by Yoland

Pradoe House in the parish of West Felton, was designed by John Dovaston of The Nursery, West Felton and built by Rev. Pritchard, to his ruin, in 1785. The name is said to be from the Welsh word for Paradise.  It was bought by Thomas Kenyon, son of the first Lord Kenyon, Lord Chief Justice, who married Louisa Charlotte Lloyd of Aston, near Oswestry, and brought her to her new home in 1803. The Hon. Thomas Kenyon was known as His Honour, the Best Loved Man in Shropshire. He was an avid coachman and drove to Shrewsbury every week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; it was said you could set your watch by His Honour's coach. Probably very unusual for a man in his position, he would give a lift to anyone along the road, not minding parcels and market baskets. Should these travellers wish to return by Kenyon's Coach, they must be sure to be at the Lion Hotel in good time, for His Honour left the yard at 3 o`clock on the dot. Thus, one could say transport services at that time were regular and always on time, something that is not always true today.

This interest in coaching led His Honour to take a great interest in The Surveyor of Public Works for Shropshire, Thomas Telford. After all, this young engineer could build bridges and improve roads which was just what Thomas wanted for his coach driving.
The professional coachmen who drove all over England and Wales from their base at the Lion Hotel in Shrewsbury thought so much of this aristocratic amateur and his driving ability that they presented him with a silver tray worth 120 guineas and the toast for the occasion was “confusion to railroads and a high gallows and windy days to all enemies of the whip”.  Perhaps it was thanks to His Honour that Ruyton, with Clun, were the largest centres of population in the county not to have a railway station, although he did eventually relent and sold a small piece of land at Henbarnes to the Newton Railway Co. for the huge sum of £966.18s.1d. Evidently the price was large enough for His Honour to `adjust' his principles.

The Kenyons were a very sociable family, with twelve children they need not have gone outside their own house for amusement, but there were frequent visits to and from the local big houses in the area, the Hills of Hawkstone, the Lloyds of Aston, the Myttons of Hanley Hall and, of course, when the Hunts of Boreatton and the Kenyons got together it often led to theatricals. The plays were sometimes written by the young people themselves and performed at one house or the other or, as on the occasion of the fund raising concert for the village Cricket Club in December 1880, the venue was Ruyton School.

Another event which brought crowds of gentry and villagers alike to Pradoe, was the Bow Meetings. Interestingly, women archers were avid competitors at this time.  In 1824, the event was described as almost the largest meeting of archers ever held by the Shropshire Royal British Bowmen. The guests and competitors started to arrive at 1l a.m. until there were over 80 carriages drawn up outside the house and, at 5 p.m., three hundred people sat down to a dinner of cold beef, veal, ham, venison and tongue; pigeon, rabbit and venison pies, French pate, lobster pate, chicken (27 couple) and pickled salmon followed by trifles; orange, lemon and apple jellies, currant, cherry, cranberry and apple tarts, and that was just the eatables!

Thomas Kenyon died in 1851, leaving his wife, `an autocratic but capable and caring woman` with a great interest in fossils, minerals, botany and drawing. As well as being responsible for producing twelve children, Mrs. Kenyon was very concerned with the welfare of her tenants. She started a free lending library in a room in the Lodge which later developed into the Weirbrook Working Men's Club with lectures and maps on the walls and where the members could buy cheap packets of tea. She built and maintained a school at Weirbrook which also held a flourishing Sunday School on the premises. In 1818, Thomas had been one of the original Trustees of Ruyton School. Charlotte also founded a Widows and Orphans fund as part of the Felton Oddfellows organization. But perhaps her most enduring achievement was building of Pradoe Church which was partly financed by the profits of' the re-opened Eardiston Copper Mine.

There must have been old stories passed down by the local people or why, in 1826, would a `lime man`' (lime quarryman) have wanted permission to sink three shafts to search for copper. Just south of the crossroads known as Lane End, he found a good deal of old timber, indicating that previous attempts at mining had been made but it is impossible how early that was.  ln 1841, an engine house was built to bring the ore to the surface and the copper was mined by a Cornishman and his wife and five children. lt is not recorded why this venture ceased a year later but perhaps the number of workers had been reduced, what must have been killing work.

 A final and more professional attempt was made in 1864 when a lease was granted to Sir Jocelyn Coghill.  A new office was built, blacksmith's and carpenter`s shops plus two more rooms and a building for a more powerful engine. The yield of copper was very good - every 100lbs of copper ore produced 12 1/8lbs of pure copper at a time when the average production in Cornish mines was only 7lbs. ln 1864, Louisa Charlotte's profit was £75, in 1865 it was £200 and in 1866 it was £160, all of which went towards her church building fund. Sir Jocelyn`s company then failed, the buildings fell into disrepair, the mine filled up with water and in 1884 the Copper Mine Plantation was planted to mark Pradoe's short `Industrial Revolution`.

Although Pradoe is, strictly speaking, closer to Felton, the Kenyon family have a history of equally sharing their patronage with Ruyton church, but it was Charlotte's ambition to build a church at Pradoe and the foundation stone was laid on the 18th June 1860. This little church, with its strong simple lines, was built of stone from Shelvock quarry. The building was finally finished in January 1865 and the first baptism, in a font carved out of stone from the quarry at Eardiston, was of Lionel Richard Kenyon, Louisa Charlotte's grandchild, in September 1867.

Louisa Charlotte Kenyon died in 1867 and was succeeded by her third son, John Robert, an important London lawyer who was married to Mary Eliza, daughter of Edward Hawkins, Director of the British Museum. On his death in 1880, his son Robert Lloyd Kenyon became the new master of Pradoe. A sense of history and importance of the past was something bred into the bones of `Uncle Bob`, not only was his grandfather a keeper of the British Museum and his grandmother, Louisa Charlotte had a great interest in fossils and minerals and also,  an ancestor of hers, Humphrey Lloyd, was a noted antiquarian in the 16th Century.

Robert Lloyd Kenyon was the son of where would we be?  Well, the history of Ruyton XI Towns would still be buried in a plethora of ancient documents in Shropshire Archives, including the old Ruyton Borough Court Rolls and numerous other old documents.  As well as this work R.L. was Shrewsbury Museum's Curator of Coins and Medals.  Not surprising then, that he was known as the worst farmer in Shropshire, but it is thanks to him that the history of Ruyton XI Towns was transcribed from the Latin, Norman French and Old English, including all the Court Rolls which give us a picture of Ruyton from 1308, when the charter when the Charter for the new Borough was granted, until the demise of the manor courts in the early 17th century.

In July 1886 Robert Lloyd married Ellen How, daughter of the Rector of West Felton, who later became Bishop of Wakefield.  He brought his new wife home to Pradoe via Ruyton, probably from Baschurch railway station, where the people gave the young couple a fitting welcome. The parish magazine tells us that Robert Cooper built an archway just before the Platt Bridge “The Coopers and the Kenyons have been much hand in hand this century”.  All sorts of joyous symbols and emblems were displayed to wish the couple well as they passed through the village, including “a lovely silk counterpane on the Brownhill testifying the courtesy of the Braddick family''' and the Powis Arms (Now Powis House in Church Street) worked all night on an “incredible erection”.

 During the time he was letting his estate get in a bit of a mess, Robert Lloyd was writing learned articles for the Shropshire Archaeological Society on Pre- historic Shropshire, the Domesday Manors of Ruyton, Wykey and Felton, the Borough and Charter of Ruyton, the History of Eleven Townships, the Court Rolls and Ruyton Church. All these can be accessed in Shropshire Archives.

The family at Pradoe were very aware of their public duty to those less able to be in charge of their own destiny; throughout the 19th century, the Kenyons with the Hills of Hawkstone and the Lloyds of Leaton Knolls were the great families who dominated County affairs. Administration was in the hands of voluntary Justices of the Peace and, in this capacity, Thomas Kenyon and J.A. Lloyd Esq. were the most influential magistrates at the quarter sessions.  This tradition of a participating interest in affairs of Shropshire still continued with the late Colonel John Kenyon —see his Obituary below.

During the Second World War, when John Kenyon was serving his country, his Aunt, sister of Robert Lloyd, spent some time at Pradoe and wrote a book about the family home entitled `A House that was Loved`, probably making use of the stack of wonderful family scrap books which Colonel John very kindly allowed me to use when writing my book in 1988.

Robert Lloyd`s sister, Kathleen, was, like him, greatly influenced by her grandfather, Edward Hawkins, Director of the British Museum.  She went up to Sommerville College and was the first female President of the Oxford Archaeological Society.  On leaving university, Kathleen was official photographer at the excavations at Great Zimbabwe, East Africa.  She worked on the Roman city of Verulamium, St. Albans, with Sir Mortimer Wheeler and also at Wroxeter, in east Shropshre.  However, she was most well known for her work on the cities of Jerico and Jerusalem in the Holy Land.  Dame Kathleen Mary Kenyon, DBE, FBA, FSA retired to the tiny village of Erbistock near Overton in the Wrexham area.  She died of a stroke on 24th August 1978 aged 72.

John Frederick Kenyon was the grandson of John Robert and his wife Eliza, daughter of the Director of the British Museum.  He was not a historian but a passionate believer in the history of his family home and the county of Shropshire.  I found him a delightful man, albeit with an eye for the ladies, which meant we got on very well.

Obituary of Colonel John Frederick Kenyon MC OBE  as it appeared in the Daily Telegraph on1 December 2006

“Colonel John Kenyon, who has died aged 84, won an immediate MC as a mountain gunner in the Burma campaign during the critical battle of Kohima; some 35 years later he waged a successful campaign to restore his county council's name to Shropshire instead of the government-approved Salop.

In 1944 Kenyon, a lieutenant, was serving with 5 (Bombay) Indian Mountain Battery, part of 25th Indian Mountain Regiment. On June 12 he was forward observation officer with a company of the 2nd Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment, which was mounting an attack near the village of Jessami, east of Kohima.

Advancing in pouring rain and thick mist, severely limiting observation, to within 40 yards of the Japanese, they suddenly came under heavy machine-gun, rifle and grenade-discharger fire from the enemy entrenched in well-protected mountain bunkers. Kenyon`s coolness, determination, accuracy and promp action during nine hours of continuous heavy fire, brought down neutralising fire,  which allowed the leading infantry to consolidate without further casualties.   He then called down close supporting fire from two mountain batteries, which allowed his men to get within 20 yards of the bunkers and led directly to their capture.  He was awarded the Military Cross.

John Frederick Kenyon was born on December 30 1921 on the Pradoe estate near Oswestry, Shropshire. He was educated at Marlborough, and joined the Royal Artillery in 1941.

Kenyon was posted to 5 (Bombay) Indian Mountain Battery, part of 25th Indian Mountain Regiment in India. His unit, as part of the 7th Indian Division, was involved in intense fighting in Burma from 1943 to the end of the campaign. Within a month of going into action, Kenyon's legs had swollen with ulcers, but a parcel from home containing a medication normally prescribed for pregnant women, cured him.

He developed a lasting affection for his mules. One night during close quarter fighting in the Arakan, a mule was badly wounded close to his trench. He got out to dispatch it, then returned to find that the trench had been destroyed by a shell.

Having inflicted the first defeat on the Japanese in the Arakan, the 5th and 7th Indian Divisions—men, mules and guns—were then flown straight to Kohima without any rest. On operations, the 3.7-in pack howitzer (Kipling's screw gun) was transported in eight rapidly assembled mule-borne loads. The ability of the mules to operate in conditions inaccessible to vehicle-transported guns was a war-winning factor.

After the war, Kenyon attended the Staff College at Camberley, then was posted to the Suez Canal Zone, Germany, London, and the Far East, where he was military adviser in Far East Land Forces under General Sir Nigel Poett. In 1966 he was appointed to the Joint War Staff as GSO1 at Headquarters, 1st British Corps, in Germany, and appointed OBE. His last appointment was as defence attaché at the British embassy in Brussels.

After retiring from the Army in 1973 to run the family estate at Pradoe, he becamea keen supporter of the Animals in War memorial in Park Lane, which celebrates the great contribution made by Mountain Artillery mules.

A chairman of Freemen of England for some years, he was also a dogged letter-writer to The Daily Telegraph, picking up lapses in public figures and ticking off the Chancellor, Norman Lamont, for referring to "pees" (rather than pence) in his budget speech. In addition to his year-long campaign to save the good name of Shropshire county council, he was quick to rebut those who considered it inevitable that miles would be replaced by kilometres. He also recalled that his great-great grandfather was known as the greatest amateur coachman in the county after driving the 153 miles to London in 15 hours in 1825.

John Kenyon was married and divorced three times. His first marriage, in 1947, was to Jean Godfrey, with whom he had two sons. The second was to Margaret Franks (née Remington) and the third to Janet Jackson (née Maddicott)”.



 Kenyon Pradoe ch 
 John Kenyon
Pradoe church   Victorian lady archers

Mules and Burma Star Veterans, Pradoe Church 2006

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