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Whitchurch Town Trail: Dodington
This part of the modern town was once a separate settlement with its own Manor, half a mile from Whitchurch centre. In the year 1,000 AD, as Joan Barton tells us:
'The hamlets to the south, Dodington, Alkington and Edgeley housed another 100 people and were separately owned, but all the place names are evidence of earlier Saxon infiltration and occupation.'
(A Millennium History of Whitchurch - Herald Printers Ltd, 2000)
Following the Norman Conquest, Dodington passed into the possession of Roger of Courseulle. In his History of Whitchurch, Shropshire (Whitchurch Herald Ltd, 1935) TC Duggan quotes the entry for Dodetune from Domesday Book:
The same Roger (Roger de Curcelle) holds Dodetune, Earl Eduin held it. Here I hide geldable. IIII (4) villains and one radman with II (2) ox-teams,
and other II (2) teams might be there. The wood will fatten LX (60) swine. (Formerly the Manor) was worth 16s., now 9s.
The street now simply called Dodington was formerly the High Street, Dodington. Nikolaus Pevsner (The Buildings of England: Shropshire) calls it ‘the best street in Whitchurch’. Leaving the town centre in this direction, you find timber-framed houses on either side giving way to the much grander, more spacious town houses of the 18th and 19th centuries. Here, too, are almshouses, churches, a sheltered accommodation and a hotel, but very few commercial premises. Half buried in the pavement outside Number 3A is an early 19th century stone milestone (Listed Grade II). Its cast-iron plate is inscribed “20”, the distance in miles between Whitchurch and both Shrewsbury and Chester. The northeast side of the street eventually becomes a row of semi-detached houses, typical of the 1930s.
What went on here?
The Poor Rate Valuation Book (1827) lists 57 separate premises, with 49 described as ‘House and Garden’ and very little evidence of commerce. Two shops are mentioned, plus one specifically named ‘Currier’s Shop’, three buildings with a ‘Yard’, four with stables, one each of cowhouse, croft and maltkiln, and one public house, The Royal Oak (now demolished). The largest property, with a rateable value of £32, is described as ‘House, two gardens, Yard, etc’ (probably No 21, The Mansion House).
Southwest side: 1, 3, 5, 7 (The Olde House), Former Presbyterian Chapel (rear of No 7), 15, 17, 19, 21 (Mansion House), 23 and 25 (old Manor House), 27 (The Bungalow), 29 and stable block, Former St Catherine’s Church, Cherwell House, Dodington Lodge Hotel
Northeast side: 6, 8 (Old Cottage) and 10, 28 (Ellesmere House), 30-36 (even), 38 and 40, 42 (Clifton House) and 44, United Reformed Church
Early 19th century red-brick house with plain tile roof.
Early 19th century, rendered with slate roof. The central front door has an Ionic porch with fluted columns.
Mrs Harrison ran a small private School for Young Ladies at this address in the late 19th century, advertising in the Whitchurch Herald of May 1870 that she was also opening one for ‘Young Gentlemen under ten years of age’.
‘For some years prior to 1891’, the former Presbyterian Chapel, situated behind No 7, Dodington, ‘was used as a Boys’ school-room called “The British School” and kept by Mr John A. Roberts who lived at No 15, Dodington.’ (TC Duggan)
Mid-18th century, possibly containing earlier fabric. Said to have timber-framed partition walls of 18th century or perhaps earlier, and an 18th century dog-leg staircase.
Number 19 (Dodington House)
The English Heritage photograph (taken 2003) shows the frontage covered in scaffolding, which is still in place in July 2006. The original timber-framed house was probably built around 1600 and considerably extended and remodelled during subsequent centuries, now presenting a late Georgian/Regency-style exterior.
More about Dodington House
- Extensive late 18th century remodelling largely responsible for much of present ground floor accommodation, including part of the dining room, once a billiard room, and for appearance of the house front.
- Drawing room added in early 19th century, with ‘an unusually high ceiling and . . . it may have been used as a ballroom on occasions. Certainly . . . designed for entertaining on a fairly large scale.’ (Madge Moran)
- Drawing room fireplace with marble over-mantel brought from Emral Hall, Worthenbury (demolished 1936).
- A ‘cage-like contraption made from posts and wooden laths’, over 11 feet long, in the attic space above front of the house. Said to be ‘where fighting-cocks were kept when cock-fighting became illegal’. More likely used for ‘indoor winter breeding of poultry for the table.’
- Attic above the kitchen wing divided into 16 compartments, possibly for grain storage.
- Birmingham Fire Office fire plate beneath the eaves at SE corner of the house, relatively rare in Whitchurch.
People who lived here
- ‘A succession of Whitchurch doctors’ has lived and practiced here from mid-19th century onwards.
- The Rev. Philip Henry (1631-1696), early and most respected nonconformist minister, lived here 1667-1669, was buried in Whitchurch, and is commemorated by a marble memorial in parish church.
- His son Matthew Henry (1662-1714), aged five when family moved here, preached the first sermon at new Presbyterian Chapel, opened 1707, located behind Number 7, Dodington (The Olde House).
- Despite traditional local belief, no sound documentary evidence exists to confirm that The Rev. Reginald Heber (1783-1826), composer of several well-known hymns, lived here. He did attend Whitchurch Free Grammar School, and his widowed mother bought the house in 1824, modified it, and lived here for about eight years.
Find out more about the history of this house,
and its more notable occupants, from Madge Moran: Vernacular Buildings of Whitchurch and Area (Logaston Press, 1999)
Kathleen Barnard: Eminent Men of Whitchurch (WHAG, 1997)
Number 21 (Mansion House)
Listed Grade II* and described as ‘the most ambitious house in Whitchurch’ (Pevsner), it was the largest house in the town when built around 1725. Much later, it was seriously abused and neglected, mostly during the 20th century. When Mrs Moran began her studies of the building during the 1990s, it stood, as she says, ‘violated and empty’.
A grand, elegant house and working farm
The earliest history of the house is unknown, but a letting advertisement in a Salopian Journal of 1798 describes the abundant accommodation like this:
- Spacious hall, 2 parlours, drawing room, kitchen, servants’ hall, Butler’s pantry and china pantry.
- Four handsome lodging rooms on 2nd floor, 5 ditto in attick storey, with nursery and laundry.
- 3 cellars and 2 wine vaults arched with bricks.
- Brewhouse, milkhouse, 4-stall stable, coach-house, granary and feed.
- Pleasure garden, a farmyard, 3-stall stable, barn containing 4 bays and threshing floor, cowhouse, Dovehouse, and several compact conveniences.
19th century records show that the house’s occupants included:
- An apothecary who owned other property elsewhere in Whitchurch.
- The steward of the manor of the Duke of Bridgwater.
- A solicitor with long-standing local (and prosperous) family connections.
- A clerk ‘with his wife, six children, their governess and five servants’ (1841).
The house remained in reputable and affluent family hands until about 1850.
The process of decline
- High turnover of tenants over following 50 years, including Miss Ada Keitley who established her private girls’school here (early 1900s), later to become Whitchurch Girls’ High School, remaining here until 1912.
- WH Smith and Co, leading local iron-founders and engineers, acquired it, converting it to the town’s first garage with workshops, and petrol pumps outside on the pavement, offices, inspection pit in the north wing, both wings probably reduced to single storey at this time.
- Remaining gardens and farm sold off to the local council, who later built council houses here.
- 1961: garage closed, house empty for some time, then acquired and operated by Kwik Save supermarket, who replaced ground-floor windows with large, contemporary commercial ones.
- During these changes, the ground floor was gutted; pitched roof replaced with flat roof; ground-floor windows changed and enlarged more than once; staircase dismantled; fireplaces removed and/or destroyed.
The English Heritage description (1988) says of the interior: ‘Despite the degree of alteration, this is still a fine example of an early 18th century house and retains much of its sumptuous fittings and ornament.’
Mrs Moran concludes her commentary on the house with much more optimism than when she began her investigations:
The Mansion House has recently been restored by a local builder who has converted the building into three flats and restored the ground-floor fenestration. This offers hope that the years of neglect, indifference and sheer bad planning
are over . . .
Find out more about the interior of the house
and its social history from Madge Moran:
Vernacular Buildings of Whitchurch and Area
(Logaston Press, 1999)
Numbers 23 and 25 (Old Manor House)
Built as a single property and probably completed by 1570, this is now a pair of semi-detached houses, divided between 1861 and 1871. Partly rebuilt and enlarged in late 18th century, with the street frontage ‘of brick and applied timber-framing clearly the result of early 20th century remodelling’ (Madge Moran).
There is no sign of the house that presumably stood here before this one. Mrs Moran is thoroughly satisfied by the available evidence that the present structure was originally one house. She suggests that its predecessor may have been part of a gift from the then Lord of the Manor to his son William on his marriage in 1261.
Records of some 19th century occupants:
- Around 1860: The rector’s curate to St Catherine’s Church (built next door 1836).
- 1851: John Wood ‘landed proprietor’, his wife, daughter and 3 servants.
- 1861: Thomas Urry, solicitor, his wife, 6 children, 1 servant.
- 1871: Mary Groom, widowed landowner (in No 23)William Jones, solicitor’s clerk and servant (in No 25).
Find out more about the building sequence
of the house from Madge Moran: Vernacular Buildings of Whitchurch and Area (Logaston Press, 1999)
Cherwell House (including Number 27, The Bungalow)
This red brick, 3 storey, 3 bay house with a triangular pediment across the central bay, built around 1800, is now divided into flats. The front enclosures with wrought-iron railings are 20th century replacements. The Bungalow, adjoining the north end of the house, was originally its service block and is now a separate property.
TC Duggan’s History of Whitchurch, Shropshire (1935) comments:
It is stated that there was a stone placed in the garden wall behind the house
in Dodington now called Cherwell House, on which was carved the following:
“John Knight built this wall out of profits made by a voyage with black cattle.”
This is interesting because the expression “black cattle” was one used for Negro Slaves, and it therefore seems possible that a cargo of slaves provided the profit that paid for the erection of the wall.
Number 28 (Ellesmere House)
Timber-framed house on a high brick plinth, but with gable end walls in brick, built probably during early 18th century. There is no sign of these brick walls ever having been timber-framed. This is a rare and good example in a single Whitchurch building of the transition from timber-framing to brick construction (largely due to the rising cost of oak). Nearby Bark Hill House at 28, Bark Hill provides another example, though its timber-framed frontage is now concealed. The two houses are so similar in many design aspects as to suggest the work of the same builder.
Ellesmere House is likely to be the first building on this site, and probably so-named during the 19th century when Lord Brownlow’s agent lived here, the Brownlow family being benefactors to Ellesmere.
A lithograph by W Crane of about 1830 shows all the above features clearly but with only two dormer windows. Recent restoration has added a third dormer (which was most likely there originally), and removed the stucco applied to the street frontage.
Some notable features inside:
- well-carpentered dog-leg oak staircase rising to the attic
- all internal partitions timber-framed
- one turned baluster inserted upside-down, a feature found elsewhere in the town
- small parlour fully panelled
- four attic rooms, one with original panelled door, one (possibly for housekeeper or nanny) with small fireplace
Some social history of the house:
- 18th century: history of owners/occupants largely unknown
- Most of 19th century: Boarding school/seminary for young ladies, run by the Miss Cooks (1818); Miss Sophia Veale (1868), then by Misses Mary and Jane Hindmarsh. Miss Ada Keitley took over in 1894 until she moved across the road to the Mansion House between 1902 and 1905.
- 1929: bought by veterinary surgeon Mr Gerard Hoban, who added the stucco frontage, and adapted the ground floor interior to suit the requirements of his work.
- 1949: Mr Hoban’s widow sold both house and practice.
- ‘Subsequent owners have shown care and respect for this building, and it continues to add dignity to the townscape’ (Madge Moran)
Find out more about both exterior and interior from
Madge Moran: Vernacular Buildings of Whitchurch
and Area (Logaston Press, 1999)
Find out more about Miss Ada Keitley’s career
in education, and the 20th century development
of the Whitchurch Girls’ High School, from
Joan Barton: Whitchurch Schools 1550-1950 (WHAG, 2001)
Late 18th century red brick house, with its adjoining stable block (and former coach house). The wooden front porch has unfluted Doric columns with a triangular pediment. Inside, the 18th century oak staircase rises to the attic.
The house is now a doctor’s surgery, contributing to an existing tradition. DB Barnard of the Whitchurch History and Archaeological Group comments:
Motor transport became part of the Whitchurch scene in the early 1900's when two medical practitioners, Dr Gwynn of St Mary’s House [St Mary’s Street] and Dr Watkins of 29 Dodington Street, found it more convenient to visit patients by motor car than by pony and trap.
DB Barnard: Transport in the Whitchurch Area, Part I – Roads (WHAG, 2000)
Built around 1720, the house is now divided. English Heritage considers ‘This house is particularly notable for its fine early 18th century staircase.’
Numbers 30-36 (even) (Dodington Almshouses)
The single-storeyed Almshouses are dated 1829, built in grey sandstone in Gothic Tudor style. The original ridge stone chimney stacks were later heightened in red brick. The central gable has a lozenge-shaped panel with text reading “BUILT AND ENDOWED BY ELIZABETH LANGFORD IN THE YEAR MDCCCXXIX”. The raised scroll beneath it reads “DA GLORIAM DEO”.
Numbers 38 and 40
Pair of large red brick houses built in early 19th century.
Numbers 42 (Clifton House) and 44
Pair of large red brick houses. No 42 has a dog-leg staircase rising to the attic. The staircase in No 44 rises to the attic in two single flights and has cast-iron balusters.
This timber-framed house is Listed Grade II*, built ‘probably mid-late 16th century with early 17th century additions. There is a complete early 19th century shop front to the right with Tuscan pilasters, plate glass window and early 18th century oak door. To the left is the 17th century former stable with stable door. The English Heritage description (1988) observes that many fixtures and fittings remain inside the house from the 16th to the 18th century, and concludes:
This is a complete and interesting survival of an urban building of the 16th or early 17th century. The front range probably formerly consisted of a first-
floor solar over a ground floor partly or wholly occupied by a shop or other business premises, and the rear range was probably formerly an open hall, with a first floor inserted at some time in the 17th century. The ground floor of the rear range was latterly used as a smithy, probably from the 19th centuryonwards.
Numbers 6, 8 (Old Cottage) and 10
These three properties are all Listed, and Mrs Moran’s researches on the buildings confirm that they should be considered together. No 6 has a painted red brick front, while Nos 8 and 10 have ‘facsimile timbers (consisting of cement rendered to imitate weathered timber and later painted black) on the front giving the appearance of a square-framed 17th century range’. The entire block is basically timber-framed, and No 6 contains a complete cruck truss in the party wall with No 8.
By the late 1970s this row of cottages was dilapidated and highly likely to be demolished like many other cruck cottages in the town under the ‘slum clearance’ programme. However, they were reprieved and, in time, restored, possibly on account of the existence of the cruck.
The continuous level of the eaves over all three properties suggested the possibility of a single complete medieval house or a terrace of cruck dwellings, but no appropriate supporting evidence has come to light. However, the full cruck truss between No 6 and No 8 may well be the only one now surviving in Whitchurch. Madge Moran commends the realistic effect of the ‘fake’ timbers on the brick frontage of Nos 8 and 10, adding that ‘there are several examples of the technique [explained in her text] in Whitchurch and in north Shropshire generally’. No 10 gives the impression of being a later addition to the other two, making considerable use inside of re-used or redundant timbers from elsewhere.
Find out more about the architectural detective work
carried out on these three dwellings from Madge Moran: Vernacular Buildings of Whitchurch and Area (Logaston Press, 1999)
Number 7 (The Olde House)
‘A relatively unspoilt mid-17th century box-framed town house of modest proportions’ (Madge Moran), dated 1651. (The rear courtyard ranges are later extensions). Almost all of the end wall ‘timbers’ are facsimiles (as with Nos 6, 8 and 10, Dodington), though ‘remarkably accurate’ and ‘perpetrating the design of the original box-framing’.
During the period of difficulties for the nonconformist movement in the late 17th century, the house was officially licensed for religious meetings in 1694. It was then occupied by a member of the Yate family. Their associations with the house and particularly with the Presbyterian Chapel built behind it and opened in 1707, were commemorated by numerous brass plates on the Chapel walls dated throughout the 18th century. The brasses were later removed to the Congregational (United Reformed) Church on the opposite side of the road.
TC Duggan (1935) reports:
Extract from the Diary of J.Yate of Dodington 1725 to 1760: “Irish Lords and
Bishops and members of our House of Commons halted at the little town of Whitchurch, where they usually spent the night as a preparation for embarking the next evening from Parkgate in small sailing packets on an uncertain voyage
across the Irish Channel.”
Notes on some of its owners
- Indenture of September 1762 shows owner as Francis Egerton, Duke of Bridgwater, and lord of the manor of Dodington
- Deeds contain the will of John Yate (d.1775) who leaves the house to his wife
- 1803: House sold to Elizabeth Jenkins for £400, but occupied at the time by Mary Jenkins (and possibly others)
- Mary Jenkins left the house, along with several other Dodington properties, to her step-daughter Betty Banks, who later married Richard Thomas, baker
- 1846: Richard Thomas sold the house to Daniel Sumner. Indenture included half use of the property’s well pump to William Smith, founder of the town’s renowned iron foundry of WH Smith and Co.
Find out more about the social history of the house
from Madge Moran: Vernacular Buildings of Whitchurch and Area (Logaston Press, 1999)
Find out more about the Yate family brasses from
TC Duggan: History of Whitchurch, Shropshire
(Whitchurch Herald, 1935)
Dodington Lodge Hotel
Built as a red brick house in the early 19th century, with wooden Greek Doric porch with fluted columns. At this point Dodington meets Newport Road and Edgeley Road to become Sedgeford (leading to the A41 and A49). The 1761 map of Whitchurch clearly shows today’s Sedgeford as ‘Road to London’.
The area immediately around this junction has been confirmed as the cemetery for Mediolanum, the 1st century Roman fort and later civilian settlement. Whitchurch is built over the Roman settlement straddling Watling Street, the route connecting Uriconium (Wroxeter, near Shrewsbury) with the fortress at Deva (today’s Chester).
In 1900, EP Thompson, Liverpool banker and Whitchurch benefactor, (who built Paul’s Moss, Dodington as his new home in the late 1890s) erected a fountain on the corner of Edgeley Road and Sedgford. It commemorated one of the earliest Roman finds in the locality: a burial flagon, dated to the 1st century AD, found here in November 1899.
The bronze plaque on the back of the fountain depicts the flagon in relief with the date of its discovery and this text:
A CINERARY URN OF WHICH THIS IS A REPRESENTATION WAS
DISCOVERED IN DIGGING THE FOUNDATION OF THIS WALL
The fountain can be seen built into the garden wall of Fountain House, which stands beside the road junction. More burials have since been found here, particularly during earth-moving operations in 1973.
See photographs of the Fountain in 1904, the plaque in 1979
and the location in 2000 in:
WHAG (ed.): Whitchurch Remembered (Shropshire Library, 1980)
Joan Barton (ed.): Whitchurch Remembered – Millennium Edition
(Herald Printers, 2000)
Find out more about Whitchurch Roman history:
Joan Barton: A Millennium History of Whitchurch (Herald Printers, 2000)
Contains a useful bibliography on Roman and related topics
TC Duggan: A History of Whitchurch, Shropshire (Whitchurch Herald, 1935)
Includes a list of Roman remains found locally during early 20th century
RB James: Whitchurch, a Short History (WHAG, revised edition 1996)
Three Dodington Churches
Former Presbyterian Chapel
Philip Henry’s Burnt Oak congregation built this, the town’s first dissenters’ chapel, opened in September 1707, behind No 7 Dodington (The Olde House). It was one of the first brick buildings in Whitchurch.
- High Church rioters destroyed the building over four days in July 1715, when the Riot Act was read.
- New Chapel built in 1717 on the same site, funded by central government. This building still stands today.
- The Dodington Presbyterians ‘were an extremely wealthy and important society’, numbering around 300 members in 1720, including gentlemen, tradesmen, farmers and yeomen.
- From 1824 onwards, the building has a varied history, becoming a ‘British School’, a private boys’ School-room, under the Rev John A Roberts of No 15 Dodington.
- 1891: John Roberts purchased the building for £161.
- 1909: Sold to the Trustees of the Congregational Chapel.
- 1918: Sold to Geo. W Arrowsmith.
- 1919: Sold to Messrs Sutcliffe and Darlington for use as a furniture repository.
- 1923: Sold to Mr George Edge
The Chapel has since been a builder’s store, a ballroom, a music hall (known during the 1930s as The Music Hall), and a forces’ canteen, It is now believed to provide storage for an antiques trader.
Find out more about this Chapel from Madge Moran: Vernacular Buildings of Whitchurch and Area (Logaston Press, 1999). See report on No 7,Dodington
TC Duggan: History of Whitchurch, Shropshire (Whitchurch Herald, 1935)
The relevant chapter includes a full list of the Ministers from1708 to 1844;
details of a set of Pewter Plate; Registers of Baptisms, Birth and Burials to
1836; full details of the 23 Memorial Brasses from 1672 to 1836
Former Church of St Catherine
Built in 1836 as the Chapel of Ease to St Alkmund’s, and consecrated in 1837. The datestone above the entrance reads “MDCCCXXXVI”. The building was funded by Catherine, Countess of Bridgwater, widow of the 7th Duke and Lady of the Manor of Dodington.
- The rector’s curate occupied the old Manor House at 23 and 25 Dodington around 1860
- The church contained the oldest surviving Whitchurch-made JB Joyce tower clock in England.
- Declared redundant in 1974, it was deconsecrated in 1975 and sold.
- The English Heritage Listing description provides thorough details of the exterior architecture and interior contents (see www.imagesofengland.org.uk). When listed in 1951, the building was described as a builder’s store.
- In 2006, long empty and derelict, the building is said to be in process (admittedly slow and intermittent) of conversion to apartments
United Reformed Church (formerly Congregational Chapel)
A splinter group left the Presbyterian congregation in 1797, meeting in a currier’s shop on this site. It opened as a place of worship in 1798 under the Rev Mr Little.
- 1813: Opened as a Meeting-house with Dr Raffles and the Rev Weaver as preachers
- 1820: The Rev Rowland Hill preached here
- 1846: the present building opened as the Congregational Chapel, costing about £2,000. It was enlarged in 1880
- The columns of the entrance porch are hard sandstone monoliths
- The Church contains the Memorial Brasses removed form the former Presbyterian Chapel
- Sir Edward German’s father John David Jones was honorary organist and choirmaster, and his mother sang in the choir.
Find out more about this Church from
TC Duggan: History of Whitchurch, Shropshire (Whitchurch Herald, 1935), including full list of Ministers from c.1800 to 1923
Other Notable Buildings
This late Victorian red brick mansion stands back from the road in the vicinity of Cherwell House. It was built in 1895 as the new home of Mr EP Thompson, a Liverpool banker and one of Whitchurch’s major benefactors. He later bought a property beside the Town Hall and gave it to the town to provide for a museum, art gallery and library. He bequeathed his collection of Randolph Caldecott watercolours to the gallery, and provided equipment for the Jubilee Park.
Whitchurch Urban District Council bought the house in 1957, converting it to offices. Today it provides sheltered flats for elderly people, and the grounds now also contain small blocks of living accommodation for younger people.
Pubs - Past and Present
The suburb grew primarily as a location for large, prosperous town houses during the 18th and 19th centuries. Its only licensced premises today is the Dodington Lodge Hotel, and there is a marked absence of records of inns or ale houses in the past.
- The 1797 Directory mentions The Fox and The Unicorn, but they are never referred to again.
- The Sign of the Royal Oak stood opposite St Catherine’s Church and features in several oil paintings as ‘a fine timbered building’. It was occupied by Richard Evans in 1772, owned by Thomas Liversage in 1776, later by Ann Liversage in 1796. It was demolished in the late 1870s to make way for the first Whitchurch bypass, named Bridgwater Street, running from here to the Police Station.
- Nearby, The Gate (1822) stood down the road on Sedgeford, probably near the Toll-gate itself. Occupiers are listed as S Fowler (1822) and Richard Bradshaw (1840) but there are no later records of it.
- Also in the locality, The Marquis of Granby is mentioned in the 1797 Directory (William Thomas, Gent) in Watergate. This could well be an earlier name for today’s The Old Eagles.
Find out more about the history of the town’s licenced premises in RB James: Old Inns of Whitchurch (WHAG, 1997)