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Title: The History of Whittington

Author: Head-master of Carnarvon School William Davies

Release date: May 16, 2020 [eBook #62142]

Language: English

Credits: Transcribed from the 1810? E. Edwards edition by David Price


Transcribed from the 1810? E. Edwards edition by David Price, email

Book cover


Decorative graphic


“Oh, Whittington, among thy tow’rs
   Pleas’d did my early Childhood stray,
Bask’d on thy walls in sunny hours
And pull’d thy moss, and pluck’d thy flow’rs,
         Full many a truant day.”

Poem of “Fitz-Gwarine.”


And Head-master of Carnarvon School.


and all Booksellers in the United Kingdom.



p. 1TO


Master of Malden School, Essex,


By his sincere,


and affectionate Friend,



p. 3THE
History of Whittington, &c.

Though local descriptions and circumstances are seldom productive of any high degree of interest, yet when they become connected with the adventurous, active, and surprising career of any remarkable individual, even the most trivial assumes a degree of importance, excites a lively curiosity, and seldom tails to gratify the expectation it has awakened.  As the ruins of the castle at this place are in an eminent degree picturesque and beautiful, and its being the birthplace and residence of one of the Barons to whom we owe the blessing of the Magna Charta, as well as the scene of many of his surprising adventures; even the short account I propose to offer, cannot be wholly devoid of entertainment and instruction.

p. 4It is the opinion of learned antiquarians, that this was the place so famed by the name of Drev-Wen, or the White Town, by the illustrious Welsh poet Lowarch Hen, who lived in the year 590.  He says that a prince of his country named Cynddylan was defeated and fell here, in opposing the progress of the Irish who had invaded the country.  This ancient bard expresses the rage of the battle in such an energetic manner, that if I attempt to describe it, I shall fall far short of the original; therefore I content myself with quoting his own words.

“Y [4] Drêv uen ym mron y koed
Yseu yn y hervas eiryoed
A uyneb y guelht y guaed
Y Drêv uen yn yd hŷmyr
Y hervas y-Llâs vyver
Y guared ydan draed y gwŷr.”

A.D. 843.

In the time of Roderick the Great, king of all Wales, Ynyr ap Cadfarch, a British nobleman, built the Castle of Whittington; to which he was succeeded by his son Tudor Trevor, who altho’ possessed of many palaces, with rich and extensive p. 5domains, made this his chief residence.  By right of his father he obtained the lordships of both Maelors, Whittington, Chirk, Oswestry, Ewais, and Urchenfield; and by right of his mother Rhiengar, the earldom of Hereford.  His mother was grand-daughter to Caradoc Freichfas, who fell in the field of battle at Rhuddlan, A.D. 795, gloriously maintaining the cause of the Britons against their Pagan invaders, the Saxons.

The descendants of Tudor continued possessed of the Castle for several generations; and many families both in this neighbourhood and North Wales, boast their origin from him.

A.D. 1060.

At the Conquest, Whittington became the property of Pain Peverel, who having no issue, on his decease it was seized by Roger earl of Shrewsbury.  This place was called in Doomsday Book, Wititone; and consisted at that time of eight corn farms, twelve ox-stalls, and a very extensive wood; the cows yielded five shillings per annum, and all Welsh residents were obliged to pay twenty shillings rent among them.

p. 6The castle and lordship of Whittington next passed into the hands of Hugh, and afterwards of his brother Robert, sons of the late earl of Shrewsbury.  Upon the defeat and forfeiture of Robert by Henry I. it was restored to the Peverels in the person of Sir William, a sister’s son of Pain Peverel.—This Sir William is famed in history for his noble and valiant enterprizes, in one of which it is stated that he was mortally wounded, but was miraculously recovered by eating the shield of a wild boar; and that to testify his gratitude to Heaven for his preservation he built three churches.

A.D. 1083.

He had two daughters, the youngest of which was named Mellet: she with the spirit of an Amazon, resolved to wed no one but the knight of most consummate valour.  Her father published this declaration, and promised the Castle of Whittington as her dower.  Several distinguished combatants assembled at Peverel’s place in the Peak, Derbyshire, to contend for the fair prize; and among whom were, a son of the king of Scotland, Baron Burgoyne, and a noble Lorrainer, Guarine De Metz, (sheriff of Shropshire, and chief counsellor to the earl of Shrewsbury;) the latter of whom came with a shield of silver, and p. 7a proud peacock upon his crest; and having overthrown his rivals, obtained the beautiful Mellet.

As chivalry was the greatest accomplishment in these times, the progeny of this famed couple could hardly avoid being eminently distinguished by feats of arms, and the consequence was, that their names occupied very great portions in romances both at home and abroad.

I must not forget to state, that Guarine De Metz was a great benefactor to the Monks: one remarkable instance of which is this; after a conflict he had with the Welsh, led by their prince Jorwerth, (in which action the latter was discomfited with all his host) our hero founded the New Abbey, better known by the name of Alberbury.

The posterity of this great man for nine generations assumed the Christian name of Fulk; they continued possessed of the castle from the end of the reign of Henry I. till the time of Henry VIII. a period of near four hundred years.  Their common name was Fitz-Gwarine.  Mr. Dovaston in his poem, thus expresses himself on this subject:

p. 8“Sires were his from days of yore,
Who all the same distinction bore
   Of title and of name;
A name that valour’s blazon’d blade
In feats of chivalry had made
   The favourite of fame.”

Guarine De Metz died in the reign of Henry I. at Alberbury, where he was interred; his wife and his son Fulk Fitz-Gwarine being present on the occasion.

We have mentioned that Guarine De Metz first exerted his valour in the cause of love, and that great commendation was bestowed on him in consequence; this was exactly the case with his son; he became desperately enamoured with Hawys, daughter of Sir Joos, of Normandy, who had been appointed guardian of the hero in question.  Fitz-Gwarine observing Hawys to be frequently in great sorrow, desired to know the cause of it, and was informed that it proceeded from the dangerous situation of her father, being at that time in the hands of Walter Lacy and Sir Arnold de Lis, two of his inveterate enemies.  Upon hearing this, Fulk resolved to rescue him, and being supplicated by her whom he adored, he set off immediately and arrived in time just to p. 9save the head of Joos from the fatal stroke that would instantly have severed it from the body.  The consequences were, Lacy and Arnold were taken prisoners and confined in Ludlow castle; Joos was snatched from the most perilous situation to a most happy one; and to crown all, Fulk and Hawys were joined together, and harmony again reigned in both families.

A.D. 1122.

Fulk Fitz-Gwarine acted the hero in all his enterprizes with such vigour, capacity, and celerity, that Henry I. knighted him, made him steward of his house, and conferred on him the arduous office of Lieutenant of the Marches; it was this that gave him the name of Fulco or Fulk, signifying Lieutenant.  In this department his sword did not long remain undrawn; the Cambrian Prince, Gryffydd ap Cynan, according to the general practice of his countrymen, made a descent upon the lordship of Whittington, and the surrounding country.  These incursions were made so frequently, and attended with such pernicious effects, that the power of the Lords’ Marchers was often necessary to repel their progress: indeed this was their sole office, and a very useful one it was.  In the present case, Fitz-Gwarine nobly conducted p. 10himself, by wounding the Welsh king in the shoulder, and completely routing his army.  The Welsh however returned soon after, drove Fulk from the Castle of Whittington, and gained possession of the lordship; and it appears from a peace made by Henry II. with Owen Gwynedd, the succeeding prince of Wales, that it was kept by the latter, and bestowed on one of his favourites, of the name of Roger; Fulk had the manor of Alston, in Gloucestershire as a recompence.

It is recorded that Fulk Fitz-Gwarine, and John son to Henry II. afterwards King John, were playing at chess together, when it happened that they disagreed, and the prince gave Fulk a severe blow upon the head with the board, which the latter returned in such a violent manner, as almost to kill the young prince; a circumstance, had it happened, not much to be regretted, were it not in consideration of the glorious Magna Charta afterwards obtained from him.

Mr. Dovaston in speaking of the noble actions of Fitz-Gwarine, mentions Fulk and John’s quarrel in the following manner:

p. 11“Enough to name our last affray,
The prince his temper lost at play,
The chess-board swung with coward sway
      And hurl’d my head upon.
Ill could the wrong my bosom brook,
I sent him first a furious look,
Then firm with knuckles clench’d I strook
      The pate of royal John.”

Fulk Fitz-Gwarine was succeeded by his eldest son, who bore the same name.  He raised the glory and dignity of his family beyond any thing it had yet attained to, by numerous and valourous actions, hereafter respectively to be recorded.  At the time, his father died, he was actively engaged in Lombardy, where he conducted himself with such ability and vigour, that king

A.D. 1189.

Richard I. just before he went on the Crusades, made him Lord Marcher of Wales, an office that required all the exertion and capacity that could possibly exist in one man.

In the beginning of king John’s reign, Whittington was in the hands of Maurice, brother to the person to whom Owen Gwynedd presented it.  Fulk Fitz-Gwarine made application to John for this place, the ancient property and residence of his p. 12family; but Maurice by means of his opulence and well-timed presents had sufficient influence over the king, to retain the possessions he so much desired: nevertheless, Fitz-Gwarine had a steady and judicious friend in one John of Raumpayne, a minstrel, whom he made his trusty spy over the conduct of Maurice at Whittington.  In those times when men considered the sword a better instrument of revenge or defence, than the laws of their country, and when one Baron insulted another, a petty war ensued between them, often attended with much bloodshed, and generally concluded with the demolition, or at least capture of the castle of one party by the other.  It was the failing of our hero to have recourse to this method of gaining possession, to what he thought himself fairly entitled; any other means would have been considered in a very dishonourable light by those turbulent barons and knights, who were his friends.  I hope that this action, or to express it in the language of that age, this feat of arms of Fulk, will not dispossess the reader of that kindness he has shown to Fitz-Gwarine and his historian, by favouring him so far with an attentive and indulgent perusal.  All I can say of the battle made by Fulk upon Maurice is, that the p. 13latter was slain, and the king of Wales gave Fulk the Castle of Whittington, by which it appears, that prince espoused his cause.  But the English king made Wrenoc (son to Maurice) Lord of Whittington, and sent privily to the prince of Wales to behead Fulk, who avoided the policy of king John by flying into France, with the assumed name of Sir Amice, a wandering knight.  He was so admired by the French King for his honourable and chivalrous conduct, that he offered him a barony of France, which Fulk politely declined.—By some means it happened that Lewis, the French king, discovered Fitz-Gwarine; upon which, the latter fled into Brittainy, where his deeds of chivalry were so applauded, that a celebrated French author collected and published them, forming a work universally read by the chevaliers and ladies of that age.  The title given to the English translation is, “The Feates of Gwarine and his Sunnes.”

Fitz-Gwarine formed a resolution of leaving France, and returning to his own country: he accordingly embarked, and landed at Dover, with a full determination to see king John.  For fear of discovery, Fulk exchanged clothes with a peasant: p. 14in this habit, attended by his brethren and other followers who had gone with him to France, and followed his fortunes home again, he repaired to Windsor forest, where he found the king hunting, and what was more advantageous to Fulk’s purpose, John happened to be alone.  He asked Fulk whether he saw or could find any game? who answered, that if he would come with him, he should have game in abundance.  John was led to Fulk’s brethren, and Fulk having the king in his power, menaced him severely for the treatment he (Fitz-Gwarine) had received from him; and obliged the captive king to grant to him the Castle of Whittington, which that monarch readily agreed to, for willingly would he sacrifice almost any thing to gain his liberty; several instances of which may be seen in English history.

The poem of Fitz-Gwarine, thus describes the subject last treated of.

“For woodman’s garb I chang’d my cloak,
In Windsor’s wood of ancient oak
   We found a safe retreat;
The king I knew there chas’d the deer,
And with my faithful comrades there
   I conn’d a cunning feat.

p. 15“One day the King alone appear’d,
When scarce the distant horn was heard
   Our hiding place hard by;
And as across my way he came,
Know’st thou (quoth he) of any game?
   Aye—game enough, (quoth I).

“Ride to yon briery dingle rough
Trust me, I’ll rouse ye game enough,
   My bugle then I sounded,
My comrades heard the blast I blew,
Obey’d the signal that they knew,
   And soon the King surrounded.

“Cow’d was the King with speechless fear,
Yet stammer’d out, Who have we here?
I flung my bonnet from my brow,
Know’st thou (quoth I) Fitz-Gwarine now?
I took a sword and o’er him swung it,
Then at his feet contemptuous flung it,
And turning to my comrade class,
Open, (I cried,) and let him pass.
Now go, Sir King, in freedom go,
And copy courage from a foe.
I’ll grant (he cried,) a pardon free,
Fitz-Gwarine unto thine and thee,
And I’ll restore to thee anon
The franchise fair of Whittington.”

p. 16John, however, disregarded his promise, for as soon as he got home, he sent fifteen knights after Fulk, either to capture or kill him.  Fulk acted his part with such valour, that the knights were entirely discomfited, and their leader taken prisoner.  Soon after this, John sent Randolph, earl of Chester, with a numerous retinue to take Fulk, but the latter fled to sea, on board a ship belonging to Madour of the Mount, a true friend of Fitz-Gwarines’: while lying in channel, Fulk observed a knight in disguise coming to kill him; but the courage of our hero did not forsake him on this occasion, for in the laudable act of self defence, he slew the concealed assassin, and sailed to Orkney.  Here he released a damsel from captivity; and by some noble exploit, won his celebrated hauberk of hard steel, which with other ancient pieces of armour belonging to his family, hung till Cromwell’s time in the church of Whittington.

The stay of Fitz-Gwarine at Orkney was short, for we soon after find him driven by tempests to the coast of Barbary.  In contemplation upon this dreary part of the globe, he formed a resolution of seeing Carthage, the city that produced such invincible heroes, whose courage defended p. 17that small republic for a considerable time, against the powerful arms of the Roman empire.  But when he saw this once opulent and populous city crumbled nearly to dust, he felt strong emotions of pity mixed with veneration.  Here! he exclaimed, was born and educated, Hanibal the greatest general in ancient history, who made the Romans tremble at their own capital!  In these streets, what patriotism prevailed among all classes of people!  Here commerce flourished; and great improvement was made in its concomitant navigation.  Wrapt in enthusiasm, Fitz-Gwarine set sail for England, full of hearty desires that his own country might one day thrive by trade in as conspicuous a manner as Carthage had done.  Upon his arrival, he had the good fortune to obtain a pardon for himself and followers, together with the restoration of Whittington castle, and all its appendages.  I have mentioned that John gave this place to Wrenoc, but he held it for the service of being interpreter between the Welsh and English; and when the king gave Whittington to Fulk, Wrenoc had certain estates in the neighbourhood, given him in compensation.

p. 18The splendour Fitz-Gwarine lived in, is described by Mr. Dovaston in such a striking manner, that I cannot refrain from quoting the words he uses to such advantage.

“Other guests than yon lone bird,
And other musick here was heard,
   In times of better days;
Festive revelry went round,
The board with blushing goblets crown’d,
And costly carpets clad the ground,
   Where now yon cattle graze.

“Days were those of splendor high,
Days of hospitality,
   When to his rich domain
Welcom’d many a crested knight,
Welcom’d many a lady bright,
   Fitz-Gwarine of Lorraine.”

A.D. 1207.

The next laudable action of Fitz-Gwarine, of which we have any authentic account is, his going on an expedition into Ireland, in the service of the English king.  He behaved with such intrepidity and loyalty, that after his return to England, he received the title of The Great: an appellation more frequently conferred on the destroyers of the human race, than on those who contribute to the p. 19real welfare of mankind, by the discoveries in the arts and sciences. [19]

A.D. 1215.

Upon the dissatisfaction and rebellion of the Barons against king John, Fulk joined with them; for we find his name among the number that were excommunicated by the Pope, for extorting from John that firm basis of English liberty, called Magna Charta.

A.D. 1219.

In the succeeding reign, viz. that of Henry III., Fitz-Gwarine procured a grant of his estates, to him and his heirs for ever; for which he gave the king two coursers, and two hundred and sixty-two pounds, an enormous sum in that age, and which gives us an idea of the wealth of Fitz-Gwarine.  The same monarch also granted him the liberty of a fair on St. Luke’s day, and a market on Wednesday, at Whittington; but on account of its proximity to Oswestry and Ellesmere, both market and fair are now quite lost.  There were, however, fairs on the last Thursdays in April, July, and p. 20November, in the memory of several of the present inhabitants; but in want of sufficient attendance, they were discontinued.  They consisted chiefly of horses, oxen, sheep and swine, that were, in a great measure, furnished from the extensive common of Babin’s wood: upon the inclosure of which, great part of the land that before had reared cattle, sheep, &c. was converted to arable purposes, and consequently the fairs were but ill supplied with those useful animals, which defect was the principal cause of the putting a stop to the fairs.

Strange, lord of Knockin, and possessor of the castle there, had several conflicts or wars with Fitz-Gwarine, during the agitated reign of John.  In some of these skirmishes they threw down, or considerably damaged each others castle; for we find grants given by Henry III. to each of these Barons to repair and fortify them.  Whittington castle was so completely fortified by Fitz-Gwarine, that we never after hear of its being taken from its possessors.  Out of the refuse materials Fitz-Gwarine built a chapel that soon became the parish church, and of which, I shall say more hereafter.

In a tower in the gateway was till very p. 21lately a figure on horseback, representing Fitz-Gwarine painted in a course manner, under which were the following lines, alluding to his fortifying the castle:

“This was Sir Foulke Fitz-Warine late a great and valiant knight,
Who kept the Britons still in awe and oft times put to flight;
He of this castle owner was, and kept it by command,
Of Henry late surnam’d the Third, then king of all this land.

His grandfather, a Lorrainer, by fame was much befriended,
Who Peverley’s daughter took to wife, from whom this Fulk descended;
His ancient acts of chivalry in annals are recorded,
Our king of England afterwards him baron made and lorded.”

Fulk Fitz-Gwarine had the misfortune to be stricken with blindness in his old age.  Upon his death, he was buried in the porch of Whittington church; and his remains were found there in an oak coffin three inches thick, by digging a grave in the year, 1796.

He had a daughter named Eva, who was second wife to Llewelyn, king of Wales; and it was through her that Fitz-Gwarine came to know of John’s private message to p. 22Llewelyn, which I omitted to mention in its right place.

I state from very good authority, that this Fulk, or to avoid confusion Fulk the second, was married to Clarice of Abbourville, but of what family she was, or when they were married, I have not been able to discover.  Fitz-Gwarine, it is stated, went generally by the appellation of Proudhome, as a mark of respect to his nobility.

He left behind him a son, who enjoyed his father’s estates and titles, but for no considerable time.  He followed king Henry III. through all that prince’s adverse fortune, and righting in his behalf at the battle of Lewes, had the irreparable misfortune of being drowned in the act of crossing a river; leaving behind him a young son, the fourth Fitz-Gwarine.

Dugdale states, that it was Fitz-Gwarine the second who was drowned at Lewes; but though, a most excellent historian, he is certainly wrong in this particular, for the following reasons: When Fitz-Gwarine the second was appointed Lieutenant of the Marches in the first year of Richard I. he at least must have been of age; and from p. 23that time to the battle of Lewes was 75 years, consequently he must have been near 100 years old; an age, at which it is highly improbable he could have been found in the field of battle.  Besides, we are informed, that the Fulk who fell at Lewes, left a son in his minority, which is very unlikely to have been the case with Fulk the second at such an advanced age.  Another, though not so strong as the two preceding proofs, is the certainty of Fitz-Gwarine the second being buried at Whittington; a circumstance that could hardly have taken place, if Dugdale’s statement had been correct.  Though this might have happened, yet the other two are sufficient arguments to prove that the son is the person whom that author has mistaken for the father.

Immediately after the battle, (the events of which must be known to every person who has read the English history) the earl of Leicester created Peter de Montford, one of his chief accomplices, governor of Whittington castle.  Leicester also obliged the captive king to deliver Whittington with several other bordering castles, into the hands of Llewelyn ap Gryffydd, king of Wales, by a writ dated from Hereford, June 22, 1265.  That cruel earl likewise, in Henry’s name, p. 24gave Llewelyn the entire sovereignity of Wales, and homage of all the barons under him.  Henry, after he regained his liberty, confirmed those grants, but for what reason I have not been able to make apparent, unless money was his object, as it was done in consideration of Llewelyn giving him 30,000 marks as a recompense.

A.D. 1281.

Fulk the fourth having arrived at years of maturity, made proof of his age to Edward I. who invested him with all his patrimonial estates except Whittington, which he also obtained upon his accompanying the English monarch on his expedition against the Welsh.  He behaved with such intrepid bravery, that Edward, in reward for his meritorious conduct, allowed him the liberty of a Free Warren on his lands in this manor, and likewise forgave him two hundred pounds that Fulk owed to the exchequer.

A.D. 1300.

This year the king used his influence in reconciling Fitz-Gwarine and Richard, earl of Arundel, in consequence of a quarrel prevailing at that time between these two powerful and predominant barons; but the breach was amicably adjusted by the interposition of Edward’s good offices.

p. 25Fitz-Gwarine died in the reign of Edward leaving a son, at that time engaged in the war prosecuted by that king against France: his lady Eleanor, had permission to use livery for this manor, until her husband could return to do homage.  He performed very considerable services for the king in sundry campaigns, particularly in Flanders and Scotland, where, by his gallant conduct, he made himself as much renowned as any of his predecessors.

A.D. 1329.

Edmund earl of Kent, uncle to the king, being suspected of circulating reports, that Edward II. was then alive, he accused Fitz-Gwarine of promising him aid, in case Kent could bring about a rebellion, for which our hero was deprived of the castle of Whittington; but some of his friends, who had influence with Edward obtained it back for him in the following year, the king being perfectly convinced of his loyalty.

A.D. 1350.

In this year, or the twenty-third of Edward III., Fitz-Gwarine the fifth departed this life; and was succeeded by his son, Fulk the sixth; who, four years before had the honour of signalizing himself at the memorable battle of Cressy, the first p. 26great action that convinced the French of that undaunted courage which existed, and still continues to exist, amongst the inhabitants of this fair isle.  Fitz-Gwarine, likewise, accompanied the Black Prince into Gascoigne, when that young prince carried his successful arms into that quarter of France;

A.D. 1356.

and was at the illustrious battle of Poictiers, where the whole army gained universal applause:—headed by a general, whose noble and generous conduct shone with meridian splendour, not only in this, but in every other campaign he was engaged in; and whose whole life was one continued scene of invincible courage, adorned with all that clemency and nobleness of soul, so much to be admired in a prince.

A.D. 1374.

Fitz-Gwarine, for the important services he rendered to his country, was, upon his return there, created Baron Marcher of Wales; this is the last well-grounded anecdote that we have of him, except the date of his death, which took place in the forty-seventh of Edward III.

The next Fulk was only seven years old at the death of his father.  He became possessed of a greater extent of property than p. 27any of his ancestors, but did not long enjoy it: he was cut off at the early age of twenty-five; and by will, ordered that his body should be interred in the chancel of Whittington church.  The greatest part of his possessions lay in other counties, but he considered Whittington the most eligible place for his sepulture, as it had been the general residence of his family for several generations.  It appears that he also left a minor son, for his will appoints J. Audley, guardian over the young prince.

The only account we have of this Fulk, is the following humane action: when Owen Glyndwr carried his arms into these borders, on purpose to meet Percy, earl of Northumberland at Shrewsbury, several in this manor joined with that potent rebel; but Fitz-Gwarine, by solicitations to Henry IV. procured for them a general pardon.  His son and successor was the ninth and last Fulk Fitz-Gwarine: he died in his minority, and the male line of this noble and distinguished race, closes; though the title of Fitz-Gwarine, or Fitz-Warine was assumed for a few generations afterwards.

Elizabeth, only sister and heiress to Fulk p. 28the 9th, was married to one Richard Haukford, who dying, left all his possessions to his only daughter Thomasine, who married sir William Bourchier, brother to Henry, first earl of Essex.  The title of lord Fitz-Warine was given to sir William in consequence of his marriage.  John, third in descent from him, exchanged Whittington with Henry VIII. for other landed property.  This John was the first earl of Bath, and his posterity preserved the title of Fitz-Warine till the race became extinct, which took place at the death of Henry, fifth earl of Bath.

And here it may not be improper to take a general view of this illustrious and warlike race, that flourished through such a number of reigns, and retained their estates, titles, honours, acquisitions, and privileges, until nearly their final termination of the race.—In whatever light war is considered in the present day, no period of history ever discountenanced it; to be skilled in arms has been always considered the highest and most honourable acquisition, that an individual could attain to, in all ages and amongst all nations, though it must be confessed this is chiefly to be accounted for from the slow p. 29progress of civilization, as the encouragement of war must necessarily decrease in proportion to the extension of humanity; and it must be allowed by all, that amidst the myriads of beings who have distinguished themselves herein, the Fitz-Gwarines deserve an eminent rank, not so much for their petty and incessant skirmishes with the Welsh, as for the readiness with which they fought for their king, in divers engagements and campaigns, greatly to their honour and the glory of the English arms.

But though war has been the prevailing accomplishment throughout sacred and prophane history, yet with what ecstasy do we contemplate that portion of time which providence has allotted us: free from the intolerable recounters produced by the broils and dissentions of those turbulent, inflexible, and ambitious barons, who so disturbed England during the reigns of the Normans and Plantagenets; and likewise delivered from the well known calamities of intestine commotions, so productive of civil wars; the evils of which can be better conceived than described.  On the subject of war I have said more than my limits will allow to say of any thing else concerning this family; p. 30but, who can help admiring that loftiness of sentiment and nobleness of soul, which shone in so conspicuous a degree upon the whole race.  Their fidelity to the government, and their readiness to serve it, are convincing proofs of the advantages England derived from them, during the long course of time in which they lived; flourishing with fewer restraints than are commonly attendant on men in such elevated stations.

That religion was held in great veneration by this race, is very conspicuous from the number of public and private edifices built by them, and devoted to pious uses: almost all the churches and abbies in this neighbourhood were founded by some of the family, and though the latter are not now in existence, yet the churches will preserve the memory of their establishers till time shall be no more.

I have stated that this castle passed into the hands of Henry VIII.; we hear nothing further concerning it till the following reign, when the king presented the place in question to Henry Grey, duke of Suffolk, who forfeited it in consequence of the conviction of several crimes imputed to him.  This took p. 31place in the reign of Mary, and shortly after it was by that queen granted to Fitz-Alan, last earl of Arundel: he mortgaged it to a number of London citizens, who obtained the place in default of payment from him.  William Albany chief man among the number was, by the joint consent and approbation of the rest, put in sole possession of it.  By the marriage of his great grand daughter with Thomas Lloyd, of Aston, esq. Whittington passed into the hands of the worthy family who enjoy it at the present time.

Having given some account of the possessors of Whittington castle, I think it my duty to attempt laying before the reader, a short account of this structure, and proceed to shew, that it must have underwent fortification soon after its original establishment: placed on the border of Wales, it must have been alternately in the hands of the Welsh and Saxons; for the latter of whom it formed a key of great utility in their attacks open the former, and consequently so useful an inlet, must have been strongly defended.  Indeed its founder could not have chosen a place in which nature contributed more to its security; finding the innumerable springs of water so advantageously situated for his p. 32designs, he converted it to the best purpose, and surrounded the castle with several moats and intrenchments, still discernable.  The annexed plan of the castle [32] gives the reader a better idea of the exact situations of the trenches and other out-works, than can be expressed by words.

The keep was the place of last resort in times of great danger, and was in consequence defended with the utmost precaution.  In the present case, it was fortified with five round towers, each forty feet in diameter, an hundred in height, and the walls twelve in thickness.  I have not been able to discover what time the keep fell into a state of delapidation, but undoubtedly for a great number of years, as an aged mulbery is growing in it.

About the year 1760, the eastern tower fell into the moat after a severe frost, and some years afterwards, one of the northern towers and the western wall were taken down to repair the roads leading from Whittington to Halston bridge.  The northern tower that now remains was undermined for the same purpose.  In 1809, a smaller tower, used many years as a pidgeon house, was taken p. 33down to repair the exterior gateway, which is still inhabited.

The keep is now used as a garden, at an even depth under which is a pavement of free-stone; at the north corner is a well, which was discovered and opened in 1809, when there was found the handle of the bucket, a pair of large iron fetters for the legs, a large jug, the remains of stags’ heads and swords; and upon removing some rubbish about the same time, there appeared a curious carved stone head, and likewise some highly gilt glass bottles.

Within the trenches are some very fine tall wych elm and ash trees, that add greatly to the beauty of the ruins.  The ancient and present state of the castle, is beautifully contrasted by Mr. Dovaston, in the following manner:

“In ancient days of high renown
Not always did yon castle frown
   With ivy-crested brow;
Nor were its’ walls with moss embrown’d,
Nor hung the lanky weeds around
   That fringe its’ ruins now.
Other hangings deck’d the wall
Where now the nodding foxgloves tall
   p. 34Their spotty hoods unfold;
Harebells there with bugloss vie,
And gilliflowers of yellow dye,
Seem now, to musing Fancy’s eye,
To mock the mimic tapestry
   That flaunted there of old.”

It is situated amid fine and fertile meadows, through which a rapid stream having commenced a subterraneous course about a mile above, here emerging, playfully undulates, having its border shaded with poplars, till it enters the castle moat, where encompassing the walls, whose ruins are richly fringed with ivy, and hung with elegant traces of wild flowers and woodbine, it enters the Perry amid the meadows below, formerly the site of an extensive lake.  The ancient fosses and intrenchments may yet very visibly be traced to a surprising distance beyond the castle, westward, from where the lake terminated, in some fields still called “The Runtings.”

The internal scenery, where the aged elms expand their immense arms among the now gloomy ruins, formerly the place of hilarity and carousing, is, perhaps, not surpassed by any on the border.

p. 35A court leet and court baron are annually holden by the Lord of the Manor in a room in the castle, to which the inhabitants are summoned to pay one penny each, and upon non-attendance are fined sixpence.  Chief-rents are paid to the Lord.

In the township of Daywell in the parish of Whittington, Watt’s Dyke makes its appearance, extending from a place called Gobowen, adjoining the parish of Selattyn, into that of St. Martins.  The extent between this Dyke and Offa’s (which crosses the hills above Selattyn) is about four miles.  These Dykes point north and south, and the intervening space is said to have been a common mart, where the English and Welsh met to carry on a commercial intercourse, with each other; but, if either party transgressed these bounds, they were exposed to the severities of war.  Upon Watt’s Dyke, at a place called Brynycastle, near to Gobowen, is the site of an old Watch-fort, and another a little further on towards St. Martins.

p. 36The Village of Whittington.

The village is on the great London and Holyhead road, and also, on the turnpike road leading from Oswestry to Ellesmere.  It consists of a considerable collection of houses thinly scattered, a church, a school for each sex, and the remains of the castle before mentioned.  In ancient records we find it called Chwytunton, Wititone, Whittentonne, and Vica Alba.  It is situated in latitude 52° 55′ 30″ north, and longitude 2° 57′ 30″ west.  The church is a rectory, valued in the king’s books at £25. 4s.; it was originally designed, as before stated, as a chapel to the castle, and was dedicated to St. John the Baptist.  The body of the church was rebuilt in 1806, from a design of Mr. Harrison, of Chester; it is a large brick building of sixty feet by fifty, and cost £1500.: to lessen the expense, two briefs were procured that raised £703. 15s. 1d. but of this sum, only £42. 2s. 1d. was received for the intended purpose.  It is much to be regretted that this evil is not amended, a grievance so universally complained of, and p. 37so frequently practised, should not be tolerated by such an enlightened legislature as that of the English, but still it remains a nuisance to the very interests of religion itself.  In the body of the church are three aisles and six rows of seats, all faced with Dantzic oak; the ceiling is neatly executed, being made of wood, and consequently very pleasant to the officiating minister.  In the gallery stands a barrel organ, placed there by subscription, in 1810; it was built by England, and is considered a good instrument.

In 1761, the church-yard contained several venerable yew trees, which Mr. Roberts, the then rector, had the bad taste to destroy and replace with lime trees.  In the garden at the Rectory is an uncommonly fine yew tree; it is seventeen and a half feet in circumference at the distance of four feet from the ground, about forty feet in height, and the space of ground under the branches is one hundred and forty-two feet and a half in circumference: it is very healthy and in a growing state.  Evelyn says, that the reason yew trees were so universally planted in church-yards was, doubtless, from its being thought a symbol of immortality, the tree being so lasting and always green.

p. 38In 1810, the church-yard wall being in bad repair, was rebuilt with stone, and the gates removed opposite to the entrance to the steeple.

In the Register we find the following curious Epitaphs:

March 13th, 1766, died,
Parish Clarke, aged 72.

“Old Sternhold’s lines, or Vicar of Bray,
Which he tun’d best ’twas hard to say.”


of Whittington Castle died,
aged 84.

“Here lies Governor Peate
Whom no man did hate,
At the age of four-score
And four years more,
He pretended to wrestle
With Death for his Castle;
But was soon out of breath
And surrender’d to Death,
Who away did him take,
At the eve of our wake,
One morn about seven
To keep wake in heaven.”

Born A.D. 1690, and died April, 18, 1776,
Aged 84.


The Aston Family as Decoyman 60 Years.

“Here lies the Decoyman who liv’d like an otter,
Dividing his time betwixt land and water!
His hide he oft soak’d in the waters of Perry, [39]
Whilst Aston old beer his spirits kept cheery;
Amphibious his trim, Death was puzzle’d they say,
How to dust to reduce such well-moisten’d clay.
So Death turned Decoyman and decoy’d him to land,
Where he fix’d his abode ’till quite dried to the hand;
He then found him fitting for crumbling to dust,
And here he lies mouldering as you and I must.”

“He retired to Whittington upon a freehold he had purchased with the perquisites of his place for a few years before his death.”


“A severe winter,—the frost set in the day before Christmas-day, and continued to introduce the new year.”

“And I may here add, as there is a vacancy, that the frost continued till March, 1784.”

p. 40“I sore forebode these frosty times
Will nip my nob; and then my rhymes
In puff complete, in richness big,
And full and flowery as my wig,
Will future bards and priests explore,
Till Taste and Talent are no more.
While dull, tho’ disembodied I
Jump up a Gnome ’twixt earth and sky;
Perch on the pen of rhyming elf,
And squat a squabby rhyme myself.
A brat I boast, hight Pudding Billy,
Whom tho’ the witless world calls silly,
And tho’ but lame in hie hæc hoe
Is a right chip of the old block.”

W. Roberts, Rector.

N.B.  Mr. Roberts died a few months after writing this epitaph on himself.

The Registers are quite complete from the year 1591, to the present time, with the exception of that of marriages, from the 1654, to 1659.

The following is a copy of the Terrier of 1630, mentioned by Mr. Pennant, excepting the part of it which relates to the glebe lands:

“We find all the tythes falling within the forest of Bafin’s Wood are * * * * * * * * [40]  Itm an English bible, a Welsh bible, a communion silver patara, a p. 41prayer-book in English, and a prayer-book in Welsh, a homely [41] book in English, and a homely book in Welsh,

Itm a linen cloth and napkin, two surplices, two chests, a velvet cushion and hangings for the pulpit, three pair of armour, two pikes and two head pieces, a flagon, a pewter plate, and a stone font.”


Edward Williams, Rector.
Edward Edwards,
John Rogers,
Edward ap Thomas,
Hugh ap John Lewis,
John Benion,
Richard ap Edd.



Decorative graphic of crown

Edwards, Printer, Oswestry.


[4]  The Welsh call it Dre Wen to this day; a certain proof that this is the place the poet speaks of.

[19]  The reader cannot but admire the satyric and appropriate wit of Fielding, in his bestowing that title on Jonathan Wilde.

[32]  There is no annexed plan in the edition transcribed.—DP.

[39]  A river near Whittington so named.

[40]  Here a few words have been torn off in the original.

[41]  Homily.