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Date:1086 - 2015 (c.)

Description:Gnosall is a large village which lies 7 miles south west of Stafford and 6 miles north east of Newport. The land is gently rolling and lies mostly between 300 and 400 feet high. It is situated near the Newport Road (A518) on the western edge of Staffordshire. The name derives from the Old Welsh ‘genou’ meaning ‘constricted valley ‘and Old English ‘halh’ in the sense of a piece of low lying land by a river and so translates to a ‘constricted passage which suddenly opens into a wide valley’.

In the Domesday Book of 1086, Gnosall is recorded as Geneshale and formed part of the lands of Sampson the Clerk. This may refer to his under tenants or to the canons of Wolverhampton. The same clerks held two hides and three virgates of land. There was some land under cultivation, as two ploughs plus four ploughs in the demesne were recorded there. A mill was also recorded in the Domesday Book. The recorded population at that time consisted of eight villeins (tenants who held land in return for labour services) and four bordars (smallholders who had brought land into cultivation on the edges of the village). The manor was worth 15 shillings annually.

In 1532, 22 households or families were recorded in Gnosall. By 1666, 88 households were recorded in the Hearth Tax Returns as paying tax. A further 49 households were considered too poor to pay the tax. One of the largest houses recorded was one belonging to Mr Richard Smart with eight hearths.

Gnosall has had a mill since at least 1086 when a water mill and pool were recorded in the Domesday Book. The Hollies Mill with mill pool, mill house and land was leased by William Davenall from the lord of the manor around 1677. In 1748 a windmill was recorded in the manor of Gnosall. A steam corn mill was built on the canal at Newport Road Bridge Coton by one of the Wilder family in 1833. Many more mills were recorded in the parish from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. It is said that a mill in the village marketed the first self-raising flour in the country.

The presence of the Shropshire Union Canal also influenced the development of Gnosall changing it from a hamlet to a larger village. Between 1830 and 1835 the population of the village swelled dramatically as navvies were building the canal. However population levels fell to lower than that before 1830 once the canal was completed indicating that some of the population may have married canal workers and moved away. The village used to have a railway station on the Shropshire Union Canal which opened on 1 June 1849 and closed on 6 August 1966.

The parish church at Gnosall is dedicated to St Lawrence and is said to be ‘one of the finest in the county’. The church was a collegiate church which explains why it has an ambitious plan although it is not a large church. The building is cruciform with a central tower and an aisled nave. The core of the church dates from the twelfth century. The church was repewed in 1820 and enlarged in 1826 with the addition of galleries. Two of the church bells were said to have been brought from Ranton Abbey. The church was restored in 1888.

There was a free school at Gnosall said to have been built by subscription by Edward Cartwright. Shortly before his death in 1653 he endowed the school with a cottage and land at Great Onn and land at Coton for the free education of fourteen poor children in ‘good literature’. The bequest was intended to found a grammar school but no classical instruction seems to have been given. A National School was built in 1875 as a mixed and infant school and it was enlarged in 1895. By 1896 there were 132 girls and boys in attendance and 39 infants and in 1915 a new school for infants was built . By 1955 the school was the Gnosall Parochial Voluntary Primary Controlled School with average attendance of 110. Today the school is Gnosall St Lawrence Primary School situated on the south eastern side of the village.

Gnosall is now a much larger village since post war housing developments increased its population. The village is well known for the ‘internationally famous’ Gnosall Handbell Ringers which has been in existence since 1975.

<font color="#808040">More information about the history of Gnosall can be found in the Victoria County History of Staffordshire Volume IV. An extracted has been printed: A History of Forton, Gnosall, Haughton and Norbury and is available to buy from the Archive Service <a href="" target="_blank">publications</a> page.</font>