FSC | Field Studies Council

Field Studies Council: Bringing Environmental Understanding to All

History

The FSC property at Preston Montford sits in 23 acres of land. The soils are mixed sands and clays left behind by the retreating ice of 10.000 years ago. The River Severn flows next to the Estate and its banks and the Varve formation shows evidence of a huge lake that once occupied the area.

The history of Preston Montford can be traced back to the Norman Invasion. The Domesday Book (1086) suggests a very small hamlet with perhaps two and a half teams of oxen ploughing small fields.  The land was in the ownership of St Alkmund's church.  By 1145 the land belonged to Lilleshall Abbey. Through the Middle Ages the settlement probably consisted of a group of small farms. They worked strips of land in large open fields. There were hay meadows near the river at Montford Bridge and common pasture on Onslow Hill. There was probably woodland to the South East and on the river banks.

By the 16th and 17th centuries the largest farm had grown in size and the open fields were enclosed.  Montford Bridge became a settlement for small holders and tradesmen.  The Preston Montford portion became a group of cottages, a blacksmith's shop and an inn. Around 1705, a wealthy cloth merchant from Shrewsbury, Samuel Adderton, bought the Preston Montford Estate and built a house in the latest fashion of the times. This is the Main House of the Centre today which was later extended in Victorian times with the addition of the Northern wing. The Hall remained in the Adderton family to 1829.  The estate was exchanged in a land deal and passed into the hands of the Wingfield family, who lived at the hall until 1870. After 1870 a variety of other tenants rented the estate. The exotic trees in the front of the house were planted around this time. In 1925 the tenant, Arnold Boyce Smith, bought the estate from the Wingfield family. When he died in 1947 he left the house and grounds to the Shropshire Police Court Mission who, combined with other local charities to establish a Probation Home at the Hall. At this time the bell tower was constructed to call in the work parties from their duties in the fields.

In 1957 changes in the Home Office made this Home redundant and the FSC purchased the house and grounds. When opened as a Field Centre, the accommodation included the old brick and wood building which is now The Annex.  During the war this served as woman's land army accommodation.