Bishop’s Castle in 1835
BISHOP'S CASTLE, a borough and market town, with a separate jurisdiction, but locally situated in the hundred of Purslow, county of Salop ; 144 miles N.W. by W. from London, and 19 miles S.W. from Shrewsbury. The local limits of the borough are extensive, comprising a circuit of about fifteen miles, and being from three to four miles in width in all directions. It stands on the declivity of a hill near a stream of the river Clun, and is irregularly built. The mass of the houses have rather a mean appearance being of unhewn stone, with thatched roofs ; but there are several very good houses in detached situations. The place derives its name from a castle belonging to the Bishops of Hereford, which formerly stood here, and was generally their country residence. It has long been demolished, but its site may still be traced, and part of it, probably of the keep, now forms the bowling-green of an inn. The town is an old corporation, and received from Queen Elizabeth the privilege of sending two members to parliament, which it continued to do until it was disfranchised by the Reform Bill. The town has had three charters, the first from Queen Elizabeth, the second from James I, and the last from James II. These charters vest the local government in a bailiff, a recorder, and fifteen capital burgesses. The borough magistrates hold a quarter session, the business of which is very trifling ; the bailiff is also empowered to hold petty sessions whenever occasions require; and there is also a civil court of record, which has cognizance of all suits where the sum in dispute does not exceed £20. The town-hall, a plain brick building, erected in 1750, includes a prison for criminals, and another for debtors. The market-house is a handsome edifice of stone. The market is held on Friday, and the fairs on February 13th, Friday before Good Friday, Friday after the 1st of May, July 5th, September 9th,, November 13th. All these are cattle-fairs except that in May, which is the pleasure fair, and that in July, which is a wool-fair. The market and the fairs are much resorted to by the Welsh, which is a great benefit to the place. The parish contained 388 houses in 1831, and the population was then 2,007, of whom 1,124 were females. The population of the borough alone was 1,729. The church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is a fine old structure, with a square embattled tower, surmounted by pinnacles. It is chiefly in the Norman style; but having been burnt in the parliamentary war, it was afterwards restored without sufficient attention being paid to the original character of the architecture. It has accommodation for 1,000 persons. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Hereford, with an annual net income of £350.
The free school at Bishop's Castle was founded by Mrs. Mary Morris, in grateful remembrance of her first husband, John Wright, Esq. By her will, dated in 1785, she directed that £1,000 should be paid to the bishop, the interest of which was to be applied to the education of fifty children, half of them boys, to be instructed in reading, writing, and arithmetic ; and the other half girls, to be instructed in reading, writing and plain sewing. She also gave £200 for the building of a school. The bishop is visitor and trustee if the school, the property of which now consists of £1,598, 13 shillings three per cent. consols. The interest amounts to £47, 19 shillings and 2 pence, of which £47 is paid to the schoolmaster. There are about thirty girls instructed free on this foundation ; the schoolmaster's wife instructs them in needlework at the schoolhouse, in the afternoon, and the master teaches them reading, writing, and accounts with the boys at the market house in the morning. There are fifty boys in the school, of whom twenty-five are taught free on the foundation ; the rest are pay scholars, with the exception of ten, who are taught by an annual donation of £21 from Lord Powis's family and the members for the town. The master takes all children who apply, and places such as he thinks proper on the list of free scholars. There is no other National or Sunday school in connexion with the Established Church, but the several dissenting congregations have schools in connexion with their chapels.