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History of the Village

Early History

The protruding volcanic mass of Lilleshall Hill along with The Wrekin and the Stiperstones are of pre-Cambrian original and some of the oldest rocks in Europe.   Thousand of years later the area was covered by shallow seas resulting in limestone and sandstone deposits and evidence on the surface of the land by way of rounded pebbles in the fields.  The lower carboniferous limestone outcrops on the eastern half of the village was the subject of much mining in the 17th and 18th Centuries.   For further details of which, see the section on Limestone Mining.

It is highly likely in the past that the area to the south of the village was (as with much of England) covered extensively by woodland the remnants of which remain in Abbey Wood (in private ownership) a mile or so to the south of the village.

The village of Lilleshall dates back from the Saxon times and it is believed that its name originates from the name of the Hill,  “Lillers Hill”.   Liller was a servant of the King of Northumbria, Edwin, and the village may well have been bestowed upon Liller for services rendered to the King.

Lilleshall is registered in the Doomsday Book, having a population then of about 150 people.  The village continued to grow in size.   It is difficult to establish the figures for population growth because historically the village has been included in the Parishes of nearby Muxton and Donnington.

The Abbey

Lilleshall Abbey is situated about a mile to the south of the village on the edge of the Abbey Woods.  Examination of public records reveals that the Charter of the King Stephen in 1148 mentions endowment of Richard Debelmis II the Arch Deacon of Middlesex to build an Abbey at Lilleshall so it is believed the foundation of the Abbey took place in around 1150.

The Abbey grew in prosperity over the years and was an important part of the community providing support for the impoverished and hospitality for travellers.

Following dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII when desperately short of money Henry VIII pushed through Parliament in 1536 an Act providing for the closures of all Monastic Houses with an income of less than £200 per year.     Lilleshall was much wealthier but did not escape for long and during the next three years all remaining Monasteries surrendered to the Crown.   The Crown sold the Abbey and adjoining land to the Leveson family whose wealth was based on the wool trade in Wolverhampton.    The Leveson family began dismantling the Abbey sending the 16 pew stalls to St Peter’s Church in Wolverhampton.  Much of the Abbey was dismantled and the stone used in local building projects.   Some tiles being used at nearby Lilleshall Hall.

Part of the Abbey was converted to a house and garrison to preserve it against the Parliamentarians but in the Civil War of 1645 it fell under siege to the Parliamentarians who surrounded the garrison of the Crown.   The Abbey was attacked by cannon fire from the slightly raised ridge to the north and the garrison eventually surrendered.

The Leveson family and the Sutherland family held on to the Lilleshall Abbey ruins until the general sale in 1917 when the Duke of Sutherland sold Lilleshall Hall, its grounds, Lilleshall Hill and its surrounding tenanted farms and houses at a Public Auction.
The Abbey is now in the care of English Heritage and can be visited for a small fee.   The main tower still remains although not at its previous full height.   The Abbey is a peaceful place and best described as a quiet ruin.

Lilleshall Hall

Two miles to the south of the village lies Lilleshall Hall, now the home of the National Sports Council for England.   The Hall was originally built in 1831 as a Hunting Lodge for the Duke of Sutherland, set in secluded surroundings.  In Victorian times it was quite a tourist attraction and the Shropshire residence of the Duke, one of the wealthiest men in England.  See the Lilleshall Monument section of this site for more information on the structure dominating the village skyline.
The Hall fell into some disrepair and was eventually purchased by the Sports Council to establish a National Sports Centre.   One claim to fame is that the Centre was the training base of the England Football team in the run up to the 1966 Wold Cup Win.   
Located in the Centre is a Sports Injury Rehabilitation Clinic where many famous athletes have spent time recuperating from injuries.  The Centre is also the base of the British Archery Association and the British Gymnastics Association.  Many other sports can be experienced at the Centre by visitors from near and far.   A mile to the south west of the Sports Centre lies Lilleshall Golf Club, an 18 hole course, for the first nine in a parkland setting and the contrasting back nine played through woodland.

Lilleshall Church

Lilleshall Church lies in the centre of the village and is dedicated to St Michael and All Angels.   The Church is located on the site of a much older Church that would have served the population for a few hundred years.  The present Church was built on the same site in the early 13th Century.   In the 1300s the Church was enlarged to create the north aisle.

Around 1450 to 1500 the Church tower was added replacing the original Belfry Turret.  In around 1600 the Chancel was extended to its present length and around 1675 the Church was finished bearing some resemblance to the building we see today.  The Church fell into disrepair around 150 years ago and was considerably restored in the summer of 1856.    The restored Church was opened for a special service on 31st October 1856 led by the Bishop of Lichfield.

The Church of the size it is today was completed in 1897 when to commemorate the 60 years of the reign of Queen Victoria the Vestry was built.  By the 1950s and about 100 years after the 1856 restoration the Church again began to fall into disrepair, creeping ivy growing under the roof and the roof timbers affected by beetle infestation.   The restoration programme spread over the next 15 years to be completed by 1965.

Ongoing maintenance has continued throughout the 1970s 1980s and 1990s.  In 1985 the floor of the north aisle of the Church and the accompanying pews were found to be riddled with woodworm and removed and replaced.

The Font.   The entrance to the Church is through a porch under an impressive Norman Arch.   Straight ahead is an old sandstone Font which appears to pre-date the original Church construction in 1200.   The Font is likely to be part of the original Church that existed on the site.

©2009 Lilleshall Residents Association