Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mawley Hall

A fascinating story of Mawley Hall involving Napoleon and King Henry V111. It was also where the Catholics at the City of Coventry Boarding school went worship each Sunday.

Rosemary Webb Rehill  - " I remember it well. I'm Catholic and went to that small musty chapel until I was about nine when the new church in Cleobury was built. It was a great shame that the new owners, the Galliers-Prats demolished it. Mum helped clean out the vestments and I always remember her telling me that Joseph Bonaparte's son was christened there. (he was Napolean's brother)."

Trev Teasdel - " I didn't know about Mawley Hall until now but it was owned originally by the Blount family (the name of one of the school houses!). They were wealthy coal owners and ironfounders and prominent Catholics and Walter Blount became a Baronet! As Royalists their wealth declined during the civil war and returned during the restoration."

The entrance to the estate was just past Cherry Orchard on the A4117 Cleobury to Bewdley Road.

Trev Teasdel did a search to find out more about Joseph Bonaparte and Mawley Hall and how he came to be christened there. He found that it wasn't Joseph Boneparte but Louis Lucien Bonaparte

Louis Lucien Bonaparte baptised at Mawley Hall
Louis Lucien Bonaparte, born 4 January 1813 at Thorngrove, Grimley, Worcestershire, England. Baptised 5 January 1813 at Mawley Hall, Shropshire, England. Son of Lucien Bonaparte, 1st Prince de Canino and Marie Laurence Charlotte Louise Alexandrine de Bleschamp.Married, firstly, Maria Anna Cecchi, 4 October 1832, Florence, Italy. Married, secondly, Clémence Richard, daughter of Jean Baptiste Richard,15 June 1891 at Kensington Registry Office, Kensington, London, England. He and Maria Anna Cecchi were divorced 1850. Died 3 November 1891 at 78"
The full peerage can be viewed here

Trev wondered why Louis Lucien Bonaparte came to be born in England and baptised at Mawley Hall in Shropshire. Didn't Napoleon banish the Catholic church in France and replace it with the Church of Reason during the Enlightenment?

Trev sought some enlightenment from the Internet -

" Louis-Lucien Bonaparte, the comparative linguist and dialectologist, was born in England by chance. In 1810 his father, Lucien, was detained at sea by the British when on his way into exile in America following the breakdown of his relations with his brother, Napoléon I. Interned in England, Lucien was permitted to buy Thorngrove, a house near Worcester, and it was there that Louis-Lucien was born on 4 January 1813. The family's stay in England was brief, however, for they returned to their Italian estate in 1814. Louis-Lucien grew up in Italy. He attended the Jesuit college at Urbino before devoting himself to the study of mineralogy and chemistry. In 1832 he married Maria Anna Cecchi, the daughter of a Florentine sculptor, but the marriage was to be an unhappy one and the couple lived apart. He participated in the first Riunione degli Scienziati Italiani at Pisa and his earliest works, all on scientific subjects, were published in Italy. "

Rosemary then took us even further back in time -

Rosemary Webb Rehill  "O.k. so I got the wrong Bonaparte! but I knew it was a fact. A bit more history for you and this I learned last summer; Henry V111's lover was one of the Blounts and she had a son by him but because the baby was illegitimate obviously it was not recognized. Supposedly he is buried under the big tree in the back of the house. I do have a very vague memory of Lord and Lady Blount. They were both very old when we went to the chapel. We went to see their graves last summer and they were very overgrown. As they had no issue everything was sold off."

Trev took up the challenge to verify this and found that the illegitimate son -  Henry FitzRoy was indeed recognised -

Elizabeth (Bessie) Blount
Trev Teasdel (Courtesy of Google) - " Elizabeth Blount daughter of Sir John Blount & Catherine Pershall, Sir John Blount was a loyal servant to the Royal Family, who accompanied King Henry to France1513 when he waged war against Louis XII of France. Elizabeth had a reputation as a beauty and her relationship with Henry VIII lasted for some time, compared to other affairs.On 15 June 1519, Blount bore the King an illegitimate son who was named Henry FitzRoy, and who was later created Duke of Richmond and Somerset and Earl of Nottingham. He was the only illegitimate son of Henry VIII whom the King recognized as his own, For proving that King Henry was capable of fathering healthy sons, Elizabeth Blount prompted a popular saying, "Bless 'ee, Bessie Blount", often heard during and after this period. Afterwards the King began an affair with Mary Boleyn."

Henry FitzRoy
"Bessie Blount: Always ready to dance or enjoy a joke, Elizabeth Blount was a flousy maid-of-honor who went on to bear, in 1519, the son that the queen so desired. Catherine attended the christening of the baby, named "Henry Fitzroy" (meaning 'son of the king'). Made the highest ranking peer of the realm, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond was expected to be named the king's heir. He would later be proposed as a possible husband for his half-sister, Princess Mary. The match never materialized, however, and Henry Fitzroy, after a brief time at the French court, died at the age of 17 from tuberculosis."

Rosemary Webb Rehill  "That's so interesting! Thank you for sharing."

Catherine of Aragon
Trev Teasdel  "A bit more related to Henry 8th and Mawley Hall " The Catherine of Aragon Chasuble from Mawley Hall, (the outermost liturgical vestment worn by clergy for the celebration of the Eucharist,) was bequeathed to the Catholic Church in Ludlow in 1958 by Sir Walter Blount of Mawley Hall in Shropshire. The Blount family believed it to have been a gift from Catherine of Aragon to Elizabeth Blount, her Lady-in-Waiting.(!) "

Mawley Hall is also the location for The Weather in the Streets and Straightheads - although this is not a film for the faint hearted! Straightheads involves rape and other violence although an interesting plot - according to Wiki, where as The weather in the Streets is described asPassion comes calling when a man suffering through an unhappy marriage in 1920s England runs into first love." There are also public footpaths around the Hall and down to the River Rea.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia
Mawley Hall is a privately owned 18th-century country mansion near Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire, England. It is a Grade I listed building.

The Blount family of Sodington Hall, Mamble, Worcestershire, wealthy coalowners and ironfounders, acquired estates in neighbouring Shropshire. They were prominent Roman Catholics, and Walter Blount was created a baronet in 1624 (see Blount Baronets). As Royalist supporters and on the losing side during the English Civil War they suffered financial difficulties in the 17th century, but their fortunes recovered following the English Restoration of 1660. In 1730 Sir Edward Blount commissioned Francis Smith of Warwick to design a new mansion house for the estate at Mawley. It is built on a rectangular plan of nine by seven bays with a nine bay three storey entrance front to the north east. The advanced three central bays carry Doric pilasters and pediment. The garden front to the south west is similar in design and decoration with a cental entrance approached by a double flight of steps with wrought iron ballustrades. The house is particularly noted for its Baroque interiors, plasterwork by Francesco Vassalli and the Adam style dining room.

Coming soon - In a forthcoming post - Rosemary Webb Rehill has some more material and photos to share on here for Mawley Hall!

Ghost rail on the school playground

"And what about the ghost train on the frosted playground" Paul Starling

Some of us remember that when the school playground was covered with frost, usually at breakfast time, there was a strange outline of what looked like rail tracks cutting across the playground to the Dining hall. 

There seems to be a line going through to the dining room 
Up in the morning, get a wash, make the beds, prepare for inspection and down to the dining hall for breakfast at 8am. Waiting outside on a cold, frost laden morning you could see the outline of what looked like rail tracks angling across from the playing field to more or less the entrance of the dining hall.

At the time it was explained that they were probably rail lines that had been tarmaced over and it was the heat of the metal that melted the frost, causing the ghost lines.

Michael Billings, an ex-pupil in the late 1950s had made a study of the Railway system in the area, said " The Cleobury to Tenbury line was south of Mawley Oak and was approx 4 miles from Cleobury Mortimer itself. You know of the Ditton Priors branch. I'm not aware of any railtracks that ever ran through the school area."

However, after a look at the satellite map Micheal speculated -
The other possibility, after looking at the satellite map is that just before the railway crossing between Cherry Orchard and the school, the railway took a left turn and it looks like a siding line heads in the direction of the school . It can be picked up again near Catherton so I'm wondering if this is what was visible during the frosts. It would have been a branch line to Catherton Colliery or even on to Kinlet Colliery. The line would have been out of use in the early 1900's before the school was built and could even have been out of use by the late 1800's."

The search was on to see if we could evidence this or a similar line in any way.

Meanwhile Michael had another idea -
The other thought i have had was that the water pipes from the Elan Valley run through the school grounds underground towards Birmingham. If so what we think is rails may be the course of the water pipes."

Another thought that Michael had, was that it could have been a rail line put in to transport material when they were building the school.

Rosemary Webb Rehill  ( who had grown up at the school as the Bursar's daughter) replied
Yes !! it was water pipes! Michael you are quite correct. I have a very vague memory of them being installed shortly after we moved there in 1955."

Sarah Williams (Daughter of  Deputy head Ken Williams) added
"I think it was the rails for a line used when the pipeline was built. Could have been a branch off the Ditton Priors line I suppose. The pipeline ran on towards Bewdley, through the forest, at Breakneck Bank?"

After various searches, Michael came up with some compelling evidence -

' "A railway line was constructed to transport the workers and thousands of tonnes of building material each day. This took three years". It was started in 1893 and was completed and opened in 1904. This is from the history of The Elan Valley Aqueduct.'

Michael then found an excellent on line map which showed the route of the Elan Valley water pipes going through the school -

This link shows the line of the Elan Valley pipeline. It clearly shows the pipeline between Cleobury Mortimer and Wyre Forest passing through the school grounds. Click on map at Cleobury Mortimer and follow it towards Bewdley. Enlarge the map over the school next to Golf Club. Mystery solved."

Blueline shows Elan Valley pipe through the school, white dots path of the  ghost track.
STOP PRESS - Tony Booton told me (at the 2013 reunion) that although the map approximates the pipes going through the school field, they actually went through the school playground towards the dorms.

Trev Teasdel  commented "Good work Michael. The main pipe doesn't go through the playground though but there would have to be an offshoot to the boiler room / water tower. The 'Ghost' track would have headed towards the stile where the cross country runners came in, which is roughly where the pipeline comes in."

Update 2013 Tony Booton has told me that the blue line is an approximation - the Elan pipes actually ran under the playground towards the dorms.

The next photo shows the water tanks and the edge of the water tower and the Boiler room is to one side of this, behind the Dining hall. I think this gives credence to the idea that it was a water pipe offshoot from the main Elan Valley pipe (blue line). UPDATE - Those tanks were oil tanks in the 60's - before that it was coal.

If any Cleobury Mortimer local historians can throw anymore light on this, please get in touch

Elan Valley Water Pipes passing by River Rea Cleobury

NEW - Further discussion Oct 2011

Ralph Aldhous  On frosty days a pattern that looked like railway sleepers would sometimes appear on the surface of the yard outside the dinner hall. I think someone said it was the course of an underground pipeline (Elan valley? doesn't seem very likely).

Trev Teasdel  As for the playground - I couldn't remember if there were 'ghost' Sleepers or not so interesting that you remember that there were. That makes it unlikely that it was water pipes, although they would have run in that direction to the water tower. Speculation was that it could be a line to mines near kinlet (but no evidence found so far) or that it could be a line off the Ditton used in the construction of the school or Elan pipeline to transport material (again no conclusive evidence found.

Ralph Aldhous I don't know Trev. I suppose it was some pre-existing structure. You could only see it in a hard frost.

Paul Rees That railway lines as we believed them to be were very obvious in frost but seemed to be more so in snow. I always thought heat was involved somewhere but was never sure.

Trev Teasdel Yes - someone said at the time it was the heat of the metal / wood that melted the snow / frost. So it sounds like the lines were tarmaced over.

Ralph Aldhous  I noticed somewhere that Slasher Jack was also employed to walk the pipeline that took water to Birminghamn and I've written elsewhere that I had heard that the ghost railway was in fact the line of the Elan valley pipeline, so that may tie in. 

It must be about 100 miles from the Elan Dam to Birmingham, and the pipeline would need to be inspected regularly by someone, wouldn't need to be an engineer, just someone local who could check it's condition and call in if anything looked a bit iffy.

Tony Booton  Hi Trev those lines that turn up on frosty weather must be the sleepers left there when the water main was put in to carry water from the Elan Valley to Birmingham, up in Skellerns field there is a chamber with valves which used to supply the school to those tanks you mention in the tower outside the boilerhouse, if i happen tobe up there in the frost i will take photo. regards Tony.

Cleobury Mortimer - The Wells and typhus and cholera!

"All's well that ends well!" but the well in Cleobury was bad news!

Photo by Michael Billings
Michael Billings " The Wells was just before the pub.There was an incline down to them."

Rosmary Webb Rehill The Wells was where the villagers used to get their water. Did you know that during the years of the plague, they finally figured that the water was contaminating everyone as it was flowing underground in the graveyard?"

Actually, we found out the problem wasn't in the days of the plague but in the Victorian times but Rosemary had got us looking into the history of the Wells in Cleobury and Paul Starling went through and took some photos of the plaque.

Photo by Rosemary Webb Rehill

Thanks to Paul Starling who visited Cleobury recently we now have a transcript of what it says on the plaque in that photo -

" The Well Plaque. This was for centuries the source of the towns water supply. The pool is fed by a spring, to which the townspeople who had no backyard pumps came daily to fetch water. Where the steps on the eastern side now are there was a slope and local waggoners would drive their vehicles through the water to swell the wood and thus tighten the joints for the spokes in the felloes. The waggons were then driven up the
other side and away.

In the late victorian times, through fear of waterborne diseases such as typhus and cholera, doubts were cast on the wisdom of relying on a spring issuing from the graveyard. In 1883 burials within 42 yards of The Wells were prohibited and the whole church yard was closed in 1895.

The overflow from the pool leads to the Pumphouse. Here the water was filtered before being pumped to a covered reservoir, about 300 yards past the cemetery on the Ludlow Road. At the same time, chemical treatment was introduced, certainly before 1944 when the water was shown to be bacteriologically contaminated. In 1979 the water was found to have excessive nitrates and the supply closed, being replaced by water from the Elan Valley Pipeline and, later from the River Severn. The pumphouse was acquired in the 1980s for use as the Scout and Guide Headquarters, and the Ludlow Rd reservoir was filled in soon afterwards.

The original town lock-up was on the slight mound between the Pumphouse and the pool. New photo to follow"

The Shropshire Star reported in January 2011 that  " The first settlements at Cleobury Mortimer were built on the basis of a clean and consistent supply of water in the area....The water source has been traced to an ancient well under the town’s graveyard on the opposite side of High Street, and is believed to have been iuse as a drinking water supply up until the 1940s...It’s historically the basis and centre of Cleobury Mortimer and there are still remains of an archway and the pump works from when it was in regular use."

The Wells - Cleobury Mortimer - Photo by Rosemary Webb-Rehill

Well Plaque photos by Paul Starling

Thanks to Rosemary Webb Rehill and Paul Starling for this material and the photos.


c 1968 9 the School hosted a production Oliver in the Main Hall. Their has been some discussion of this on Facebook and Rosemary Webb Rehill has shared some photos.

Some of the discussion  from Facebook - I survived Wyre Farm Camp School -

Lauri Lindsay
"Anyone from my time remember doing "Oliver"? If I remember correctly Rosie played Nancy."

David Stuart  "I was at the school from 66-71 and I had two parts in the play 'Oliver', I think that is me sitting at the front in the white hat."

Rosemary Webb Rehill "Spud is in front of me. Steve Garret is in front of Aileen. Terry Walker is in the background and so is Mr. Baker. Tony Warren is on the right in the back. Trev. I think it was 68 or 69."

David Partridge "I think my brother Bill was in it."

Peter Melhuish "On the Oliver photo, I can see Bill Partridge, top left in a Top hat, in front of him Paul Southerton and Steve Taylor top hat miiddle of photo need to look more to see if I can name any others."

Peter Lund "I don't remember Oliver but I do remember Arsenic and Old Lace when I played the vicar lol how wrong was that casting when I think back on my life lol"

Glyn Thomas "I do believe Oliver with Terry Walker as Fagin,was the year after Arsenic and Old Lace."

Peter Melhuish "Yes it was did Paul Norman star in that with Paul Mason"

Peter Melhuish "I think you are right Terry Walker played Fagin"

Rosemary Webb Rehill  "I remember it well. I have photos somewhere. I'll find them and post them. You're quite right Lauri I played Nancy. Were you one of the urchins? I remember going to see Arsenic and old Lace, that was before Oliver. Fagin was played by Terry Walker. Steve Garrett? played Oliver. I remember Paul Norman and Paul Mason. They were a year older than me.

Peter Melhuish  "Was Oliver Steve Gollop? Who played Bill Sykes?"

Rosemary Webb Rehill  "Right Pete, Steve Gollop. Bill was played by a guy with a polish last name..... I still have the program somewhere. Pete were you in it?"

Peter Lund  "Yes Rosemary I was the vicar in the opening scene having tea with the two not sweet old ladies lol" 

Peter Melhuish  "Hi Rosemary Was Bill played by Simon Weclawek. I was not in
the play but was in charge on props. Was Aileen in the play i seem to remember you both being at the rehearsals"

Rosemary Webb Rehill  "Pete, yes Aileen played Bess and I played Nancy. I saw her last summer. She still lives in the area."

Below - another play -not sure what this was??

Close up of Rosemary & Spud Taylor

Aileen Parker and Rosmary Webb Rehill - close up 

This was the real Workhouse in Cleobury

The Cleobury Mortimer Poor Law Union formally came into being on 15th July 1836. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 20 in number, representing its 17 constituent parishes 

Cleobury Mortimer - Pictures

 John Betjeman described the High Street as 'a long airy curving street of brick Georgian houses and shops interspersed with genuine half timber buildings, the Rea brook making a splash at the bottom of the hill'. 

Photo by Keith Ison

Cleobury / Ditton Priors Railway

In my time, the local Cleobury railway system had been dismantled on the say so of  Beeching c 1960 and rumours of a 'ghost train' circulated among us pupils! This was known as the Cleobury Flyer. However Michael Billings who was at the school earlier, in the 50's enlightened us about the real Cleobury Flyer and the local railways, which were still in business in his day.

Michael Billings "The third photo is of MOD Rushton & Hornsby Diesel loco pictured at Cleobury Town Station on 25th March 1965 less than two months before the line was totally closed. The station house is still there and modernised as a bungalow."

"The railway line is still traceable from the Glen past Cleobury Town station to the Neen Savage road and in the fields beyond that towards Ditton Priors.Where the railway is next to the Glen it is overgrown by trees so i wonder if the embankment is hidden in the trees or did they plough all of it out."

2144 at Burwarton Station
Michael Billings "Photo is of MOD Rushton & Hornsby Diesel loco pictured at Cleobury Town Station on 25th March 1965 less than two months before the line was totally closed. The station house is still there and modernised as a bungalow."

                                                        MOD Rushton & Hornsby Loco at Cleobury Town Station 26th March 1965

Site of Burwarton Station

Michael Billings The Cleobury to Tenbury line was south of Mawley Oak and was approx 4 miles from Cleobury Mortimer itself. 

Paul Starling half way down the hill to the village was a railway crossing with some sheds. 4 of us got into the shed (the door was off) and found a railway push me pull me. (a 4 wheel carraige which you had to push down on the seesaw type handle on the top. we had a great time going up and down the track. hard work though.

Michael Billings This shed by the railway crossing was the former Cleobury Town shed which had one track and could accommodated one engine but was mostly used by the maintenance crew for the line. The truck with the see saw handle would have been there means of getting to where they were working.

Michael Billings First part of the video is Dowlairs Bridge, Bewdley and the Wyre Forest Line. Gates are Cleobury Town crossing and the Industrial Estate by Cleobury Town Shed.

Michael Billings The video of the plane is "Take off from Milson Airfield to Cleobury Mortimer" and shows clearly as it exits Cleobury the Glen, follow the line of trees, and the Ditton Priors line curving away from the Glen. A super shot of Cleobury Town Station Industrial Estate and the Ditton line curving over the fields.

" Toastie davies, wow, happy days,? or were they ???? why was he so rememberd he put a live shell under the line, where the cleobuty flyer was due to pass. none of you would remeber that train! would you ??"

Michael Billings Wofferton Junction was where the Bewdley to Tenbury Wells joined the main line between Shrewsbury and Ludlow.

Michael Billings The bridge with the two holes i can only assume is the river bridge between Lion Lane, Cleobury Mortimer and Neen Sollars. I never went there myself so i'm only speculating

Michael Billings Photo of the 2 bridges spanning the Cleobury to Bewdley road at Cleobury Mortimer Station. The nearest bridge carried the Ditton Priors branch to Cleobury Town , Burwarton & Ditton Priors. Both have now been demolished.

Michael Billings At the entrance to Cleobury Mortimer Station "The Blount Arms". On my previous post about the railway bridges you can just see the pub under the second bridge.

Rosemary Webb Rehill Terrific, Michael! I remember the day that bridge was blown up! VERY exciting stuff!!

Wofferton Station

Wyre Forest Station - early 60's
Former Cleobury Station

Cleobury station now