It’s that time of year again to get out and find snowdrops. I had visited the Church of St James at Shipton in Shropshire before, so I knew the snowdrops there would be plentiful for my visit a few weeks ago. Shipton Church can be found adjacent to the B4378, just 6.5 miles South-East of Much Wenlock.
St James’ Church at Shipton has been in existence since at least 1100, although it has been added to and restored over time. The chancel arch dates from the 12th century, whilst the tower was added around 1200. By 1553, the chancel was recorded as being in “great ruin”, so it was demolished and rebuilt in 1589. The mediaeval floor tiles in the naive may be from the old chancel. Other additions and restorations have been done throughout the centuries, including a general restoration in the 1950s.
Whilst snowdrops surround the church in February, Shipton is perhaps best known for the story of Shropshire’s Mayflower children. The More children of Shipton were used as pawns in their parents’ relationship and sadly three of them paid with their lives while one’s life would never be the same again.
In an arranged marriage to consolidate two estates, Samuel More married his cousin Katharine in 1611. The marriage did not go smoothly and Katharine was accused of adultery with local yeoman farmer, Jacob Blakeway. By the time of the birth of Samuel and Katharine’s fourth child in 1616, Samuel had concluded that none of the children were his and that they looked too much like Jacob Blakeway. Samuel and Katharine separated in April 1616. Samuel sued Katharine for judicial separation and was given control of the children. What happened next was an act of revenge!
Samuel paid for the four children’s passage on the Mayflower to America, each being allocated a guardian. The Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England on 16th September 1620. The journey across the Atlantic was not an easy one and severe illnesses claimed the lives of nearly half of the passengers. Jasper and Ellen died on board the Mayflower, with Mary dying soon after landing. Only Richard survived.
Richard More might have lost his parents, his siblings and the only life he knew at a young age, but he was a determined soul. Richard had a successful career as a captain, trader and privateer. Although, records show he may have had a wife on both sides of the Atlantic!
A tablet commemorating the four More children was erected in Shipton Church in 1996 and paid for by The American Mayflower Society.
Read more about Shropshire’s Mayflower Children.