In the foothills of the Long Mynd, between the Shropshire towns of Church Stretton and Shrewsbury, lies the hamlet of Smethcott and its church, St Michael and All Angels. At this time of year, the daffodils are out and proud, but sadly it looks like a recent frost may have bitten quite a few of them in the churchyard this spring.
The name Smethcott (also known as “Smethcote”) is Saxon and can be easily transcribed. Smeth = Smith (as in Blacksmith) and Cott = House/Cottage. So, House of the Smiths.
A church has stood on this site since at least the 12th century. The current church of St Michael and All Angels was rebuilt in 1850, although it retains some original features. The work was carried out by local craftsmen using stone from the original church as well as from nearby quarries. The building is rather plain with very simple stained glass windows. Looking up revealed the church needs some work inside, sooner rather than later too.
My 3x great grandparents’ names can be found in Smethcott’s marriage register. Francis Derricutt and Martha Wilding married at Smethcott church on 16th August 1797 after having their banns published on three Sundays (30th July, 6th & 13th August). They were married by William Crosse Curtis (Curate) and the marriage was witnessed by John Evans and John Rogers (Clerk). Francis was able to sign the register, whilst Martha left her mark. Francis and Martha went on to live near Much Wenlock. The Wilding surname features heavily in the Smethcott parish registers.
In May 1841 the Bells News Weekly Messenger and several other newspapers reported the death of a Mr Francis Wilding:
“On the 2nd inst., at the patriarchal age of at least 101 years, Mr. Francis Wilding, of the Sheppen-fields Farm, in the county Salop. He was born at Betchcott, on the estate of the Hon. H. W. Powis, of Berwick House, near Shrewsbury, and was from his teens to manhood in the service of the Powis family; after which, about 80 years ago, he became the tenant of the Sheppen-fields Farm, near the place of his birth, and also belonging to the Powis estate, and continued a tenant of it down to his death. He was christened at Smethcott, the parish in which Betchcott is situate, on Christmas Day, 1740, but how old he then was his friends have not the means of knowing. He was no disciple of the Cornaro school, but, on the contrary, all his life indulged in good but not luxuriant living, and on festive occasions always took his full share of Shropshire ale, and was a declared opponent of fasting and teetotal notions, his last cup of ale having been taken so late as the 14th ult. He was in possession of his mental faculties to the last. It is believed by his surviving relations that his real age was 103 – some say he was 106.”
Either way, that’s quite some age!
I didn’t find any ancestors in the churchyard during my visit this Easter weekend, but I did find a pile of discarded memorial stones beneath some trees. Why? I’m unsure. They look like they’ve been there a while and are uncared for. Maybe they were unsafe and at risk of falling. Whatever the reason, they no longer mark the resting places of those whose names they bear, which is a shame.
The rest of the churchyard is well cared for, with swathes of daffodils to the front of the church. The panoramic views of the surrounding countryside are magnificent. Some prominent Shropshire hills can be seen, such as the Wrekin and Caer Caradoc.
Well worth trundling up some country lanes for a visit!