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Caynham Village, Shropshire

Caynham Village History

Caynham Village & St Marys Church

Welcome to Caynham Village and St. Mary's Church in the parish of Caynham. Caynham, situated only a short distance from the ancient market town of Ludlow, has been well placed to experience some of the old town's fascinating and at times, turbulent history. Though Caynham is recorded in Domesday, Ludlow which at that time was not considered important as a settlement, is not.

The main aim here is to attempt to inform you of matters relating to St. Mary's Church, but if I include one or two little snippets relating to the history of the area I hope that you may find them more of an interest than a distraction. For instance, the oldest man made structure within our parish is the impressive iron age hill fort of Caynham Camp which lies to the west of the church. The camp predates the earliest mention of a church in Caynham by almost 2,000 years.

Caynham Camp was still occupied up until about 43 A.D. at which time the Emperor Claudius invaded Britain. Some scholars believe that the Romans made use of the Camp from time to time during the Occupation, but I do not believe that this is yet a proven fact. In the years leading up to Domesday, the manor of Caynham had been held by the Saxon lord, Morcar. In 1086 (D) Ralph de Mortimer governed Caynham under Earl Roger of Montgomery.

Caynham's Domesday entry reads : -

' in OVERS Hundred CAYNHAM (Caihá). Earl Morcar held it. 8 hides which pay tax. in lordship 4 hides; 2 ploughs there; 2 slaves; 10 villagers and 5 smallholders with 4 ploughs. A mill; 4 packloads of salt from Droitwich; woodland for fatteninq 200 pigs. 3 hedged enclosures. In the whole manor, land for 19 ploughs. Of this manor's land Robert (of) Vessey holds 3 hides, and Walter 1 hide, from Ralph. In lordship they have 2 ploughs and 7 slaves; 4 villagers and 4 smallholders with 1 plough only. Value of the whole manor before 1066 £8; later 60s; now of what Ralph holds 4Os: of what men-at-arms (hold), 38s'.

It is said that before Domesday, 4,000 English landowners presided over the countryside. After Domesday they were replaced by fewer than 200 Norman nobles.

Just before going on to talk of St. Mary's I would like to make mention of the castle which is claimed in several accounts, to have been situated in this parish. Known as 'Kensham Castle' or 'Keyenhom Castle'. In the mid 12th century it was to this castle that Joce de Dinan and seven thousand fighting men established themselves prior to laying siege to Walter de Lacy and his troops in Ludlow Castle. The army of Walter de Lacy made many attempts to break the siege and it is recorded that the gardens of Ludlow were covered with the bodies of his soldiers. After gaining the assistance of Jorwerth Drwyndwn ('Jorwerth with the broken nose') a prince of Wales, and twenty thousand Welshmen, Lacy fought his way out of Ludlow Castle and pursued Joce de Dinan back to Caynham (Kensham Castle) and he and his men were themselves besieged. On the fourth day in desperation, and having no food or water, de Dinan and his men broke out of the Castle, but he was apprehended and imprisoned in the dungeon at Ludlow Castle.

It was in the presence of such acts of discord that The Church' strove to maintain its Christian functions throughout history. There is little doubt that St. Mary's played an important part in this task. The earliest recorded date for St. Mary's Church is 1179, in the reign of Henry II, at about which time the incumbent Achelard died. A list of the succesive incumbents and priests in charge is on display in the church.

In 1180 Hugh de Mortimer gave the manor of Caynham to the Abbey of Wigmore which he himself had founded and endowed. This he did with the understanding that when he died, his body would be accepted at Wigmore for burial. Hugh de Mortimer died in 1181. Roger de Mortimer succeeded Hugh and he challenged the Abbey's claim to the manor of Caynham. Despite strong protestations from the Abbey, de Mortimer took the manor for his own. There then followed the poignant incident which was to lead to the return of the manor to Wigmore.

Roger was travelling between Cleobury Mortimer and Wigmore with his pregnant wife Isobel de Ferrar. They rested at Snitton where Isobel was delivered of a male child. The babe was sick and was baptised, tragically dying shortly afterwards, and was later buried at Cleobury Church. In those times it was only too easy for the couple to believe that the tragedy was God's punishment for Roger's seizing of Caynham. Isobel and her retinue then persuaded Roger to return Caynham to Wigmore Abbey 'to hold for all time'.

In 1255 the Abbot of Wigmore, then Lord of Caynham seems to have had a tenant here of 'knightly rank', quite possibly Sir John de Kayham. The Abbot withdrew the manor of Caynham from the 'Overs Hundred' in the year 1265. At the same time he assumed the right to have his own gallows erected in Caynham and also the right to assize bread and beer. In 1291, St. Mary's 'yielded the Abbot, as rector, the sum of £3.6s.8d, this included 5 shillings as profits from a coal mine. '

In 1341 St. Mary's was taxed at £6.13s.4d. which included the rector of Bitterley's portion of 6s.8d.

Still with reference to Caynham a quaint little entry appears in the 'Visitation Returns of the Diocese of Hereford for 1397, it reads : -

'Parishioners say all is well in all respects, except that John Parslowe, Vicar of Kinlet is incontinent with Emota, daughter of John Leper'.

The outcome of this 'alleged' liaison appears not to be on record.

In 1534 St. Mary's was assessed at £4.9s.0d. per year, less 1 shilling for synodals. Sir Richard Pachett, the vicar, had glebe land worth £1 per annum and £3.9s.0d. from titles.

Henry Vlll's Dissolution of the Monasteries occurred in 1536, and Wigmore Abbey received £50 for the Manor of Caynham. A large sum for that time.

Some years later the Manor came into the hands of the Adams family and in 1584 it was passed from Charles Adams to Charles Fox, an ardent Royalist. Of the three bells in the tower of this church, one bears the coat of arms of the Fox family.

In the mid 17th century during the Civil War this area saw considerable strife yet again as the Parliamentary troops under Col. John Birch prepared to lay siege to Ludlow Castle. It is said that Birch had 'a formidable siege camp' at 'Cainham' or nearby Steventon. Local folk-lore claims that the parliamentarians had horses and vast stores in place in the dry moat of 'Caynham Castle' or conversely on Caynham Camp itself.

In the years following the Dissolution it was a requirement of the clergy that they conduct a survey within their parishes to ascertain the number of folk who conformed to the Church of England, and particularly the numbers of Roman Catholics' who lived there. A copy of one typical communication appears here : -

My Lord Ludford October 5th 1767 In obedience to your Lordship's commands I hereby certify yr there is not any one Profest Roman Catholik or Reputed Papist in ye several parishes of Munslow, Cainham or Ludford within yr Lordship's Diocese. I am my Lord, yr most Obedient & Dutiful servant Edn: Poole'

Note : It was common practice for a person confirmed to be a Roman Catholic/Papist to be shunned by his neighbours and local tradesmen. In other ways also, his life would be made extremely difficult.

In 1842 the Rev. Charles Adams was curate of Cainham. In a letter to The Ludlow Board of Guardians (Poor Law Board), dated 23 November 1842 he wrote the it was the habit of 2 paupers in Cainham - Mary Nicholas (85yrs) and her son William (52 yrs) - "to sleep in the same bed together always, that being a very small one". He asks The Board "to intervene to prevent so improper a practice". The Board debated the matter, noting that: each of the two paupers get outrelief of 3/6d. a week, but are "very indifferently off" with that allowance. both have frequently been offered the workhouse 'to ensure greater comfort' but have always 'obstinately refused'.

The Board is reluctant to force them into the workhouse by cutting off their outrelief. The 'decision' of the Board was to ask the Asst. Poor Law Commissioner for his advice and to tell the Relieving Office (employee of Ludlow union dispensing outrelief) to try and persuade Mary, William, or both, to enter the workhouse. At the next meeting of The Board there was a reply from the Asst. Poor Law Commissioner, William Day, later Sir Wm. Day. He recommended that a bed be lent to the old woman! The clerk reported to the meeting that he has found not only a bed, but also two blankets, and has arranged for Mary to lodge with her other son, Samuel, sleeping in her new bed and under her new blankets!

In 1851 or perhaps a little earlier a north transept had been built at St. Mary's but towards the end of the C19th the Church building had fallen into a very sorry state. Mr James Brooks, the London Architect was requested by the vicar, John Ross, to examine the building and report upon it. In November 1879 he did so and reported 'certain cracks and settlements'. It would appear that in order to remedy the matter of their crumbling church, the Rev. Ross and his church wardens, Mr. Charleton and Mr. Monnington together with others went ahead and started to demolish the building without first obtaining the necessary faculty (i.e. permission) from the Bishop of Hereford's office !

Rev. Ross wrote to his Bishop on the 15th December, 1881, the letter reads : -

Caynham Vicarage Ludlow

15th. Dec. 1881

My Dear Sir, The church has been taken down, or rather the greater portion of it fell down, and the chancel is rebuilt the nave partially. I suppose that I ought to have written to you before but as the work was a necessity, and had the unanimous support of the Parish, I put it off as matter not pressing. Moreover as I thought Mr. Charleton, the Church warden, would have written himself. It was only last week he told me he had not done so, and asked me to write.

The faculty will be to confirm the work done, and to authorise the completion.

Faithfully yours,

John Ross.

The following year the faculty was granted, it gave approval to the work already done and authority for the tasks remaining to be completed. The rebuilding was undertaken by Mr. Emmanuel Stead under the direction of the London architect, Mr. James Brookes. By 1885 the rebuilding was finally accomplished at a total cost of £2,800, an amount defrayed by private donation. Thankfully some of the late Norman/Transitional stonework was put aside and used in the new building and is here for you to see today.

Note:- To see photos and records of the church and contents and the churchyard, please click here and select from the drop-down menu.