The Tern Valley Trail
Like many of the villages on the Tern Valley Trail, Withington is a settlement of considerable antiquity. One interpretation of its name, meaning ‘the farm or enclosure at the willows’, implies the village is of Anglo-Saxon origin but local archaeological evidence, in the shape of a possible Iron Age enclosure on the edge of the village near Church Farm, suggests people may have lived in the area much longer, perhaps since 800BC.
In 1086, at the time of the Domesday Survey, the Lord of Withington was Fulcuius, who held the manor from the Norman overlord Roger de Montgomery. When Fulcuius first saw Withington, after the Conquest in 1066, it was apparently wasteland, although it had been held separately by two Saxons, Wulfrun and Wulfric, before that date. By 1172, Roger fitz Henry was Lord of the Manor and he gave the village mill, located on the River Tern, to Haughmond Abbey which subsequently became a notable local landowner until its dissolution.
Muck and Brass
Approaching Withington from the east, your first site of the village is likely to be the distinctive broach spire and sandstone walls of the parish church of St John the Baptist. A place of worship has existed here since at least 1150, when a chapel belonging to the church at Upton Magna is recorded on the site. The medieval church was demolished in 1872 and the current edifice, designed in the early English style by GE Street, was erected in 1874.
Withington church is noted for its 16th Century brasses, commemorating the Onley family (the remains of whose moated manor house are located at nearby Hunkington) and former village parson Adam Grafton, ‘the most worshipful priest living in his days’. In a highly distinguished career, Grafton served as chaplain to King Edward V and Prince Albert and was also Warden of Battlefield College (where his name can be seen inscribed on the tower of the local church). He was buried at Withington in July 1530, after spending his final years living in the village.
When Thomas Telford drove the Shrewsbury Canal through the area at the end of the 1700s, St John’s also became notable for its close proximity to Withington wharf, which stood between the church and the road to Walcot. The waterway remained a vital means of communication with the outside world until at least the 1920s, when 30 tons of coal were brought to the village by water once a month, from Littleton Colliery, near Cannock.
Little trace of the waterway, which bounded the churchyard on its southeast side, remains and the distinctive wooden lift bridges that once carried many of the roads comprising the Tern Valley Trail over the lost waterway have now vanished. However, the former canal is not Withington’s only association with the famous civil engineer and the local blacksmith’s forge (which was formerly located in the centre of the village, opposite the Hare and Hounds pub) is reputed to have cast some of the chain links for Telford’s Menai Suspension Bridge