Famous Folk

Warriors and Worthies

For its size, North Shropshire has contributed more than its share of warriors and worthies to any tapestry of British military, cultural and civil history; some of whom, like Lord Clive have attained international status, and others national status far beyond the bounds of their native county.

Sir Thomas Adams

He was born in Wem, studied at Cambridge for the Church, but became a draper and haberdasher and made a fortune which he used to good works in founding Adam's Grammar School, Wem, in 1650, establishing a chair of Arabic at Cambridge , and endowing hospitals. He became Lord Mayor of London in 1646, having already been preceded by two other local worthies in that office; Sir Rowland Hill in 1549, and his immediate predecessor, Sir Allen Cotton of Coton, between Wem and Whitchurch. Sir Thomas featured in Samuel Pepy's diary on account of the gigantic gallstone removed from his body on his death in 1668 which weighed 25 ounces and is still preserved in the laboratories of Cambridge University. Amazingly, it had given Sir Thomas no trouble!

Joe Berks

Another less illustrious native of Wem, but noted as a bare- knuckle fighter of great strength, energy and little science, and used by Conan Doyle as a character in his book, "The House of Timperley". Born in 1777, he died in the Peninsular War serving under Lord Hill.

Eglantyne Jebb

Miss Eglantyne Jebb, founder of the Save the Children Fund, was born in Ellesmere in 1876.

In 1895 she went to Oxford where she studied History and enjoyed the opportunities to discuss the social issues of the day. Following a brief spell teaching, Jebb started working for the Charity Organisation Society and the Macedonian Relief fund. In May 1919 she founded Save the Children, to raise money to send food to suffering countries in Europe. In the first year she raised £400,000.

A statue to commemorate the achievements of Eglantune Jebb can be found in Ellesmere.

Randolph Caldecott (1846 - 1886)

Internationally famous Victorian book illustrator who’s "Picture Books" were best-selling children's books, even "Toulouse-Lautrec, the French artist, had one in his nursery. He was illustrator to Washington Irving, the famous American author of, among other more serious works, the famous "Rip Van Winkle" and is very highly thought of in America where there are numerous Caldecott Societies. He spent his early life as a bank-clerk in Whitchurch, and his drawings are strongly influenced by the Whitchurch architectural scene.

Robert Clive

Baron Clive of India . Born in 1725 at Styche Hall near Market Drayton, and died tragically by his own hand in 1774. He came from an ancient family and as a boy his recklessness and delinquency caused him to be sent to India as a writer in the East India Company. He is said to have climbed the tower of Market Drayton Church to sit astride one of the gargoyles and to have organised a gang which terrorised and blackmailed local shopkeepers. Finding clerkly duties dull and ill-paid, he joined the Company Army where his military genius powered and he distinguished himself at the Siege of Arcot (1751) and finally his great victory at Plassey in 1757 virtually laid the foundation of the British rule of the whole of India. He amassed great wealth and among other tasks he rebuilt the old family home into the Styche Hall we see today. His acquisition of great riches gave rise to severe criticism and having a previous suicidal tendency in early life, he finally succumbed to it in 1774.

Colonel Clive Of The Styche

A swashbuckling Civil War soldier ancestor of Robert Clive on the Parliament side, much feared by the Royalists of Shrewsbury who supposedly added the the following couplet to the Litany in Shrewsbury Churches during the Civil War:—"From Wem and from Wyche (Nantwich) and Clive of the Styche, Good Lord deliver us!"

Richard Gough (1635-1725)

Born and died at Myddle, near Wem, largely unknown until 1981 when his "History of Myddle", first published in 1834, was re-published to become a best-seller and Gough to be hailed as England's first social Historian.

Sir Edward German

Was born Edward German Jones at the Old Town Hall Vaults, Whitchurch, in 1862 and died in London in 1936. A composer of Edwardian light operas such as "Merrie England", "Tom Jones", "The Princess of Kensington" also incidental music to Shakespearean plays, symphonies, suites, a Welsh Rhapsody and the Coronation March and Hymn for King George V's Coronation. North Shropshire has also produced an inordinate number of Lord Mayors of London , including that archetype of Lord Mayors, the folk hero.

William Hazlitt (1778-1830)

Noted essayist who spent his youthful formative years in Wem where his father was Unitarian minister. His house is in Noble Street, Wem.

Bishop Reginals Heber (1783-1826)

Member of a very ancient family in Hodnet. He was rector of Hodnet for fifteen years, later becoming Bishop of Calcutta and one of the greatest Victorian hymn writers whose hymns "Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty”,"From Greenland's Icy Mountains","Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning" and many others are known worldwide.

Rowland Hill

Lord of Hawkstone, was born at Prees Hall in 1772, and died in 1824. A most distinguished soldier in the Napoleonic War, most especially in Spain where his successes were commemorated in Shrewsbury by the erection of the Lord Hill Column said to be the highest Doric column in the world. He was second in command to the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo in 1815.

18th June 2015 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

It brought an end to 23 years of war, with success for Britain, under the command of the Duke of Wellington, and her allies marking a milestone in European History.

A potted history of Lord Rowland Hill:

Born: 11 August 1772, Prees Hall, Hawkstone Shropshire.
Died: 10 December 1842, Hardwicke Grange, Hadnall, Shropshire.

  • Hill played an instrumental role in the history of the British army and in its success at the Battle of Waterloo. He was the second son of John Hill. The family land & properties included Hawkstone (Hall, Park, Follies and what is now Hawkstone Park Hotel & grounds).
  • He joined the army in 1790 and had a very successful and distinguished career even before Waterloo. Hill met the Duke of Wellington in 1805 and the two men immediately became firm friends. Wellington placed great trust in Hill, "his services have been always meritorious and very distinguished in this country, and he is beloved by the whole army..."
  • Hill and his troops arrived at Brussels on 1 April 1815, 3 days ahead of Wellington. The troops were formed in two large army corps, the command of one being given to Hill. In the peak of the battle Hill's horse was shot five times, knocking him over and leaving him badly confused. However, he advanced on and led the victors into Paris. 'I am particularly indebted to General Lord Hill for his assistance and conduct on this as on all other occasions,' wrote Wellington, in his Waterloo dispatch.
  • When the Duke of Wellington became prime minister, Hill was appointed to the command of the army (16 February 1828).
  • The Shrewsbury Chronicle followed Hill's career closely, talking of his "very brilliant achievement" and was a significant supporter in the quest to create a memorial to him, rallying the public behind the fundraising that was required. This took place during 1814, with the Lord Hill Column in Shrewsbury starting to rise during the build up to the Battle of Waterloo itself.
  • Hill died unmarried on 10 December 1842 and was buried at Hadnall Church, near his home, this being his choice above Westminster.


Key places to visit in North Shropshire connected to Lord Hill:

Hawkstone Park Follies

The Follies would have been included as part of the overall Hawkstone estate during Hill's lifetime. The monument featured as a central part of the victory celebrations held for Waterloo, when it was illuminated and the scene of fireworks.

Hawkstone Hall

A grade I listed building. Built between 1700 and 1725 by Sir Richard Hill, Hill's uncle. A place regularly attended by Hill especially for glittering reunions, which were also attended by the Duke of Wellington. It is said to have been the venue for an Eve of Battle Ball in the days in advance of Waterloo. The Hall's house and gardens will be open from 14 - 31 August 2015 to members of the public.

Hawkstone Park Hotel

The hotel was built during the period of the Napoleonic wars by Hill as a place to entertain his family and friends - with the original building having been extended. It is understood that the trees on the now golf course were laid out by Hill to replicate the position that his troops took in the Battle of Waterloo.

Hadnall Church

The final resting place for Hill, but also an important place for the family as a whole. The family's coat of arms is seen in one of the stained glass windows.

Click here for a PDF about activities, events and places to visit in Shropshire connected with Lord Hill and the wider Waterloo/Napoleonic Wars story.

The Hill Family Of Hawkstone

Probably the most distinguished of all Shropshire families who produced the first Protestant Lord Mayor of London in 1549, Richard Hill (1664-1727) Paymaster to the Army and founder of the great mansion of Hawkstone Park, and earlier Rowland, a celebrated but eccentric preacher who refused six bishoprics.

Judge Jefferies

Of the notorious Bloody Assize after the Monmouth rebellion against James II became Baron Jefferies of Wem, Lord Chief Justice of England in 1684 but never visited the town. He was actually a native of Wrexham, and bought the Barony from William Wycherley's family.

So, for such a relatively small area, we can boast a most varied galley of characters to adorn our own local historical tapestry, or a larger national one.

J.B. Joyce

The Whitchurch based clockmaker who specialised in tower clock making and his firm is the oldest tower clockmaking firm in the country. The firm provided the clock on Eastgate bridge in Chester and the Customs House in Shanghai.

Brigadier Sir Alexander Stanier

The modern soldier whose Brigade captured the French town of Arromanches on D-Day, 6th June, 1944 to secure a foothold on the Normandy beaches. He lived at the Citadel, Weston-under-Redcastle.

Sir John Talbot

He was born at Blakemere, Whitchurch, in 1377, killed at the Battle of Castillon at the end of the Hundred Years War in France, 1453. Known as the English Achilles from his military exploits in England, in Ireland, in Wales against the famous Owain Glendower, and especially in Aquitaine that part of France which belonged to the English Crown where he was the much-respected Marshal. Yet Shakespeare in "Henrv IV" rather maligns him as the scourge of France, the Talbot so much feared abroad that with his name mothers stilled their babes". His rash exploits trying to hold Castillon, near Bordeaux marks the first use of massed arullery by the French in European military history.

He was later buried in Whitchurch and his tomb in the Parish Church there is much visited by the people of Castillon region who each year stage a national pageant of the famous battle. He became First Earl of Shrewsbury which is the premier Earldom of England.

Captain Henry Warburton-Lee Vc, Rn.

One of the first VCs of the Second World War, gained at the naval Battle of Narvik in Norway in 1940 where his destroyer notilla headay defeated and sank a large number of enemy destroyers. He lost his life in this action aboard his flotilla leader HMS "Hardy". The Lee family were an ancient Whitchurch family.

Dick Whittington

In 1350 there was born at Newnes, between Whittington and Ellesmere a boy who, as Richard of Whittington, set out for London in 1368 with a high recommendation from the local vicar to the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitallers of Saint John at Clerkenwell. Naturally a bright lad he grew and prospered to become thrice Lord Mayor of London! A tiny cottage at Newnes is still known as Dick Whittington's Cottage.

William Wycherley

Was born at Clive near Wem in 1640, and died in 1715 a famous Restoration dramatist whose play "The Country Wife" was regarded as a masterpiece of English Comedy. Other plays are The Gentleman Dancing Master" and The Plain Dealer", full of witty, sparkling dialogue, fine characterisation, comedy and certain raciness.