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History of the Village

History of the village

The Bronze Age burial mounds at Willowmoor and Iron Age hill fort on The Wrekin are the earliest evidence of human activity in the parish.

Little Wenlock derives its name from the fact that the settlement was originally an outlying estate of the religious foundation at Much Wenlock (perhaps from the Celtic 'gwyn-loch' meaning white place or monastery).

In the Domesday Book (1086) Little Wenlock is described as a manor with three hides (around 500 acres) of arable land and woods for fattening pigs and hunting.

It bordered the Royal Forest of the Wrekin, one boundary of which may still be preserved in the line of New Works Lane.

The parish of Little Wenlock was included in the new Borough of Wenlock, incorporated in 1468.

By the beginning of the 16th Century there were 16 tenements and a mill in the main settlement with a further four tenements at Huntington.

The manor of Little Wenlock developed more fully after the dissolution of the monasteries. Following the closure of Wenlock Priory in 1540, Little Wenlock was acquired by the Hayward family.

In the 17th Century it was taken over by the Foresters of Watling Street (Wellington), descendants of Hugh le Forester, the local 12th Century protector of the Royal Forest.

Although the coal outcrops of the district are known to have been utilised by the Romans and lime-burning was recorded locally as early as the 13th Century, the mineral wealth of the parish was only really exploited from the 17th Century.

Ironstone and coal-working were in existence in the 1680s. Coal from local pits fuelled the Darby furnaces at Coalbrookdale in the 18th Century.

Three limeworks operated in the parish into the 19th Century. One of the earliest railways in the country ran from Little Wenlock to Strethill in 1728. And basalt was quarried along the Lydebrook as recently as the last Century.

Opencast mining of coal and fireclay developed on a large scale during and after the Second World War.

Pits at the Shortwood, New Works finally closed in 1970, by which time a new phase of open-casting had started, drawing to a close from the mid-1990s.