QUEST NUMBER NINETEEN: SHROPSHIRE AND WALES
- St Peter’s Church: Clee Hill Shropshire
- St Peter’s Church: Ludlow Shropshire
- The Space Guard Centre: Knighton Wales
- St Edwards Church: Knighton Wales
- St Georges Church: Clun Shropshire
- The Great Tower of Clun: Craven Arms Shropshire
- St John the Baptist Church: Bishops Castle Shropshire
Stunning views from Clee Hill – click on each photo to expand
St Peter’s Church, Clee Hill, Shropshire: It was a beautiful sunny day in Febuary, when after a journey of some three hours from Cambridge, with the road winding ever higher and higher upwards, we arived in the village of Clee Hill in Shropshire. Clee Hill is also the name given to the imposing hill itself of which the village sits atop of. The village lies on the slope of Titterstone Clee Hill and lying between 340 metres (1,120 ft) and 380 metres (1,250 ft) above sea level, this is one of the highest settlements in the country.
St Peter’s Church, Clee Hill – click on each photo to expand
A beautiful and very scenic part of the country where sheep can roam freely and the views across the mountains are astounding. A wild energetic place indeed; the earth energies here are very powerful due to the pyramid placement within the land; another site where the hidden royal bloodlines of this country can be discovered.
The Alpha and Omega with a tapestry of the last supper from behind the altar
This church sits atop of the magnificent Clee Hill, which features both on the Mappa Mundi and in Brother Cadfael. St Peter’s is known to have a freindly, hard working congregation with good community links. I was unable to find out much about the actual history of this tiny church but there is a tale that if one runs round St Peter’s Church, three times, at midnight, then knock on the door, a spirit is supposed to come out and snatch you in. Please watch the video below for a few more insights on the church and its history.
The bloodline ancestor discovered here is that of Thomas de Nevill, who was a resident of the parish and one of the Kings trusted freinds. Those who have been following our quests will have already picked up on the important connections between the Neville family and to ‘The Crown‘ itself.
- Thomas de Nevill; ancestor to Alek was a resident of the parish
St Peter’s Church, Ludlow Shropshire: Our next stop on this glorious day was to the charming old town of Ludlow. This ancient market town is a truly stunning place to visit, a very vibrant town with lots of energy and some fantastic old buildings, including a castle and the one time home of Katherine of Aragon. The town is steeped in history, especially medieval with much written about it. On the day we were there it was a very busy market day and the town, even in February, was abustle with people.
Ludlow looking stunning in the sunshine; the timbered building (1 & 4) was once home to Katharine of Aragon
St Peter’s Church Ludlow, representing ‘The Dome on the Rock’
St Peter’s Church is a modern Catholic church, established in 1935 and built to represent the ‘Dome on the Rock’. The style of the building is stunning and designed by an Italian architect, which is very evident to the eye; the colour of the inside of the dome is amazing in a deep, deep blue. There are some beautiful artworks around the church including a ‘chiro’ with the ‘alpha’ and ‘omega’ symbols on either side, which as we know are Templar Symbols. The church is Romanesque in structure with the dome signifying heaven and earth united in praise of god. Despite the style and magnificence of the building, most of the work was carried out by local craftsmen, with it’s grey stone being extracted from Oreton Quarry at Farlow, Clee Hill, where we were only minutes previously.
Church artworks showing the chiro, alpha and omega and the true stigmata of ‘the Jesus’ and above the ‘Dome’ next to the beautiful wndow depiction of Mary and the child.
- Richard Neville and ancestor of Alek b. 1400 and The Earl of Salisbury was a resident of Ludlow
The Space Guard Centre, Knighton Wales: The day could not have got any better as we drove up and up and up, almost it seemed to the top of the world, where the views across the unspoilt valleys made one assume that one was the only person left alive in the whole world….
Magnificent views from the Space Guard Centre in Wales; click on photo to expand for full view
The Space Guard Centre is for tracking near earth objects, such as comets, meteorites and any object that could potentially harm the planet in the future. Of particular interest is that the centre is currently installing the large telescope that used to be housed in the observatory in Cambridge. The telescope is og no longer use here in Cambridge due to the ammount of light polution that obscurs all views of the skies; not such problen at all at the new site. It has taken many years of dedication, planning and hard work to dismantle it, transport it and then to build a new home for it, before installing it at one of the loftiest sites in the UK! The work has nearly been completed and all by volunteers, as sadly and shockingly no government funding for this important project has ever been forthcoming….
With the new telescope installed there will be three fully functioning telescopes at the centre
If you are in the area it is a fascinating site to visit, for the stunning views alone and the energies too, which due to various obvious reasons, are amazing!
As one drives up to the entrance of the Space Guard Centre, one can almost miss, in the wilderness on the left-hand side, the beautiful stone circle dedicated to the goddess Dianna.
The Stone circle dedicated to Dianna
St Edwards Church at Knighton Wales: Still in Knighton; slightly lower down and ten minutes ride from the space centre, this old church is situated in a beautifully scenic area and does have a few unusual items within it.
St Edward’s Church at Knighton set amidst a scenic backdrop
This present church is probably the fourth church on the site; there is vague reference to a Saxon Church, circa 990 and certainly a Norman Church, circa 1160 and the base of the tower still retains Norman workmanship. In 1752 the Norman church was in such a perilous state of repair that it was completely demolished, so apart from the tower, a new church and chancel were thus built. There were many reports of the new church building works recorded in local publications at the time. Sadly the old font was replaced at the time of the complete rebuilding in 1877 and the old font was buried in a neighboring field. However in 1911, it was removed and and put in the care of the Rev. D. Edmund Owen, rector of Llandingad Carmarthenshire. This ancient font is octagonal in shape and can now be found in Llanelwedd churchyard, Poowys, although it would be nice if it could find it’s way back home. If an old font could not be relocated in another church, it was buried; this was to ensure that the font would not be available for any use apart from baptism after its removal. See our video below to take a tour around the church.
The interior of St Edward’s showing some beautiful windows and the painting mentioned in the video
The bloodline relative associated with this church is Walter Neville who sadly died quite young at age 32 years, but he was very prominent in the area and was involved in trade with Russia and a lovely painting that was probably part of his trading hangs just near the entrance. There are some unusual and interesting interesting Victorian painted artworks and other items here with some significant symbology attached.
- Walter Neville (anceestor of Alek) 1869 – 1901, died at age 32 years; once again indicating the significance of the Neville Family.
St George’s Church, Clun Shropshire: Although not on our list and definitely not scheduled for us to visit today; this church is certainly worth a mention here. If we had not been magically directed to St Georges, we would not have been in the right place and the right time afterwards, to be able to see our next, seemingly elusive port of call peering at us in the distance between the hedges and back gardens of a local country lane. As said it was not connected to the research but deserves a few photos here…
St George’s Church, Clun
Although not on our list to visit we did interestingly discover a ‘Parry’ on the regimental memorial board – click on images to expand and view
The Great Tower of Clun, Craven Arms Shropshire: Upon leaving the church above we were resigned to not finding the derelict chapel of St John the Baptist Chapel at Clun, yet were momentarily diverted along a quiet country road aside the church. Upon turning around to journey in another direction i momentarily glimpsed the shape of a ruin from the car window, looming above the distant roof tops! So trusting in our instincts and following the road, we amazingly (or not) found ourselves where we needed to be!
We approached Clun Castle in the rapidly gathering twilight and it certainly afforded us a formidable view. Set high up on a high hillside overlooking the spreading land below; it proved quite a trek to walk up some steep slippery slopes to gain access, although afterwards we did spy a slightly speedier route.
Approaching Clun Castle in the gathering twilight – click to expand photos
Amazing as these things are; there upon the information board just outside the castle entrance, the name of ‘Fitzalans’ is placed very prominitely within the castle history and also very meaningfully within the bloodline of our head researcher Alek’s family line, testifying that we certainly did not find this place by accident. Family names over the years change and evolve, which one must always bear in mind when doing historical family recearch. As we soon saw for ourselves though the Chapel of St John the Baptist no longer exists there and has dissapeared under the ravages of time; one could take a guess though and summise where it would have stood, on the flat ground, just outside the main keep of the castle.
Information depicting the castle’s history showing the ancestory line, and part of our quests, of the ‘Fitzalans’, another piece of the puzzle
History of Clun Castle: Clun Castle is thought to have been built by Picot de Say in the years following the Norman invasion to dominate a former Saxon village and to help sustain Norman rule in the troublesome border area (known as the Marches). In this latter role it was well placed to control movement on the Clun-Clee Ridgeway, a historic trading route in and out of Wales. Constructed to a traditional motte and bailey design it started as an earthwork and timber castle and had two baileys.
As a border outpost Clun Castle inevitably suffered as the fortunes of the Welsh ebbed and flowed. It was attacked and burnt to ashes in 1196 by Prince Rhys of South Wales. Rebuilt or repaired it was attacked again in 1214 by Prince Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (Llywelyn the Great). It was these attacks that probably led to the rebuilding of the castle in stone and this prompted another attack, again by Prince Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, in 1234. In this instance the castle withstood the siege but the associated town was destroyed by the attackers.
Clun Castle and it’s views
The castle was seized by John Fitzalan from the custody of King John in 1215. In 1233 the castle was garrisoned by the household troops of King Henry III as the loyalty of John Fitzalan was ‘suspect’. Late that year the royal garrison successfully withstood a Welsh onslaught led by Prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, although the attackers did succeed in reducing the town to ashes. During a period of minority the castle was held by a father-in-law of one of the several generations of John Fitzalans, Roger Mortimer of Wigmore Castle.
Edward I’s conquest of Wales in the late 1270s/early 1280s meant the requirement for the castle as a border stronghold significantly diminished. Accordingly building priorities changed from defence to comfort and in 1292 Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, built the Great Tower to provide luxury accommodation most probably for hunting parties who made use of the nearby forest of Clun. By the start of the fifteenth century it was used exclusively as a hunting lodge but was hastily re-fortified during the Owain Glyn Dŵr rebellion of 1400-14. Thereafter it reverted to disuse with a writer in 1539 describing the castle as ruinous. Even though it had played no part in the Civil War, Clun Castle was slighted in 1646 on the orders of Parliament.
Clun Castle looking stunning as dusk settles
The Fitzalans abandoned Clun Castle to focus their attention and wealth on the more impressive Arundel Castle in Sothern England. Consequently, Clun Castle fell into ruin. Although Owain Glyndwr attacked the castle in the early 1400’s, it was no longer the formidable foe it would have been two centuries earlier. After Glyndwr’s assault, the castle vanishes from historical records. The castle was in ruins by the time of the English Civil War of 1642 and never saw action.
- Edmund Neville born 11th June 1887 of Craven Arms, Shropshire and an ancestor of Alek
- The Fitzalan family and ancestors of Alek, were of great prominence and importance here as history tells
St John the Baptist Church, Bishops Castle Shropshire: It was very late and dark by now when we arrived here, so as expected no entry was gained and it was too dark for filming. However we did take a stroll around the perimiter of the church and managed a few photos too 🙂 The church itself is a grade 2 listed building which has a Mediaeval tower mostly rebuilt in C17, rest of 1860 by T Nicholson of Hereford. It has a coursed limestone rubble tower with ashlar dressings and pyramidal slate cap; the rest is of squared and coursed limestone with ashlar dressings, and slate roof with ridge cresting. As the photos show it has a squat square Gothic survival West tower and if we were able to see inside, we would see that the gothic theme continues there too. The church is very unusual in the fact that it still has one of England’s oldest clocks with only one hand, from a time when time ‘down to the minute’ was less important.
St John the Baptist Church and visitors looking amazing…
On these quests we are very much aware that many churches, especially the ones that we are researching, have secret vaults or hidden chambers underneath their floors and sometimes ‘other’ very hidden features too. In March 2010 it was recorded that a hidden chamber had been discovered underneath St John the Baptist Church in Bishops Castle, said to contain sixteen coffins. An inscription on one bears the name Byne Oakeley, with the date 1825. It is believed the bodies in the coffins are all members of the Oakeley family, an important and well-thought of family in the area at the time. It is said that the burial vault was hidden for 150 years.
Architects were called in after the partial collapse of the unknown chamber below the floor which led to the discovery of the burial vault. Work was begun to make the church safe but experts said at the time that further investigations by structural engineers and architects were needed. Stephen Lowick, a member of the parochial church council, said: “The architect and a structural engineer will come to the church and will open up the vault again for them to have a look at how bad the structural problems are and at the same time we will seek to identify the other coffins.”
St John the Baptist Church looking atmospheric at night
James Wade, of Shrewsbury-based architects Arrol and Snell Ltd, said the original church was believed to have burned down and been rebuilt in 1859. Protected by the vault, the coffins survived the flames. “Nobody knows a lot about the older church but we are guessing that it was part and parcel of the chancel of the older church,” he said, adding that vaults were not unusual in churches. “People wanted to be buried in the church, there was a feeling that to be buried in the church was a good thing and it was the privilege of those who could afford it,” he added.
Fascinating and interesting stuff indeed; it would have been great to discover more one way or the other but as we could not get it, it was not meant to be…
Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire: This is a small market town in the southwest of Shropshire England and formerly its smallest borough. According to the 2011 Census it had a population of 1,893. It is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) east of the borderlands between England and Wales, about 20 miles (30 km) north-west of Ludlow and about 20 miles (30 km) south-west of Shrewsbury. The town is within an agricultural area and has also become known for its alternative community including artists, musicians, writers and craftspeople. The surrounding area is hillwalking country and Bishop’s Castle is a “Walkers are Welcome Town”. The long distance footpath the Shropshire Way runs through the town and the well known Offa’s Dyke is only a few miles to the west. The ancient trackway of the Kerry Ridgeway, a prehistoric Bronze Age route, runs from the town. The BC Ring, a 60-mile (100 km) challenging route around the town, was published in 2008. The town has two micro breweries, including the Three Tuns, the UK’s oldest brewery. Befire embarking upon our return journey we had a very tasty meal in the Boars Head in the village.
- Henry Neville of Bishops Castle b 18th August 1886 and again an ancestor of our lead researcher Alek
Conclusions: The Neville Family, often known in history as the power behind the throne have proved to be leading and prominent people in these areas of Wales and Shropshire, holding both important roles within the community with established historical connections to the crown. But who really are ‘The Nevilles’ and how and why did they rise to such prominence? All will surely be revealed in the conclusions of time…..
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