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Church Stretton is a small town in Shropshiremarker, Englandmarker, located approximately south of Shrewsburymarker, the county town. The population of the town was recorded as 2,789 in 2001. It lies entirely in the Shropshire Hillsmarker AONB.

The area has been settled since the Iron Age , during which a hillfort was constructed on Caer Caradoc Hillmarker. The town was nicknamed Little Switzerland during the Victorian and Edwardian periods, due to its landscape and development as a health resort. The local geology is complex and incorporates some of the oldest rocks in England - a notable fault line is named after the town.

Major local employers include a water-bottling plant, polymer laboratories and the tourist trade, and the town is a centre for the sport of archery .

History

People have lived in the Stretton gap for thousands of years; an Iron Age hillfort on Caer Caradocmarker overlooks the town. The name "Stretton" is derived from the Old English words stræt meaning "Roman Road" and tun meaning "settlement"; a Roman road, Watling Streetmarker (now the A49) runs through it

The town was granted a market charter by King John in 1214 which is still held every Thursday. Much of the town centre was destroyed by fire in 1593 and many of the present half timbered buildings in the town centre date from the time of the rebuilding.

18th century

During the 18th century, Church Stretton began to develop as a spa town . Historically the town was known for its textiles, specifically in Carding Mill Valley. Carding Mill 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 at the beginning of the 20th century. The mill is still in the valley today, but has been converted into luxury flats. The valley it was in took the name "Carding Mill Valley", and is now a tourist attraction owned by the National Trust.

Victorian and Edwardian times

Church Stretton was nicknamed Little Switzerland during its growth in the Victorian and Edwardian periods, both because of its mountainous terrain, and because the town is said to have been run like clockwork.

The Long Mynd Hotel in Church Stretton was built in 1900 , originally as the Hydro, at a time when the town was popular as a spa.

Governance

The town is located within the civil parish of Church Stretton, and is administered by a town council, which also manages the neighbouring villages of All Strettonmarker, Little Strettonmarker, and the hamlets of Minton and Hamperley. At the 2001 census, the parish's population was 4,186. The parish is divided into four wards: Church Stretton North (represented by four councillors on the town council), Church Stretton South (represented by five councillors), All Stretton and Little Stretton (each represented by two councillors). Church Stretton is part of the Shropshire Council electoral division of Church Stretton and Craven Arms.

On a national level, Church Stretton is located within the Ludlow constituencymarker, and the current MP for that constituency is Philip Dunne, a Conservative MP.

Geography



Church Stretton is located approximately 13 miles south of Shropshire's county town, Shrewsburymarker. Church Stretton is dominated by the surrounding hills, including the huge Long Mynd massif to the west, and Caer Caradoc Hillmarker, and the adjacent hills to the east. The Long Mynd massif provides the town with both its views, and the water that the town's economy is based around. The water comes from an underground glacial lake , and is extracted from boreholes at various places on the Long Mynd.

The Welsh Marches Line runs through the town and there is a stationmarker.

The local geology is complex; the area lies astride the Church Stretton Fault and atop some of the oldest rocks in the British Islesmarker - over 560 million mya. On 2 April, 1990, another nearby fault - the Pontesfordmarker-Linley Fault - registered an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.1 on the Richter scale, known as the Bishop's Castle earthquakemarker. The area also plays a part in the history of geology: the three major subdivsions of the Lower Paleozoic are named for local celtic tribes - Cambrian, Ordovician & Silurian. Also, Comleymarker Quarry is about from the town and the first site in the British Isles where trilobites were recorded.

Education

Church Stretton parish church
Church Stretton also has two schools: a secondary school with 750 pupils and a primary school with 250 pupils.

Economy

The water bottling plant is a large, local employer. Other employers include Polymer Laboratories on the east side of the town, and tourism which is a growth industry in the area.

As of the 2001 census, in the northern ward of Church Stretton, 50.6% of residents are in employment, and 32.2% are retired. Unemployment is at 2%. In Church Stretton South, the rate of employment is higher, at 57.5%, with 24.9% of residents retired. The rate of unemployment is 1.9%.

Culture

Church Stretton is a major centre for the sport of archery, and there is also a gliding club atop the Longmynd.

The novelist Henry Kingsley (1830-1876) wrote "Stretton" based around this area, and Oliver Sandys' book, "Quaint Place" is set in Church Stretton. Mary Webb's works also made reference to the town, under the name "Shepwardine".

Notable people

Residents of the town include Pete Postlethwaite, who lives near to the neighbouring village Little Stretton, which was also the home of Oliver Sandys. Also, the Olympic bronze-medal archer, Alison Williamson lives in All Stretton. In the 1930s, E. M. Almedingen, the biographer and children's writer, lived in the town, and, following retirement, the writer Kenneth Bird moved to Church Stretton.

The 'White House' nursing home on Sandford Avenue was destroyed in 2006 to make way for a housing development, and it was previously the family home of Charles Silvester Horne a congregationalist minister, Liberal MP for Ipswichmarker, and father of the BBC broadcaster Kenneth Horne.

Hesba Stretton came to Church Stretton often before moving away from Shropshiremarker, becoming an established author. There is a plaque to her memory in St. Lawrence's Church together with a window depicting the figure of "Jessica" from her immensely popular story Jessica's First Prayer.

References

  1. Office for National Statistics 2001 Census, key statistics using the 2004 Urban and Rural definition. Information provided by the Sustainability Group, Economy and Environment department, Shropshire County Council.


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