All Around The Wrekin
Little Wenlock was originally an outlying estate belonging to the Priory at Much Wenlock and remained so until the mid 16th Century when it was sold off during the dissolution of the monasteries. At the time of the Domesday Survey, the local economy was largely dependant on the rearing of pigs, an activity that would have been assisted by the abundance of organic vegetation (such as acorns and beech nuts) found on the floor of The Wrekin Forest and used to fatten the animals. However, rich coal deposits in the area ensured that this did not remain the case indefinitely.
The Industrial Revolution
From the 14th Century onwards, the mining industry played a prominent role in the local economy. The coalfield was centred around the village itself and nearby settlements of Coalmoor and New Works, which developed rapidly during the 17th and 18th Centuries, as new inhabitants came to the district in search of work. The demand from local industries requiring raw materials for the iron-making process was such that some of the earliest examples of primitive railways were built in the area. They were used to carry coal in horse-drawn trucks from local mines to the River Severn and foundries that moved into the area to be closer to the coalfield.
As a consequence, limestone, another important ingredient in the production of iron, was also quarried to the north of the village at The Hatch, the Oldfield Works and at Cross Field, in Huntington Lane. However, this period of intensive activity did not last and commercial mining had all but ended by the early 20th Century.
The Village Today
Although mining in the coalfield has now ceased, there are still visible signs of its influence in the village itself. When workers migrated to the area during the industrial expansion of the early 19th Century, St Lawrence’s parish church was altered to accommodate the expanding local population; a new south aisle was added to the nave in 1822. Despite these alterations, St Lawrence’s still retains some medieval features, including a 12th Century window in the north wall of the vestry. The interior of the Church is home to one of the earliest examples of a cast iron grave slab, dating from 1611. To the east of the Church stands Old Hall, which was once the home of the Hayward Family, prominent local landowners upon whose estates large deposits of coal were once mined.