Cymraeg / English
Historic Landscape Characterisation
Churchstoke, Powys and Chirbury, Shropshire
Narrow, late glacial gorge, with managed woodland on steep-sided slopes to either side, water mills and defensive earthworks.
The northern end of the area falls largely within the township of Marrington in the parish of Chirbury, Shropshire, and the southern end falls within the parish of Churchstoke, Powys. The earliest historical reference is in the Domesday Book of 1086 which mentions woodland for fattening 15 pigs at Marrington, which may have been within the gorge. Though lying between 3-4km to the east of Offa's Dyke the gorge forms such a distinctive topographic feature along the eastern margins of the Vale of Montgomery that it is likely to have been of strategic importance in early times. The place-name Marrington, given as Meritune in the Domesday Book, is derived from the Old English elements gemaere and tun, meaning settlement on the boundary.
Key historic landscape characteristics
Narrow, steep-sided gorge, up to about 60m deep, with the Camlad at its base, running north-south for about 6km from just to the north of Churchstoke to north-east of Chirbury, between a height of between about 95-160m OD. The gorge appears to have resulted from one of the local disruptions to drainage patterns during the late glacial period, possibly having been caused by water held in a lake in the upper Camlad valley escaping northwards towards the Marton valley, now occupied by Rea Brook. The solid geology is composed of Ordovician shales with narrow volcanic intrusions. There are a number of remnant area of ancient semi-natural deciduous woodland in Spy Wood, with managed deciduous woodland and plantation including oak, ash, some hazel and beech, and small conifer plantations on the steeper slopes to either side of the gorge, and small poplar plantations on the narrow flat areas of alluvium and gravel on the base of the gorge. There are possibly sediments of palaeoenvionmental significance along the base of the gorge.
The predominant land-use today is for woodland and field sports, though the area includes a number of small pasture fields taken out of the woodland. Present-day settlement in the gorge is largely confined to the 18th and 19th-century mill buildings mentioned below, together with a small number of cottages, including a small, late 17th- to early 18th-century timber-framed buildings at Hockleton and near Whittery Bridge, with some rebuilding in brick. Both the late 18th-century stone farmhouse at Middle Alport and the early 19th-century brick house at Upper Alport were built as part of the Marrington Estate (see Chirbury character area). Calcot Farmhouse, to the north, was in origin a 17th-century timber-framed house, the front of which was remodelled fin brick in the 19th century.
Footpaths and trackways along parts of the base of the gorge, with a number of modern footbridges across the Camlad. There are few road crossings because of the steepness of the gorge, though there are two notable 19th-century single arch stone road bridges, Whittery Bridge, on the minor road between Chirbury and Priest Weston, and Hockleton Bridge dated to 1835.
Extractive industry is represented by a number of former, disused stone quarries on either side of the gorge. The use of water power is represented by a series of corn mills and fulling mills (walkmills) near Hockleton, Heighley, Whittery Bridge and Marrington Hall. Some of the stone mill buildings have now been converted to houses. Traces of former mill leats and weirs survive in some instances. At least some of these mills, still in use in the later 19th century, possibly had their origins in the medieval period.
The earthworks of defensive enclosures of probable Iron Age date on opposite sides of the gorge at Caerbre near Kingswood and next to Calcot Farm, took advantage of the natural defence offered by the gorge, as did the motte and bailey on the western banks of the Camlad at Hockleton, probably built in the 11th/12th century.
Earp & Haines 1971
King & Spurgeon 1965
Sothern & Drewett 1991
Thorn & Thorn 1986
For further information please contact the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust at this address, or link to the Countryside Council for Wales' web site at www.ccw.gov.uk.
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