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Shareshill History

Below are extracts from four sequential 1908 editions of the Shareshill Parish Magazine , plus a brief quote from Rev.W.H.Havergal.
These extracts were unearthed by Mike Belcher of Cheslyn Hay & District Local History society

There have been changes during the 100+ years since!


FROM 7th March, 1908
The largest landowner in the village is A.L.Vernon Esq., J.P., D.L. known better as the squire of Hilton, whose park is passed on the right coming from Wolverhampton, beginning at a point about two miles out of Shareshill. Of the six farms in the village, four belong to him; one is the property of the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield, but leased by Mr.Vernon. The remaining one belongs to Mr.T.R.Smith.

The village lies somewhat scattered, the largest portion being clustered near the church. The place at one time was well supplied with public houses, for there stood in the Wolverhampton Road just as you turn into the village street, The White Horse, on the site of which now are to be found Shareshill Park Cottages; The Bull’s Head, at the corner of Cannock Road; The Jockey, which had its own malting house, but is now pulled down, used to stand opposite The Lodge; and The Swan, the only fully licensed house, still to be seen at the top of Back Lane.

The ecclesiastical parish of Shareshill, Saredon Magna, Saredon Parva, Laney Green, and Saredon side of Cheslyn Hay. Hilton and Featherstone belong ecclesiastically to St. Peter’s, Wolverhampton but are served from Shareshill.

In civil administration, Shareshill belongs to the Cannock Union for poor law purposes and Cannock Rural District Council. It has its own Parish Council of six members. The Saredon’s have a parish meeting. The remains of a Roman camp may be seen just over the boundary wall of the school in the property of Mrs.T.R.Smith. These remains are again found breaking out in a field at the side of the Post Office, opposite the thatched cottages.

The church doubtless belonged to an old Cistercian foundation. It stands on rising ground; in the valley below a small stream runs, and on the other side of this stream, on the rise opposite the church, are two farmhouses of modern erection with the remains of moats close by. When the one to the south was being built the foundations of what was evidently an old refectory were laid bare. These stones were taken up according to Old Ward, the Hilton shepherd, and used to make the boundary of a field in Saredon Parva near the farmhouse which belongs to Mr.George Arblaster.

There was (there still is!) an old sundial to be seen on the SW part of the churchyard on the clock side of the tower, but here are no monuments of note although of recent years some very good stone crosses have been placed over the graves. There are many vaults with alter and casket shaped coverings to the memory of old inhabitants. The church was practically rebuilt in 1743 as it had fallen into sad decay."



FROM 11th April, 1908
The church as it now stands was completely overhauled in 1899, re-floored with wooden blocks, a heating apparatus put in, and the pews lowered. A peel of six bells, cast by Taylor, of Loughborough, in which was incorporated the metal of the four very old bells was the gift of A.L. Vernon Esq. during the year he was High Sheriff of Staffordshire. The tenor bell has the following inscription on it: – ""To the Glory of God"" This peel of bells was presented by Augustus Loveson Vernon, Esq. J.P. D.L. of Hilton Park, Wolverhampton, High Sheriff of Staffordshire 1899. Mr. Vernon also defrayed the largest part of the cost of the repairs with which the bells amounted to close upon £1,400. All the repairs and alterations were in the hands of Mr. S.Wooton, Builder, of Bloxwich, who carried out the work very successfully. The oldest of the four original bells had been hanging in the tower for a period of nearly 450 years, the others not quite so long as the dates upon them showed.

The parish church was originally built of stone with its N. and S. transepts and evidently much longer than at present. In the year of its restoration it was cased in red brick, the bricks being made from clay dug on the Hilton Estate. It now stands the strange anomaly of a square stone tower attached to a brick church with an Italian porch at the South door.

The seating is all in very dark oak; the ceiling and the East end are decorated in the Italian style. The East window which is of painted glass was designed by the Rev. W.Havergal M.A., the Vicar at the time. The centre light which features the Doctrine of the Trinity is to the memory of Mr. Joshua Price of Featherstone. It was placed in the church as the window states by six nieces, and fifteen nephews. The two side lights are to the memory of Mr. Henry Vernon, the eldest brother of the present squire.

Mural tablets are to be seen to the memory of the Rev. W.H.Havergal; the Rev. J.Boodle Clare; the Rev. W.Budworth, M.A.; the Rev. John Morrall; and to Mrs. Penelope Vernon and her child.

On the N. side, under the window by the pulpit is the alabaster effigy of Sir Humfry Swinnerton, Knight of Shareshill. On the S. side directly opposite the effigy of his wife, who was Cassandra Giffard. These two effigies were found on an alter tomb in a Chantrey Chapel on the N. side of the old church.

The sacred building has the distinction of bearing two dedications. Originally named after St. Luke, for some reason or other Sir Humfry Swinnerton had it “re-sanctified” and dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin.

The pulpit of the church was within the memory of some of the oldest inhabitants, an old three decker which stood in the centre of the nave near the Hilton Pew. This pew had curtains all round and a stove in it. The sounding board of the pulpit is now in the Vestry used as a table. Old Ward, who died at the ripe age of 95, was formerly shepherd of Hilton. In conversation with the old man, whose memory was very keen, he spoke of the music in Shareshill church at one time being flutes, clarinet, and a big fiddle. These instruments were played by Tom Taylor, of Shareshill, Stokes of Saredon, and William Kibble the schoolmaster, who lived in the old thatched cottage which stood on ground in the Hilton Lane on which the Squire had built two new ones.

Henry Pinson was clerk in 1817; John Pitt succeeded him and used to live in Taylor’s Row; Mr. Shaw followed for a period of 45 years to be succeeded by Harry Adams, then Charles Cooper, after whom came Mr. John Harris, the village blacksmith, and at the present time Mr. Gamston.

Lady Grosvenor and Miss Vernon were buried in the vault under the Hilton Pew. The entrance to the vault is on the S. side of the church between two windows at the top of that side. They were buried by torchlight at 9 at night, now nearly 90 years ago. The bodies were brought all the way from London by road and met by the retainers at that part of the Wolverhampton Road where the Red, White and Blue used to stand. Here the procession reformed and proceeded with the lighted torches to the churchyard.

Special notice may be given to the very fine brickwork of the church, more particularly at the Apse. The bricks are old fashioned 2½ inch; the points are made with very fine mortar and the work of the bricklaying and the make of the bricks are so good that since the restoration in 1843 they have never required pointing, neither have any bricks flaked by weathering!

At the period of the 1899 repairs, a new communion table with cloth was presented to the church conjointly by Lord Hatherton and Mrs. T.R.Smith; an oak eagle lectern given by the family of Mr. John Wood of Latherford in his memory; a brass alms dish by the Rev. F. and Mrs. Ruen of East Dulwich; two oak collecting dishes by Mr. W.H.Ruen of East Dulwich; a brass lectern for the communion table by Mrs. R.G.Arblaster in memory of her father and mother Mr. & Mrs. Kay; a pulpit desk by Miss M.Wood; an oak lectern stool by Mr. C.Connor; and the bookmarkers by Miss Tonks of Wolverhampton.



FROM 9th May, 1908
Before the incumbency of the Rev.J.Boodle Clare there was no resident clergyman or any vicarage. Different clergy came from Wolverhampton and District to take the services. Mr.Clare’s father was in charge of St. George’s Church, Wolverhampton, and after his death he was succeeded by his son, who took charge of the Wolverhampton church and Shareshill. He first took up his quarters at Saredon and afterwards lived at The Elms. Here he remained until the land on which the vicarage now stands was put up for sale. The ground belonged to Lord Hatherton, the parish bought it, and a builder from Wolverhampton was employed and Mr.Beech completed the work.

The clergy who came over to do duty were entertained by various people in the parish, amongst them being Mr.Barnes, churchwarden, who for many years lived at The Villa. The headmaster of Brewood Grammar School also officiated during this “non resident” period. The records of the church give the names of numerous ministers who all sign themselves “officiating Minister”, and it is not until the advent of Mr.Clare that any duly appointed person is met with as the incumbent of the parish. The church in its very early days was united to the Collegiate Church of Penkridge – a Royal Peculiar – and the incumbent then is frequently spoken of as Canon of Pancrig.

The legally appointed incumbents of Shareshill beginning with Mr.Clare are the Rev.Boodle Clare M.A. vicar from 1825 to 1859, the Rev.W.H.Havergal M.A. Hon. Canon of Worcester from 1860 to 1870, the Rev.R.Butcher from 1870 to 1897, and the Rev.E.Russ from M.A. from 1897 to the present time.

The organ of the church is an o-e manual pedal organ with ten stops; viz. Pedal Bourdon 16ft; Pedal 8ft; Open Diapason; Bass Diapason; Treble Diapason; Dulciana; Gamba; Principal; Fifteenth Flute. The small pipes of this organ formed part of the old barrel organ which was at one time in use in the church. Nicholson and Lord were the builders of the instrument in its present form. Before leaving the subject of the church one must not forget to mention the Tables of the Ten Commandments which Mr.Vernon had painted and framed in oak and put up.

The education matters of the parish until Mr.Forster’s act in 1870 came into force were somewhat of a primitive character. The present Parish School buildings were with the head teacher’s house built in 1870. The large room has accommodation for 90 scholars and the infant room for 36. The parish has every reason to be proud of its school. A good elementary education is given and a very careful moral training as well. The school stands very high among the County Schools for moral tone and teaching. The head teachers since 1870 have been Mr.Booker, Mr.Clayton, Mr.Raw and Mr.Benton, who holds the office at the present moment.

The first boys school was kept by “Old Kibble”, he and his wife “Old Nanny Kibble”, lived in a cottage up the old Hilton Lanes. The school was held in a cottage near the Bulls Head. Tradition has it that education was very scanty; one farmer it is said burnt his son’s geography book as he thought such knowledge unnecessary. The girl’s school was held in the house now occupied by Mr.Groves. This was built by Mrs.Vernon Graham.

At a vestry meeting held in the church vestry on the 23rd January 1840 it was resolved that a weekly school for boys be henceforth carried on under the superintendence of a master to be appointed at a salary of £20 per annum; and that the Sunday school for boys and girls be continued as hereto. This same vestry ordered the repairing and whitewashing of the school by one George Tomkinson. At a vestry held 29th February 1840 William Cox was elected headmaster. An additional allowance of £5 annually to the salary of £20, as house rent. In June 1840 a further sum of £2 was added to the salary to find coals. In the same month an entry is found relating to a subscription for the erection of a school house begun in 1835. William Cox was succeeded in October 1840 by John Cooper. In March 1847 the vestry is again exercised about the parish school and solemnly resolves and records that 'That each boy received into this school be required to pay 1d per week for instruction in writing and accounts as far as addition and subtraction, and 1d per week for further arithmetical instruction. That each girl be required to pay 1d per week for instruction in reading and common needlework, and similar payments to those required for the boys for instruction in accounts'. Who shall say after this that Shareshill was not to the front in elementary education?

Sixty years ago the post office was kept by Mr. & Mrs. Shaw who then lived at Shareshill Hall Farm. Here Miss Shaw had for some time a school for young ladies. In the Easter of 1891 the parishioners desirous of showing their appreciation of Mr.Shaw’s long and faithful service as parish clerk and sexton extending from 1846 to 1891 presented him with a handsome clock with the following inscription: –
Presented to Mr.G.T.Shaw by the parishioners of Shareshill in remembrance of his 45 years faithful service as parish clerk and sexton. Easter 1891.

The present post office is managed by Mr.&Mrs.Devey. The house was formerly the residence of the Misses Adcock, to one of whom the parish owes a dole distributed on St. Thomas’s day in the church after Morning Prayer to inhabitants of 60 years of age.

The Old Jockey and malthouse was kept by Miss Sarah Braddock. It was well built and very pretty old house. A great deal of malt was sent out and much ale was brewed. The osier bed adjoining this house was at one time a sheet of water belonging to the Jockey Public House on which an old inhabitant states “Old Braddock” used to paddle his own canoe.



FROM 6th June, 1908
“In days of old when knights were bold” Shareshill had its bull ring on Shareshill Green, between the White Horse Inn, now Shareshill’s Park Cottages and the gardens for which this hostelry was famous. Here the bull, having been brought from its shed was chained to a post then baited with dogs. It is more than likely that the Bull’s Head Inn owes its name from this circumstance as it stands on ground, if not actually part of Shareshill Green, at least adjoining. Amongst the many worthies of Shareshill there is one who stands out from them all, not merely for the eccentricities of his character, but because of a rhyme which the vicar of his time made up on him at his own request. The story is given now as copied by the writer direct from the manuscript.

On Thursday last in his 88th year Thomas Price Esq. of Shareshill. Mr.Price was well known throughout his neighbourhood as a man of rough and eccentric manners and the following exemplification of his character as produced some years ago, at his own desire as his epitaph under promise if he approved of it, of leaving the writer 20 guineas at his decease. Six minutes were allowed for its composition, five more were given and the subsequent lines were the result”.

Here lies Thomas Price, In behaviour not nice,
Yet was always a plain honest fellow’
In remarks he had wit,
And the mark he would hit’
And went often to bed very mellow,
O’er Manners presiding,
Yet all manners deriding,
In language or dress very rough,
Of the feats of his youth
He oft boasted with truth,
And died as he lived very tough,
Tho of riches possessed
He was never at rest
If one farthing more was to be got,
Death at last came by stealth
Took poor Tom from his wealth,
And left him in this place to rot.


It may be as well to say that this epitaph was never put up. Mr.Thomas Price’s body lies under the south end of the chancel of the church. The Manners mentioned in the second verse is believed to have been Mr.Price’s housekeeper.


FROM short account given on an undated sheet almanac by Rev.W.H.Havergal
Scarcely anything is known respecting the Old Parish Church of Shareshill. Not one of the usual relics is left to what was its style of architecture or ought else concerning it. It certainly had some coats of arms in its windows, and a beautiful monument on the N. wall of the chancel. Village tradition says it had a porch on the SW. Side with a chamber over it, containing some curious old books. I break off here to say it is of interest to know that our registers, which likely enough by the villagers would be regarded as “curious old books” dated from the year 1565, the seventh year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth.