All Around The Wrekin
Wellington is a market town with a long and illustrious past, which appears to have been founded in Anglo Saxon times and may have been in existence for up to 1400 years. At the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086, Roger de Montgomery, a prominent supporter of King William and the first Earl of Shrewsbury, was Lord of Wellington Manor but was not resident in the area. The survey, which only lists heads of households, recorded just 33 citizens (including a priest) living in the local community and, until the mid 13th Century, Wellington seems to have been little more than a self-contained village, consisting of a few houses located around The Green in front of All Saints parish church. During the 12th and 13th Centuries, the situation began to change and the improving quality of medieval roads led to an increase in commercial traffic between market towns, which may have influenced one of the most important turning points in Wellington’s history.
The Birth of a Market Town
In 1244, Giles de Erdington, who was by then Tenant-in-Chief , successfully obtained a Royal Charter for Wellington, enabling him to operate a Thursday market and a three-day June fair. As a consequence of the improved commercial prospects afforded by the new Charter, Church Street was extended past The Green towards the current Market Square and New Street was also laid out, when burgage tenements were established along the course of the road. These large, distinctive plots of land consisted of long, slender strips with merchants houses built at the narrowest end and evidence of this style of development can still be traced in some of the street’s shop frontages. The creation of burgage tenements was an important consideration of gaining a charter and offered benefits and advantages to the tenants and the Lord of the Manor. Apart from providing the commercial impetus for the town’s development, the merchants owed suit to the Lord’s Manor Court, providing an important source of income for his fee farm payments – the annual sum paid to the Exchequer for the King allowing him to administer the town’s affairs while the advantage to the tenants was that the plots could be sold or inherited more freely than other types of property.
Wellington’s medieval street grid is unique in east Shropshire and links to the town’s distant past can still be traced, with several street names providing clues to long vanished trades and industries. Cloth manufacturing would once have been an important part of the local economy and Walker Street is likely to have been the place where the process of fulling was carried out, with workers quite literally walking on the cloth to make it heavier and more compact. Ten Tree Croft, the footpath from Church Street to Bridge Road, was originally called Tentercroft and it was here that cloth was stretched out on tenterhooks and left to dry after it had been washed or dyed. Leather making was another important medieval industry in Wellington and Tan Bank takes its name from a Tannery that once existed there, on a site near to the modern day Belmont car park.