Part 3. Living in Tong

This page describes part of the contents of the Discovering Tong book including selected extracts from the book.

Chapter 10. Living in Tong

Embroidery of houses in Tong
Embroidery of the main building in Tong made by Anne Tuck.

In an old village like Tong, Shropshire all the houses tell a story. Knowing about the Church and Castle does not give much of a clue to life of ordinary village folk.

Tong has rich agricultural land and many of the buildings reflect this, it had over a dozen farms. Looking back before the days of modern transportation the village was much more self-contained with its own carpenters; wheelwrights; millers and publicans (it once had four pubs). Tong had an iron forge driven by water power and cottage industries including clock-making and shoemaking. Tong is only eight miles from the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution on the River Severn.

“The Tong Clock-makers were established alongside the Forge. The most notable of these was John Baddeley. He was baptised in Tong Church in 1720. His father was a blacksmith. When he was 18, he decided to become a clock and watchmaker. He studied mechanics, and, in 1762, began working on optics, and he constructed a reflective telescope. Later, he moved to Albrighton, and is buried there. Shaw's Staffordshire comments on him: ‘His superiority as a clock maker will be told for some years to come by the numerous domestic and turret clocks substantially constructed by him in every part of the country within many miles of Albrighton where he long resided.’ He made the clock for Tong Church. It was in use until 1984; the mechanism is on display in the Church.” See Tong Clock

Parish of Tong map
Map of the parish of Tong

Chapter 10 of the book takes us on a tour of the parish visiting each significant house including: Kilsall Hall; Convent Lodge; Tong Park Farm; Tong Hall; Tong House; Almshouses; Red House; Old Post Office; Church Farm (the former village pub); Old School; The Priory; Tong Hill Farm; and Hubbal Grange Farm. At the satellite village of Tong Norton is Bell Inn Farm; Norton Farm; Old Bush House; Knoll Farm; Norton Mere. Towards Brewood along the Offoxey Road stands Offoxey Farm; Holt Farm; Meashill Farm; White Oak Farm and White Oak Lodge;

White Oak was the scene for a boxing match :

“In 1828 a prize-fight took place there, between F. Samson of Birmingham and 'Big Brown' of Bridgnorth. The prize was £500, and the fight lasted for 42 rounds. The two men had fought each other before, but this time Brown fixed the fight. He ruined his backers, many of who had pawned their beds to support him. The Shropshire Quarter Sessions dealt with serious offences during this fight, and commented that such events were: 'destructive of the public peace and injurious to the property and endangering the lives of individuals in the parishes of Tong and Albrighton'.”

Hubbal Grange was the setting when Charles II came close to capture by the Parliamentarians in 1651. The famous Royal Oak is only yard's from the parish boundary at Boscobel.

“After the battle of Worcester Charles fled to Whiteladies, where, with Richard Penderell, they planned a failed escape, via Madeley into Wales. After the Restoration, the Penderells received a Royal annuity. In order to disguise the King, William Penderell cut off his hair. He kept the hair, and sold bits, to supplement his income. George Durant (II) demolished the main part of Hubbal Grange and built a smaller house, which is now within Tong Park Farm. Even in 1933 there were stories around that Hubbal was where Charles had hidden himself. Robinson quotes a Mr Kingston: 'It is a much restored cottage standing in the midst of fields, lonely and difficult to approach... A comparatively modern oven was pointed out as being the place where Charles hid himself. We objected that a good sized man 'more than two yards high' could scarcely get into so small a space but the good wife overruled our objection declaring that 'there's no knowing what you would do if they were after you.'

On the west side of the village is Vauxhall Farm; Ruckley; Tong Forge; Lizard Grange and Lizard Mill Farm; Tong Havannah and Burlington.

The Ruckley estate was owned in by John Reid-Walker in the early twentieth century.

“In 1896, the owner was John Reid Walker, who rebuilt the house. Whenever he travelled to Tong by train, after it had left Cosford, he used to pull the communication cord. He then handed to the guard his fine, and walked the few yards to his house.”

Tong Village Map
Map of the centre of the Village of Tong

There is an online resource on this web site that lets you search for a person or a place in Tong for the census years 1841 through to 1901. Follow this link to start your search.

Chapter 11. Scenes from Village Life

The lives of the villagers of Tong are not normally recorded alongside the Lord of the Manor and yet in the case of Tong there are glimpses of life in a close-knit village community.

Chapter 11 lists some of the village clubs and societies and documents special occasions - such as visits by the Lord of the Manor. The village school was a point of focus and we read how schooling changed over the years:

“The school logbooks give an insight into school and community life. Very often the school was closed, because of fever in the area. Attendance was never more than 70% per child. The reason for this was a mixture, caused by potato picking, helping on farms, or simply playing truant. One child was expelled for an unmentionable deed. Some entries reveal the teacher's anxieties. An entry in 1893 reads: 'Harry Wedge swallowed a pin. It would be a help if teachers were told what to do on these occasions'.”

Tong Women's Institute Meeting
Women's Institute Meeting at Tong in the 1960s.

A villager took note of some of the schoolboy pranks that were played. In 1950 a historical drama 'The Spirit of Tong' was devised by Revd E. J. Gargery setting out the story of the village. By this time myth had become intertwined with historical fact.

“The characters, which are encountered, include Dame Isabella, the Vernons, through to King Charles and Little Nell. Some of the old legends are perpetuated. The character of Dame Elinor Harries speaks of the Tong Cup as a Ciborium. 'which had come from Holbein's day to mine' and she says 'I did bestow a vestment worked with skill And loving care; And by Cistercian Sisters, long ago, Embroidered well.' So the false stories, about the Tong Cup and the pulpit fall as a vestment, are perpetuated.”

Tong was awarded a Royal Charter in 1421 to hold an annual fair - the 'Tong Wake' by Henry III to mark St. Bartholomew's Day.

“Probably some of these games related to different times of year. But the main social event was the Tong Wake. King Henry III, had granted this feast to Tong in 1421, along with a weekly Thursday market. Both events were to be held in the grounds of Tong Manor. The wake was meant to be held on St Bartholomew's Day (24th August), but was transferred to St Matthew's Day (21st September), to ensure the completion of the Harvest. The Wake lasted several days, and involved lots of sports, races and games. These included chasing a pig or a sheep with a greased tail, climbing a greasy pole, and eating treacle buns. The women's races had gowns as prizes. A week before the Wake, everybody would be cooking, and baking pies, puddings, and joints of meat. There were barrels of beer, and much jollity.”

This web site has an online resource that lets you search for a person or a place in Tong for the census years 1841 through to 1901. Follow this link to start your search.

To find out more about Tong please buy a copy of the Discovering Tong book; the profits from the sale of the book will go towards maintaining Tong Church.

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