Pontesbury Parish is one of the largest parishes in Shropshire with some 17 villages and it extends south west of Shrewsbury encompassing the northern extremes of the South Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Pontesbury is the largest village in the parish and serves a wide catchment, having a good sustainable range of services and facilities, including medical and dental practices, primary and secondary schools, and a variety of shops and restaurants. Pontesbury has seen some larger scale development in the recent past, but opportunities may exist for some further development.
Asterley is a compact settlement 3kms north west of Pontesbury with extensive views of the Stiperstones and Earls Hill to the south and east. Edge, Hinton, Arscott, Arscott Hall, Woodhall Coppice, Cruckton and Cruckmeole are all small settlements with one or no facilities. Cruckton has a residential school and an historic mound, the site of a Roman building. Plealey and Habberley are both designated Conservation Areas and Habberley is also within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Pontesbury Hill, which was originally a housing area for people working the local quarries, and Pontesford, which is split by the A488, lie either side of Pontesbury.
Pontesbury, a large village of about 900 houses, is the gateway to the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is the commercial and social hub of the parish. Straddling the A488 – Shrewsbury/Bishops Castle road – the village is about seven miles south west of Shrewsbury and nestles below the western slopes of Pontesford Hill and Earls Hill.
The centre of the village has a number of thriving shops, restaurants, takeaways and public houses as well as several offices premises.
St. George’s Church is prominent in the middle of the village. Parts of the building date back to the 13th century but much, including the tower, was rebuilt in the 19th century. The church holds many functions during the year either inside or in the open churchyard. There are three non-denominational chapels in the village that have thriving congregations.
The Public Hall, run by a very active committee, plays host to a number of clubs and societies including Pontesbury Players, Broadplace and Women’s Institute. Many other clubs and groups thrive in the village.
The Sports Association manages the village sports field where football, cricket and bowling clubs are very active. A children’s play area has recently been developed off Station Road. A BMX track is soon to be added to the equipment on the site.
The village has a long mining and quarrying history in particular coal and stone. All these industries have been closed for many years but the remains are still visible.
The authoress Mary Webb lived in Pontesbury during the early part of the 20th century. She wrote the novels Gone to Earth and The Golden Arrow whilst living in the village and drew on her affection for the area in her works.
The Mary Webb School and Science College draws pupils from the villages in the surrounding area. The Pontesbury Church of England primary school caters for mainly village children.
A well maintained footpath network surrounds the village and is enjoyed by many people, local and visitors. The Chris Bagley Walk is a waymarked 10 ½ route encompassing the best countryside in the area.
Earls Hill at 352 metres is capped with a well preserved Iron Age fort and its whole area and the valley along its south east slope is a Nature Reserve managed by Shropshire Wildlife Trust.
The hamlet of Asterley lies halfway between Pontesbury and Minsterley and consists of some 50 houses. Dating back to pre-Norman times, it still boasts some timber and cruck-framed dwellings.
The mid 18th century saw the introduction of coal mining and brick making activities which have long since disappeared although the legacy of this period lingers on if you care to look closely at the peaceful farmlands which surround the village. The industrial and agricultural activity grew in the early 19th century and supported a church and a school, now converted to private dwellings. A delightful Primitive Methodist Chapel which dates to 1834 however is still in use. Asterley also boasts a windmill which has been restored by its present owner and is now a well-known landmark unusual to Shropshire.
Long gone are the traces of busier times in Asterley leaving a peaceful rural hamlet off the beaten track. There are no longer any shops and the Windmill public house closed for business a decade ago. However, there is a buoyant community which which still gathers together for national celebrations and events and long may this continue.
Cruckton enjoys a peaceful yet very convenient location, barely 2 miles from the Shrewsbury by-pass and situated between the busy roads to Montgomery and Bishops Castle but with only a fraction of their traffic.
A good bus service is provided along both roads.There are nearly 40 houses in the village including several converted from former farm buildings, with one remaining working farm. Along the Montgomery road is a further scattering of farms and houses. The village church and public house are now closed but Cruckton enjoys the services of a carpenter and car mechanic plus a caravan park for visitors.
The handsome Cruckton Hall, now a school for autistic students, has dominated the village for over 200 years. It is no longer the sole land owner in Cruckton but still plays a very important role in village affairs with an annual summer fair and employing over 100 people.
The hamlet of Cruckmeole is on the trunk road A488 situated 5 miles from the county town of Shrewsbury and 3 miles from the centre of the parish of Pontesbury. There is now no train service to serve the area but currently there are regular buses on the main road with request stops one of which has a shelter.
For many years coal mining and brick making were carried out in this area.
The hamlet has no church, shop or surgeries but the Village Hall serves both Cruckmeole and the adjacent hamlet of Cruckton. There are two farms – one in beef and the other in organic milk. Of the 22 residential properties 8 were built prior to l800 of which only two are listed by Nicholas Pevsner: Cruckmeole House refronted in brick circa l800 with an earlier core, and the Old Hall circa l500, an unaltered timber-framed building. These two houses face each other and stand on the banks of the Rea Brook where they now lie at risk of flooding though in earlier days, until piped water arrived, the importance of water outweighed the risk. The Village Hall is used for many functions throughout the year.
The village of Habberley nestles among the Shropshire Hills and is occupied by about 100 residents in a mix of houses from Grade Two listed to modem-day timber-framed buildings. Gone are the four farms from within the village, their redundant farm buildings being converted for residential use. Opposite the church is the old vicarage, circa 1560, with a small grille near the door through which food was left for passing beggars. Hidden among some trees is Habberley Hall dating back to 1600 with nearby Pear Tree Cottage built initially in 1480. About a mile to the south lies Marsley Farm, possibly the site of a former Saxon hunting lodge.
In the centre of the village is the Mytton Arms pub featured in CAMRA guide for real ale pubs and one of the few rural pubs surviving on wet sales only, although the friendly landlady will rustle up a sandwich. The nearby village hall, a former army hut of World War 1 vintage, relocated from Hanwood in 1947 has been modernised and provides mixed events for the villages and many outlying supporters.
The nearby woods particularly to the west feature a number of trails for both horse riders and mountain bikers. In the past, many mines were located nearby giving rise to a number of footpaths along which the miners walked to and from work.
Today, Habberley is primarily a dormitory village although the surrounding agricultural land supports a broad mix of activity ranging from cattle and sheep to horses with a number of livery stables in the area.
Plealey is a village of nearly 70 properties (including Little Plealey and outlying houses) covering 664 acres to the North East of Pontesbury. It dates back to 1308 or earlier and was originally a farming village with later mining connections. Most of the village and the surrounding fields are designated as a conservation area with 12 listed buildings including Brookgate (mid-15th century), the Den (17th century and one of the few remaining examples of a worker’s hovel in the country) as well as an early-18th century chapel.
Situated under the northern end of the Shropshire hills it has many public footpaths with fine views.
The village holds a Street Market traditional fair each August Bank Holiday Saturday as well as special events to celebrate national events.
Arscott is an outlying village on the border of Pontesbury Parish close to Hanwood, comprising about 30 properties spread along Pound Lane. The village has some Victorian cottages associated with either agriculture or the local coal mines plus some much older properties. The last coal mine closed in the 1950s.
The local footpaths include a Corpse Road associated with a local mine.
The village also boasts an 18 hole golf course which opened in 1992 and is the home of the Arscott Golf Club.