were legal proceedings instituted by the Crown with reference to frauds thus or otherwise ascertained or suspected. A series of such trials was held in Shropshire in time of Edward I. The Forest Rolls, preserved at the Chapter-House, Westminster, contain pleas and proceedings before the Justices of the King's Forests in their respective circuits. Mixed with
 A part of these transcripts is clearly taken from Assize Rolls. Thus we have a fragment of a Shropshire Assize Roll of date A.D.1227, and the original of which is lost.
 Boroughs and liberties, where extra-hundredal, are also reported of. The Shropshire hundred of Brimstree is unnoticed in each of these Surveys, but the rolls of many other counties are far more incomplete than that of Shropshire. PREFACE. 7 them are perambulations of forests, where a boundary was in question, and documents relating to other questions of Royal demesne. A very early forest roll for Shropshire is preserved. It is undated, but belongs to the year 1180  or 26 Hen. II, and is in perfect condition. The originalia Rolls seem to be a series of memoranda of matters connected with the constant or casual revenue of the Crown. They were preserved in the Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer's Office, as belonging to that department of the Exchequer called the Exchequer of Account. They commence with the 11th year of Henry III (A.D. 1226). A book commonly called Kirby's Quest, 0 and of which the original and constituent documents are supposed to be lost, seems to contain a series of extracts from the Escheat Rolls; but its more valuable and distinctive feature is a statement of tenures in different Counties and Hundreds, as they existed in time of Edward I. The survey of Shropshire is very full, and stands a most valuable continuation of the series formed by Domesday, the Liber Niger, the Testa de Nevill, and the Hundred Rolls. In further continuation of this series there was a record of the time of Edward II, commonly called the Nomina villarum. The contents of this are similarly to be gathered only from transcripts, and those very inaccurate. A few minor records remain to be noticed. The Rotuli de
 This date is proved in a curious but most satisfactory way. At the foot of the Roll, the sum of amercements levied on this occasion is stated as £68 4s. 6d., and an additional sum of £56 is entered as accruing from the sale of lead, the produce of the King's mines at Shelve. In his account for the fiscal year ending Michaelmas, 1180, Hugh Pantulf, then Sheriff of Shropshire, acknowledges each of these sums as due to the Crown, and he discharges the debt in subsequent years. The Sheriff's acccunt further supplies the name of the justice of the forest who held these pleas, and which is not given on the Roll itself. It was Thomas Fitz-Bernard. (Mag. Rot. Pip. 26 Hen. II, Salopescr.)
 John de Kirkby, whose name is associated with these inquests, was treasurer to King Edward I at the time they were taken. He presided himself over the inquests in Devonshire, but the justiciars who visited Shropshire and Staffordshire were Richard de Stanford, Clerk, and his fellows. I have two original parchment rolls of tenures nearly contemporary but not identical with Kirby's Quest. They extend only to the Hundreds of Bradford and Pimhill. 8 PREFACE. dominabus et pueris et puellis are a record of marriages and wardships of the King's gift as ascertained in certain counties by Itinerant Justices in the year 1185 (31 Hen. II). Shropshire was not thus visited, but we obtain information as to certain persons connected with the County, and which, as relating to so remote a period, it would be vain to expect elsewhere. The Liberate Rolls are entries of the different precepts which were in fact the warrants of the fiscal Officers of the Crown in their payment of pensions, stipends, and other state expenses, constant or occasional. They remain of the 2d, 3d, and 5th years of John, when their matter becomes involved in the Close Rolls, and they are discontinued. They recommence in the tenth year of Henry III, and continue till the reign of Henry VI. The Misae Rolls are accounts of the daily expenses of the King's Court. Only two exist, those of the 11th and 14th years of John. The Praestita Rolls were records of advances out of the Royal Treasury for a specific purpose, or on loan. They exist only for five years of John, viz.: the 7th, 12th, 14th, 15th, and 16th years of his reign. With regard to ecclesiastical matters and possessions, there are no national records of the early date contemplated in this work, at least none of an exclusively ecclesiastical character. But whereas documents of a later period have, where places rather than persons are concerned, a wide retrospective significance, I shall frequently quote certain national records, which treat of the temporal and spiritual possessions of the Church. The principal of these will be three:- 1st, Pope Nicholas' Taxation, a survey and valuation taken between A.D. 1288 and 1292, on occasion of Pope Nicholas IV having granted in the former year, to King Edward I, the tenths of all ecclesiastical income in England for six years to come. These annual tenths were usually payable to the See of Rome, though in a previous instance they had been granted, PREFACE. 9 for three years, to King Henry III. The object for which Edward I was to employ them was a Crusade. His temporary interest in the matter occasioned a Royal Commission, which surveyed the Church's possessions throughout the realm; and this valuation governed all ecclesiastical taxes, whether payable to King or Pope, till the reign of Henry VIII. It was in fact the Domesday of the Church, and from it we not unfrequently get the earliest notice of our parochial existence and relations. 2dly. The Record printed under the title Inquisitiones Nonarum, or Inquests of the Ninths, purporting to be a valuation taken A.D. 1341, through every parish in the kingdom, of the ninth of certain stock in such parish. This tax was the country contingent of a general subsidy granted by parliament in support of the wars of King Edward III. The ninth of wheat, wool, and lamb, in a parish, was expected to equal the ecclesiastical valuation of glebe, and tithes in general; so that Pope Nicholas' taxation was in effect the basis of the calculation; but this assessment was made in each case by a jury of parishioners, and where their return differed from the taxation, they stated the local or temporary causes which produced the discrepancy. Hence the Record embodies a variety of local and statistical information, quite accidental to a fiscal document. 3dly. The Valor Ecclesiasticus, or great Ecclesiastical Valuation of Henry VIII, which had its origin in this way. When the King had succeeded in depriving the Papal See of all revenue derivable from his realm of England, his next care was to secure to himself, in some form or other, the income thus disengaged. The Parliament which met on 3d Nov., 26 Henry VIII (A.D. 1534), granted to the Crown the annual tenth of all ecclesiastical income whatsoever. The institution thereupon of a Royal Commission, or Commissions, resulted in the general valuation before us. This Record is printed in six folio volumes, and Mr. Hunter's Introduction, embodied in the sixth volume, is an able account of many further particulars. 10 PREFACE. The whole or parts of other Records, above described, have been printed, chiefly by order of the late Record Commission, whose powers seem to have been withdrawn precisely at the time when they were in most efficient exercise. When a document is quoted in the following pages, which has been thus well edited, reference will often be made to the page of the printed book, rather than to the original folio or membrane. I cannot dismiss this notice of the public Records of the kingdom, which, according to the liberal system adopted by the present Master of the Rolls, I have had the privilege of consulting or transcribing free of expense, without expressing my sense of the ready and accommodating spirit with which the Officers of each department have facilitated my researches. Something of this is, I understand, the result of general directions; but I speak of a uniform civility and readiness to assist, which is not required, and could not be enforced by any system of rules. Passing now from national Records to those of a more local character, the first which have to be mentioned are the Diocesan Registers. These, unfortunately, do not much affect the period with which we are chiefly concerned. The Lichfield Registers commence with that of Bishop Walter de Langton, who was consecrated 22d Dec., 1296: the Hereford Registers, with that of Bishop Thomas de Cantilupe, consecrated 8th Sept., 1275. The former I have had every facility for consulting, through the united kindness of the Bishop, the Registrar, and Deputy-Registrar of the Diocese. I had already extracted the Shropshire entries of the three earlier  Registers when my progress
 The Harleian MSS. 8868 and 4799, now in the British Museum, and some time in possession of Peter le Neve, were undoubtedly, at a still earlier period, part of the Diocesan Registers of Lichfield. They contain documents of extreme antiquity and interest. They are not, like the later Registers, continuous records of the Diocesan transactions, but appear rather to be enrolments of certain documents exhibited at Episcopal visitations, in proof of various rights and titles to Church property. Duplicates of many entries are to be found in Monastic Chartularies, but where the latter are lost or inaccessible, the information supplied bythese Registers is invaluable.
Further, on fly-leaves or other (originally) vacant spaces of the first Lichfield Registers have been transcribed a few PREFACE. 11 was stopped, not immediately, because the Registers refer to a period later than that in hand, but from finding that the work had been already done by another. All extracts necessary to a County History, and which the Registers either of Lichfield or Hereford could supply, were taken by the late Rev. J. B. Blakeway, and may be found among his MSS. in the Bodleian Library. Of Monastic Chartularies, there are four only known to be in existence, which relate to the greater religious houses of Shropshire. They are of Shrewsbury, Haughmond, and Lilleshall Abbeys, and of Wombridge Priory. The Shrewsbury and Wombridge Chartularies are in the collection of Sir Thomas Phillipps, Bart., of Middle Hill, Worcestershire, whose liberality in allowing access to his valuable collections is too well known to need mention here. For my knowledge of the contents of these two Chartularies I am however indebted to Mr. George Morris, of Shrewsbury, whose extracts from them, while in the hands of a former owner, have been obligingly lent me, and are amply sufficient for my present purpose. The Haughmond Chartulary, in possession of Andrew William Corbet, of Sundorn, Esq., is open to my inspection, through permission of its owner; but Mr. Morris's extracts have similarly been available to me, and contain all that I can at present wish to derive from this source. There is a fragment of a different Chartulary of Haughmond in the British Museum, which, with many other documents there, I have either copied or carefully consulted. To the Lilieshall Chartulary and other documents in possession of his Grace the Duke of Sutherland, I have also leave of access; but the references, which I am at present enabled to make to the former, are by means of extracts taken long since, and to be found in the British Museum, the Bodleian Library, and the Diocesan Registers.
charters of much earlier date than the general contents of the series. This probably was by procurement of parties interested in the preservation of these older documents, or pcssibly by the spontaneous diligence of some clerk anxious to rescue the remains of an earlier and perishing Record. 12 PREFACE. The Chartularies of Wenlock Priory, and of Buildwas Abbey, are lost, or, at least, have not been heard of in this country since the dissolution. Of the former, a few items may be gathered from the Monasticon and other quarters. The loss of the latter may be much more satisfactorily supplied from various sources. It is not impossible that a connected Chartulary of either house may yet be found in some foreign depository. Some inquiries in that direction have however been hitherto unsuccessful. For assistance in the loan of private deeds and documents, I must leave all detailed acknowledgment to the sequel, and I have reason to anticipate considerable aid of this kind from several sources. Already I have received valuable contributions from the Rev. J. Brooke, of Haughton; R. H. Cheney, Esq., of Badger; R. Gardner, Esq., of Leighton; and W. W. How, Esq., of Shrewsbury.  I omit to particularize several promises of most efficient aid in the illustrative department of this work, simply lest some unforeseen hindrance may occur to one or other of my expectations. I must be similarly guarded as to some architectural notices which I have hope of obtaining from a well-known authority  in such matters. My business here is merely to disclaim all personal credit for either kind of contribution. Maps will be given which will follow the territorial arrangement of Domesday, as far as that can now be ascertained,
 I have further to add to this list of benefactors, the names of the Rt. Hon. Lord Forester, Sir Baldwin Leighton, Bart., T. C. Whitmore, Esq., W. Wolryche Whitmore, Esq., and George Pritchard, Esq., who have given me every facility for consulting and transcribing documents in their possession. At Willey is a register of Wenlock Priory, chiefly in the handwriting of the two Priors, who preceded John Baylis, the last who enjoyed that dignity. The volume is extremely valuable, not only as furnishing in its various rent-rolls much of topographical information, but as containing several earlier documents transcribed, I presume, with reference to some current question of title or prescriptive right.
 The Rev. J. L. Petit, who already favours me in a way which I must acknowledge both gratefully and openly, notices of the earlier ecclesiastical remains at Morrville, Quatford, and Upton Cresset, which will appear forthwith, are the result of a recent visit to those places, undertaken expressly for my assistance. The illustrations also, which bear his name, are presented by him to the work in their finished state. PREFACE. 13 and, where doubt exists, the whole question will be stated in the text. The tables of Domesday Hundreds which will accompany these maps, are intended further to illustrate the state of things at the time. of that survey. With regard to former works on the same or cognate subjects, I shall have most frequent occasion to refer to:- The History of Shrewsbury, in 2 vols. (1825), by the late Ven. Archdeacon Owen, and the late Rev. J. B. Blakeway. The Sheriffs of Shropshire (1831), a posthumous work of the Rev. J. B. Blakeway. And to the Antiquities of Shropshire (1844), by T. F. Dukes, Esq. I shall not hesitate to borrow from these works whatever I may find in them necessary to the completeness or illustration of the subject in hand; but it is more with reference to objections which I shall have to make to some of their contents that I wish here to speak and to apologize. The self-reliance which such objections may be construed to imply will only be apparent, for of all names associated with our local history and antiquities that of Mr. Blakeway has ever seemed to me entitled to an increasing reverence. The History of Shrewsbury, the joint work of himself and Archdeacon Owen, is, I imagine, of the very highest order of excellence; and that not merely topographically, but as furnishing those very elements towards a general History of England which ought to be ready and available to the national historian, whenever one competent to the greater undertaking shall arise. The objections which I speak of are then only to matters of detail, on which it is impossible for one person at any one time to attain perfect accuracy. Herein Dugdale himself, though ignorantly criticised in his day, was no exception to the general rule, that antiquarian truth must be progressive, and so never complete. The smallest change of premises will often largely affect a conclusion, and a dozen established facts assume a totally new complexion, by the addition of one hitherto uncertified. I close this digression with a simple 14 PREFACE. acknowledgment which I trust will excuse reiterated apologies in the sequel. It is only where some further fact, apparently unknown to Mr. Blakeway, may happen to occur to me, or where my greater leisure, and more limited sphere of inquiry may enable me to devote much attention to points, which in his varied researches he was obliged to treat summarily, that I would venture to express a difference of opinion. I have one more profession to make. It is as to the limits which I propose between an indulgence in conjecture, and an avoidance of difficulties. The former is the stigma of the old school of heralds and antiquaries; the latter is more likely to be the error of modern inquirers. And the reason of both is apparent. The former expected and gained everything by flattery and invention; the latter write under surveillance of a searching, if not over-active, spirit of criticism. Conjecture is to be avoided till all available resources of knowledge have been exhausted, but any attempt to solve a still remaining diffrculty is excusable; and an acknowledgment of a difficulty, wherever one occurs, is a duty, even though it may provoke a suspicion of ignorance unfavourable to the author. A difficulty evaded is only a difficulty postponed; but a difficulty confessed is a mark for future inquiry, more skilful, more active, or more fortunate, than the one in hand. I cannot conclude without some acknowledgment of what I owe to a Society of living Antiquaries, whose writings I shall frequently have recourse to, and the very mention of whose names is a condemnation of that wretched economy which suspended the operations of the Record Commission, and so deprived the public of services which may never again be at command. Some personal obligations, and a wish to avoid all appearance of flattery, prevent my saying more in connexion with the names of Sir Francis Palgrave, Thomas Duffus Hardy, Esq., and the Rev. Joseph Hunter. I am not so withheld in speaking of the works of the late Thomas Stapleton, Esq., my extreme admiration of which, as it is associated with no personal feeling, so can it no longer wear PREFACE. 15 even an appearance of flattery. His commentary on the Rotuli Normanniae is a model of antiquarian criticism; and mention of that particular work is less out of place here, because it contains the only correct accounts of two great families early connected with Shropshire, those of its Norman Earls and of the Mortimers. And now, having taken full advantage of that license to speak in the first person which is usually allowed to a Preface, I commit my work to the indulgence of its readers, little doubting that a liberality, kindred to that which has already welcomed an unknown author with a subscription list of more than a hundred names, will double that number, and be yet further extended to a judgment of his labours when published. ROBERT W. EYTON.
Sept. 26th, 1853. Return to top of page