Stoned Tracks, lanes and cross field bridleways
Bridgnorth, Highley, Much Wenlock
Lat/Long: 52.490088644, -2.4137990263
There was a time when pilgrims flooded into Much Wenlock. They wanted to visit the grave of St Milburga as her remains wrought so many miracles. Before reaching Wenlock Priory, however, our pilgrimage pays homage at the grave of a Shropshire horseman of great renown.
In the churchyard of St Giles Barrow look for a slab with the inscription: “Tom Moody. Buried November 19th 1796”.
Tom was “whipper-in” at nearby Willey Hall. He feared being buried alive. To avoid this dreadful fate his last request was “I wish to be buried at Barrow under the Yew trees … And to be carried to the grave by six earth stoppers and my old horse, with my whip, boots, spurs and cap slung on each side of the saddle. And the brush of the last fox at the side of the forelock, and two couples of old hounds to follow me to the grave as mourners. When I am laid in the grave, let three halloos be given over to me and then, if I don’t lift my head, you may fairly conclude that Tom Moody is dead”. His request was followed to the letter. Tom did not rise at the three halloos.
And so to Much Wenlock. Mary Webb, THE Shropshire novelist, seems to have wondered whether it might be dead or merely sleeping. It was ‘a very Rip van Winkle of a borough. Somewhere in the Middle Ages it had fallen asleep’.
Shirlett High Park is part of the Willey Estate, owned by the Forester Family since 1748. Ironworking was once an important industry in this area. The first iron boat was also built here and launched at nearby Willey Wharf on the River Severn. Nowadays practically all trace of the iron industry has vanished, save for a few slag heaps and furnace pools.
St Giles Church at Barrow is ancient. The south wall is eighth century, the chancel and north window Saxon, whilst the tower and nave are Norman. In the church yard lies Tom Moody’s grave.