Church Stretton

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Church Stretton
Church Stretton Ragleth 2010 1.jpg
Church Stretton from the Ragleth
Grid reference: SO453937
Location: 52°32’20"N, 2°48’29"W
Population: 4,186
Post town: Church Stretton
Postcode: SY6
Dialling code: 01694
Local Government
Council: Shropshire

Church Stretton is a small town in Shropshire, which lies entirely in the "Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty", on the A49 road approximately 13 miles south of Shrewsbury, the county town, and 15 miles north of Ludlow. The population of the town was recorded as 2,789 in 2001, whilst the population of the wider parish (including the adjacent villages of All Stretton and Little Stretton) was recorded as 4,186.

The historic core of the town lies around the parish church and along the High Street. Since the first half of the 20th century the two main streets of the town centre are the High Street and Sandford Avenue. In the later decades of the 20th century a number of shops on the southern end of High Street changed use to restaurants or purely residential, as Sandford Avenue became the pre-eminent shopping street.[1] The B5477 takes the name Shrewsbury Road north from the town centre, High Street within the town centre, and Ludlow Road south of there.

The town was nicknamed Little Switzerland in the late-Victorian and Edwardian period, due to its landscape and development as a health resort.[2] The local geology is complex and incorporates some of the oldest rocks in England - a notable fault is named after the town. Today, Church Stretton continues to be a busy market town, as well as being a destination for visitors to the surrounding natural landscape, with the Long Mynd situated immediately to the west of the town and the Stretton Hills to the east.


The parish church is dedicated to St Lawrence of Rome, and it stands on the corner of Churchway and Church Street, and with its own small graveyard surrounding it. St Laurence is one of three churches in the ecclesiastical parish of Church Stretton, of which the others are the churches in All Stretton and Little Stretton (which were built around 1900).[3] The parish is part of the Diocese of Hereford. The church's name is written either as "Lawrence" or "Laurence", though the latter is used more for the church itself.

St Laurence's Church has a remnant of its Anglo-Saxon origins: a stone carved fertility symbol called a Sheela na gig.

The town's churches are:

  • Church of England: St Laurence
  • Methodist
  • United Reformed Church
  • Roman Catholic: St Milburga


The market on High Street

People have lived in the Stretton Gap (or Dale) for thousands of years; an Iron Age hillfort on Caer Caradoc[4] overlooks the town.

The name "Stretton" is derived from the Old English words stræt tun, in which stræt means 'street'; usually indicating a Roman road, so "Street village".[5] A Roman road, Watling Street does indeed run through the Stretton Gap, though the town (and adjacent settlements) were not historically located on this road — during the "Dark Ages" the settlements grew a short distance away from the old thoroughfare, for defensive purposes. Today the modern A49 road, which was constructed on its current alignment through the Stretton Gap in the late 1930s, runs along a similar course to the Roman Road. The Roman Road was historically known as Botte Street.[6]

Little Stretton, Church Stretton and All Stretton (until the late 19th century regarded as separate townships) formed the manor of Stretton or Stretton-en-le-Dale.[6] The Domesday Book of 1086 recorded 35 households and a mill in the manor.[7] Church Stretton became the largest of the settlements, with the manor's parish church and market located there, and being where Bristol Road had a junction with the road to Much Wenlock and the Burway - a route over the Long Mynd.

The town was first granted a market charter by King John in 1214, for a weekly market on Wednesdays, but by 1253 the market day had changed to Tuesdays. In 1337 a new charter was granted by Edward III and it authorised a weekly market to be held on Thursdays.[8] The market is still held every Thursday, in the square on the High Street, which has been the town's market place since the 13th century.[8]

Much of the town was destroyed by fire in 1593[9] and many of the present half timbered buildings in the town centre date from the time of the rebuilding.[9]

The High Street was for many centuries known instead as the Bristol Road, being the road from Shrewsbury to Bristol. It was once a much wider street within the town, with the churchyard of St Laurence bordering directly onto the street. Over time buildings were erected on the street, in a similar fashion to other English market towns, such as in Ludlow. The High Street, which is a narrow street, is effectively only the eastern side of the original Bristol Road thoroughfare through the town. It was made more open when the old market hall was demolished to form the present town square.[10]

18th century

Carding Mill Valley

During the 18th century, Church Stretton began to develop as a spa town, attracting those who sought to escape the new urbanisation and industrialism of Britain.

Carding Mill Valley

Historically the town was known for its textiles, using the abundant local wool, and a notable location for this industry was Carding Mill Valley (SO442945). The carding mill there was built in the 18th century, and named after a stage in making cloth, the three stages being carding, spinning and weaving. Carding would have been done by children, and involved using a hand-card that removed and untangled short fibres from the mass of raw material. The cards were wooden blocks with handles and covered in metal spikes, which were angled (to make it easier to untangle) and set in leather. When untangled, the material would be spun, and then weaved into the final product.

The carding mill closed and was demolished at the beginning of the 20th century, though the adjacent factory building remains in the valley today. The valley it is in took the name "Carding Mill Valley", and is now a tourist attraction and well-known starting location for walkers (being at the heart of the Long Mynd range). It is owned (along with the entire hill range) by the National Trust, who have a visitor centre there. The mill building itself has been converted into flats and a number of other private houses exist near it and the visitor centre, forming a small settlement in the valley. Vehicles (and therefore most visitors) have to drive up from the town, from Shrewsbury Road, to access the valley.

Cars may drive as far as the car park situated about a mile up the valley. This car park was at one time an open-air swimming pool. A sign indicating water depth still stands in its original position.

Victorian and Edwardian times

The hills and woodland west of the town

Church Stretton was nicknamed "Little Switzerland" during its growth in the late-Victorian and Edwardian period, because of the way many houses hug the hillside, the surrounding mountainous landscape.[2]

Church Stretton railway station opened on 20 April 1852 as part of the newly created Shrewsbury and Hereford Railway. It was originally situated to the north of (what is now known as) Sandford Avenue and the old station building still remains, but is no longer in railway use. Sandford Avenue had been for centuries called Lake Lane and became Station Road with the arrival of the railway in the town, before becoming Sandford Avenue in 1884.[10]

In 1914 the station was relocated just to the south of the Sandford Avenue road bridge, where it continues to the present day. New station buildings were erected, but these were demolished in 1970, the station having become unstaffed in 1967.[10]

Local property developer Ralph Beaumont Benson (1862–1911), who lived at Lutwyche Hall in nearby Easthope, is responsible for the naming of Easthope Road, Essex Road (after his wife), Beaumont Road and Lutwyche Road, all in the centre of the town and part of the town's expansion in the early 20th century.[11]

Long Mynd Hotel

The Long Mynd Hotel on Cunnery Road opened in 1901, originally as "The Hydropathic Hotel" (or "the Hydro"),[12] at a time when the town was popular as a spa. Today it continues as a hotel and has a number of features and activities in its woodland grounds; it is also a wedding and conference venue.[13] In 2012 it was sold by the local Chapman family (who ran it since 1977) to 'HF Holidays', a national company.[14]

Mid-20th century

During the Second World War, from 1940 to 1946, St Dunstan's was based in the town. The charitable service (for blinded armed forces personnel) was relocated from Sussex as Church Stretton was thought to be a safe location. Some 700 people were trained during this period in Church Stretton.[15] The Long Mynd Hotel, the Brockhurst Estate, and Tiger Hall were the most notable buildings taken over by St Dunstan's in the town.[16] A residential cul-de-sac is named St Dunstan's Close in recognition of the charity's place in the town's history. Although Church Stretton avoided the aerial bombing of the war, the Long Mynd was considered to be a potential landing place for German parachutists.[17]

The town today

St Laurence's Church

A small market hall stood on the High Street but was demolished in July 1963 and the site has become a town square, and is still used to hold markets on. The first market hall — a timber-framed construction — was built in 1617; this was replaced by the second market hall (called the Town Hall) in 1839, which was a stone and red-brick construction.[18] Today the Silvester Horne Institute (extended and refurbished in 2011)[19] is the town's main meeting place for societies, polling, public meetings and exhibitions. Additionally there is the Mayfair Community Centre on Easthope Road and the St Laurence's Parish Hall on Church Street.


Most of the town centre and a large part of the west of the town (including the entrance to Carding Mill Valley) is covered by the Church Stretton Conservation Area.[20] The Conservation Area contains all of the town's Listed buildings and smaller structures, approximately 40 in total. St Laurence's Church is Grade I listed.[21]


View of The Lawley hill (looking north) from the top of Caer Caradoc
High Street, near the junction with Sandford Avenue. The building in the centre was once the town's main hotel, until the 1960s.

Church Stretton is located approximately 13 miles south of Shropshire's county town, Shrewsbury. The town is dominated by the surrounding hills, including the huge Long Mynd massif to the west, and Caer Caradoc and the adjacent hills to the east.

Church Stretton effectively lies at a saddle point - the railway station lies roughly at this position, which is at 614 feet above sea level. The High Street through the town centre runs at an elevation of about 640 feet. Because of its position at a saddle point, water drains away from the town in two directions - towards the north (to the Cound and then the Severn) and towards the south (to the Onny and then the Teme). Parts of the town are subject to flooding after heavy rain and in 2000 serious flooding closed the railway line through the town.

Around the town

Cunnery is a hillside and collection of houses to the west of the town centre and includes the Long Mynd Hotel. World's End is where the Ludlow Road curves round the foot of the hillside to the south of the Long Mynd Hotel. To the north of the town centre is an area called Ashbrook; here the Carding Mill Valley meets the town, with the stream (known as the Ashbrook as it runs through the town) running between the town's two main recreation fields (named Russell's Meadow and Richard Robinson Field). Two other notable areas of public parkland are Rectory Field & Wood, situated to the west of the town centre off Church Street, and the town's formal park between the A49 and the railway line, which is managed by the town council and includes tennis courts and a bowling green.

On the eastern side of the A49 road are three named areas: Battle Field, Snatchfield and Hazler. On Hazler Hill is a transmitter for local radio (BBC Radio Shropshire broadcast from here on 90FM). Battle Field is named for the legend that Caer Caradoc was the site of the last stand of Caractacus against the Roman legions during the Roman conquest of Britain, and that after the battle he hid in the cave near its summit.

The Burway

The Burway is an ancient route which leads up from the town to the plateau on the Long Mynd and is Shropshire's highest public road, reaching 1,614 feet above sea level and passing close to the highest point of the Long Mynd, called Pole Bank (1,693 feet).

Running along the plateau of the Long Mynd is another ancient route called the Portway, though not all of this is open to motor traffic. The Burway is a through-route allowing traffic (though not goods vehicles or caravans or similar) to cross over the Long Mynd westwards to either Ratlinghope or Asterton (the route splits into two at Boiling Well). In winter, deep snow can often make the Burway impassible however, even in modern times. The gliding club on the southern end of the Long Mynd can be accessed via the Burway from either Asterton or Church Stretton. The part of the road within the town is called Burway Road and begins at the crossroads in the town centre, where the B5477 and B4371 meet.

Culture and sport

St Laurence's Church

The novelist Henry Kingsley (1830–1876) wrote "Stretton" based around this area, and Oliver Sandys' book, "Quaint Place" is set in Church Stretton.[22] Mary Webb's works also made reference to the town, under the name "Shepwardine". The Lone Pine Club series of children's books by Malcolm Saville is also partly set in the area.

Church Stretton is a major centre for the sport of archery,[23] and there is also a gliding air field and station atop the Long Mynd, owned by the Midland Gliding Club. As well as gliding, the activities of paragliding, hang gliding and similar aerial pursuits take place from the Long Mynd. Church Stretton became a Walkers Are Welcome town in 2009, the first in the West Midlands, and its many well-maintained footpaths over the Long Mynd and the Stretton Hills help make it a major walking centre for Shropshire.

In the town itself, sports facilities are provided adjacent to the schools, just off Shrewsbury Road, which include a swimming pool and a recently opened 4 court sports & leisure centre,[24] and the town council provide facilities (such as a BMX facility, crazy golf, hard tennis courts, a bowling green and a croquet pitch) at the town park (situated between the A49 and the railway).[25]

Summer festival

In recent times, on a June Saturday the town holds a summer festival ("Summerfest"), organised by volunteers and the town's chamber of trade. The town centre's streets and car parks are closed to traffic, as stalls, entertainment and activities take place throughout the town, including a classic car and steam rally. In the evening there is a concert in Rectory Field.[26]


  • Golf: Church Stretton Golf Club has an 18-hole golf course half a mile from the town centre. It is one of the highest golf courses in the country, being stretching along on the side of the Long Mynd hill range. Apart from the clubhouse, putting green and first hole, the course is situated on common land owned by the National Trust (who own most of the Long Mynd upland area).
  • Cricket: Church Stretton Cricket Club
  • Football: Church Stretton Town FC

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Church Stretton)


  1. Crowe and Raynor (2011) Church Stretton through the ages p 77
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Church Stretton". Shropshire Tourism. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  3. Parish of Church Stretton
  4. "Megalithic site". Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  5. Mills, David (2011) A Dictionary of British Place Names OUP Oxford p 442
  6. 6.0 6.1 British History Online Church Stretton
  7. Open Domesday Place: (Church) Stretton
  8. 8.0 8.1 Crowe and Raynor (2011) Church Stretton through the ages pages 2-3
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Been there done that site". Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Crowe and Raynor (2011) Church Stretton through the ages
  11. Crowe and Raynor (2011) Church Stretton through the ages p 149
  12. Crowe and Raynor (2011) Church Stretton through the ages p 110
  13. Long Mynd Hotel
  14. Shropshire Star Longmynd Hotel sold in multi-million deal (3 February 2012)
  15. St Dunstan's History
  16. Shropshire's War (publication by Shropshire Archives) p 32
  17. Shropshire's War (publication by Shropshire Archives) p 13
  18. Crowe and Raynor (2011) Church Stretton through the ages pages 52-54
  19. Shropshire Council Silvester Horne Institute relaunch (2 November 2011)
  20. Shropshire Council Church Stretton Conservation Area: map
  21. British Listed Buildings Church Stretton parish: map
  22. "County Council". Archived from the original on 8 October 2007. Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  23. "Shrewsbury Council". Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  24. Teme Leisure Church Stretton
  25. Church Stretton Town Council - Town Park
  26. Church Stretton Chamber of Trade — Events
  • My Story of St Dunstan's (1961) by Lord Fraser of Lonsdale