Wilderhope Manor is an Elizabethan period manor house, built of local limestone and dating from 1585 when England was enjoying a period of prosperity and stability. The house was built for Francis Smallman and his initials can be seen on the ceilings. The manor remained in the family until 1734 when the estate including the neighbouring Wilderhope farm was sold. It is believed that the manor house was not used as a residence after the sale in 1734 and by 1936 was in a poor state and uninhabited. In 1936 the property was purchased by the WA Cadbury Trust who donated it to the National Trust on condition that it was used as youth hostel. Opening as a youth hostel in 1937, it has remained in use by the Youth Hostels Association since.
Despite years of disuse many of the original features such as the oaken stairways, oak spiral stairs and plaster ceilings survived. The adjoining stable block is itself a Grade II listed building. The surrounding manor of Wilderhope is also managed by the National Trust and comprises wooded valleys, pasture, flower rich meadows and ancient hedgerows dating back centuries along unchanged field boundaries. Evidence of medieval ridge and furrow ploughing can still be seen in fields below Wilderhope Coppice.
Wilderhope Manor is a manor house, now owned by National trust and used as a Youth Hostel. Built in the late 16th century for Francis Smallman, it was restored in 1936.
EXTERIOR: Built of stone rubble with ashlar dressings to the window surrounds throughout and quoins, hoodmoulds, mullion and transom windows. The entrance porch surround, plinth cap, copings and finials on the front only are also ashlar dressing. Rectangular leaded lights throughout. The old stone-slate roofs have ashlar coped gables with finials to the front, plain gables and conical turret roof to the rear. There are wide partly projecting stone eaves with stacks at each side and rear, surmounted with 3 spurred diagonal shafts with connecting oversailing caps. The south-west side has 5 shafts on a base of diapered brickwork.
PLAN: an approximate H-shaped plan with a gabled extension within the arms on each side.It is 2 storeys and an attic. The south-east front with 4 gables, the 3 to the right projecting, with a single window in each storey in each block. They have stone mullions and transoms and hoodmoulds. Much of the original glazing remains, as well as the iron stanchions. The gable-head windows and 2 left-hand gable upper and single left-hand lower windows have 3 lights, while the remaining upper-floor windows have 4 lights. The ground-floor centre-right gable (great hall) window has 6 lights and additional 3-light returns. The far right gable window has 5 lights with a 3-light return and simple mullion window on the inner return wall.
The porch is in the left projecting gable and has a moulded shallow 3-centred opening to a recessed, oaknail-studded door. On the south-west side there is a central projecting stack with a single small window set in the stack to the left. On the north-east side there is a central projecting stack with a single mullion window to the left at the ground storey and to both storeys to the right.
At the rear there are gables at each end, the one to the right projecting and with a mullion window at each storey and single-light windows on the return wall, the one to the left partly covered by both a small full-height gabled garderobe outshut and a large semicircular stair turret. Both turret and main gable have single light windows over mullion windows. There is a central projecting stack in the linking wall with a ground-storey mullion window to the left and upper-floor mullion window to the right over the cambered doorway.
INTERIOR: most walls have exposed square-panelled framing with ovolo-moulded door surrounds, and decorative plastered ceilings. The Hall has cartouches in the ceiling with `FS' and `1601' and `IESV' written on them. It has a large Tudor-arched fireplace with a carved surround and a 4-centred north doorway. The Parlour to the north bay has a more elaborate ceiling of star-shaped ribs and motifs and is dated 1601 and `IESV'. There is a chamfered 4-centred fireplace with castfire-back dated 1669 and an early 2-panelled door with raised moulding. The Upper-floor rooms contain fireplaces with 4-centred mantel beams with chamfered surrounds. There are chamfered bridging beams with ogee stops. One small room is panelled, dated 1672.
The Stair Turret has a conical roof with a 4-centred chamfered beam and winder staircase of solid oak blocks round a tall, central newel post reaching through both storeys. The south cross wing has a 4-bay, twin, trenched-purlin roof with chamfered purlins and trusses with a collar and no tie beam. The main range has a 4-bay twin trenched-purlin roof (single, to the north) with 5 collar trusses. The north cross wing has a 4-bay, twin purlin roof.
The Manor's owner during the English Civil War was Major Thomas Smallman. He was a Royalist who was forced to flee from Cromwell’s approaching troops. After managing to escape on horseback, Major Smallman took a do-or-die plunge down a steep slope at Wenlock Edge. His horse was killed but Smallman survived thanks to an apple tree breaking his fall. Since then the ghosts of Smallman and his horse are said to appear in an area now known as Major’s Leap and have been said to have been seen at the manor.
** – Wenlock Edge – **
Wenlock Edge is a limestone escarpment near Much Wenlock, Shropshire and a site of special scientific interest because of its geology. It is over 19 miles (31 km) long, running southwest to northeast between Craven Arms and Much Wenlock, and is roughly 1,083 feet above sea level. The deciduous woodland which runs along it covers much of the steep slopes of the escarpment and in parts it is very well preserved. It was featured on the 2005 TV programme Seven Natural Wonders as one of the wonders of the Midlands.
Wenlock Edge contains many interesting features such as Flounder's Folly, Wilderhope Manor and Shipton Hall and waymarked walks such as the Shropshire Way and bridleways such as the Jack Mytton Way. It is a popular area for hillwalking, cycling, mountain biking and horseriding and is also frequented by tourists and sightseers. Robert Hart created a model forest garden from a small orchard on his farm called Highwood Hill in Wenlock Edge.
The "world famous Wenlock Limestone outcrops" are amongst "Britain’s most important geological sites". The limestone quarries in the North "demonstrate the best examples of reef development during the Silurian Period in Britain." Many species of brachiopods, trilobites and ostracod (microscopic crustaceans) were first found at Wenlock and most of the known Wenlock group Silurian fauna comes from here. Richard Corfield also gave Wenlock edge as an example of the most spectacular reef building the world has ever known.
The reef was formed in shallow subtropical seas about 425 million years ago when the area was south of the equator at about the same latitude as the Seychelles is today. A walk by a BBC journalist in 2008 found abundant fossilised crinoids (sea lilies) and brachiopods. The Wenlock Epoch of the Silurian Period is named for the rocks of Wenlock Edge.
** – Jenny Wind walk – **
This is an enjoyable stroll through green lanes with wonderful views. You will walk past disused quarries and unimproved meadows and see limestone loving plants. This walk is classified as Easy. It is 2.2 miles long and will take between one and a half and two hours. It is dog friendly and there is parking.
Start: Much Wenlock National Trust car park.
** – Major's Leap walk – **
Major Smallman, a loyal supporter of King Charles I, was fleeing the Roundheads on Wenlock Edge. With his captors closing in, in a final act of bravery, he ran his horse off the edge. Looking over the edge, the Major's enemies thought there was no way he could have survived the leap. Hours later, the King's army launched an attack on the Roundheads at Wilderhope Manor. The 'ghost on horseback' had survived the leap and succeeded in quashing the enemy. This walk is classified as Moderate. It is 3.5 miles long and will take between two and two and a half hours. It is dog friendly and there is parking.
Start: Much Wenlock National Trust car park
** – Facilities – **
Location : Wilderhope Manor, Longville, Much Wenlock, Shropshire, TF13 6EG
Transport Wilderhope: Church Stretton (National Rail) then bus (540). Bus routes: 155 and 540 then 2 miles.
Location : Wenlock Edge, Rowe Lane, Much Wenlock, Shropshire TF13 6LP
Transport Wenlock Edge: Shrewsbury (National Rail) then bus (436). Bus routes: 436 from Shrewsbury or Bridgnorth, alight Much Wenlock.
Opening Times Wilderhope Manor: Interior, Sundays 14:00 - 16:00 and some Wednesdays.
Opening Times Wenlock Edge: Daily, dawn to dusk.
Tickets Wilderhope Manor : Free.
Tickets Wenlock Edge : Free.
Tel. Wilderhope Manor: 01694 771363
Tel. Wenlock Edge: 01694 725000