Catalogue description WILLIS COLLECTION

This record is held by Shropshire Archives

Details of 2589
Reference: 2589

Items of significant evidential value


Place names


A deed in the Willis Collection [2589/G/15] appears to be the sole surviving source (in the Shropshire Record Office at least) for the mediaeval Welsh name for Mainstone. This deed, a conveyance from Sir Robert Howard to Richard Oakeley of Oakeley, in 1652, refers to land in the town fields of Mainstone "alias Llanivan". As the dedication of Mainstone church is to St. John the Baptist, it is quite probable that the correct Welsh form should be Llanieuan, and indeed this form has been found in the Clun Court Rolls as early as 17 January 1397 [S.R.O. 552/1/27], although the transcriber of extracts from the rolls was unable to identify the place [see G. E. A. Raspin, (unpublished) Transcript and Descriptive list of the mediaeval court rolls of the Marcher Lordship of Clun, 1963].


St. Thomas's Chapel in Clun


The approximate location of this mediaeval chapel (for which see Eyton, XI, 235-240) may be inferred from the field-name Chapell Bancke which adjoined the Barrett family's burgage in Newport Street between 1650 and 1700 [2589/D/13-18]. From the evidence of these deeds, it may have been situated on the north side of Newport Street, towards the east end of the street.


The Murder of Roger Law of Clun


Two of the most prominent families of Clun town in the 16th and 17th centuries were Clun and Law. The agreement preserved by Mr. Willis [2589/D/53] is the only extant contemporary record of the murder of Roger Law by John Clun in or shortly before 1520. Later copies of Thomas Fitz-Alan, the Earl of Arundel's pardon of John Clun, dated 21 June 1521, are preserved in the British Museum [Tit.B.1, 215a.], among the Humphrey Llwyd Mss. in the College of Arms, and (derived from the latter) in an 18th century antiquarian's notebook among the Dukes Manuscripts in the former Shrewsbury Borough Library deeds series ["Deed" 6324, printed in T. F. Dukes, Antiquities of Shropshire (1844) pp.120-121, mis-dated]. A marginal note in this notebook gives what may be the embroidery of 200 years of local tradition about the killing: "said to be at the Ch: Door as he was coming out from the Sact., Mr. Clun having concealed a small sword under his cloak for that purpose".


Arundel pardoned Clun only after the intervention of the king.


At the time of this incident (and until 25 March 1546) Clun was within the Marcher lordship of Clunsland, and Thomas Fitz-Alan ruled virtually supreme. Why therefore did Henry VIII apply such pressure to have him pardon one tenant for the murder of, possibly, the leading townsman of Clun? John Clun was in fact a large landowner in mid-Wales and a valuable supporter of the Tudors: he was given livery as a Sewer of the Chamber at the funeral of Henry VII [Letters and Papers Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, vol. I, part 1, pp.119ff.]. He was also one of three gentlemen of the marches who were in favour of the assimilation of the Welsh law to English law [Montgomeryshire Collections, vol.2, p.401]. This could be cause enough for his incurring the enmity of Arundel. The murder of Roger Law is not simply an example of the violence of Marcher society, but provides evidence of friction between a Marcher Lord and the Crown, echoed in friction between their representatives at a lower level.

Date: 1520 - 1928

Arrangement of the collection


The deeds are arranged topographically, original bundles relating to a property or family being restored where possible. Researchers who have already referred to the collection should note that superseded box numbers are given in square brackets below the current archive reference numbers.


Note on listing


Detail has been kept to a minumum: brevity and clarity are the aim. Witnesses to deeds are omitted after 1700, unless of interest (e.g. woman, servants, etc.).


For full arrangements made by marriage settlements, searchers will need to order the original documents. Likewise for full descriptions of fields or land in open fields, although boundary clauses are cited for town properties.

Held by: Shropshire Archives, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Willis, Frederick C, fl 1938, of Shropshire

Physical description: 22 series
  • Shropshire
Administrative / biographical background:

This collection of title deeds, official records and other documents, relating mainly to south-west Shropshire, was donated to the Record Office by Mrs. E. Willis of Bishop's Castle on 10 August 1971. It was the local history collection of her late husband, Frederick C. Willis.


Mr. Willis was from about 1938 the Registrar of Marriages for the Clun and Bishop's Castle Districts, Registrar of Births and Deaths for the Bishop's Castle Sub-District, and the Relieving and Vaccination Officer and Collector to the Clun Area Guardians Committee for the Bishop's Castle District. Some of the records included in this collection were inherited by Mr. Willis in his official capacity: he had also been instrumental in depositing with the County Archivist the Bishop's Castle Poor Law Union records.


As an amateur local historian, Mr. Willis built up a corpus of deeds for properties in south-west Shropshire ranging in date from the 15th century to the 20th. Unfortunately, no record was kept of their provenance, but it is likely that many were derived from the Archive of Mr. F. Lavender, Town Clerk and Solicitor in Bishop's Castle.


Some deeds deposited here by Mr. Lavender were clearly once in the same bundles as some of those acquired by Mr. Willis.


The selections made by Mr. Willis were thematic: many illustrate the "Great Rebuilding" of the 18th century, or enclosure of open fields and of woodlands in the same period. The history of the early modern Family in south-west Shropshire could be written from the numerous settlements of fairly humble farmers and townsmen. The main drawback of his selections is that it is more difficult to identify a property (particularly in the towns) from a single early deed than from a whole series extending well into the 19th century.


Herefordshire, Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire deeds


The economy and society of the Clun and Bishop's Castle district has never observed the county boundaries. Shropshire attorneys dealt with land in Wales and in Herefordshire, owned by their clients, and so deeds from these counties found their way into the solicitors' archives from which Mr. Willis acquired them. Herefordshire deeds deposited in the Shropshire Record Office were transferred to the Hereford Recod Office in 1971 and a copy of their calendar is available. Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire deeds (formerly boxes 16, 17 and 22) were transferred to the Powys County Archives in 1989.

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