History of Abdon and the Clee Hills
Iron Age Hill Fort
Nordy Bank is the last intact survivor of three Iron Age Hill forts on the Brown Clee. The other two, at Abdon Burf and Clee Burf, have been largely lost to quarrying activity.
The Parish of Abdon
According to the records of 1932 Abdon is a parish of some 2,189 acres. In early times it was Abbeton, being the farm or enclosure of a certain person named Aba, or Abba.
It is mentioned in the Domesday Book 1086, and was held by Rainold the Sheriff, under Earl Roger. A 'virgate' (about 30 acres) of land was given to the monks of Shrewsbury Abbey, who remained patrons of the Rectory until the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1546 - 1651) in the reign of Henry VIII.
By the close of the 13th century Abdon had become of the of great possession of Bishop Burnel, whose relatives and heirs, through their titled connections, were in possession until the mid 16th century. As long ago as 1327 we know that eleven Abbeton inhabitants were assessed for taxes, and Henry de Bradeleg (Bradley) was one of them. The 17th century was the era of the Briggs family of Earnstrey: Sir Morton, Sir Humphrey and Sir Hugh. After the barony expired with Sir Hugh the whole estate inheritance continued through the female line to Viscount Fitzwilliam in 1800.
In 1780 Thomas Bradley had married Jemima, daughter of Robert Briggs of Earnstrey Park, who was the son of Moreton Briggs (above). The tomb in Abdon churchyard tells us that 'Mr Robert Briggs' was buried in 1810 aged 85.
In 1872 William Bradley purchased the manor from Lord Fitzwilliam's inheritors and one of his family are still the owners.
Abdon Deserted Village
A map of Abdon Deserted Village can be found in St. Margaret's Church.
Site 1 - There is a long house adjoining the church graveyard, excavated in 1966 by members of Shrewsbury Archaeological Research Group, conducted by Trevor Rowley. The main feature was the stone base of a timber framed building. The three interior rooms and attached structures indicate a substantial house. Nearness to the church suggests it may have been a manor house. The 13th century potting sheds confirm that the village was deserted prior to 1350. This agrees with documentary evidence of an early 14th century desertion.
Site 2 - Excavations gave evidence of the later industrial occupation when the base of an 18th century outbuilding was uncovered on the lower, more sheltered ground. Visiting Abdon in 1793 Archdeacon Plymley observed "Some houses have been taken down and several seem to have fallen down."
The Parish Registers
The earliest registers, from 1561 are difficult to decipher. Some are in various stages of decay and somewhat mutilated. Pieces have been cut or torn off and there are two gaps of more than 20 years between 1563 and 1614.
In 1932 the Shropshire Parish Register Society transcribed the original registers and these may now be examined in the County Record Office in Shrewsbury. A few extracts may be of interest:
Towards the end of the 17th century and into the 18th by government decree, in order to promote and support the country's woollen industry, it was necessary for people to be 'buried in wool'. A declaration in oath saying that this regulation had been complied with, had to be presented to the Rector before burial could take place.
In 1407 there was a commission to the Dean of Wenlock to hold "the goods of the late Rector of Abdon till the dilepidations are made good".
On September 28th 1653 John Ball, the Rector, wrote: "Collected in the Parish Church of Abdon... for the inhabitants of the town of Marleborough... the sum of 4 shillings". This was known as a Brief. Why the distant town of Marleborough needed the four shillings we are not told. There were ten further 'Briefs' during 1663 and 1664 to relieve various distresses in widely separated parts of the county from North 'Thumberland' to 'Lincone' and Southampton. One entry "This collection, the sum of one shilling sixpence, for the Corporate of Greate Grimsby was Reseued by me, Thomas Powell, of the Minister". Whether it was 'reserved' or had to be 'rescued' we do not know.
In other parts of the registers we read of one baptism recorded and erased three times. There is a 'reputed son or daughter' baptised, a child of unknown parents, a base child, a natural child and one child baptised as 'filius populi', Latin for a child of the people.
There is a 'Sujaner' (sojourner) buried, and on a blank page in 1672 an "Elizabeth marid to nobody". The bands or licence must have failed. One family had three sons baptised Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, with the four years 1761 - 1765.
The last entry in Parish Register number 3 informs us that there were 137 inhabitants of Abdon; 74 males and 63 females in the year 1811.
St. Margaret's Church
The Church of St. Margaret dates back to 1138 but, except perhaps for the thick walls of the nave, none of the original fabric remains. In 1737 a sum of £1,120 was necessary for repairs and many features of the present building date from then.
More alterations were made in 1860. The gallery at the west end was taken down, the nave extended, the bell-gable rebuilt, and several windows inserted. The only original window is on the south side of the chancel in the 14th century decorated style of architecture. The cast window was placed there by the Rev. W.S. Dear during his rectorship 1829 - 1850. Two other windows have been added: one at the west end of the north wall in 1909 and the one opposite in 1910.
The font is early English 12th - 13th century. There were three bells in 1740 and until 1860. The present pair are dated 1859 and 1860. The Communion Plate was the gift of a Mr. Styrrop, a pupil of the Rev. W. S. Dear.
The Glebe Lands
Glebe is an area of land within an ecclesiastical parish used to support a parish priest. In 1932 there were twenty 'Medows', 'Yards' and 'parcels' of land. Several of their names are of interest. They include a Hemp-yard, hemp being grown in this area more than 200 years ago; The Furlong, bounded by Cobblers Lane; a Nell-Yate Leasow (a pasture) and Nell-Field. Furnace Lane and Norcott's Brook are also mentioned.
During the Rectorship of the Rev. John Ball, around 1700, hay, grain, apples, pears, hemp and flax, pigs, lambs, geese, 'egges' and honey, and 'sheeps wooll' were paid in kind. The 'customs' (taxes) were "For the fall of a colt - one shilling; for the fall of a calf - four pence; for the sale of a sheep - a halfpenny; for the milk of a cow - one penny; for Easter - oblations two pence each communicant".
The present Rectory ceased to be occupied as such in 1928 when the Benifice was united with that of Clee St. Margaret. Since 1983 it has been associated with the Corvedale churches. Between December 1947, when the Rev. Lewis, who was minister for both Abdon and Clee St. Margaret retired, and 1983 Abdon was served by a priest in charge. For several periods between 1551 and 1780 Abdon Benefice was combined with Clee St. Margaret.
The school was built in 1848 when the foundation stone was laid by the Rector, the Rev. W. S. Dear. The windows were placed high in the walls to prevent the pupils being distracted by all the lively activities around. The pupils were sent to Burwarton Schools on November 11th 1946. Abdon School closed formally in December 1947. A one-teacher school and small numbers was not a viable situation.
The school building is now used as Abdon Village Hall.
The Clee Hills and Quarrying
The Clee Hills are famed for appearing on the Mappa Mundi (in Hereford Cathedral) dating from the 13th century.
Quarrying for Dhustone (Dolerite) was for long the main income of the area and it was widely known as a dangerous and gruelling job, with dhustone being a very hard and challenging material to extract. Workers would walk to the Abdon Quarry from as far as Bridgnorth and Ludlow, both over 10 miles away.
The Abdon quarries closed in 1936, and by this time the area had become almost industrial with a concrete plant, tarmac plant in Ditton Priors, and a small railway to move the stone. If the wind was coming down over the hill it was apparently possible to hear the stone crusher at the top crunching away.
After the Abdon quarries closed a lot of the quarrymen went to work at the Cockshutford quarries on the other side of Brown Clee, but the quarries failed to after a short period since the dhustone there wasn't of the same quality and durability as the Abdon side. Many of the men returned and worked at the naval ammunition depot set up at Ditton Priors at the start of the war.
Today the scene is somewhat different. Black dhustone is still quarried on Clee Hill, but Brown Clee and the top of Titterstone Clee are silent. Nature has reclaimed the hills and remnants of rare wildflower meadows survive while the disused quarries have become home to a wealth of wildlife.
Nowadays the radar facilities of the Clee Hills protect aircraft, but both hills were once a hazard to aircraft and a memorial commemorates the 23 Allied and German airmen killed here when their planes crashed into Brown Clee during World War II. The first aircraft to crash into Brown Clee was a German Junkers 88 on 1 April 1941. Two Wellington Bombers, a Hawker Typhoon and at least two Avro Ansons also crashed here. The engine and other parts of one of the Wellington Bombers are said to rest on the bottom of Boyne Water, Brown Clee.