Upper Arley in 1817


Description from A Topographical History of Staffordshire by William Pitt (1817)


Over Areley is bounded on the north, west, and south by Shropshire, and on the east by Worcestershire, except a small neck to the north-east, where it joins Kinfare, being about four miles in length and one and an half in breadth: the Severn passes through this village, but visits no other part of the county.

Areley continued in the possession of Sir Thomas Lyttelton, and his male descendants, from the time of Henry the Sixth to the year 1779, when Thomas, son of George Lord Lyttelton, the tenth in descent, gave it by will to his nephew, George Viscount Valentia, (son of his only sister, Lucy,) who resides here, and is the present owner. The family-mansion was re-built by the Lytteltons, about the year 1650, and is delightfully situated on the richly- wooded banks of the Severn. It has received much external improvement from the taste of Lord Valentia, who is known to the literary world by a well-written volume of Travels. He married a daughter of the late Viscount Courtenay, by whom he has one son, George Arthur, born October 2, 1793: his lordship is divorced from his lady.

The church of Areley is an ancient structure, dedicated to St. Peter, first erected by Henry de Port in the time of Henry I. and re-built in the reign of the first Edward. The nave is divided from the chancel by a range of pillars: the tower contains a peal of bells, and is a modern erection. The windows are decorated with some old paintings, and there is likewise a modern one by Mr. Eginton. In 1793, the interior was thoroughly repaired and beautified at the expence of Lord Valentia, who is patron. There is a very ancient monument to one of the Heckstans, and several of the Lytteltons. The ecclesiastical jurisdiction is vested partly in the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield, and partly in Lord Valentia: the former annually visit the church, prove wills, and audit the churchwardens' accounts, whilst the latter, by his right of presentation, institutes and inducts; so that Areley is strictly a donative, and exempt from episcopal or archdeaconical jurisdiction.

On this part of the river (Severn), and higher up to Welshpool, the fishermen use a light kind of boat called a coracle, in which one man being seated will row himself with great swiftness with one hand, whilst with the other he manages his net, angle, or fishing tackle: it is of an oval form, composed of sallow twigs interwoven round at the bottom, and covered on the outside against the water with a horse's hide. It is probable (says Mr. Shaw) these coracles were in general use among the Celtic nations in the earliest ages; and there is great reason to believe that the first inhabitants of Ireland had no other vessels to transport them either from Britain thither, or from thence to Scotland.

The soil of Areley is in general a good clay loam, and from its situation and aspect well adapted to the cultivation of fruit. The hills are often rocky, with small fragments upon and near the surface: the surface-soil varies in colour from red to grey. Hops were formerly much cultivated here, but have lately been neglected.

The names of the most remarkable buildings, are Areley-hall, Heckstones, Bromley, Bannut-tree, and Hawkbach: here is likewise the eminence called Shatterfoot, and Seckley-wood, containing about 600 acres. Excellent grindle-stones are dug at Heckstones, and quarries of lime-stone, and mines of coal, are in course of working.

On the eastern verge of the village is an ancient Roman vicinal road called the Port-way, which probably led from Brennogenium (Worcester) to Uriconium (Wroxeter), and now forms part of the post road from Worcester to Shrewsbury. In Areley-wood are the remains of a large Roman camp, which is au exact square, with double, and on one side treble, ditches: it was probably the work of Ostorius, who fortified the banks of the Severn during his conflicts with the Silures and Ordovices. Castle-field was perhaps so named from the Romans having encamped there; and a town and bridge are said to have once existed at Hawkbach. Roman coins have been found on the spot.