The Sheward's: Hewn from Rock

This Sheward family are most definitely not from sea-faring or fisherman stock but rather are descended from the salt of the earth, agricultural workers and farmers.

Documented history shows that this Sheward family history starts in a small village in North West Worcestershire (close to its border with Shropshire). It is described as a small place today but once, in history, its importance was greater. So before telling the story of the people, I am going to start with the story of the place - Rock, Worcestershire.

(There are some notes at the bottom of the page, explaining some of the more quaint English terms & descriptions).

Location:

General view of RockThe parish of Rock is 5 miles South West of Bewdley and 5 miles West of Stourport - both of these towns are on the banks of the River Severn. The parish is in the old County of Worcestershire (now called Hereford and Worcester) and is in the lower division of Doddingtree hundred.

The main road from Kidderminster to Tenbury Wells passes through the parish but not through the village, it goes through nearby Clows Top.

Rock Parish:

The parish of Rock comprises the chapelry of Heightington and the hamlets of Alton, Lindons, Hollin, and More. It is some twenty miles in circumference, comprising the lordships of Alwynton (Alton), of Upper and Lower Lindons, of Snead Moor (More), Conyswick, and of Heightington.

Rock Village:

History

On December 2nd, 1645, King Charles 1st and his army lay at Rock, after one of the wearisome countermarchings of the English civil wars.

In the mid 1800's, the village was described as being hilly and bleak with scattered cottages and being wholly agricultural with some of the ground used to grow Hops for the brewing industry. The agricultural acerage at that time was said to be around 8000 and the main crop was cerials - wheat & barley.

The mid 1800's description goes on to state that W. L. Childe, Esq., of Kinlet, was lord of the manor of Alton, the chief manor of Rock, and the principal landowners were Sir Edward Blount, Mr. Higginbottom, of Pensax, and Mr. Wheeler, of Warsley.

Coal Mines

There were a number of coal mines nearby that employed many of the men & boys from Rock.

There were two mines in Rock, where, like other sites in the area, digging for coal started in the 17th Century.

  • Old Hall Colliery a collection of little mines. Old Hall had stopped work in the early 1890s, and would be abandoned by the turn on the century.
  • Rookmoor Colliery, in the 1890s, this mine employed about 40 men.

The nearby village of Pensax had complex of shafts called Hollins Colliery on the site of a farm of the same name. Samuel Yarnold was the owner in the 1890s, and it probably closed sometime after 1918.

Just past Pensax is the village of Abberley, which had what appears to have been the second largest complex in the area, employing over 30 men at it's peak & was owned by James Moilliet in 1864.

The Rock Cross InnAnd at Areley Kings there was mine, which being nearer old river bed, also produced Fire Clay. A ready market for this were the areas Brickworks. It closed in the 1870s.

Just beyond Rock, over Clows Top, lies another village, Mambles.

The Mambles Colliery was composed of over 11 shafts, and had been in operation from at least 1818. It had the advantage of being very near to the Leominster Canal, indeed, although it was a difficult engineering job, the canal had been constructed just for the series of pits in the area, including the Buckets Leasow Colliery.

A bit farther north, in the little hamlet of Bayton was the Mill Colliery, another collection of little mines, and later, the Shakenhurst Colliery owned in the 1890s by W.L.Viggers and employing about 20 men. These two mines, later on, had an advantage over the others, they had an impressive overhead ropeway which finished in the yard of Cleobury Mortimer Railway Station. This allowed them to compete with the mines on and around the Clee Hills. They finally stopped producing coal around 1944.

Modern Times

Rock is still surrounded by agriculture and its probable that those farms employ a few people from the village. But like many country villages, it has become commuter belt for Kidderminster, Bewdley, Stourport and perhaps even Wolverhampton, Woecester & Birmingham.

The village still boasts a pub - The Rock Cross Inn, which like so many others is as much restaurant as village pub.

Rock chuchChurch

The parish church is St. Peter & St. Paul, Anglican (Church of England) and is mainly a Norman construction & partly of the 15th century. Restoration & 'modernisation' took place in the 1800's. The church seats 400.

An account from the late 1800's stated that the structure was one of the most stately village churches in the county, with fine specimens of Norman work in the chancel arch, north wall, and doorway. The south side of the building, with chapel, and the tower, were reconstructed in the Perpendicular style by one of the Coningsby family in 1510; and in 1861 the church was restored at a cost of £2,000, mainly through the efforts of the former rector, Rev. A. Severne, and memorial windows hare been inserted. Among the things to be noticed here are a curious old circular font and an ancient chest made of the trunk of a tree, rudely hacked into a square shape.

For excellent photos & more details of Rock parish church, please visit the Great English Churches website

St.Giles is a chapel of ease at Heightington.

The parish also had Wesleyan, Plymouth Brethren, and Baptist chapels in the mid 1800's.

Schools

A grammar school was founded at Rock by Edward VI (1537 - 1553), who endowed it with £5. 2s. 4d. per annum, an endowment which is now paid to the master from the produce of the Crown lands. The appointment of the master is in the hands of the rector of the parish, subject to the license of the Bishop, and the present school-room was erected by subscription in 1806 as a substitute for the old chantry of St. Mary and St. George within the parish church, which is of right the school-room of the grammar school.

Also a national school, to which endowments have been left by the late Mr. Green, of Astley, Mr. Nott, of Warsley, and Mr. Edward Wheeler, of Worcester and the New House; while a master's cottage and school-room have been recently given to the parish by the present Vicar of Mamble and Bayton (the Rev. D. Davies). The school is worked under Government inspection, with a master, sewing mistress, and monitor.

Today there are 2 junior schools in the area (but not in Rock itself):

  • Far Forest Lea Memorial C E Primary School in the nearby village of Far Forest (over Clows Top, to the north west of Rock).
  • Abberley Parochial V.C. Primary School in the village of the same name, a short distance past the village of Pensax.

The Bewdley School and Sixth Form Centre provides secondary education for pupils from the area.


Notes:

A Hunded
Most of the counties of England were divided into hundreds from the late Saxon period. A hundred is an administrative division that is geographically part of a larger region. The term is still used in some parts of the world (inc. USA) but has gone out of common usage in modern Britain.
Doddington
The hundred of Doddingtree was granted to Ralph Todeni, or Ralph de Toni, a relative of the Duke of Normandy, in 1066 by William the Conqueror as a reward for his services as Standard bearer during the Norman Conquest. It consisted mainly of west Worcestershire.
The hundred had two divisions:
The upper division consisted of the Manors of:
Acton Beauchamp; Abberley; Alfrick; Areley Kings; Berrington; Bockleton; Clifton-upon-Teme; Cotheridge; Eastham; Edvin Loach; Hanley Child; Hanley William; Hillhampton Kyre Minor; Kyre Wyard; Martley; Lulsley; Orleton; Sapey Pritchard; Shelsley Kings; Shelsley Walsh; Stanford-on-Teme; Stockton-on-Teme; Suckley; Sutton and Tenbury.
The lower division consisted of the Manors of Abberley; Astley; Alton; Bayton; Bewdley; Doddenham; Dowles; Glasshampton; Mamble; Ribbesford; Great Witley; Rochford; Shelsley Beauchamp; Rock; Shrawley and Stockton.
A Manor
A manor was the district over which a lord had domain and could exercise certain rights and privileges in medieval England (tax collecting being the main one). A typical manor would include a Manor House which was built apart from the village where the peasants lived.
A Chapelry
A chapelry was a subdivision of an ecclesiastical parish in England. It had a similar status to a township but was so named as it had a chapel which was a place of worship subsidiary to the main parish church. When the parishes had been established in medieval times and the area was sparsely populated, the parishioners were obliged to travel long distances to the parish church, hence Chapelries were created to remove that burden. Remembering that peasants in olden times often only had part of Sunday off from work and couldnt walk the many miles to the parish church and be back before they had to sleep or return to their employment duties.
A Chapel of Ease
A building used for religious worship created (a) for the ease of inhabitants living some distance from the parish church or (b) to ease pressure on increasing numbers in the parish church.
Colliery Information
From the Forum on Mining History at www.blackcountrymuse.com