Credit for much of the written history of the parish of Lyonshall must go to Mrs Shan Preddy of Church House, Lyonshall, who painstakingly put together a booklet on the subject as part of the Millennium Celebrations in the Parish.
Her document cites the reference sources and makes its own acknowledgements, too lengthy to be repeated here. Suffice it to say that the parish is heavily indebted to Shan for the work in recording a snapshot of the parish's history in such a professional manner.
The booklet prepared in 1999 has substantially stood the test of the intervening few years, and necessary amendments have been kept to an absolute minimum.
LYONSHALL: THE STORY SO FAR
Lyonshall is one of the largest parishes in Herefordshire, covering approximately 5,000 acres. To the west, it reaches the Kington by-pass; to the south, it includes Holmes Marsh and Woonton Ash; to the east, it stops just short of Cotmore Farm and The Yeld; and to the north, it follows the course of the river Arrow by Titley Mill. About 750 people live in around 280 households. Many have lived in Lyonshall all their lives, like their parents and grandparents before them.
How far back can we trace life in Lyonshall?
The first documentary evidence of life in Lyonshall is in Domesday Book, written in 1086, just after the last Millennium. It tells us that Lyonshall at that time was a reasonably substantial settlement, with the Saxon villagers quickly having to get used to a new Norman lord. William the Conqueror’s occupying forces had successfully invaded England in 1066, and it didn’t take them long to occupy Lyonshall. They were keen to secure this important strategic site on the border with Wales.
Before 1086, very little is known for sure. We do, however, have a few archaeological discoveries to help us.
FROM THE BEGINNING - Dateline
23,000-10,000 BC: Ice Age
8,500 - 4,200 BC: Mesolithic period, hunter-gatherers
4,200 - 2,300 BC: Neolithic period, settled agriculturists
c 2,800 BC: First stone circles erected, Stonehenge begun
2,300 - 800 BC: Bronze Age, first use of metal alloys
800 BC - 50 AD: Iron Age, iron gradually replaces bronze for tools and weapons
FROM THE BEGINNING
In the section on Lyonshall in the Kington History Society publication Kington and Surrounding Areas, Dorothy Batts and Jean Oldham tell us that ‘a few finds of flint tools give evidence of visits during the Mesolithic and Neolithic ages.’ These finds do not necessarily mean that anyone lived here at that time; they could have been brought from some distance away and lost or discarded here. However, they do suggest that people were living in the wider area seven to ten thousand years ago.
Another find suggests evidence of people being here three to four thousand years ago. In 1931, a Bronze Age knife or dagger was found by Mr Sturrock from Strathmore in Lower Fish Pool Meadow. This is about ½ mile or so east of the Station, just behind where The Close stands today; you can see it marked on the map of Lyonshall in the centre of this book. He took it to the Woolhope Clubfor inspection and verification, and then sent it to Hereford Museum. It is still there and although not on permanent display, it can be seen on request (phone in advance, and quote accession number 4354) .
The Woolhope Club, still an active society, was founded in 1851 by a group of geologists, and was soon expanded to include other disciplines such as history, natural history and archaeology. Their transactions, or published papers, have provided Herefordshire with a unique and valuable set of archives.
Again, the find of the dagger in Lyonshall is not in itself evidence of a settlement, although people were certainly living in the wider area at that time. If people had lived here, what would they have been like? Not as primitive as we might think. Bronze Age houses were usually simple, made from thatched or brushwood roofs placed over scooped out hollows in the ground. The houses would have been clustered together, surrounded by a fence or earthwork for protection. Larger settlements contained more substantial huts with walls, fireplaces and benches. The people would have been farmers and hunters, with tamed horses for riding. They knew how to melt copper and how to mix it with tin to form an alloy, bronze, which could not only be bent and moulded to precise shapes, but also be sharpened to a fine cutting edge. They were skilled craftsmen: they knew how to spin and weave cloth, and their jewellery and ornaments were highly decorative. Our Bronze Age ancestors also knew how to trade: by 1000 BC Britons
Woolhope Club Extract
Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club, 1932 Transactions
‘Mr Sturrock of Strathmore, Lyonshall, (the finder), brought this to me to record about the time of the last Winter meeting, but it missed getting recorded in the Notes for 1931. It is an exceedingly fine and uncommon bronze-age implement. The site of the find was about 35 yards NE of the Lower Fish Pool, Lyonshall. It is socketted, ribbed on both faces, 10½ inches long. It is now in the Museum as a very valuable addition to the small number of bronze-age implements found in the county.’
Later Iron Age settlers improved their agricultural skills, having developed the use of the more robust metal, iron, which allowed them to make implements such as axes, picks and metal-tipped ploughs. They also knew how to drain heavy soil to make it more fertile.
By about 500 BC, Celtic tribes were spreading across Britain from Europe. Hill forts - fortified villages constructed on the top of hills for safety, such as those at Wapley, Croft Ambrey and Credenhill - had been around in a simple form since about 1500 BC. The Celts developed them into permanent settlements, the headquarters of the tribe and a centre for trade. They were motivated not only by threats from their neighbours, but also by the arrival of a new invading force, the Romans.
THE ROMAN OCCUPATION - Dateline
55 BC: First Roman invasion: Julius Caesar
40 AD: Romans claim conquest
43 AD: Emperor Hadrian visits England, Hadrian’s Wall begun
312 AD: Emperor Constantine recognises Christianity as a legal religion
391 AD: Christianity becomes the official religion of the Roman Empire
410 AD: Withdrawal of Romans from Britain
THE ROMAN OCCUPATION
Bollingham Road, or Spond Lane as it is also known, stretches to the west from the centre of Lyonshall village. It is said that it has its origins as a Bronze Age highway. With the Roman occupation of Herefordshire, it became part of the network of roads built to get legions and supplies from one camp to another.
If you take a ruler to an Ordnance Survey map or a modern roadmap, you can still see the signs of a distinct straight Roman road running from Bollingham - where it connected in turn to the hilltop signal camp at Little Mountain near Brilley and the Roman fort at Clyro - straight through Lyonshall. It goes up Spond Lane, through the village, along Rhyse Lane and on through Shobdon and up to Mortimer’s Cross to connect with the route up to Leintwardine, once the Roman garrison town Bravonium.
Herefordshire was an important military border area to the Romans: Caractacus, the leader and able commander of Welsh tribes the Silures, and later the Ordovices, proved to be a valiant opponent of the Roman army until his capture somewhere in mid-Wales in 51 AD. In his book Herefordshire Under Arms, Charles Hopkinson notes: 'Caractacus was captured and deported to Rome. His reported reproach to captors, on seeing the splendours of Imperial Rome: "And when you have all this, do you still envy us our hovels?” must be one of the first recorded remonstrances of a patriot and would hold good as well in the twentieth century as it did in the first.’
The Romans started leaving Britain in about 400 AD, called away to defend their contracting empire against attack from the migrating Huns, Goths and Vandals who were sweeping rapidly into the Roman Empire from the east. As the empire collapsed in Britain, the Angles and Saxons moved in from Europe, and the native Britons gradually retreated westwards to the ancient hill-forts and settlements of the border lands.
ROMAN FINDS IN LYONSHALL
A few Roman finds have been dug up in Lyonshall over the years. A coin of the Emperor Numerian (283-284 AD) was found in 1949 by a member of the Burgoyne family. Also in 1949, several Roman ornaments were displayed at a meeting of the Woolhope Club at Moorcourt; these were thought to come from Lyonshall. More recently, a piece of Romano-British pottery was found near Spond Lane by Roger Pye.
For two successive years in 2003 & 2004 Cardiff University conducted archaeological digs in suspected enclosure settlements in Lyonshall - on two sites close to and overlooking the Curl Brook adjacent to the line of the suspected Roman road. These Digs uncovered numerous examples of fragments of pottery from around the 1st & 2nd century AD - and conclusively demonstrated local occupation during Roman times of the two sites investigated.
OFFA'S DYKE - Dateline
449: Major invasions in eastern Britain by Angles and Saxons
597: St Augustine sent from Rome to convert the English to Christianity
725: Epic poem Beowulf, known orally, written out for first time
731: Bede writes his History Of The English Church and People
789: First recorded landing on Vikings on the Eastern coastal areas
POST ROMAN BRITAIN
The three hundred years from the departure of the Romans to the mid-8th century was a time of great change and development for Britain.
The Saxons, and then the Vikings, invaded in large numbers, affecting not only our language, politics and economy, but also our culture. We know, for example, of a number of epic poems from this time, such as the story of the hero Beowulf, who successfully fought the man-eating monster Grendel and his equally terrifying mother. Until it was written out in about 725, it would have been recited from heart by the villagers sitting around the fire on a cold winter’s evening: a tall tale to send shivers up the spine.
The country slowly became more unified through mergers of its warring tribal states, and laws were gradually developed and enforced. Christianity gradually spread across the country. We don’t have much detail about Lyonshall at that time, but there is one thing we do know: in about 790, a section of Offa’s Dyke was built here.
THE BUILDING OF OFFA'S DYKE
Offa's Dyke runs straight through Lyonshall; well-preserved sections can be seen from just next to Titley Junction Station in the north of the parish, and from the public footpaths in the fields surrounding Lynhales if you walk between Lyonshall Nurseries and Spond Lane. (The Picture on the right [Copyright C Musson] shows the Lyonshall Nursery in the foreground with the line of the Dyke stretching to the south towards Lynhales Drive).It can then be followed up over Holmes Marsh. The modern Offa’s Dyke long-distance footpath does not follow the dyke’s course at this point; it lies a few miles to the west, and goes over Bradnor Hill, through Kington and on over Hergest Ridge.
Charles Hopkinson gives a good account of the dyke’s construction in Herefordshire Under Arms: ‘Such an enormous undertaking required skilful direction of the works themselves and organisation of manpower. Many gangs were employed in building the Dyke which is not uniform in construction; it could have thus been completed in a few years… The Dyke had much in common with Roman frontier defences: it was not a traditional Anglo-Saxon work but the ambitious concept of an imaginative military mind.’
Nikolaus Pevsner: The Buildings of England, Herefordshire
‘There is a fine stretch of the dyke ¼ m SW of the church, running E-W for approximately 1¾ m. At this point the bank is prominent and the flat-bottomed ditch some 12 to 13 ft broad.’
The dyke was built by Offa, King of Mercia from 757-796; he controlled all of England south of the Humber from his headquarters in Tamworth. The dyke was intended to mark the boundary between Mercia and Wales, stretching from the estuaries of the Dee in the north to the Severn in the south. Although never entirely completed, its construction was impressive. In their book History and Landscape: Walks for the Family and its Dog, which contains a circular walk around Kington and Lyonshall, JB Sinclair and RWD Fenn note that the dyke was the climax of Offa’s achievements:’…in consequence of which this greatest of the Mercian kings was dealt with on equal terms by Charlemagne himself.’ [Charlemagne - Holy Roman Emperor, born 742, died 814. He united all of the lands of Christian Europe except Spain, southern Italy, and the British Isles into one superstate]
Offa was a legislator and diplomat as well as a leader, and encouraged trade with Europe. He established a joint English and Welsh council to explain his laws to their respective citizens. The laws are arguably a bit biased towards the Mercians, and they predictably paid a lot of attention to the question of the recovery of rustled stock. However, they also allowed for the safe conduct of either Welshman or Mercian when on the other side of the border for legitimate reasons, provided that they were accompanied by an appointed guide. Although we don’t have any evidence for it, there could well have been a small frontier settlement at Lyonshall at that time, although it wasn’t one of the major Mercian border towns.
SAXON KINGDOMS - Dateline
c800: Book of Kells completed in Ireland
841: Vikings dominate Irish Sea shipping
939: Tithes introduced
1030: New map of Europe, including Britain, produced in Kent
SAXON KINGDOMS - The Vikings & Alfred The Great
From the 8th century onwards, England was under attack from both the east and the west by Norsemen - the Vikings. Originally from Norway and Denmark, they were later based in Ireland and The Orkneys. They came as raiders, but stayed as settlers, mostly in the north-east of England, but some found their way here to the border counties. They found England an easy target: the warring Anglo-Saxon petty kingdoms had little mutual co-operation and no central, national organisation. Large-scale resistance was impossible.
By the turn of the first Millennium, however, largely due to Alfred (‘The Great’) and his strong leadership, the warring Anglo-Saxon tribes had been almost unified into one nation with centralised power. One thing which helped was the increasing spread of the Christian church, which established its own network across the tribal boundaries: large monasteries were beginning to be established at this time, such as those at Abbey Dore and Leominster. The other unifying element was the language, a close cousin of Dutch and German, which we call Anglo-Saxon. It was spoken by everyone except the invading Norsemen.
Alfred not only established a new code of laws and government, but also encouraged the use of the everyday language in official documents instead of Latin. The only exception was for religious use: in order to communicate across the countries of Europe, the church needed to continue with it as a common written and spoken language. Alfred was an impressive king, and established a real sense of national identity, almost for the first time. He was helped by the fact that he managed to stay on the throne for a decent length of time, 30 years from 871 to 901. Some of his predecessors had barely managed 30 months.
SAXON KINGDOMS - Canute to 1066
From Canute’s reign (1017-1035), the description ‘Herefordshire’ started to be used to describe this area, and Hereford was developing as a centre for religion, commerce and regional government. Lyonshall itself seems to have settled down to a relatively peaceful, mainly agricultural, lightly populated existence. People here would most probably have been farmers and hunters, living as they had for several hundred years in an enclosed, semi-fortified settlement for communal protection. No doubt some cattle raiding and the occasional border skirmish continued.
By 1066, however, Lyonshall was a sizeable village. It would have provided an ideal Saxon agricultural settlement: low-lying land, rich and fertile, with plenty of water. What would life have been like here then? Society would have been feudal, with thanes, or lords, ruling over the community; thaneships were granted by the king in return for loyal service or military valour. A thane would have rented land to churls, or farmers, who paid him with labour and produce rather than with money. Both thanes and churls owned slaves to do all of the hard work. Woodland was cleared for pasture for cattle and sheep, and for growing wheat, oats and barley. Each family would have lived in its own hall, with a central hearth fire; the houses would still be grouped together and protected by a surrounding fence. In effect, the churls were smallholders: each rented an area of land which would provide enough food for his family plus a small surplus. This way of life laid the foundations of the feudal society which was so well exploited by the next invaders, the Normans.
THE NORMAN OCCUPATION AND DOMESDAY BOOK
1066: Norman Conquest
1077: Bayeux tapestry
1086: Domesday Book
Battle of Hastings
By the mid-11th century, Harold Godwinsson, a Saxon, held most of Herefordshire’s lands, including Lyonshall. He controlled not only the main defensive borders but also the roads. Harold seems to have been at war for most of his adult life. In 1055, he helped the Earl of Hereford, Ralph, to defend the city against the Mercian Aelfgar, who had long disputed its ownership. Aelfgar attacked successfully, looting the new cathedral of its treasures and burning the city to the ground. On Ralph’s death, Harold was granted the Earldom of Hereford by King Edward (‘the Confessor’) and he immediately built a substantial defensive earthwork around the town. These were the first Hereford city walls.
In 1065, Edward died childless, and Harold was crowned king after other candidates had suddenly - and somewhat conveniently - died. He found himself almost continuously on the battlefield. In 1066, he had to rush his troops from the north of England where they had been fighting the Danes, to meet Duke William of Normandy and his invading forces in the south at the Battle of Hastings. William claimed that he had been promised the kingdom by Edward, and was determined to have it. Harold was killed and William (‘The Conqueror’) was crowned king.
The Norman occupying forces swiftly set about the business of reform. Most of the lands of the English nobility were granted to his followers; the original occupants were ousted, often by force. In Lyonshall, the Saxon Thorkell, who had held the manor from Earl Harold, gave way to the Norman Walter, who held it from Roger de Lacy.
If Harold was a born fighter, William was a born administrator. He wanted to know exactly what he owned and how much he could raise in taxes. In 1085, he called for the first major audit, or census, of all of the English counties, the results of which became known as Domesday Book. It was an extraordinary achievement; over 13,000 settlements were recorded in all.
The Domesday Book
The Phillimore edition of Domesday Book for Herefordshire (Ed. John Morris), tells us that teams of surveyors (Commissioners), were despatched with a tight brief. They were to find out: the name of the place; who held it before 1066, and who had held it since; how many hides it covered; how many ploughs, both the lord’s and the men’s; how many villagers, cottagers, slaves and free men; how much woodland, meadow and pasture; how many mills and fishponds; how much has been added or taken away; what the total value was and is; and how much each free man has. All this had to be recorded ‘three-fold’: before 1066, ‘when William gave it’ in 1066, and at the time of the census in 1085. Records kept at Ely Abbey tell us that the Commissioners took evidence on oath ‘from the Sheriff; from all the barons and their Frenchmen; and from the whole Hundred, the priests, the reeves and six villagers from each village.’ Four Englishmen and four Frenchmen from each Hundred were sworn to verify the detail. William was thorough, and clearly trusted no-one. Robert Losinga, Bishop of Hereford from 1079-1095, records that he sent a second set of Commissioners out ‘to shires they did not know, where they were themselves unknown, to check their predecessors’ survey and report culprits to the king.’
Not all of the county surveys were transcribed at the time, but Herefordshire was recorded in detail. The information was collected at Winchester, corrected and abridged, mostly by leaving out the data on livestock and the 1066 population. Most of it was hand-copied by one writer into a single volume on leaves, or folios, of sheepskin parchment measuring 15 x 11ins (38 x 28cms). This is the volume which contains Herefordshire. The whole thing took just over twelve months to complete, an impressive achievement.
Writing ink was made from a mixture of soot, gum, liquid from the cuttlefish and lamp-black, which gave protection against fading, and was applied with a swan, goose or crow quill.’
The Domesday Book - Lyonshall
Lyonshall’s entry reads: ‘LYONSHALL. Walter holds from him . Thorkell held from Earl Harold . 5 hides which pay tax. In Lordship 2 ploughs; 3 villagers, 11 smallholders and 3 riding men with 5 ploughs. 5 slaves, male and female. From some men settled there 110d are given for as long as they wish . Value before 1066, 60s; now 50s.’
William never recognised Harold as king, and made sure that history knew it: Harold is referred to throughout Domesday Book as ‘Earl Harold.’ Lyonshall is spelled ‘Lenehalle.’ In The Leon Valley Norman Reeves explains the origins of the name: ‘The element lene or leon is contained in a modified form in the names of Leominster (Leon-minster) and Lyonshall (Lene hals)… Near Pembridge there is a farm called ‘The Leen.’ Domesday Book even names a Leen hundred. The leen appears to have been the name of the area or plain drained by the rivers Lugg and Arrow, and the word probably refers to the flowing waters of these streams.’
Lyonshall is listed as being in the land of Roger of Lacy in Elsdon Hundred. Other villages in the same Hundred were Hopley’s Green, Woonton, Eardisley and Letton. Also making their first appearance in Domesday Book are Kington, Titley and Rushock, all described as non-tax paying waste lands. Pembridge, like Lyonshall, is described as a reasonable sized manor.
Domesday Book shows us that a structured and hierarchical society is emerging. The ownership of the manors is clearly defined, and it tells us that villagers specialised in certain crafts and expertise. A range of occupations is listed, including: manorial officials, reeves, beadles , foresters, millers, oxmen, cowherds, beekeepers, dairymaids, smiths and carpenters.
MEDIEVAL LYONSHALL, AND THE LORDS OF THE MANOR
1096: First crusade (continued at intervals until the 13th century)
1167: First university in England, at Oxford
1170: Murder of Thomas Beckett in Canterbury
1176: First Eisteddfod held in Wales
1215: Signing of Magna Carta by King John
1280: Mappa Mundi drawn for Hereford Cathedral
The Norman Manorial System
Built on the Saxon feudal society, the Norman manorial system developed rapidly. It depended on subservience to the lord of the manor, whose title and ownership was granted by the king. In return for tenancy of land, and protection in time of danger, villagers provided a number of services. Examples recorded in Herefordshire include: labouring without payment; ploughing 140 acres of the lord’s land and sowing it at their own expense; paying with iron; and giving a tenth of their pigs in return for being able to graze them on beech mast. In turn, the lord of the manor subjugated himself to the overlord, and he in turn to the monarch, who was at the very top of the social order and the source of both law and government.
In Lyonshall in 1085, Walter reported to the overlord Roger de Lacy, who reported to King William. With short lines of communication, William could raise both taxes and armies from his subjects with ease. The lords of the manor were all extremely powerful, but some were clearly more so than others. It depended largely on their wealth and on their closeness to the king of the time. Roger de Lacy was particularly wealthy. He held 75 manors in Herefordshire, the same number as King William; to put this in context, the next level of holding is only 25.
For 400 years, from the 11th to the 15th centuries, the castle was the most important part of Lyonshall. It was not only the main social, commercial and administrative focus for the village, but it also provided employment and afforded shelter in time of attack. The building of the castle started in about 1090, when the Devereux family, sometimes later referred to as D’Evreaux or D’Ebroicis, held it as lords of the manor from Roger de Lacy. Now only some remnants of stone walls and the moat surrounding the motte remain, all on private land at Castle Weir Farm. If you go along the public footpath through a wooden gate to the east of the church, you can see a part of the castle moat, safely fenced off, above you and to the left. Mike Salter gives a detailed description of it in The Castles of Herefordshire and Worcestershire. It would have had an inner bailey measuring about 45m (approximately 49yds) in diameter, enclosed by a thick wall. It was surrounded by a water-filled moat, and lay at the south-western end of a rectangular outer bailey. There was a third, almost square, enclosure beyond to the north-east.
Nikolaus Pevsner in his work, "The Buildings of England" said:-
‘Immediately NE of the church. In a rectangular enclosure representing the outer bailey (with a subsidiary bailey further N) stands the circular inner bailey, surrounded by a moat. The inner bailey has a wall standing partly high up on the E side. A polygonal projection on the N side holds the circular keep. The masonry altogether may be of the C13.’
Ownership of the Castle
We know a few things about the people who lived in the castle over the years; and occasionally get a glimpse into their way of life. Lyonshall is probably one of the two castles belonging to John D’Evreaux mentioned in the Pipe Roll for 1188. It is mentioned again in 1209 in a letter from Walter de Lacy to King John, which states that de Lacy has received the ‘Castle of Lenhaul’ from Stephen d’Ebroicis and that he is keeping it in custody for the king. Stephen backed the king in his contest with the Barons, who in 1215 forced King John to sign the Magna Carta; this spelled out the Barons’ rights, and limited the power of the king.
Stephen travelled abroad, accompanying King John to Poitou in 1214. He was also the founder of the Priory of Pyon, later Wormsley. In a letter to the Bishop of Hereford, he granted to the Priory the ‘whole church of Leonhals, reserving a reasonable endowment for the vicarage’ and expresses his regret that he was too busy to offer his gift in person. The Vicar was to give constant personal attendance to his parish and was allowed to have a house and a pasture in return. The Bishop was swift to act: he claimed for himself the right to assess the Vicar’s portion and to increase or decrease it according to circumstances.
Border unrest continued. In 1262, Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, whom Henry III allowed the title of Prince of Wales, stormed through the area. He was clearly a military force to be reckoned with: he reduced the castles of Bleddfa, Knucklas, Knighton, Norton and Presteigne to ruins and got as far as Weobley and Eardisley. There is no record, however, of his having visited Lyonshall. At about this time, the church underwent some significant renovations as evidenced by part of the font and an effigy of a civilian, both of which date from the 13th century.
POLITICS, PARLIAMENT AND THE PLAGUE
1295: First Parliament to represent whole country
1337: Hundred Years’ war with France begins
1349: Black Death reaches England
In about 1300, William Touchet became the lord of the manor of Lyonshall. He was immediately called away to Edward I’s newly summoned Parliament, and continued there until 1312; at that time Parliament was a vehicle for the king to plan taxes and other financial matters, rather than a voice for the people. It is not recorded how much time William spent in London, and how much in Lyonshall. However, although he held other manors and estates, he seems to have made Lyonshall his chief seat, signing a famous letter to Pope Boniface in defence of the rights of the king ‘Lord of Leuenhales.’ He was a renowned military man and royal supporter, and took an active part in the Gascon expedition during the Hundred Years War with France.
For his loyalty, William Touchet was granted a charter for a weekly Wednesday market and an annual fair to take place at Michaelmas and the following five days; you can imagine the lively scenes around the castle. The fairs brought great prosperity to Lyonshall in the form of travellers and traders, but they also brought disease. The Black Death, the bubonic plague which had raged through Europe, reached England in 1348, wiping out more than half the population which was already weakened; a serious famine had resulted from a massive population explosion. In 1349, the Black Death reached Lyonshall and killed most of the inhabitants. It seems that a number of buildings were burnt to the ground afterwards, possibly in an attempt to prevent the spread of the disease. At the time, they did not know how the plague was spread (in fact, by fleas on rats), nor how it could be cured. Death was quick, agonising and almost certain; a doctor could catch the plague from a patient and die within hours.
The Marcher Lords
As we have already seen, Lyonshall was important as one of the border manors of the Marcher lords. Its position, occupying a useful spot on the roads to and from Wales, attracted military interest, and it is clear that many of the castle occupants continued to lead lives of some national significance, often serving in the Royal Courts. Many of Lyonshall’s lords have been eminent figures, both famous and infamous. In 1322, for example, the castle is mentioned as being part of the estates of Bartholomew de Badlesmere, who was described on his execution as ‘a great Baron and as great a Rebel.’ It seems that even after Magna Carta, some of the Marcher lords continued to be troublesome to the king. Bartholomew’s only son, Giles, died without issue and so Lyonshall became the property of his sister and co-heir Maud; women were often substantial landowners in the middle ages. She married John de Vere, seventh Earl of Oxford and one of the heroes of the battle of Crecy in 1346.
In 1392, Lyonshall passed to Sir Simon de Burley, a royal favourite. Introduced to court at a young age, he went to sea at the age of 14 to fight the Spanish, and he was a soldier until his capture by the French at Poitou in 1369. He was a court tutor, and his former pupil, Richard II, made him Governor of Windsor and Llanstephan, Master of Falconry and Keeper of the Royal Mews; he also received a great number of manors and estates in reward for his service. However, he was charged with treason by the Duke of Gloucester and although the king and queen personally knelt to beg for his pardon, he was executed on 15th May 1388.
Sir John Devereux
An indenture, or contract, from 1391 between Sir John Devereux of Lyonshall and John Broun, a mason from Hereford, tells us not only something about the castle, but also quite a lot about medieval building contracts. Indentures were written on parchment with two sets of identical text. It was cut with an irregular line (‘indented’) and each half separately signed and sealed. The idea was to prevent forgeries by proving that the two halves matched exactly, and their use continued well into the 19th century. This indenture is quite small (about A4 size) and is written in French rather than Latin. Only a few indentures have survived from the 14th century, and so it is an important document; it is now in the Herefordshire Record Office, along with a translation; you can see it if you apply for a reader’s ticket (quote record reference AH79).
Sir John Devereux seems to have been a respected lord; he was certainly a major national figure. In his time, he was a Knight of the Garter, the Constable of Dover Castle and the Warden of the Cinque Ports. He had inherited Lyonshall through his marriage to Margaret; she was the daughter of John de Vere and Maud Badlesmere. He had only been granted the castle in 1390, so it is clear that he set about the refurbishment immediately, and with some vigour. He drew up a very detailed schedule of the work to be completed. John Broun, the mason, was to build the walls of a hall of stone ‘in a certain place marked out between them.’ The walls were to be three feet thick ‘with buttresses where needed.’ The dimensions of the hall were to be 44ft (16m) long and 26ft (9.5m) wide. There were to be four doorways of stone, three of them to be five feet in width, and one of them four feet wide. Three windows of stone were required, one of them a bay window of ten lights, the other two of two lights with a transom.
If Sir John was satisfied, payment was to be made in stages: ‘For which work well and loyally made the said John Broun shall take 25 marks and a quarter of wheat, paid at the beginning of the work £4 3s 4d, and the remainder of the said payment at each quarter as he performs the said work.’
John Broun was also instructed to make a new portcullis and a doorway; enlarge the tower with a turret, ‘machiolated and crenellated , and embattled within’, and to install two privies and two new windows in the chambers. It was quite clear who was responsible for providing the equipment and materials: ‘And the said Sir John shall find stones, lime, sand, scaffolding, engines, rope and all kinds of tools belonging to the said work except those that the mason shall use in his work, and he shall carry the stones, lime and sand to the said work.’
There is also a default clause: if the work was not completed to Sir John’s satisfaction and on time, John Broun - or his heirs or executors, should he inconveniently die before the work was completed - had to repay the total amount of money: ‘And to all of these covenants well and loyally to be held and performed the said John Broun obliges himself his heirs and executors to the said Sir John his heirs and executors in 40 marks sterling.’ The indenture concludes by noting that it was ‘Given at Lyonshall the 18th day of February the year of the reign of King Richard the Second since the conquest the fourteenth’ - that is to say, 1391.
SOCIAL, RELIGIOUS AND ROYAL UNREST
1381: Peasants’ revolt
1388: Chaucer’s Canterbury tales
1428: Joan of Arc, France
1453: End of Hundred Years’ War
1455: War of Roses: York and Lancaster
1478: First book printed in England by Caxton
More Welsh Border Raiders
Richard II came to the throne in 1377, and Wat Tyler’s Peasants' Revolt took place in south-east England in 1381. Social unrest was beginning to find a voice, and later that century, religious unrest followed. John Wycliffe made the first translation of the Bible from Latin into English, so that ordinary people could understand it without the intercession of the clergy. His followers became known as Lollards, and they were against Papal supremacy and even challenged the authority of the church. They were accused of heresy, and condemned to death by burning. The Lollard movement lasted until the Reformation in Henry VIII’s reign in the 16th century, and it found a significant following in Herefordshire, including the area around Lyonshall. In 1433, a commission was appointed to enquire into heresy at Almeley, and several local people renounced their heresies in Hereford cathedral. More local enquiries took place at Eardisley in 1505.
However, back in 14th century Lyonshall, Sir John Devereux died in 1393 leaving a son, who died unmarried, and a daughter who became his heiress. She married Walter, 5th Baron Fitzwalter. In 1403, they had orders from the king, Henry IV, to fortify Lyonshall castle against the Welsh insurgents under Owain Glyndwr, the Welsh prince and national hero. Henry was right to be worried: Owain Glyndwr and his armies did pass through. It is said, but not proven, that he briefly took the castle; at any rate, the church was damaged. An entry of 1406 in the Register of Robert Mascall, Bishop of Hereford 1404-1416, notes that fifty-two churches had been wrecked by Welsh raiders, including Lyonshall, Titley, Presteigne and Kington.
In the 15th century, the powerful Mortimer family held the neighbouring strongholds of Wigmore and Ludlow. One of their members, Edward of York, became King Edward IV, defeating his Lancastrian opponents at the battle of Mortimer’s Cross in 1461. The Wars of the Roses between the supporters of York and Lancaster have been described by the historian Trevelyan as ‘to a large extent a quarrel among Marcher Lords.’
Lyonshall must have been affected by the unrest, if only through a ripple effect. The castle, beginning to fall into ruin and almost certainly unoccupied by then, found its way back again into the ownership of the Devereux family. It remained with them until 1641 when, Sir Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex, died without a son and left it to his eldest daughter, Frances. She married well, becoming Duchess of Somerset. On her death in 1674, she left Lyonshall manor to Thomas Thynne, who had married her grand-daughter. He later became Viscount Weymouth; at one time, the Weymouth Arms pub was located in the building at the entrance to Lynhales’ drive, opposite the castle.
The antiquary and writer John Leland visited this area in the 1530s and recorded that there was a park around the castle at that time. However, by the 17th century, the historian Blount describes it in these terms: ‘It seems to have been a noble structure, but now nothing remains of it but the old walls.’ The castle was sold in the early 19th century by Thomas, 3rd Viscount Weymouth and 1st Marquis of Bath, to John Cheese, who built Castle Weir.
What else do we know about the castle? One small thing. It gave its name to one of the Great Western Railway Castle Line locomotives: Lyonshall Castle, engine number 5036.
TUDOR AND ELIZABETHAN LYONSHALL
1534: Church of England breaks from Rome
1536: Suppression of monasteries begins
1564: Birth of William Shakespeare
1565: Tobacco brought to England from the newly discovered America
1574: First public theatre in England
1581: Drake circumnavigates the world
1588: Defeat of Spanish Armada
The 16th century brought massive changes to England’s constitution, religions and international status, not to mention its arts. Over this period, however, the village of Lyonshall seems to have just got on with its own life.
It was a time of economic growth and development, as witnessed by the number of substantial buildings erected in this period. By the end of the century, Lyonshall village - by now on its present site - was enjoying rapid development into a lively, thriving community. The Royal George Inn, the building on the opposite corner and its neighbour were all built in about 1600. So was the fine close-studded timber-framed house on the next corner to the west, until recently the Post Office and Stores (closed in 1997). Near the junction with Spond Lane, or Bollingham Road, is an example of a house with a stone tiled roof, common before slates became widely available in the area. Stone tiles replaced thatch not only because they were thought to be less of a fire hazard but because they also allowed a more gentle roof slope; this gave greater ceiling height to the upstairs rooms.
In common with the rest of rural England at that time, most of Lyonshall’s villagers would have been employed in agriculture, or in services to the other villagers such as blacksmiths, wheelwrights, washerwomen, publicans and so on. Most food needs would have been met by the villagers’ own produce, with any surplus being bartered or sold at market. This situation hardly changed for three hundred years; until the mid-19th century, the state of the roads and the consequent provision of public transportation were so poor that most communities had to be largely self-sufficient.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, country roads were unpaved and muddy, and almost impassable during the winter months. Even getting to Kington or Pembridge to go to market would have been something of an expedition. Ironically, of course, this is the also the period of astonishing explorations by sea to foreign lands like America.
The only people who would have travelled around the country much from Lyonshall were those whose positions made it necessary. The lord of the manor and his officials would have travelled to London on their national duties; otherwise only travelling salesmen, or specialist workers such as weavers would have needed to leave. Horse-and-cart transport had been around for a long time, but the first horse-drawn passenger coaches weren’t introduced in England until 1564. They were introduced somewhat later, of course, to this area. Imagine what the journey on horseback to London might have been like at that time; no wonder that a nationwide distribution of travellers’ inns was such a necessity.
CIVIL WAR AND AGRICULTURAL REFORM
1605: Gunpowder plot
1611: King James Authorised Version of the Bible published
1642: Civil War
1650: First tea drunk in England
1665: Newton’s discovery of gravity
1666: Great Fire of London
1668: Isaac Newton busy discovering nature of white light
1675: Royal Observatory opens in Greenwich
1694: Bank of England established
1705: Thomas Newcomen develops first steam engine for use as a pump in mines
1713: Last person executed for witchcraft
1774: First official cricket match in England
1776: American Declaration of Independence
1779: First cast iron bridge built over the Severn
The Civil War
Wealth and industry grew rapidly in England at this time, as did the importance of Parliament, which in the 1640s had become strong enough to challenge the king’s power. In 1642, civil war broke out between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians. Most of Herefordshire, including Lyonshall, remained loyal to the Crown, but there were some famous pockets of nearby support for the parliamentary cause. At Brampton Bryan in 1643, for example, Lady Brilliana Harley bravely defended her castle during her husband Robert’s absence, facing a cavalier force of 600 with only 100 men and an inadequate supply of gunpowder. She died of a ‘very great cold’ three months after the siege began, and the castle and estate were surrendered in the following year. Charles I was executed in 1649, and Cromwell made Lord Protector in 1653. However, the revolutionary government didn’t last, and on Cromwell’s death in 1660 Charles II was brought back from exile in Holland. Monarchy was restored.
Daily life in Lyonshall
By the 17th century, although the major highways were better, the condition of the smaller roads in the area wasn’t very different from a hundred years previously. There are county records of roads being ploughed at the end of every April to try to put right the winter damage, and it is likely that this was also necessary here in Lyonshall. More people were beginning to travel, however, and more information was beginning to be available through the publication of atlases and road maps. These also acted as guide books for the visitor, and often gave snippets of information alongside the names of the towns and villages. In A History of Herefordshire, John and Margaret West tell us: ‘The English road atlas produced by John Ogilby, ‘His Majesty’s Cosmographer’, in 1765 is particularly informative. These strip maps are semi-pictorial, showing hills, small churches and some buildings in elevation. Small plans of the main towns and villages are also drawn, with special attention to crossroads and bridges. The 18th century versions of the A438 and A480 from Hereford to Lyonshall and Kington are clearly recognisable.’
Decent records of ordinary domestic life in Herefordshire start to be available at this time. Inventories, wills, contracts and other documents, now safely in the Herefordshire Record Office, suggest a life of some prosperity and comfort for the richer layers of society; as always, the poor had a much tougher time of it. People in the area earned their living in much the same way as in the previous two hundred years. However, we start to see newer occupations emerging: barber-surgeons, tanners, and mercers (shopkeepers). Kington had a busy clothing industry, where people from Lyonshall might have found work; however, it failed in the late 18th century and the mills were closed and demolished. Lyonshall had its own brickworks, and we know that there were skilled glovers living and working here, as well as in Kington, Pembridge, Leominster and Hereford.
Religion & Agriculture
Methodism was starting to gain a real foothold in the area at this time. Diana Thomas, born in 1759 at Brook Farm in Lyonshall, was one of its early women lay preachers. She rode to her appointments on a white pony and travelled over 1000 miles to preach, as far as Aberystwyth and Machynlleth, gathering large audiences around her. She preached in the open air, in market places, in farm yards, on village greens, at fairs and at cross roads. Not only did she have to contend with difficult travelling conditions, but she would also have stayed overnight in inns and public houses, which could be rough and dangerous places. She survived the experience, and died at the age of 62 in 1821.
During the mid- to late-1700s, farmers in Lyonshall would have regularly been exporting good quality wool - for which Herefordshire was famous - agricultural produce and cider to Bristol, and from there by sea to London. However, agriculture was undergoing a significant transformation due to the enclosure of fields, and the changes in the ownership of land.
In Aspects of Herefordshire Andrew Johnson and Stephen Punter describe the old feudal strip field system. This involved dividing a communal field of rotated autumn-planted wheat or rye, spring-planted barley, oats, peas, beans or vetches, and fallow land into a number of furlong strips. These strips were under the control of different families, who also had access to the common grazing lands beyond. As well as the crops, the distribution of the strips was rotated so that each family had a fair share of good and bad land. These strips have left their mark on the land: aerial photographs taken today, especially in the evening when the shadows are long, often show the pattern clearly. Plots of land in towns, called burgage plots, were also in strip form; they were rented from the lord of the manor for building a house and kitchen garden. In Lyonshall, the names Burgage Bank and Burgage Close remind us of these plots of land.
Agricultural Development & Commerce
The Enclosure Acts of the 18th century meant the fencing off of parcels of agricultural land which had previously been farmed on a communal basis. The new concept of ownership of the land by those who farmed it led to new agricultural buildings being erected and large areas of wetland being drained. In addition, new methods of farming were introduced. In the 1730s, for example, Jethro Tull invented a horse-drawn seed drill which planted seed in rows, saving both time and energy. The idea of cultivating specific crops to fertilise the soil was introduced from The Netherlands; previously, fields had simply been left fallow for a season. Experimentation was carried out on the selective breeding of livestock, and new methods of sheep-shearing were developed.
We also start to see the development of real commerce and enterprise in the area during the 18th century. Edmund Cheese, the son of the John Cheese who had built Castle Weir, was a lawyer; in 1808, he became a joint founder of the Kington & Radnorshire Bank. His brother, John Cheese Jnr, remained in Lyonshall and played a significant part in the history of the village: he was one of the founders of the Tramroad.
AN AGE OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY
1793: French Revolution; Britain goes to war with France
1801: Trevithick develops first steam road carriage, and in 1803 a steam railway carriage
1805: Battle of Trafalgar
1820: Battle of Waterloo: end of Napoleonic Wars
1825: First Railway opened: Stockton and Darlington
1834: Abolition of slavery in England
1840: Introduction of Penny Post: for the first time, the sender of the letter paid, not the receiver
1845: Famine in Ireland after potato crop failed
From the mid-1700s onwards, huge advances in science and technology were to change British society irrevocably. The end of the Napoleonic Wars, the increasing opportunities in commerce, both nationally and internationally, and the developments in steam engines all left their mark on Lyonshall.
The Napoleonic Wars with France had posed a real threat of another invasion. Although it was mainly Britain’s coastal towns which were mobilised, it was taken very seriously in this area. In June 1794, a well-attended meeting was held in Hereford to discuss the internal defence of the Kingdom. Volunteer troops were raised in Kington and the area in 1803, the troops being issued with 9ft (3m) pikes. The wars affected trade both beforehand and for their duration, and their end in 1820 was a relief for local trade and industry. However, their end also meant the easy availability of cheap French imported gloves, which destroyed the gloving industry in Herefordshire and put Lyonshall glovers out of work.
Turnpikes, Toll Roads & Drovers' Roads
In the mid-18th century, the roads around Lyonshall were still appalling. In The Border Janus, JB Sinclair and RWD Fenn comment: ‘Until the nineteenth century travelling in Herefordshire was like hunting: there was a closed season which could extend from October to April and it applied as much to the movement of goods as people.’ All over England, Turnpike Trusts were formed by local businessmen and entrepreneurs. These were administered by a group of Trustees, who were responsible for the maintenance and care of a given length of road; the Trustees shared any remaining profits from the tolls charged. The Trustees in our area were all local men of substance, having ‘in their own right or in the right of their wives lands of the yearly value of £100 or real or personal estate worth £2,000 .’ However, although the scheme did mean real improvements to the roads, the Trustees didn’t always carry out their side of the bargain; high tolls were sometimes charged despite poor maintenance. It was at this time that the drovers’ roads from Wales into Kington and on to London came into being, as a means of by-passing the Toll Gates. A little later, in the early 19th century, toll houses in Wales were attacked and torn down by protesting farmers and traders; the men blacked their faces to avoid identification, and dressed in women’s clothing. The ‘Rebecca Riots’, as they came to be known, claimed to be based on the prophesy cited in Genesis 24:60 that Rebecca’s descendants should ‘possess the gates of those who hate them.’ The protests reached this area by the 1840s.
Horse-drawn Tramroad - Inception
It was against this background that the Kington to Eardisley Tramroad was introduced. Kington and the surrounding area needed to find a better way of transporting its cast iron, good quality lime, agricultural produce such as flour and malt, and also its textiles and clothing from the woollen mills. It also needed to import coal and iron from South Wales for both fuel and raw material; as well as the lime works and foundry, it had a thriving nail factory and gas works.
In a 1988 paper for Kington History Society John Southwood says: ‘The reign of George III (1760-1820) was a period of change in England. The Industrial Revolution had brought about a great increase in population, the turnpike roads had made travel easier and the canals had made possible the transport of heavy materials such as iron and coal over long distances. The last of these advances gave rise to other problems, for instance how to move these heavy materials to the more rural parts of the country. The answer to this problem lay in the tramroad. The first of these was laid down in 1790 and by 1850 there were 1500 miles of tramroad in use in England and Wales. All these tramroads were successful as they were in essence merely providing a rail system of iron track on which primitive iron wheeled trucks could run avoiding the problem of heavy laden carts sinking into the muddy roads.’
A canal had, in fact, been planned from the Severn at Stourport to Kington via Leominster, but by 1796 it had only been completed as far as Mamble due to difficulties with both finances and the terrain. A plan to complete the canal by laying a tramroad never materialised. The solution eventually lay in a connection with the Hay Railway (a tramroad) which ran from the Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal at Brecon to Hay, and which was in the process of being completed to Eardisley.
Horse-drawn Tramroad - Financing, Building & Opening
In 1815, several of the area’s leading entrepreneurs and investors provided the backing to build a new Tramroad from Eardisley to Kington, and then on to the lime works at Burlingjobb. The Kington Railway Company was formed, and the necessary Act of Parliament received its Royal Assent on 23rd May 1818. In The Facility of Locomotion: the Kington Railways, JB Sinclair and RWD Fenn report that compulsory purchase of land was authorised. The exceptions were, unless the owner agreed: houses built prior to 1st January of that year; gardens; orchards; yards; paddocks; and planted walks or avenues to a house. Nothing was to be built on the Newport estate in the parish of Almeley, which was owned by the Hon Andrew Foley. His son, Thomas Foley, was one of the company’s proprietors and the major shareholder .
The authorised capital of £18,000 (c.£1m today) required to build the Tramroad was divided into £100 shares, and John Cheese (Jnr.) from Castle Weir was one of the company’s proprietors, investing £500 (c. £28,000 today).
Richard Parry, who lived in Kington and wrote a history of the town in 1845, The History of Kington by a Member of the Mechanic’s Institute, described the opening of the Tramroad 1st May 1820:
‘A band of music preceded the tram carriages of coal and on arrival at Kington a considerable quantity of coal was given to the poor on the Upper Cross. The company dined together at the King’s Head, and the evening was spent on great harmony and conviviality.’
Horse-drawn Tramroad - The Route
The Tramroad ran from Kington to Eardisley by way of Lyonshall and Almeley, and was about eight miles (13km) in length. In Lyonshall, it came down through Lyonshall Park Wood, passing Tramway Pool, where the horses pulling the trams were briefly unharnessed for water. It curved around the castle and church, and crossed the road, now the A44. You can still see an iron gate from that period near the bottom of the drive up to the church; its posts carry the name of the Meredith Foundry in Kington. If you look beyond this gate back up towards the woods, you can see the embankment along which the rails were laid. After crossing the road, the line then passed the timber-framed building The Wharf, which was at that time a coal depot, named after the wharves on the canal system, which were built near towns and villages for handling goods and stabling horses. The Weymouth Arms pub was also situated here. The route then carried on down what is now the drive to Lynhales, before crossing the fields and going on its way to Eardisley.
Horse-drawn Tramroad - In Operation
The track was made of 3ft (91.44cm) long cast iron L-section rails, which were 4in (10.16cm) wide and 2½in (6.35cms) high, with a 3ft 6in (1.07m) gauge. When the Tramroad was built, it was not possible to forge long lengths of iron, so they were cast instead. Each rail was mounted on a separate line of stone blocks, sunk into the ground to form a level surface on which the horses could walk. Some of these blocks can still be seen in Lyonshall Park Wood. Those who used the Tramroad carried their merchandise in their own trams, which were drawn by their own teams of horses.
The trams had an iron frame with wooden sides, fitted with plaincast iron wheels; they carried loads of up to 2 tons, and were pulled in trains of up to four trams at a time. The horses were only allowed to walk, and a fine was payable if they were seen trotting. Some traders rented trams, while others owned them: in 1828, for example, Meredith’s Foundry in Kington owned 92 single and 4 double trams.
Tolls were paid to use it, and the operational rules were strict. The loaded trams were not to weigh more than two tons, unless the load was in one piece. When loaded and empty trams met, the empty one had to give way and when both were loaded, the one first reaching the passing post between the passing loops had priority. Travelling was not allowed at night or on Sundays, Christmas Day, Good Friday or other public holidays. No driver was to block the Tramroad for more than fifteen minutes, even for a breakdown; if a faulty tram couldn’t be repaired in that time, it had to be removed from the track.
Horse-drawn Tramroad - Economic Impact
Pubs sprang up along the line at the halts, to refresh the men and to change the horses, who were stabled there. The Railway Tavern in Kington had a thriving business as did many pubs in Lyonshall; there have been eight that we know of over the years. It is said that there was a sign by the Holly Bush Inn, situated at Park Gate, which read: ‘All Goods And Mineral Trains Must Stop Here.’ The pub must have done very well as a result.
The construction of the line was not always smooth, and claims were made against the company for failing to fit fences and other matters. In The Hay and Kington Railways Gordon Rattenbury and Ray Cook note: ‘At the General Meeting on 19th July 1821… there were claims for damages done to property while construction in progress. One was made by EB Pateshall of Allensmore, near Hereford, in respect of rubbish that had been thrown on his land at Lyonshall. The Clerk was instructed to write to him stating that unless he wished to claim the land and accept £10 damages it was the Company’s intention to purchase the land under the compulsory purchase powers granted in their Act.’
The Tramroad was a great success during its relatively short life, and was one of the last to operate in England. The opening of the Leominster & Kington Railway on 27th July 1857 posed a serious threat, but it survived until 1863, mainly because the railway was not extended to New Radnor until 1875; transport was needed to the quarries there.
Horse-drawn Tramroad - What Next?
Perhaps we should leave the last words on the Tramroad to the prophetic Richard Parry: ‘On Monday, the 8th March, 1841, a new machine made its appearance on the Tram-road; two men started from the town of Kington in an ingenious vehicle which they contrived to propel by means of cog-wheels set in motion by a winch, the handles of which were turned by the men who were seated in the machine. They proceeded at the rate of about six miles an hour, they reached Brecon the same day, and returned to Hay about 5 o’clock on Tuesday with a ton of coals; but leaving the machine near the Gas-house whilst they refreshed themselves, some boys began to meddle with the novel affair, and contrived to break one of the wheels, to the great disappointment of the men, who, instead of coming to Kington, which was their intention that night, only reached Eardisley by pushing the machine before them. A scientific gentleman has stated his conviction that a machine might be made to suit the purpose of carrying passengers and goods of every description.’
THE BUILDERS: RAILWAY, CHURCHES AND SCHOOL
1851: Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London
1854: Crimean War starts
1859: Charles Darwin publishes The Origin of Species
1865: Lewis Carroll writes Alice in Wonderland
1865: William Booth establishes Salvation Army
1868: First Trades Union Congress in Manchester
1870: Elementary Education Act; schooling for all children
1871: Stanley sets off to look for Livingstone in Africa
1876: Alexander Bell sends first voice message along a telegraph line
1878: Joseph Swan makes successful electric light bulb
1879: Boer Wars start in South Africa
1880: Education Act makes education compulsory for children 5-10 for first time
1895: First motor-car exhibition held in London
1899: Wireless telegraphy begins from England to France
At last, transport was improving. The Turnpike Trusts’ maintenance of the roads meant that regular passenger coach services became a real possibility. In 1830, for example, the night journey of the Royal Mail from Bristol to Liverpool stopped in Herefordshire, taking 1¼ hours from Hereford to Leominster, and 1 hour from Leominster to Ludlow. Coaches travelled at an average ten miles an hour. This meant that news could travel quickly for the first time, both by word-of-mouth and by published newspapers. The Crimean War in 1854 was the first to be reported daily in English papers, and also the first to be photographed. Suddenly, Lyonshall was able to keep in touch easily with what was happening in the rest of the world.
Better roads also meant that they were used for leisure: cycling became popular. One guide book to Herefordshire published in about 1870, DR Chapman’s Hereford, Herefordshire and the Wye, warns of the hills around Lyonshall: ‘Hereford to Kington, via Credenhill, Sarnesfield and Lyonshall, nineteen miles. The shortest and worst road; the descent into Lyonshall is dangerous and the hill between that place and Kington requires some care both ways.’
New technology meant progress for farming as well as transport. In 1857 Tom Lewis bought a 12 HP double cylinder steam engine from Gainsborough in Lincolnshire. It made the long journey to Lyonshall under its own power; an arduous journey considering the state of the roads at that time. It was the first self-propelled steam engine to be employed in the county of Herefordshire and worked over a period of some 21 years. Pleased with his purchase, Tom Lewis ordered a second engine in 1878. However, he wasn’t prepared to repeat the journey: this one arrived in Kington by train.
However, once railway fever arrived in this area, both the Tramroad’s and the coach companies’ days were numbered; steam locomotion was the way for the future. The Leominster & Kington Railway was operating by 1857, but the Tramroad had not been incorporated into it. A Shrewsbury contractor and somewhat mercurial entrepreneur, Thomas Savin, persuaded a number of local investors to develop the Kington & Eardisley Railway, purchasing the old Tramroad line and using some of its route. It received Royal Assent on 30th June 1862, with a capital of £100,000 (c.£8m today) in shares and £33,000 in borrowings: financially, it was a much more ambitious venture than the Tramroad. In 1864, the company was granted the right to run trains on the existing Leominster & Kington Railway lines between Titley and Kington.
The first turf was cut with great flourish on 12th March 1863 by Lady Langdale of Eywood, Titley, at an official ceremony in Kington. A Hereford Times report two days later declares that she ‘displayed all of the skill of an experienced navigator .’ Reluctant to be overshadowed by her performance, the main shareholders, all male, swiftly followed her example. She was clearly a spirited woman: the Kington Historian Richard Parry who was present at the ceremony noted that ‘it was a wet day and every person felt miserable and uncomfortable.’ Actual work on the line, however, did not start until 1872 due to a series of financial setbacks. The Crimean War made money more difficult and more expensive to borrow, and this affected the progress of many commercial ventures in the country, including the railways.
Stephen Robinson, Lynhales
By the time the first rails were laid, there was a new name on the company’s Board of Directors: Stephen Robinson, JP, who farmed 430 acres at Lynhales, having moved here from Yorkshire in 1860. The railway line ran through his land, which also adjoined the new station with its single 200ft (60m) platform. In the early days of the company, he held 1,100 shares, a substantial enough holding. By 1873 this had increased to 24,100 shares. He became Chairman of the company in 1888. He was an eminent man and obviously an entrepreneur. At various times he was also a Director of both the Brecon & Merthyr Tydfil Junction and the Pembroke & Tenby Railways, and he was also a Deputy Lieutenant of Herefordshire, and a High Sheriff.
After a Board of Trade inspection, the line opened on 3rd August 1874. The official party travelled from Kington with lunch baskets for a picnic in a field adjoining Eardisley station. In The Facility of Locomotion, JB Sinclair and RWD Fenn note that the stations on the line - Titley, Lyonshall, Almeley and Eardisley - were known for their poor amenities for passengers, their inadequate goods-loading facilities and their lack of accommodation for stationmasters. There were no signal boxes; the signals were operated by ground frames. Because the railway line here ran on an embankment, the building at Lyonshall was rather grander than at the other three stations. It was two-storied, with a hipped roof of slate. There was a ground floor entrance hall and stairs up to the platform and waiting room. A large round-headed upstairs window at each end of the building allowed good views up and down the track. The station, still the same on the outside, is now a private house. The line of Wellingtonia trees running along the side of the platform were planted when the station was built, and reflect the Victorian passion for all things new: they had only been introduced to Britain from America a decade or so previously.
The Kington & Eardisley Railway Company joined the GWR (Great Western Railway) Company in 1897. The line was closed in 1917 during World War I as part of the economy drive, and did not open again until 1922. On 1st July 1940 the line closed again and this time it proved to be permanent: the rails were taken up during World War II to be relaid in France and they were never replaced. It is said, but not known for sure, that they never got across the Channel, the ship carrying them being sunk by a submarine. The end of the line at Eardisley was used as a fuel storage depot for the Ministry of Works, and then as a private siding for timber until 1962. The east-west Leominster-Kington line remained open until 1955, after which it was used only for goods until 1963 when the line was closed.
Apart from the railway, what else was happening in Lyonshall in the 19th century? Leading Lyonshall residents were playing their part in the wider community. The foundation stone of the Kington Cottage Hospital, for example, was laid in 1887 by Mrs Stephen Robinson of Lynhales.
In the later 1800s, the whole of Lyonshall must have seemed like a building site, particularly around the churches. The Baptist chapel in Spond Lane was built in 1865, as was the primitive Methodist Chapel (now closed) on New Street. But the largest building programme was the restoration of St Michael & All Angels church.
In 1866, Reverend Charles Madison Green was appointed Vicar. He was clearly disappointed in what he found: ‘The Vicarage House I find to be in utterly deplorable condition. The church is in a deplorable condition, and sadly in need of restoration. The school is in the churchyard (which serves as a playground) and is in every way inefficient for the requirements of a population of 960.’
Littlebury’s Directory &
Gazetteer of Herefordshire 1867-8:
‘It is to be regretted that a church possessing so many interesting features and some good architectural points…is still in an unrestored and unsightly condition.'
George Frederick Bodley, a church architect with an international reputation, was commissioned to draw up the plans and on 18th July 1870, work began to clear away the decaying seats, reading desks, pews and galleries. It was evidently a dangerous and difficult job. The contemporary report on the restoration notes: ‘As proof of the dangerous condition of the nave roof, though every precaution was taken to remove it rafter by rafter, the whole lot fell in instantaneously with an awful crash, fortunately only one workman being injured.’ Services were held in the school while the work was going on.
The church was re-opened in 1873, at a total cost of restoration of £3,215 (c.£0.25m today). A festival was held on Saturday 2nd August and continued the next day. Then, as now, Lyonshall residents were good at fund-raising: the collections amounted to £351 (c.£ 27,000 today!) .
A newspaper gave an eye-witness account in its 13th August edition. After a review of the history of the church and the renovations by Bodley, it notes: ‘At eleven o’clock, the Bishop of the Diocese, the Archdeacon of Hereford, the Lord Saye and Sele, between thirty and forty neighbouring clergy, preceded by the parish choir in surplices walked in procession from the National Schools (which were erected four years ago at a cost of about £1,000 ) to the church and on entering the churchyard commenced singing “O, happy band of pilgrims” from Hymns Ancient and Modern.’
Church Organ, Interior & Bell Tower
A trade publication, the Builder, was more interested in the architecture and the interiors than the ceremony, and noted in its 30th August edition: ‘There is a new organ, the result of the personal exertions of Mrs Madison Green, wife of the vicar. The instrument was built by Messrs. Walker and Sons from plans and specifications prepared by Mr Charlesworth, the organising master of the Herefordshire Choral Union. The front is of carved oak; and the organ comprises two manuals, great pedal and swell organ, with the necessary couplers.’ The organ was restored in 1997, at a cost of £15,000; a concert was given by Roy Massey, Organist of Hereford Cathedral to commemorate the occasion.
In addition to the fine Victorian building and interiors, the church has some 13th century architectural features; part of the font and a headless effigy of a civilian with a plump little dog at his feet date from this period. There is also a lively modern stained glass window by the Herefordshire artist Nicky Hopwood. The church tower has six bells which survived the renovations. They were originally cast by Abraham Rudhall of Gloucester in 1727; the original agreement for the recasting of five bells into six still exists. They were last rehung in a metal frame by Mears and Stainbank in 1924 and the Lyonshall Bell Ringers now put them to regular good use. A plaque in the belfry describes the local Beavan Trust, which was created to provide school clothing for children in the parish. The money given to a child in the 1920s would have covered the cost of a suit and a pair of shoes, and there was enough left over for some socks. Nowadays the same amount would only cover the cost of the socks.
In addition to addressing the condition of the church, Charles Madison Green turned his attentions to the school, which had been built some thirty years before his arrival in 1866. A fine new National School was soon built opposite the church on land provided by the Robinson family; it opened in 1868. The picture shows School House (now a private house) as seen from the Church Tower looking south towards the village.
The school was run as a Voluntary Aided School, which meant that the Diocese funded it in part - some of the fabric and equipment, for example - and had a say in its admissions and administration. Lyonshall school closed in 1962, due to a reorganisation of junior schools and admissions in the area. The 38 remaining pupils aged 5-11 moved to Kington Junior School, now called Kington Primary. You can see the school records at the Herefordshire Record Office: it has the log books from 1882-1962 (with some gaps in the 20s) and admission registers from 1863-1962. The entries are kept confidential for fifty years but, with a reader’s ticket, you can look up dates before 1950.
Littlebury’s Directory & Gazetteer of Herefordshire 1867-8:-
‘The National School for boys and girls, supported by voluntary contributions, is a neat stone building, erected in the churchyard in 1832. It is small and utterly incapable of holding the 80 scholars now in daily attendance. The first stone of a new school for 130 scholars is shortly to be laid on a site near the church given by Stephen Robinson Esq of The Moor. It is to be a substantial stone building erected by voluntary contributions.'
Finally, Charles Edward Madison Green and his wife, Ella, whose brother was the author Henry Rider Haggard, built a new vicarage and had moved in by 1881. Prior to this they had been living in The Laurels, immediately opposite the church. For their new vicarage, the cost of construction was £3,400 plus £400 for a stables block - more than had been spent on the church restoration! It was situated about ¼ mile (0.4km) west of the church. It is now, of course, the Old Vicarage, and is a private house.
The most recently used vicarage was vacated by the Revd. David Lowe in 2000, and it is now a private house called The Angels. It is situated near to the church, on the left at the top of the drive.
In common with all churches, St Michael & All Angels spends a lot of time nowadays in fundraising and community activities. It regularly holds fetes and other events and has held a series of Flower Festivals in the Church, the latest being in 1991: the cup originally awarded in the 1960s was lost until 1989, when it was bought for 10p at a jumble sale in Kent, by then heavily tarnished. The purchaser brought it back to the village on a holiday trip, to see if he could trace its history. In the hot summer of 1976, a Son et Lumière show was held outside the church, with everyone sitting on bales of hay; it ran for three nights. The Harvest Festival supper, held each Autumn in the Memorial Hall, is always well-attended.
Skarratt's Contemporary Journals
The late 19th century was a time of great optimism and energy. We have a fine record of everyday life in the area in the form of a diary written by Thomas Carleton Skarratt, edited by Jean Oldham and published by the Kington History Society. Skarratt ran a draper’s shop in Kington (where Pennell’s is now) and kept a journal for several years. Many of his entries concern the great difficulty of getting news to and from his brother and family, who had emigrated to Australia. Others give accounts of deaths in Kington and the surrounding area. As a draper, funerals were an important source of business to Skarratt, as he would have supplied mourning accessories such as hat-and arm-bands. He does, however, also keep a record of all sorts of events in the area, including many which mention Lyonshall.
Some Journal Extracts
9th September 1880: Kington Horticultural Show. The display of plants not so good as usual. Some boxes of roses sent by Messrs. Cranston’s, Hereford, and Mr. W. Lee, Lyonshall, (not for competition) were very fine and much admired.
19th January 1881: Same weather all night causing the snow in some places to drift very deep. In our own yard it was about 18 inches. The Mail Cart for Hay and Glasbury failed to get further than Kingswood. The bags were brought back and put in the Eardisley train. This also got fast between Lyonshall and Almeley. Two of the carriages got off the rails - about three hours elapsed before it was extricated.
19th April 1881: A Meet of the Otter Hounds at Titley Mill. Took train and arrived just in time to see them moving towards Lyonshall Park. Tried the river up to the turn for Bullock’s Mill without a find, then down past Hunton, the Forge, Stan Mill and Noke. In the first field below the Bridge under the roots of a large Ash tree, the hounds winded him, but bolt, he seemed determined not to do. Spades, stock-axe and bars were got to work. A large hole from 4 to 5 feet deep was dug which occupied about 2 hours - while a bitter cold East wind was chilling the lookers-on. At last a ‘Tally-ho’ and down the river he went, closely followed by men and hounds. The water being low he was constantly viewed and before he could reach a deep place he was overtaken and soon killed.
9th October 1884: A very grand wedding for this part of the country took place at Lyonshall. Mr. F. Evelyn of Kinsham Court, near Presteigne, was married to Miss Robinson of Lynhales. The bride was attended by 7 bridesmaids. Several persons from Kington went to see the affair. The wedding presents were very numerous and some costly. Most of the Tradesmen of Kington with whom they dealt were among the givers. The weather, unfortunately, turned out wet.
THE EARLY 1900s : A SNAPSHOT
1901: Death of Queen Victoria
1907: Ernest Shackleton’s expedition to Antarctica
1912: Robert Falcon Scott’s attempt to reach the South Pole ends in disaster
1912: Sinking of Titanic
1914: Charlie Chaplin stars in The Tramp
Kelly's Directory 1900
The entry for Lyonshall in Kelly’s Directory for 1900 gives us a good idea of life in Lyonshall exactly one hundred years ago. The entry contains a description of the village, its history and its economy, and then goes on to list the main residents and businesses. Several publishers produced county directories; they were the equivalent of a guide book and commercial directory combined.
It tells us that we had a ‘station on the Kington & Eardisley branch of the Great Western railway’. Our farmers kept ‘high-bred cattle and a flock of superior Shropshire sheep.’ The chief crops grown were wheat, barley, oats and turnips, and that there was also ‘a large quantity of excellent pasture’. Letters arrived at the ‘Post, Money Order & Telegraph Office’ from Kington at 8.30am. There was a ‘Wall Letter Box’, by the church and at Holmes Marsh, cleared between 5.00pm and 5.35pm on week days. The average attendance at the recently built school was 138 boys and girls. The population in 1891 was 828.
As well as the estate owners, the farmers, the sub-postmistress and the vicar, Lyonshall business people included a wheelwright, two masons, two millers, a carpenter, a nurseryman, the blacksmith, a butcher, a shoemaker and a bailiff. One person who was listed was the agent for the Old Radnor Lime, Roadstone & General Trading Co. Limited. We had three pubs - the George, the Maidenhead and the Holly Bush - and one ‘beer retailer’. We also had three shops, one of which was a butcher and grocer. Others, not listed as Kelly’s was a commercial directory, would have worked as estate or domestic staff at the large houses. Some village men would have been farm workers; women might have been laundrywomen and seamstresses.
For other shops and services, Lyonshall people would have had to go to Kington. Like most larger towns of the time, it would have had dressmakers, newsagents, stationers, hairdressers, watchmakers, ironmongers, bakers, chemists, auctioneers, land agents, corn factors, cattle dealers, vets and banks. It would also have been lit by gas; Lyonshall would still have been using oil lamps and candles.
FROM TRACTORS TO TEENAGERS
1914-18: World War I
1926: General Strike
1926: John Logie Baird invents television
1928: Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin
1928: Vote for all women over 21
1936: Jarrow march of unemployed to London
1937: Frank Whittle build first jet engine
1939-45: World War II
1948: National Health Service starts
First World War Years
After World War I, the ‘Great War’, life in Britain changed dramatically. Socially, a greater equality among both the classes and the sexes gradually took place, affecting not only the way we lived but also the way we worked. Pre-war, large houses such as Lynhales would have employed a housekeeper, a coachman (later, a chauffeur), a butler, a nanny and several housemaids, stableboys and gardeners. In addition, there would have been the estate manager and farmworkers. In a paper written for the Kington History Society Papers 89-90 Lizzie (Frowen) Thomas recalls life for a child at Lynhales. She was born there in 1898 when her father was Head of Stables and Head Coachman. ‘When one of us four girls had a birthday, we had to go into the servant’s hall, all dressed up in our best clothes, to receive a birthday gift from Mrs Robinson. We had to be there by 10am as that was the time she came through to give her orders for the day. So there we sat, scared stiff, waiting for her to come. She would have been told we were there and when she came she presented us with a half-crown , for which we had to do a curtsy and say ‘Thank you, Ma’am.’ We were never allowed to call anyone by their Christian names, always Mr or Mrs or Sir or Ma’am.’
In Lyonshall from 1914 onwards, younger men joined the army and were sent abroad to fight in the trenches; some never returned. Women took their places on the fields, and started to learn how to drive and work machinery. Nationally, the Suffragette movement campaigned for rights for women. By 1918, women over 30 were able to vote for the first time if they were ratepayers or married to ratepayers. It took another ten years until all women over 21 were able to vote.
In Memoriam 1914-18
Frank Cowles 10 IX 15
Evan James Richards 10 V 16
Charles William Leek 27 XI 16
Francis Davies 4 IX 17
John Thomas George Archer 21 III 18
George Hamer 13 V 18
William Thomas Jay 25 V 18
Archibald Percy Lewis 8 VIII 18
Thomas Edwards 28 XI 18
The Memorial Hall
Joan Hawson was born in 1914 into the Powell family and was brought up at Next End and then The Hope, where she remained until her marriage took her away to Scotland. She later returned to the village. Joan recalled going as a small child in the summer of 1919 to the Peace Celebrations, held to mark the end of World War I; long tables were set out under the trees at Castle Weir for a tea party. She remembered it well because a number of sports events were held for the children, and she and her twin sister Joyce ruined their brand new shoes by racing in the wet grass.
Joan also remembered going to the opening of the Memorial Hall in 1922, standing on a high bank to watch the ceremony. Nine men from Lyonshall had died in the war, five of them in the closing months: as in many villages across the country, the Memorial Hall was built to commemorate their bravery and to celebrate peace. It was almost unimaginable that that a second, even more destructive, World War would occur just twenty one years later. A legal conveyance, written by hand in elegant copperplate lettering and dated 1st November 1920, recounts the sale by ‘Stewart Robinson Esq to Mr James Ratcliffe and others’ of the piece of land on which the Hall was to be built.
Identified as ‘that piece of land situate in the Parish of Lyonshall fronting the main road leading from Kington to Lyonshall containing one rood ten perches (being part of the field No 534 on the Ordnance Survey)’, it was bought for £25 from a joint account set up by five purchasers. They were all Lyonshall residents: ‘James Ratcliffe of Lyonshall in the County of Hereford, Florist; Lionel Havercroft Green of The Whittern Lyonshall aforesaid, late a Captain in His Majesty’s Army; Evan William Jones of The Holme Lyonshall aforesaid, Farmer; Hubert Ronald Pettit of Castle Weir Lyonshall aforesaid, a Colonel in HM Territorial Army; Ralph Holt Bromley of Lyonshall aforesaid, Schoolmaster.’
Memorial Hall Trust
The money for the land and building was raised by public donations, a tradition still healthy in Lyonshall, as the fundraising for the Millennium Celebrations testifies. A decade after its opening, the five original purchasers became Trustees. A Trust Deed dated 14th July 1931 (by this time, technological improvements meant that it was a typed document) tells us that: ‘The Trustees shall permit the premises to be used in perpetuity by the residents of the Parish of Lyonshall for any charitable purpose or purposes in connection with the said Parish. The management and control of the said premises shall be vested in a Committee.’ Today, the Parish Council is the Custodial Trustee, and a Management Committee of Trustees still takes care of the day-to-day running of the Hall. A few years ago an extension was added to provide better facilities.
Tom Boore was born in Lyonshall in 1916 and lived here for most of his life, moving only in his later years to Kington. He and Joan Hawson went to school in Lyonshall between the ages of 5 and 11. They walked to school in the morning and back again in the afternoon: some children would walk three or four miles each way every day. Tom said: ‘Looking back on it, I suppose the worst was when it rained; if you got wet you had to keep your clothes on all day long, there was no way of doing anything else about it.’
There would have been about sixty or seventy children at the school at that time, divided into separate rooms for different ages: the infants' room was for 5, 6 and 7 year olds, and another was for the 8-11 year olds. There were two or three teachers, one of whom would have been the headmaster, who taught the older pupils. ‘In those days, it was more “the so-called three Rs” - Reading, Riting and Rithmetic,’ Joan recalled. ‘And of course, geography and history. We were also quite musical, and we used to practice songs for choir competitions at the Shire Hall at Hereford. I don’t think we ever won a prize, but it was great fun, because all the schools in Herefordshire went. And then there was English Country Dancing - I liked that - with a big competition in June held on the race course in Hereford. We got there by a charabanc hired from Burgoynes. It wasn’t like a bus, more like a very large car with a hood over it; twenty to thirty people could get in it.’
In the first part of this century, it was safe for children to play far away from the school building. ‘We had an hour at dinner time,’ Joan says, ‘and we would take our sandwiches that we’d brought with us and go off and play. There were no set lunches as there are now and we were allowed to do just what we liked. We used to play ‘fox and hounds.’ One, or perhaps two or three, children would race in front and we had to run to catch them up. We used to go right down the road, and over Stepstile - steps up and a stile, now part of my garden - down the lane and then out into the fields. If we had time to rip up paper, we used to play ‘paper chasing’, laying a paper trail, with some false trails as well, and you had to find the person at the end - it wouldn’t be allowed nowadays! Oftentimes, we’d hear the school bell ring at 2 o’clock and we’d have to chase back, often a long way. We would play all around the village and up to the Park, and we would always hear the bell ring. Of course, when it was raining or snowing, we would have to stay in and play indoor games. I feel sorry for the children now, because it isn’t safe for them to be on the roads these days. We used to go with no thought of anything happening. It really was a very lovely country life.’
Holme Marsh Memories
However, Lyonshall children stayed away from Holmes Marsh; the will-o-the-wisp marsh gas frightened them. Formerly a squatters’ settlement, Holmes Marsh has long been a self-sufficient community within Lyonshall parish. The nearest train stops were Lyonshall or Almeley, and before the arrival of the buses in the 30s, it would have been quite isolated. Until fairly recently, one of its cottages doubled as a shop and regular church services were held in the tin Mission Hall. The steep gradient of the hill leading down into Lyonshall has been eased, and the soil has been used to form the road around the Marsh. Until then, the hill was treacherous, especially in winter. Dick Eggerton was brought up in Holmes Marsh, and comments: ‘as a child, it was always so muddy, it was difficult to get to school and not get covered.’ Children living a little nearer to the school could not benefit from the same excuse.
Development of Utilities
Older children from Lyonshall went to school in Kington. At first, only those children who had horses or bicycles were able to get there, but in 1927, the first school bus was hired from Darlings in Eardisley by the Grammar School Headmaster, and then twenty or thirty children from Lyonshall went to senior school.
It’s easy to forget that some of the things we take for granted are relatively new innovations. Tom Boore reminded us: ‘Most of the houses had wells - there was no mains water in those days. Nor electricity or gas. Just candles and oil lamps for light, and fires for heat. The last few years have made a lot of difference.’
Hereford had electricity in the town in 1899, but it didn’t reach rural parts of the county until the late 1920s. In 1929, Kington introduced electricity by buying some of Bromyard’s redundant equipment, and Lyonshall was not far behind. In the early 1930s, Burgoynes supplied electricity from their generator to several houses in the village, and fairly soon afterwards the Electricity Board gave everyone the opportunity to have electricity in their homes. Some, however, declined, no doubt apprehensive of both the cost and the new technology. Larger farms and estates had (and still have, particularly those with large poultry interests) their own power supplies; by 1934, when it was rebuilt, The Whittern had electric power driven by two turbines on the river Arrow.
In 1938, Burgoynes also started to supply water to the whole village and, in fact, about 50% of Lyonshall houses, including many of the newly built ones, still get their water from Burgoyne’s reservoir up in the fields along the Leominster road. A pump sends water up from a borehole, and it is then gravity-fed down through pipes to the houses. The Water Board, as it was then, didn’t lay in pipes until the 70s or 80s. Today, those houses which are not supplied by Burgoynes get their water from Dwr Cymru, Welsh Water, or from their own boreholes elsewhere in the parish.
Telephones & Agriculture
The telephone arrived in Lyonshall in mid-20s; the exchange was at the Post Office in Spond Lane. Before that, news was spread by post, newspapers and telegraphs; more often, however, especially for local news, it was spread face-to-face. Geoff Diggory, whose father was the stationmaster for many years at Titley Junction, tells us how rapid this could be. A signalman at Titley, for example, would relay interesting events to the grooms out exercising horses, and as they rode about the parish they would call out the news over the hedges to people in their gardens. ‘The bush telegraph was red hot for days after the news about Armstrong (the Hay-on-Wye solicitor hanged for the murder of his wife) broke.’
Lyonshall farms at that time were still largely unmechanised; although some farms had tractors after 1918, when they were released for commercial use, the first regular use came after 1945.
Until then, the blacksmith’s forge, situated in the centre of the village on the junction of Spond Lane, was kept busy shoeing not only the riding and driving horses owned by the larger households but also the shire horses used for the heavy work on the fields. The blacksmith would also repair farm implements. For years, chestnut trees were planted outside the forge to give shade to the horses in hot weather. The latest of these, now gone, was planted in 1930, and was nicknamed ‘Ramsey’ after the newly-elected Prime Minister Ramsey Macdonald. Blacksmith Evan Evans was still operating into the late 1950s, having diversified into decorative items such as gates and railings; one of his gates can be seen at Hergest Croft.
A trip to the blacksmiths in the first half of the 20th century could have been combined with a drink at the Royal George or at the nearby Maidenhead, now closed. Or you could have gone to the Post Office, located just before the Baptist chapel on the Spond Lane. Or you might have had a word with the resident policeman, Mr Tomkins, who lived in Stores Row and patrolled on his bicycle. There wasn’t much crime in Lyonshall, so he would have had time for a chat, unless he was out on one of the farms, witnessing sheep dipping. This was compulsory, and the sheep had to be in it for one minute; one of the policeman’s jobs was to time it. ‘Of course, flocks weren’t as large in those days,’ said Joan Hawson, ‘a hundred was a big flock. Sheep were washed in clean water before shearing. On farms where a stream ran through the fields, such as Brook Farm and Lynhales, a sheep wash was constructed, brick built with a ‘bolt’ at one end which was lowered to fill the wash.’
Or you could have done some shopping at one of the two village shops run by Mrs Price and Mrs Cowles; both seem to have been able to make a living. ‘As children, we used to go in with a penny or so and have a few sweets out of a bottle - very primitive in those days!’ recalled Tom Boore. ‘They sold all sorts of things - you could have anything. There was always a container of paraffin in there - I remember the smell well - people took a canister in for it.’ The last village shop, the Post Office and Stores, which was in a fine timber-framed building on the corner as the A480 dog-legs through the village centre, closed in 1997. The Post Office has been transferred to a modern building just below the old station, but we no longer have a village shop.
Transport & Farming
Although cars had been around in Lyonshall since the 1920s, they weren’t widely owned until well into the 1950s. Yeomans ran a once-weekly service bus on Tuesdays round the secondary roads (for example up to Next End) after the Kington to Eardisley train stopped running in 1940; the present service to Hereford and Leominster was run at that time by Yeoman’s and Bengry’s. Trips would have been made by bus or by pony and trap to Kington on market day, but village shops were very important for some things. However, you could get food delivered to your home: roundsmen came from Kington on Mondays to take the grocery order which was delivered to you on Wednesdays, and three bakers from Kington delivered bread twice-weekly.
Almost all the farms were family-run, with farm cottages occupied by farm workers. Only essential work such as feeding and caring for livestock was done on a Sunday; the working horses rested. Joan Hawson described haymaking and harvest as it was when she was a child. ‘Haymaking was a busy time, and neighbours came to help. The hay was turned and turned in the fields until it was well dried in the sun. When ready, it would be loaded up with pikels onto a wagon, a man on either side. The women and children would take the tea out to the men in the hayfields.’
Harvest, Cider & Food
A few tasks were gradually being mechanised. Once harvested, the corn was stacked in the fields until dry: ‘They used to say the parson had to preach over it for three weeks until it was hard enough to be brought into the barn for threshing,’ recalled Joan. ‘and a contractor would then come with a threshing machine pulled by a steam engine.’ Once again, the neighbours would come to lend a hand. The farmer’s wife, who would quickly have learned how to run a skilled catering operation, would roast huge joints of beef and baked tarts and cakes for the healthy appetites.
Although some farms (and the Royal George pub) still used their horse-driven cider presses, mobile tractor-driven machinery, such as that owned by the Morgans at Moor Court, would come round to the farms. Joan commented: ‘The cider was for us and the workers and anyone that came and wanted a drink. We made a lot, gallons and gallons, and the cider was very sweet when it was being pressed out - quite different to what it was afterwards, when it had fermented. As children, we used to take glasses down and drink this lovely sweet juice.’
The farmers’ wives would have worked hard in the home and the kitchen, growing and preserving fruit and vegetables, baking bread and pastry, and salting hams and bacon. Most farms in the area were self-sufficient not only in food for their livestock - corn, root-crops and hay - but also in food for their families. They all had large vegetable gardens and almost every cottage had a pigscot, where a pig was fattened and killed. With no deep-freezes to preserve the meat, neighbours arranged the killings for different times and exchanged joints; the killing would have been done by a ‘pig-killer’, or butcher, who would also cut and dress the meat. Flitches and hams were also cured for a year’s supply of bacon; all of the farms had salting stones in their dairies.
Poultry & Herefords
Women were also in charge of the poultry, and would sell eggs and dressed chickens, ducks and geese in Kington. Joan Hawson described the scene: ‘The chickens went in baskets into Kington every Tuesday to the dealers who used to come from Wolverhampton and Birmingham. One of them used to be in a disused shop in Church Street; another came to the Oak. The farmers’ wives went in with their chickens, which were put into crates and taken to be sold the next day in the markets in Wolverhampton and round there - everything was quite fresh. We had a car at the Hope from 1920, so the chickens and eggs were taken in that; my mother never drove, so my father would take her in. That was right up until just about the war. Then there was Carini’s, who built a big place just as you go into Kington at Headbrook, and we took everything into there. That’s when the poultry business was growing much bigger.’
Before World War II, several Lyonshall farms and estates were renowned for their Hereford cattle: according to the Hereford Herd Book The Brook, Castle Weir, Elsdon, The Hope, Lynhales, The Rhyse, Sherriffs and The Whittern all had pedigree herds. In The Day The Trains Came, Helen Simpson notes that sheep and black cattle went to Kington market, while Herefords went to Leominster or Hereford. On market days, farmers were asked to arrive early at Titley with their animals, and to clean any droppings off the platform before the passengers arrived. Seven to eight truckloads of animals waited in a siding, before being hitched onto the rear of the regular passenger train. A special train operated on Kington market days. At a fundraising event held at The Whittern in November 1997, Geoff Diggory described the scene: ‘There was quite a lot of kerfuffle getting the wagons into position, and the cattle aboard - the owners each wanted a wagon for themselves.’
"Fire at Hope Farm, Lyonshall"
Hereford Times October 21st 1922
A disastrous fire at Hope Farm, Lyonshall, on Friday morning destroyed approximately £2,000 worth of produce etc. The owner and occupier is Mr. J. Powell and it was he himself who motored to Kington and called the Fire Brigade. Valuable assistance in getting away quickly was rendered by Messrs. J. Meredith and Co., who placed their lorry at the disposal of the Fire Brigade. The members of the Brigade were quickly on the spot and endeavoured to cut off communication from cow-houses and other adjoining buildings. This task was successfully accomplished, about 400 feet of hose being used. The origin of the fire is unknown, but it is understood that the loss is covered by insurance. Among those who were on the scene and lent assistance were Major H. R. Pettit, Captain Lionel Green and Major Stewart Robinson, who also sent their men to give all assistance possible.’
And what about leisure? As a boy and teenager, Tom Boore would go to the Memorial Hall for dances and whist drives. He recalled: ‘We had travelling people coming round in the 20s and 30s, players who did entertainment and singing. They would be here for a few days in the Memorial Hall; I think one of them was The Lauderdale Company, or something like that. We didn’t have televisions at home in those days, although we had gramophones.’ Geoff Diggory also recalled the thrill of being allowed to stay up late to see the travelling theatre. ‘They stopped for a month in Lyonshall, and every night except Sunday they performed a play in the hall, a different programme every night.’
Few people took holidays, but some went out on day trips: Black and White Coaches ran a daily service to Aberystwyth during the summer months. Tom Boore was taken by train as a child to Barry Island, and also to Windsor with his mother on a WI trip. The trains went from Lyonshall, especially organised like hiring a coach today. Tom remembered the station master’s wife as a very keen gardener, with a beautifully-kept station and a garden full of flowers. As young men, Tom and his friends would cycle to Llandrindod for the six day motorcycle events or to Hereford for occasions like the laying of the foundation stone of the County Hospital in the 1930s by Queen Mary. Village celebrations were held for the coronations in 1936 and 1953, with a meal at the Memorial Hall, and games for the children.
And the circus used to come to Kington, which was a great attraction for children. The animals and wagons used to pass through Lyonshall on their way. Tom Boore’s wife Phyllis used to live at Strathmore. One year a man from the circus stopped at the house to ask for some water for his elephant, which was unwell. The elephant made it to Kington, but it died there soon afterwards: the bones are displayed in Kington museum along with the full story.
Joan Hawson described the social life for teenagers in the 30s: ‘WI and Boys’ Club dances, whist drives, concerts and coffee suppers, arranged by an elderly gentleman, Mr Duggan from down in the village, who used to make sure that they took place when the ‘Parish Lantern’ - the full moon - was shining. She also describes the pre-war Eisteddfods held at Upper House in the barn, organised by the chapel. People came from miles around before the event got so big that it had to be moved to Kington. In fact, the Boys’ Club and the WI (Women’s Institute), both now closed, were a very important part of Lyonshall life for much of the 20th century, organising meetings, outings and many other community activities.
Tom Boore added wryly that a trip to Kington market could prove entertaining in itself: ‘Many a time I walked a beast to Kington to the market. There could be up to 22,000 sheep there - drovers from Wales meeting drovers from the Titley direction. You couldn’t get past, couldn’t move for sheep.’
The Role of Rail
Until its closure in 1940, the railway was an important part of village life. As well as its official uses, there are many stories of the railway being used unofficially for dropping off shopping, taking eggs to market, or delivering parcels and newspapers. There are also tales of drivers stopping to pick mushrooms in fields, picking apples on the go from overhanging trees and even of races between drivers from different directions to get into junction stations like Titley first.
Great Western Railway Timetable
July 8th - September 29th 1935
Kington 9.00 11.17 3.30
Titley 9.05 11.21 3.35
Lyonshall 9.10 11.25 3.40
Almeley 9.25 11.34 3.55
Eardisley 9.38 11.39 4.07
Eardisley 10.02 12.00 4.48
Almeley 10.07 12.06 4.53
Lyonshall 10.14 12.15 5.01
Titley 10.18 12.22 5.06
Kington 10.22 12.26 5.09
(Original in Kington Museum)
Outbreak of War
The outbreak of war in 1939 meant rapid change for Lyonshall. Many men, like Tom Boore, travelled abroad for the first time in their lives. He joined the Royal Artillery and was sent to North Africa, to Algiers, before returning through Sicily and Italy. Before that, however, he joined the Lyonshall Home Guard, started in about 1940: ‘Four of us were the first on duty: I remember being there the first night on. Colonel Hudson at Church House was involved with it all - I think he had been in the army in India. Captain Green was involved as well. To start, we had nothing, no uniform, and no guns. We had to manoeuvre up and down the roads from Lyonshall to Holmes Marsh and back - just waiting for something coming. We heard bombs go off, one up above Brilley and another at Staunton on Arrow: we would often hear them at night and see the planes go over. It was sure to have been a light or something on, a farmer out there with a lantern, and they might have spotted him. Part of our job was to make sure that there were no lights showing. The trouble was, you had to go out to the stock with a lantern of some sort.’
The War Effort
Lyonshall played its part in the war effort. Red Cross sewing sessions to make bandages and other necessities were organised by Mrs Pettit at Castle Weir. The present owners of Lynhales say that it was used in the war as a hospital for Black American soldiers, and there was a Land Army hostel at The Brook farmhouse. Joan Hawson remembered that Italian POWs from Presteigne also used to come with guards to work on the farms; most of the young farm workers were away in the army. Several Lyonshall men used their riding skills to join the Kington Mounted Guard, and there were three Lyonshall people involved in the Underground Resistance movement, active in England until the threat of the invasion was over. Joan Hawson’s twin sister was one of them but could not, of course, let her family or friends know. ‘We didn’t know that she had anything to do with it until afterwards: she was sworn to secrecy. She used to go with the others to the different villages to meet other people connected with it and to learn how to lay booby traps and so on. I’ve still got a piece of rice paper given to her for practising; messages would be written on it and she was to eat it if she was captured.’
Another of Joan’s sisters helped Colonel Hudson on a less secret mission: he was in charge not only of the Home Guard but also of the defensive roadblock campaign. All Lyonshall farms had to declare the equipment and implements they owned - blocks, chains, jacks, tractors and so on - so that they could be used to block the roads in case of a land invasion. The equipment was carefully listed: The Powells at Hope Farm, for example, were noted as having ‘one block, four ropes, two chains, one jack, one hand-saw, one cross-cart, and one sledge.’ Joan Hawson comments: ‘I don’t know whether it would have stopped an invasion, but it would certainly have slowed it up.’
There was also an Observation Post, positioned on the high field above Lyonshall Nurseries, to spot enemy planes in the area. It was mostly manned by the older men, including Joan’s father, as the younger ones were either away in the army or needed on the farms. Major Jones, who lived at The Croft, was in charge of the duty roster, which had two men on at a time, day and night, in shifts of several hours. It would have been a cold job on a damp winter’s night: there was a shelter for the observation instruments, but not for the men.
Post war recovery was slow to get going: food rationing was still in force until the early 50s, and the closure of the local railways made travelling difficult at a time when few people owned cars and the bus services were just recovering from wartime restrictions and shortages. However, from the mid-50s onwards, Lyonshall experienced a rapid development, enjoying the same social changes which were taking place in the rest of England. In July 1957, the newly elected Prime Minister Harold MacMillan declared: ‘Let’s be frank, most of our people have never had it so good. Go around the country… and you will see a state of prosperity such as we have never had in my lifetime.’ While some people in Lyonshall, struggling to provide their children with food, clothes and education, might have laughed hollowly at that statement, it was nevertheless a time of increasing individual prosperity.
More families than ever before could afford to buy luxury household items like washing machines and gramophones. Many bought their first television in 1953 - black-and-white, of course - to watch the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. More cars were owned, which in turn affected the way we lived. We were able to travel greater distances to work, which in turn affected the local bus services. We started to have fridges, and later freezers, in our homes, which meant that the shopping no longer had to be done daily; local shops, unable to compete with either the range of goods or the low prices offered by town supermarkets, suffered. And a post-war population boom - the so-called ‘baby boomers’ - meant that by the late 50s and early 60s a whole generation was pressing for its own culture, with its own music and fashion. Teenagers had arrived, and they were no longer content to move awkwardly straight from childhood to young adulthood, as previous generations had done.
1951: Festival of Britain
1957: First atomic bomb exploded by Britain in the Pacific
1953: Edmund Hillary and Norgay Tenzing conquer Everest
1963: Beatles have their first No 1 hit with ‘Please Please Me’
1965: Death penalty abolished
1969: US astronaut Neil Armstrong becomes first man to land on the moon
1970: Completion of new English Bible
1973: Britain joins EEC
1975: Equal Opportunities Act introduced
1981: Ranulph Fiennes circumnavigates globe via both poles
1994: Completion of Channel Tunnel between Britain and France
1999: The Euro arrives in all EU countries except Britain, Denmark, Sweden and Greece
Approaching the Millenium
In the last two decades of the 20th Century, the pace of change accelerated. The combination of improved communications, faster and further travel, greater leisure time, and the huge choice of in-home media from television and radio to the Internet, meant that we were able to see ourselves not just as part of a local parish, but as part of a huge global community. What did that mean to the way we lived in Lyonshall then?
What was life in Lyonshall like as we moved into the new Millennium? How many people lived here, and who represented us in an official capacity? How did we earn a living? And what did we do with our leisure time?
Let’s start with a few facts and figures. The 1999 Register of Electors lists 554 individual names of people over 18; in addition we have about 100 people under the age of 18. This gives us a total population of around 650 people, living in an estimated 280 households.
Lyonshall civil parish is in: Lyonshall with Titley ward; Leominster Parliamentary Constituency; the county of Herefordshire; and the Herefordshire and Shropshire European Parliamentary Constituency. Our local councillor was Pauline Robinson, Conservative, who still lives in Presteigne. Our representative in the UK Parliament was MP Peter Temple-Morris, formerly a Conservative, since changed to Labour. Hereford Council looked after our county interests, and we were represented in the European Parliament by eight MEPs: four Conservatives, three Labour and one Liberal.