Historic Soulton Hall
Overview: from the Bronze Age, via King Cnut and the First Protestant Lord Mayor of London, to today
Signs of settlement here go back to the Bronze Age (around 2200 to 750 BC).
Indeed, in 1399 a deed granting this manor sets the western boundary as following ''the ancient [even then!] marker stones of England''.
For a long time, we were literally the last manor in England, and the manor house which came before the present Soulton Hall (begun, say, 1400) was a mote and bailey castle (of the 1070s AD) with its origins perhaps going back yet further probably into the 900s AD: the remains of this castle are still very obvious today within our grounds.
There is a great deal of history at Soulton.
The Victorian Farm: Short Video
Below the Victorian video, which contains an enchanting selecion of images of this farm and household in the 1890s, you can read about our earlier history.
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Pre-History: Archeologyon this farm, Genreal paterns in this area, and some Legends
A settlement is known to have existed at Soulton for some three thousand years: Bronze Age ring ditches remain to the north of Soulton Hall. Later, there would be a large Iron Age settlement at Burry Walls, an hill fort of the Celtic/British Cornovii tribe, just to the south at Weston-under-Redcaste, itself a pup of Old Oswestry Earthworks (a hugely impressive Iron Age hillfort, covering 40 acres).
After the invasion, the Romans setteled this area and Viroconium (Roman Britain's 4th largest city, a candidate for Camelot inthe Dark Ages) was made the Cornovii's civitas. The Romans certainly built a road about half a mile to the east of Soutlon Hall between Viroconium and Chester, maybe they built more here.
After the Romans left -- a period called by some the 'Dark Ages' -- the old Cornovii area was briefly a independent as the ''Wrekensaete'. This area was squashed between Mercian and Powysian, and this conflict put our farm firmly on the frontier: Powis kings were buried just 4 miles away, but this was, at least latterly Mercian land, see below.
The start of being frontier territory, which would last until the Welsh boarder was peaceful.
It's perhaps quickly worth saying that some historians place the real King Arthor in our neighbourhood as ''Owain Ddantgwyn - The Bear''. The Holy Grail has two associations in this area (just as with many other areas in the UK...) at Whittington and Hawkstone, King Arthur is (possibly) buried at Baschurch, and Sir Lancelot and Sir Tristanand are supposed to have fought a giant outside our local church, to resce Sir Gawain... But King Arthur got EVERYWHERE of course!
Pre-Domesday and the King Cnut Connection
The first owner of Soulton whose name has managed to make it down the ages is Britric (aka "Beorhtric" and ''Brihtric'') the Saxon, son of Ætheldric, Ealdorman ('Earl') of Mercia. This early lord of Soulton (described as "lubricus, ambitiosus et superbus (fleeting, ambitious and proud)'' by Roger of Hoveden, the 12th-century English chronicler).
Britric was mudred by King Cnut the Great (famous for sitting in a chair, telling the tide to stay back, and getting wet...) in London on Christmas Day 1017AD, all because his brother was Edric Streon, the last Earl of Mercia, a villan of history.
Eadric Streona, the son-in-law of King Ethelred the Unready, was also created Earl of Mercia in 1003AD. In the struggle between the English and the Danes, Edric appears in the character of an arch-traitor. He was key in bringing King Cnut to the throne. However, he had such a reputation for backsliding, Cnut had him slain, in case he turned coat yet again. Britric, sadly was with his brother at the time.
It was, after all, Christmas Day.
Although Eadric Streona is collateral to Soulton's history, it is intersting to note he has been crowned by BBC History Magazine as the 11th century's worst Briton.
Norman and Mediæval Soulton
After the Conquest, and owing to Soulton's strategic importance, the Normans constructed a mote and bailey castle (the site of which is still visible to the north east of Soulton Hall). At this time the manor of Soulton belonged to King's Chapel at Shrewsbury Castle.
The manor was subordinate to ecclesiastics of the chapple (who from time to time asserted as mush in the assises locally), but over time this came to be managed by the sherif of Shrewsbury Castle. One of the privilages of the castle was to have a bundle of box wood every Easter, for use in the Palm Sunday service (although this came from another manor).
In the 1200s there was a dispute about the ownership of the Manor Soulton, which reached the courts at Westminster, Sulandia de Soulton, a widow and her daughter, then living at Soulton, were wanted out. The lawyer for the plaintiff, later Yvo de Soulton, came to have the ownership of the manor: his fees coming, as the are wont to, up to the cost of the benefit sought by the plaintiff. He went on to represent Shropshire at two parliaments, as a Knight of the Shire (basically he was one of Shropshire's first MPs).
Another case had reached the Court of Chancery before the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1100s, but we only have fragments sadly. Possibly it related to a boundry dispute, certainly there was room for one: an early deed sought to settle a controversy declaring, ''the boundary shall go from the bend in the river, to the pile of stones, to the damaged tree''. Hardly precision land law!
By the thirteenth century Robert Corbett and his family were living at Soulton, which was then probably a fortified manor house on the site of the Norman castle.
Some time around 1420, the manor house on the moated site was burnt down,. Perhaps by a Welsh raiding party, others prefer to think it was part of the Wars of the Roses. (Perhaps that is the same idea looked at from different ends). When the manor house came to be re-built, a dryer, more suitable site was chosen: that of the present Soulton Hall.
Originally, this rebuilding constituted a late Medieval/Tudor long house of timber framed construction, remnants of which can be seen in the present Hall. By the mid-1500s, Soulton was lived in by Edward Twyniho.
Tudor and Elizabethan Soulton
In 1556, Sir Roland Hill, who had been the first protestant Lord Mayor of London in 1549 and was a creditor to Henry VIII, acquired Soulton from Twyniho. He extended and re-modeled the Tudor long house into the impressive Elizabethan brick building which can be seen today.
Sometime after Rowland Hill, it is thought, the near end of Soulton Court was built, either as a banqueting house, or as a the moot hall for this manor. A moot hall being the place where the court baron and community gathering were held, in the days when the lordship of the manor (which still exists and is still held) invoked its jurisdictions and privilages (e.g. the regulation of baking and brewing, assisting those who farmed the land with their copyhold ownership transfers, and dealing with minor civil matters).
In 1668, his descendant, Thomas Hill, High Sheriff of Shropshire and a friend of Samuel Pepys placed his marital coat of arms above the front door. The Keeper's Cottage was built at around this time; Ploughman's and Herdsman's Cottages were built in 1899.
In the years since Thomas Hill's death Soulton has cared for and enjoyed by descendants of the same family.
In 1783, Soulton Court was extended to make a semi-quadrangle with Soulton Hall, and became more agricultural in its use.
1801, the ancient Soulton Bridge was replaced (having got into a very bad state), the replacement humback bridge, again in sandstone was an early work of Thomas Telford, the famous engineer who went on to build the Menai Suspension Bridge and the Caledonian Canal. As an asside, the manor of Soulton had traditioanlly been responsible for this bridge, but it was conclusively setteled at that time that the County would take this responsibility from then on...
There is a legend, yet to be conclusively proved, that Soulton Brook was used by the Duke of Bridgewater to trial the ceration of canals in this period.
We are still very much a working farm. Below is a map of the historic field names, on the estate and woodland page you can view a labeled map with the sitte of the mound and our other historic features.
View Soulton Hall Historic Field Names in a larger map
Short Note on Metal Detecting
Metal detecting is strictly prohibited on all ground at Soulton. A large area of our ground is a sheduled ancient monument, protected by the criminal law, we can't disturb the gound ourselves. We feel strongly that it's important that only rigorously academic enquiries are made into the archaeology. We keep a keen eye on the ground here, and are -- we're afraid -- duty bound report any interference to English Heritage.
Only in the late1800s/early 1900s did the 'Soulton' spelling get setteled upon. Old records give 'Solton', 'Saulton', and 'Svlvton'/'Sultun', but 'Soulton' is most common, and can be seen in 1300s papers.
From the Bronze Age....
.....via King Cnut and London's First Protestant Lord Mayor....
Soulton History by Period
There is a great deal of history at Soulton.
Ring ditches north of Soulton Hall indicate settlement here as long as 3,000 years ago; the current hall was begun around 1390 and enhanced substantially in 1556; and we still have the moated remains of the Norman castle which came before, built shortly after 1066, and evidence of Bronze Age communities on this farm.
The hall is also full of Tudor symbolism, seeming to emphasise stability and engage with (at the time) newly-rediscovered clasical ideas.
It is too much to fit all on one page, so please click on for more detail about each period (after the periods, some connections (of varying strength) to some wider events and ideas are linked to):
- Saxon and Norman Soulton: the last earl of Mercia's and his brother slain by King Cnut and one of William I's motte and bailey castles.
- Tudor and Elizabethan Soulton: Henry VIII's Lord Mayor of London buys the manor, the terror of Bloody Mary, Parliamentary Privilage, building of the current hall.
Go to this page for information anout symbolism in our building, a link to the US Declaration of Independance, and some information on heraldry.
To find out more about people involved in Soulton's history and development from Thomas Telford, to King Cnut, please follow this link.
Our Farm's Perspective
- The Farm: Soulton is still very much a working farm. If you follow this link, you can see the historic field names (e.g. 'Brickle', which is where the clay that made the bricks to build the house were brought from). On the farming and woodland page you can view a labelled map with the site of the mound and our other historic features.