Bishops Castle

Photo of St John The Baptist, Bishops Castle

Bishops Castle Shropshire Family History

Bishops Castle is an Ancient Parish and a market town in the county of Shropshire.

Other places in the parish include: Bishop’s Castle Borough, Bishop’s Castle Out, Broughton, Woodbatch, Colebatch, Lee and Oakeley, Lee with Oakeley, and Colbatch.

Parish church: St John The Baptist

Parish registers begin: 1559

Nonconformists include: Independent/Congregational and Primitive Methodist.

Fairs: February 13th (for cattle and sheep), on the Friday preceding Good Friday (which is a very large fair for horned cattle), on the first Friday after May-day (a pleasure and statute fair) July 5th, (formerly a great wool fair), September 9th and November 13th, for horned cattle, sheep, and horses.

There was a small endowed school with an income of £48, and a National school. The Primitive Methodists had a school for boys and girls here.  The Independents, Primitive Methodists, and Wesleyans each had a chapel in the town.  There was a town hall, market house, and a police station. In 1852 a workhouse for the Clun union of nineteen parishes was erected here.  A market was held every Friday.  There were several stock fairs held on the second Friday in every month, with the exception of May Fair, for the hiring of servants, which was held on the first Friday after May Day.

Bishops Castle Town

Parishes adjacent to Bishops Castle

  • Norbury
  • Dinmore
  • Clun
  • Lydbury North
  • Lydham
  • Mainstone
  • Castlewright
  • Snead

Historical Descriptions

Bishops Castle


Bishop’s Castle, a borough, parish, and market-town, with separate jurisdiction, in the hund. of Purslow, union of Clunn, county of Salop, comprising five several townships; 159 miles north west by west of London, and 20 south-west by south of Shrewsbury. The town is built on a hill near the river Clunn. The bishops of Hereford, Camden remarks, “had a castle at Bishop’s Castle, the site of which is now the Castle-inn, and the keep a bowling-green, and part of the walls and vaults remaining; a mile from hence towards the borders of Montgomeryshire, on a high hill, is Bishop’s Mote, an intrenchment of near an acre, with a keep at the west end; this is supposed a remain of the Roman wars, but more probably of much later date.” The local limits of the borough are extensive, embracing a circuit of about 15 miles, and being from 3 to 4 miles in width in all directions. Living, a vicarage in the archd. of Salop and dio. of Hereford; valued at £9 12s. 11d., and in the parliamentary returns at £129; gross income £385. Patron, in 1835, the Earl of Powis, who takes the great tithes as lay-impropriator. The church presents some fine specimens of Norman architecture. The Independents and Primitive Methodists have chapels here; the Independent church was formed in 1810. Here is a free school for 25 boys and as many girls, founded, in 1737, by Mrs. Mary Morris, and endowed with £1,000 in the 3 per cents. The bishop of Hereford appoints the master. There are, besides, four daily and two Sunday schools here. Charities connected with the parish produce about £17 1s. per annum. The townhouse is an elegant structure, and the streets, though not regular, are remarkable for their cleanness. Water is obtained chiefly from wells, but a small supply is brought in pipes to the market place from the neighbouring hills. Friday is the market-day, when the corn-dealers attend with samples. Fairs are held on Friday before February 13th, Friday before March 15th, first Friday after May day, July 5th, September 9th, and November 13th, for sheep, horned cattle, and horses. The day preceding the last three fairs is for sheep and pigs. The town is governed by a bailiff, recorder, and 15 capital burgesses, assisted by a town-clerk, two sergeants-at-mace, and inferior officers, under charters of 15° Elizabeth and 15° James I. A court of quarter-sessions for the borough is held on the Wednesday after the county quarter-sessions. A court of record is held every second Saturday for the recovery of debts under £20. The petty-sessions for the hundreds of Clunn and Purslow, are held here. The town was erected into a borough in the 26° of Elizabeth, and returned two members to parliament. The right of election was finally vested in the resident burgesses, who were only about 160 in number. The bailiff was return ing officer; and the earl of Powis, as proprietor of the town, had a predominating influence. It was disfranchished by the reform act, but is one of the polling places for the members for South Salop. The common called the Moat, or Burgesses’ hill, constitutes the principal landed property of the corporation, which presents the rare example of being free of debt. The fairs are much attended by the Welsh, and the great intercourse with Wales is a source of considerable advantage to the town. Pop., in 1801, 1,313; in 1831, 2,007. Houses 488. Acres 6,000. A P. £8,248. Poor rates, in 1837, £438.

Source: The Parliamentary Gazetteer of England and Wales; A Fullarton & Co. Glasgow; 1851.


BISHOP’S CASTLE, a borough, market town, and parish, having separate jurisdiction, though locally in the hundred of Purslow, county of SALOP, 19 miles (N.W. by N.) from Ludlow, 20¼ (S.W. by S.) from Shrewsbury, and 157 (N.W. by W.) from London, containing within the borough, 1616, and, including the whole parish, 1880 inhabitants. This place owes its name to a castle belonging to the bishops of Hereford, that stood here, but of which the site alone, now a bowling-green belonging to the Castle Inn, and some small portions of the enclosing walls, can be traced: a subterraneous passage is said to have subsisted from this castle to another at some distance, the arched entrance to which is shown in the garden of an adjoining house; but it is scarcely distinguishable from the heaps of stones found in various parts of the hill on which the castle stood. The town is partly situated on the summit, but chiefly on the steep declivity of a hill; the houses, in general, are meanly built of unhewn stone, with thatched roofs; though, in detached situations, there are several handsome edifices of modern erection. Such of the inhabitants as have not pumps attached to their houses, are indifferently supplied with water, from a reservoir under the town—hall, into which it is conveyed by pipes from the neighbouring hills. The market is on Friday, and is well supplied with grain, which is sold by sample: the market-house, built within the last twenty years, by the Earl of Powis, is a handsome edifice of stone, supported on piazzas; the area is used as a corn market, the upper part as a school-room. The fairs are, February 13th (for cattle and sheep), on the Friday preceding Good Friday (which is a very large fair for horned cattle), on the first Friday after May-day (a pleasure and statute fair) July 5th, (formerly a great wool fair), September 9th and November 13th, for horned cattle, sheep, and horses. The government, by charter granted in the 15th year of the reign of Elizabeth, and confirmed and extended by James I., is vested in a bailiff, a recorder, and fifteen capital burgesses, assisted by a town clerk, two serjeants at mace, and subordinate officers: the bailiff, late bailiff, and recorder, are justices of the peace. The bailiff is elected from among the capital burgesses, on the first Monday before Michaelmas-day, and sworn into office on the first Monday after it; the capital burgesses are chosen by a majority of the burgesses at large: the freedom is acquired only by birth. The corporation hold a court of session quarterly for the borough, on the next Wednesday after the general quarter sessions for the county, at which the bailiff, the late bailiff or justice, and the recorder, preside ; and a court of record is held every alternate Saturday, for the recovery of debts under £20, under the presidency of the bailiff and two capital burgesses. The town-hall is a plain brick edifice on pillars and arches, built by the subscriptions of the burgesses, in 1750, with a prison on the basement story for criminals, and above it one for debtors. The elective franchise was conferred in the 26th year of the reign of Elizabeth, since which time the borough has returned two members to parliament. The right of election is vested in the burgesses generally, about sixty in number, provided they have been resident within the borough twelve months prior to the election, in default of which they lose their title to vote: the bailiff is the returning officer.

The living is a Vicarage, in the archdeaconry of Salop, and diocese of Hereford, rated in the king’s books at £9. 12. 10. Earl Powis was patron in 1819. The church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is a fine old structure, principally in the Norman style, with a square embattled tower, crowned with pinnacles : it was burnt in the parliamentary war, by Cromwell, and has been rebuilt without a due regard to the original style of its architecture. The free school was founded, in 1737, by Mrs. Mary Morris, in memory of her first husband, Mr. John Wright, of Wimbledon, Surrey, merchant, a native of Bishop’s Castle, and endowed with £1,000, in the three per cents., for the instruction of twenty-five boys and twenty-five girls, in reading, writing, and arithmetic, and the latter in sewing and knitting. Some charitable benefactions are distributed by the vicar and church-wardens, in money and bread. Jeremy Stephens, author of various doctrinal works, and the learned coadjutor of Sir Henry Spelman in the compilation of the “English Councils,” was a native of this place.

Source: A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis 1831


Bishopscastle. A market town and ancient corporation which sends two members to parliament. The bishops of Hereford had anciently a castle in this town, from which circumstance it is probable the place derives its name. Part of the site of this castle, (which has long since been demolished) has been converted into a bowling green. The town is irregularly built, on a declivity near the course of the river Clun, and contains few objects of interest and curiosity. Bishopscastle is more noted for the nativity of Jeremiah Stephens, a man of great learning and industry. In consideration of the assistance he rendered to Sir Henry Spelman, in the compilation of the first volume of the English councils, he was presented to the prebend of Biggleswade. That erudite antiquary acknowledges his obligation in these terms. “Our loving friend Jeremiah Stephens, a man born for the publick good, by whose assistance this first tome comes out, and on whom the hope of the rest is founded.” Mr. Stephens published “An Apology for the ancient right and power of bishops to sit and rule in parliament.” “St. Gregory’s pastoral Notes on St. Cyprian of the unity of the church and the good of patience.” He left unpublished “A Comparison between the Belgick, Bohemian and Scotch Covenants;“ “Of the principals and practices of the Presbyterians;” and “A Treatise on the English laws.” He died at Wotton, in 1664.

Bishopscastle borough and out liberties, contain 364 houses, 1880 inhabitants. 20 miles south-west of Shrewsbury. A vicarage remaining in charge, in the diocese of Hereford, the deanery of Clun, and archdeaconry of Salop. Lat. 52. 0. north. Long. 3. 6. west.

Bishopscastle has fairs on the Thursday before February 13; the Friday before Good-Friday, Which is the largest mart for oxon of three or four years old, in the county; many are sold the day before the fair and the day after, as well as on the fair day: the Fridays after May 1, July 5, September 9, and November 13. The last two are great fairs for fat cattle and sheep, as well as for store oxon; Market on Friday.

Source: The Shropshire Gazetteer, with an Appendix, including a Survey of the County and Valuable Miscellaneous Information, with Plates. Printed and Published by T. Gregory, Wem, 1824


Q. What is Bishop’s Castle ?

A. Bishop’s Castle is a neat market town, so called from the Bishops of Hereford having anciently a castle here; it is situated on the river Clun, 20 miles from Shrewsbury, and 160 from London, has a population of 1367 persons, and a market on Friday.

Q. What farther may be observed of Bishop’s Castle?

A. Bishop’s Castle presents no interesting objects to the traveller’s notice. It is governed by a bailiff, recorder, and fifteen aldermen, and sends two members to parliament.

Source: The History and Topography of Shropshire; William Pinnock Jolibois; 1820.


Bishop’s-Castle, (Salop,) 117 cm. and 150 mm. from London, is a small T. on the r. Clun; but an old corp. which has its name, because it bel. heretofore to the Bps. of Hereford, in whose diocese it lies, ‘till it was alienated from them by Q. Eliz. and granted to Sir Christopher Hatton, with the priviledge of choosing members of Pt. to which it made the first return in the 27th of her R. The corp. consists of a bailiff, recorder, and 15 ald. Its Mt. on F. is noted for cattle, and all sorts of commodities, and much frequented by the Welsh, as are its Fairs on F. before Good-Fr, June 24, Aug. 29, Nov. 2.

Source: England’s Gazetteer; Stephen Whatley; 1752.



Oakeley, a township, conjoint with Lee, in Bishops-Castle parish, Salop; 1 mile NNE of Bishops-Castle. Oakeley House is the seat of W. Oakeley, Esq. Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].


Oakley. A township in the hundred of Purslow. The seat of the Hon. R. Clive. 1 mile south-east of Bishopscastle. Source: The Shropshire Gazetteer, with an Appendix, including a Survey of the County and Valuable Miscellaneous Information, with Plates. Printed and Published by T. Gregory, Wem, 1824

Poll Books for Bishops Castle

Poll Book of the Election, July 1865 for the Southern Division of Shropshire.

Below are the names of those that voted in the election of July 1865 between Col. The Hon. P. E. Herbert, Sir Baldwin Leighton, Bart., and R. Jasper More, Esq.

Bishops Castle Parish
Bishops Castle Borough


  • County: Shropshire
  • Civil Registration District: Clun
  • Probate Court: Court of the Bishop of Hereford (Episcopal Consistory)
  • Diocese: Hereford
  • Rural Deanery: Clun
  • Poor Law Union: Clun
  • Hundred: Purslow
  • Province: Canterbury