WELLINGTON: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1824.


"WELLINGTON, a parish and market town in the Wellington division of the hundred of Bradford South. A vicarage remaining is charge, in the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, the deanery of Salop, and archdeaconry of Salop. 1,700 houses, 8,390 inhabitants. 12 miles south-east by east of Shrewsbury. 150 miles north-west of London. LONG. 2. 36 W. LAT. 52. 45 N. Market on Thursday, Fairs, March 22, June 22, September 29, November 17.

Wellington is a neat town in a populous district, lying in the centre of iron and coal works, and has a well supplied and much frequented market. Its church is a very handsome modern structure, apparently of the free stone of Grinshill; near it is a very respectable charity school. It was in this town and its vicinity that Charles the first, then on his march to Shrewsbury, mustered his forces, and after issuing orders for the maintenance of strict discipline, made a solemn protestation that he would defend the established religion, govern by law, and preserve the liberty of the subject; and that if he conquered he would uphold the privileges of parliament. It is to be lamented that he was compelled by adversity to make this protestation of his adherence to the duties of an English monarch: had he earlier practised them he would have avoided the errors which set him at variance with his parliament.

From this town is seen to great advantage the huge mound of the Wrekin, its base being distant only two miles. Through the interjacent country runs the Praetorian highway called Watling Street, which in this vicinity gives name to a little village on the main road to London. In Wellington there is a printing establishment conducted by Mr. Houlston, one of the largest provincial publishers in the kingdom.

The celebrated Dr. WITHERING, author of the "Botanical arrangement of British plants," was born at Wellington, in the year 1741. The family from which he descended was respectable, and had resided during many generations on a small patrimony, in this county. His father was a physician; his mother a relation of the celebrated Hurd, Bishop of Worcester. His mother survived her husband many years; but we may suppose that she found every compensation for his loss in the filial attention of her son, for his biographer informs us that she followed his fortunes for the remainder of her life.

Nothing strikingly remarkable is recorded of Dr Withering's early years. He seems to have received a good classical education, and to have had his mind imbued by his excellent parents with the principles of morality and religion; and was more distinguished for steady sense and correct judgment, than for the flights of fancy or the eccentricities of genius. Perceiving that he was much retarded in his studies by a weak memory, he every day learned by heart, a certain portion of verse or prose, which he was careful constantly to keep increasing, till at length he so completely remedied his natural defect, that he was not under the necessity in subsequent life of taking notes connected either with his studies, or profession, but could rely upon his own powers of recollection. In the autumn of 1762, he was matriculated at the University of Edinburgh, where he seems to have distinguished himself by pursuing his studies with the greatest diligence and attention. The fairly written folios and quartos, illustrated by neatly executed drawings, which still remain, assert both his industry and ingenuity. His "Adversaria" alone contain nearly a thousand folio pages, alphabetically arranged according to their respective subjects.

While Dr. Withering was unwearied in the pursuit of academick learning, as well as in all those branches of knowledge which belong more immediately to the medical profession, for which he was intended, he did not neglect the cultivation of the lighter and more elegant accomplishments. He was very fond of musick, and occasionally attempted poetry. But he sought principally to unbend his mind in that cultivated and improved society which the northern metropolis in such an eminent degree affords, and which he so peculiarly enjoyed. On Sunday he attended the ministry of Dr. Robertson, or the episcopal chapel; and frequently passed the evenings at the house of Dr. Cullen, where reading suitable to the day was introduced, and interesting, discussions on religion often took place. In one of his letters written at this period he makes the following remark, which though it dropped from a young and inexperienced pen, is well worthy of observation. "As to your supposition, I can only observe, that the unerring hand of Providence orders all things for the best, and perhaps to anticipate misfortunes may be infringing upon the goodness of the Deity. I am inclined to think that a distrust in Providence is a frequent cause of our calamities."

At this period of his life Dr. Withering commenced an acquaintance with an elderly Scotch lady, from whom he received the following anecdote, relative to the attachment of the brave islanders to Prince Charles, and which, as illustrative of the habits of this noble race of men, is worthy of preservation.

" After the battle of Culloden the Prince took refuge in a wood, accompanied by David Tullock, Rory Mackenzie, and a few others. The wood was invested by the King's troops, and the Duke of Cumberland was positively informed that the Pretender was concealed in it. The refugees observing the approach of their enemies, and finding escape impossible, resolved to die like heroes; but Mackenzie prepared for a still more generous sacrifice. Having prevailed upon his companions to ascend a lofty tree, he remained below, feigning himself to be the young Chevalier. He was discovered stretched on the ground and instantly commanded to surrender. When starting up, and drawing his claymore, " What" he exclaimed, "do you not know your Prince?" at the same moment rushing forward with desperation, he cut down two of his opponents before he fell overpowered by numbers. His head was severed from his body, and having been identified by the barber who had shaved his Highness in Edinburgh, was conveyed to London, where the mistake was discovered."

In the year 1766, Dr. Withering completed his academical studies with great credit to himself, and obtained the degree of doctor of physick. The intimacies he formed were with men of character, talents, and erudition; and he distinguished himself by some ingenious essays connected with the profession he had embraced, which obtained the praise and support of Professor Cullen.

Upon his quitting the University he made an excursion to France; not merely as an object of pleasure, but in consequence of an acquaintance which he had previously formed in London, with the surgeon in ordinary to the King of France, and who offered to give him every assistance in forwarding the great object of his researches. Dr. Withering's conduct while abroad reflects upon him great credit. A pleasing trait of his attachment to religion is thus recorded by his biographer. "He soon became involved in a controversy with two able disputants, and avowed himself the advocate of Christianity. The arguments on both sides were maintained for a considerable length of time, nor did the discussion terminate till he had fully refuted the objections advanced. He expresses in his diary the satisfaction be derived from this success, not with the exultation of triumph, but with a hope that he had rendered an essential service to his opponents."

He had been accompanied in his tour by a friend of the name of Townsend. This friend be had the misfortune to lose at Paris; and all his effects were claimed by government, as having belonged to a foreigner dying in the profession of the reformed religion. Dr. Withering opposed this claim, and after much exertion he at length, by means of the British ambassador, obtained their restitution. We may gather from one of his letters, written at the time, the impression this circumstance made upon his mind:-

" I shall for the future enjoy greater pleasure in England than I could have done had I never quitted her shores. Those who have not seen and felt the effects of arbitrary power, can never taste with full relish the sweets of liberty. O! that those who are discontented with British government were all transported to -. I have much to say, but it is not safe to speak."

Upon his return to England, he appears to have bestowed renewed attention to the important subject of religion. We are told by his son, that he diligently searched the scriptures, comparing the narratives and doctrines of the sacred historians, and inserting annotations in an interleaved copy of the New Testament, till he had the satisfaction of finding himself a believer in the Christian revelation, upon the most independent and rational conviction.

Dr. Withering first settled at Stafford, and here he attended as a physician, the accomplished lady who became the partner of his future life; and it is not improbable that this attachment greatly increased, if it did not produce that botanical turn which has since rendered his name so conspicuous in this department of science. She drew beautifully, and he appears to have gathered wild plants as subjects for her pencil. This soon became a favourite pursuit; and possessing at this time a good deal of leisure, he collected specimens for that herbarium which he afterwards rendered so complete. His predilection, however, for this pursuit was in the former years of his life by no means of that description which might have been imagined, for while he was residing as a student at Edinburgh, he thus expresses himself in a letter to his parents. "The Botanical Professor gives annually a gold medal to such of his pupils as are most industrious in that branch of science. An incitement of this kind is often productive of the greatest emulation in young minds, though I confess it will hardly have charm enough to banish the disagreeable ideas I have formed of the study of botany." So little was he aware at this period that it would become at length one of his most distinguished pursuits.

Dr. Withering remained at Stafford eight years, much beloved by all classes of people. His exertions had been great in favour of its Infirmary, and so attached was he to the institution which he had so assiduously attended, that even after his settling at Birmingham, in the year 1775, he visited it weekly, at the inconvenience of a journey of sixty miles, till a successor as physician was appointed. His situation at Birmingham fully answered his expectations. The receipts of the first year were more than double those of the most profitable he had ever known at Stafford, and notwithstanding the time he continued to devote to Chemistry and Botany, he soon realized £1,000 per annum by his professional labours.

But these exertions were too much for his health: he was soon attacked by an irregular fever, "which prevented him" he said "from doing anything or thinking of anything which could be avoided;" and this illness was only the prelude to frequent and more serious attacks. Yet, notwithstanding his invalid state, he persevered in his botanical arrangements, and during the following summer presented the publick with the first edition of his English Botany: a work as we have before hinted, which claims the gratitude of every botanical student on English ground, and is perhaps exceeded by none for the facility it offers to the enquirer, and for the copiousness and correctness of its selection. His philosophical attention, however, was by no means confined to Botany; Chemistry, Mineralogy, and every branch of natural philosophy, connected with his profession, occupied him in succession.

But while thus ardently engaged in the pursuit of knowledge of interest, or of fame, he was not indifferent to the claims of humanity; for in addition to an attendance at the General Hospital at Birmingham, which was quite as laborious as that which he had bestowed at Stafford, he allotted stated days, on which he gratuitously gave his advice at his own house to the poor. He was also in the habit of declining remuneratioa from those whose situation seemed to him, from any peculiar circumstance, to require the exercise of his benevolence.

By the death of Dr. Ash, who practised in Birmingham, Dr. Withering entered upon a circuit of practice, which for extent and emolument, has scarcely ever been surpassed, if indeed equalled, out of London; but it is very gratifying to notice from his letters, that this success was no way regarded as a compensation for the loss of his friend. In one of these be remarks,-

"I have not been so unhappy for years as this indisposition of my friend has made me. It will be the most trying event that could ab externis, have happened to me; and while some of my well wishers may be looking with an eye of complacency at the prospect which his removal may open to me, I am truly heavy at heart for the loss of a man, whose virtues and abilities I admire, while I hardly see his foibles. The habits of intimacy and uninterrupted cordiality which have continued between us for several years, have attached me to him in a degree I once thought never could subsist between two practitioners in the same town."

Dr. Withering's health, always delicate and precarious, but increasingly so from the extensive practice to which by the death of his friend he was introduced, obliged him to remove in the year 1786, from Birmingham to Edgbaston Hall, a house pleasantly situated in the neighbourhood. With the exception of frequent attacks of ill health, particularly in the winter season, his biographer has recorded no remarkable circumstance, as interrupting the regular and estimable habits of his father's conduct, till the year 1791; when, in the month of July he and his family suffered much alarm and some injury in the riot at Birmingham:- a scene which reflects the greatest disgrace, not only on the misguided mob, but on the police of the country, which so tardily suppressed their lawless excesses. The attack upon Edgbaston appears to have been most unprovoked. Dr. Withering was always an attendant on the Established church, he avoided all political interferences, and had not attended the publick dinners. Indeed, we gather from the account of his sentiments, by his son, that however with many of the English nation, he might be deeply interested for France, when she first began to assert her national rights, he soon deplored with the wise and good, the folly and crimes which marked her dreadful revolutionary career. His own words to his friend Dr. Currie are strong and pointed, when he lamented that ' in the dawn of that beautiful morning, when the genius of French freedom appeared on our southern horizon, with the countenance of an angel, she should so speedily have assumed the features of a Demon, and have vanished in a shower of blood.'

Dr. Withering received into his house one of the fugitive families, but was himself soon afterwards, while is a very delicate state of health, obliged to abandon his own premises, and hastily to secrete or to convey away the more valuable of his effects. Every exertion was made by an attached neighbourhood, to protect his property, but all their efforts would have proved ineffectual, but for the timely arrival of the military.

The following year, 1792, Dr. Withering's health became so much impaired that he was induced to try the milder climate of Portugal. The account which he gives of this excursion, shews with what an attentive eye and scrutinizing mind, invalid as he was, he regarded every thing which this change of scene presented to him. Though we cannot expect much that is striking, on a subject which has been so amply illustrated by modern travellers; yet we may still notice a few interesting particulars.

The superior behaviour and urbanity of the Portuguese peasantry, excited the attention of Dr. Withering and his friends. This deportment has been partly attributed to their innate sense of dignity as an ennobled race, which forbids their engaging in many menial offices, and frees them from that mauvaise honte, so embarrassing to the generality of rusticks. [After the signal victory gained by Don Alonzo (in 1139) on the plains of Ourique, which reduced the power of the Moors, and established Portugal an independent kingdom, the conqueror granted the honours of nobility to all his followers. It may likewise be worthy of remark, that Portugal, under the feudal system, had no villain or slave attached to the land.] However this may be, the strangers seldom met a Portuguese without receiving a most courteous salutation. Though we may, perhaps, fear that this native dignity and politeness of manner, may be dearly purchased by the want of more industrious activity, and by its concomitant pride, yet it is an interesting fact, not only in the manners of a nation, but in the history of the human mind.

"Another trait of these people is the readiness with which they indulge in the gift of the Improvisatore. Often do the vine dressers break forth into irregular eclogues or bucolicks. Nor do the females employed in washing on the banks of the brooks or rivers beat the linen against the massy stones, without the cadence of song." Of the celebrated Tagus he says, " It is very inadequately conceived of as a river. It is in fact a great salt water lake, thirty miles long, and half as many in breadth, with a narrow outlet into the ocean, and receiving into itself the tributary waters of several rivers, among which the Tagus, properly so called, is the principal."

"The aqueduct at Lisbon is a noble erection. It is continued from the Riberia de Caranque, for the space of ten miles and a half to Lisbon. It is carried on arches over the valley, and by subterraneous passages through the hills. Across the valley of Alcantara, one mile and a half from Lisbon, it is supported by thirty five arches, and these are the most magnificent; but the whole number of arches is 127. The set of arches across the valley of Alcantara extends 821 yards; the height of the principal arch is somewhat more than 75 yards, and its breadth or width 36 yards. The water flows in two channels, each twelve inches wide and twelve deep. Between these channels is a walk or foot path, paved with fine stone. The whole is arched over, the covering arch being thirteen feet high. The duct is lighted and ventilated by means of turrets or square towers, with latticed windows and occasional doors to admit workmen when any repairs are wanted. There are sixteen of these turrets across the valley of Alcantara, each of which rises twenty three feet and a half above the roof of the aqueduct: aad on the outside of the inclosing walls is a foot path, one on each side, about five feet wide, reaching quite across the valley and rendered secure by a parapet wall. This work was but little damaged by the great earthquake of 1755. It is kept in repair by a tax upon butcher's meat, equal to the thirtieth part of a halfpenny on every pound."

Dr. Withering has recorded an anecdote, (while describing a great glass manufactory, ninety miles from Lisbon,) that does much honour to the Portuguese character.

" Mr. Stevens, the English proprietor, had the honour to entertain, for one day, the queen and royal family in 1786, and for three days in 1788. Her majesty's attendants with the vast influx of persons from the surrounding country, formed an assembly of many thousands. Thirty two cooks, besides their assistants were employed; and stabling was provided for 853 horses and mules, To the credit of Portuguese honesty and sobriety, only two silver spoons were lost from 60 dozen in use; and though pipes of wine were placed in the apartments appropriated to the servants, not a man was seen intoxicated."

A circumstance occurred during Dr. Withering's residence abroad, which reflects too much honour upon his character to be omitted. Though he always studiously avoided the practice of his profession while in Portugal, still the jealousy of some of the faculty was excited. And one in particular spared no pains to vilify him, and to represent him as a man of no reputation in his native country. These misrepresentations excited the anger of Dr. Withering's friends, but were disregarded by himself. The only daughter of his calumniator was on the point of being married to a man of specious appearance, who had been introduced as a regular physician. Dr. Withering hearing of the intended match, and having reasons to suspect the pretensions of the admirer, conveyed a caution to the young lady and her parents. The affair was suspended; and upon enquiry it proved that the stranger was a needy adventurer, wholly unworthy of regard. It is pleasing to add that his former calumniator was so struck with his noble and disinterested conduct, that he hastened to bail him as the preserver of his child, and the protector of his domestick comfort, and expressed in the strongest terms, his obligation for so humane and generous an action.

The advantage derived by Dr. Withering from these annual emigrations was so transient, that he preferred ever after passing the winter in England, and securing himself from the injury of the climate by a regulated atmosphere in his own apartment. Experience and observation greatly lessened his opinion of much benefit being usually derived by consumptive patients removing to Portugal. He ascertained that the disorder was very common there, and seemed inclined to adopt the opinion of the foreign physicians, in considering it as contagious. As to the utility of going abroad in these cases, we are told by his son, that ' from the numerous cases which fell under his care, in a long course of practice, it may fairly be inferred that coterie paribus, those who are restored to health, by judicious attention to the incipient stage of the disorder, and by a timely removal to the most favourable parts of the coast of England, recovered as completely and as promptly as such might have done abroad; while to others who had neglected to remove to a milder climate till reduced to an almost hopeless condition, Lisbon certainly accelerated the fatal termination.'

Dr. Withering now found every succeeding winter a season of confinement, of privation, and of suffering. In the year 1767, the position of writing became at times so oppressive, that it was almost insupportable, and his power of conversing was also very limited. We have, however, a pleasing picture of the cheerful equanimity of his mind, as described in some of his letters written at this time. ' With that hope which, like a gay coquette, for ever courts, yet for ever eludes our grasp, I look forward to the genial days of spring with high expectation. Such expectations are pleasing at the moment: if realised they do not lessen the enjoyment of the reality; if not, to a mind accustomed to contemplate uncertainty, it can hardly be called a disappointment.' At the conclusion of another letter, written during the following autumn, after mentioning some of his complaints, he says, ' But you will not see me either fretful or dispirited, and an exemption from such evils is a positive blessing.'

In the year 1799, Dr. Withering determined to leave his favourite Edgbaston, and fit up another house in a more level and sheltered spot. He incurred some fatigue in his weak state by these preparations, but probably suffered much more injury from an alarming illness of Mrs. Withering,- and her health remained too precarious to admit of her removing with him, when he took possession of his new house, the Larches, on the 28th of September. On the 2nd of October, his disease increased so rapidly as to occasion great alarm; but even in this state, and when confined to that bed from which he never more arose, be consented to see Lord T., and with extreme difficulty made a few notes of a plan of general treatment,- thus closing his career of medical practice.

On the following night it was found necessary that he should have an attendant, and when the faithful servant entered into the room in order to discharge this office, he was so much overpowered by the traces of death which he beheld in his master, that he swooned away on the floor. The Doctor however, with renewed animation, gave suitable directions for his revival.

On the 5th, Mrs. Withering was conveyed to the Larches. He warmly recommended her to the tenderest care of her children, and suggested such remedies as he thought most applicable to her disorder, and then appeared desirous of dismissing thoughts so afflictive and likely to disturb his equanimity. To relieve the accumulation on the lungs, it was found serviceable to awake him at short intervals, sometimes at every half-hour; and to this painful discipline he even now submitted without a murmur.

' The following day,' his son remarks, 'all hope was extinct, but he evinced an entire confidence in the goodness of an overruling Providence, tempered with a pious resignation to his will. About six o'clock he intreated for two hours of undisturbed repose; but even sleep no longer brought refreshment, for life itself was ebbing fast away. Nevertheless, through the whole forenoon, he engaged in a series of conversations, on the most interesting topicks. Even his voice, in these impressive discourses, resumed its natural firmness, enabling him to descant with the utmost elevation of soul on the truth of those doctrines which he had adopted from conviction, and cherished as the source of his highest expectations. He experienced their consoling influence in this awful moment; and, while praising and magnifying the Lord, his features were illuminated with the ardent desire of a speedy translation to those realms where pain and sorrow are no more.'

Dr. Withering had himself directed the unostentatious manner in which his interment should be conducted. His remains on the 10th of October, were conveyed to Edgbaston, and deposited in a vault, beneath the church, by six honest peasants, chiefly those who had been employed by the family. The funeral solemnities were impressively performed amidst a deeply affected assemblage of persons, who, uninvited, thus paid their tribute of respect for the deceased. Over his grave, the clergyman, and the dissenting minister mingled their tears, and together offered up their devout aspirations. Nor should another incident be omitted;- for a stronger proof of the veneration in which Dr. Withering was held can scarcely be imagined, than that which was given by two of his patients in humble life, who soon afterwards, sunk under disease, not very dissimilar to his own. These worthy persons, unconnected with each other, but impelled by the same feeling, resolved to be laid in the lap of earth near to their benefactor, incurring additional expense of extra-parochial burial, and an inconvenient removal, to attain this, their last desire.

Besides his "Botanical Arrangement of British Plants," Dr. Withering gave to the world, "An account of the cure of the Plague by olive oil," and "A Prevention of the dreadful malady of Hydrophobia," at once simple and within the reach of any one who has suffered from so terrible a contagion, as well as some interesting observations upon the nature and treatment of the disease itself." His application of Digatalis to the disease of Dropsy is well known, and forms quite an aera in this department of medical science. Its application to cases of insanity is by no means so generally known; though it should seem desirable that the faculty would attentively consider the facts which the Doctor has recorded of its decided benefit in such cases."

" APLEY CASTLE, a castle in the parish of Wellington, and in the Wellington division of the hundred of Bradford South. 1 mile north of Wellington. The seat of William Charlton, esq. See appendix."

" ASTON, a township in the parish of Wellington, and in the Wellington division of the hundred of Bradford South. 3 miles south-west by west of Wellington."

" HADLEY, a township in the parish of Wellington, and in the Wellington division of the hundred of Bradford South. 1½ mile south of Wellington."

" KETLEY, a township in the parish of Wellington, and in the Wellington division of the hundred of Bradford South. 1 mile south-east of Wellington. The residence of John Bucknell, Esq., and Henry Williams, Esq."

" LAWLEY, a township in the parish of Wellington, and in the Wellington division of the hundred of Bradford South. 2 miles south-east by south of Wellington.

One of the hills in the eastern line of the plain of Shropshire."

" LEE GOMERY, a township in the parish of Wellington, and in the Wellington division of the hundred of Bradford South. 1 mile north-east of Wellington."

" WALCOT, a township in the parish of Wellington, and in the Wellington division of the hundred of Bradford South. 1 mile north of Wellington."

[Transcribed information from A Gazetteer of Shropshire - T Gregory - 1824](unless otherwise stated)

[Description(s) transcribed by Mel Lockie ©2015]