St Bartholomew's church, 10 February 2007
Tong shown within Shropshire
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In "White-ladies," one of the "Boscobel Tracts" that describe the events of Charles II's escape from England after the Battle of Worcester, there is a statement that Charles, while sheltering at Boscobel House about two miles away, "had the pleasure of a prospect from Tong to Breewood (sic), which satisfied the eyes, and of the famous bells at Tong, which entertained the ear." The bells he heard were the bells of St. Bartholomew's.
The village is remarkable mainly for its church, St Bartholomews, outside of which is the supposed grave of Little Nell, a fictional character in Charles Dickens book, The Old Curiosity Shop. It is thought that Charles Dickens visited Tong church when his grandmother worked at Tong Castle. The Castle (demolished in 1954) stood to the south; its site is now occupied by the M54 motorway.
The 'grave' is thought to have come about because Charles Dickens' novel was serialised and shipped over to America, and as a result, Americans began coming over to England to visit scenes featured in the book. The tourists recognised the references to Tong church from the book and came to view the supposed 'grave', which of course was not there.
However, a verger and village postmaster, George H Bowden (16 August 1856 - May 1943) apparently asked local people to pay for a headstone, forged an entry in the church register of burials (apparently the giveaway was that he used post office ink to do this), and charged people to see the 'grave'. The headstone has been moved from time to time to make way for genuine graves.
A particularly notable feature of St. Bartholomew's is the collection of memorials to the Vernon family and other proprietors of the Tong estate inside the church. St. Bartholomew's was chosen by Simon Jenkins of The Times in 1999 as one of the best 1,000 churches (out of 15,000) in England. He awarded the church, which was mostly rebuilt in 1409, three stars out of a possible five. He refers to the collection of village tombs, the masterpiece of which being that of Richard Vernon, who died in 1451. Most of the earlier ones are carved from alabaster, and are the products of the top end of the nearby late medieval Nottingham alabaster industry.
Margaret Vernon and Thomas Stanley (died 1576). George Vernon, son of Richard and Margaret, died without male heir. He left his estates to his daughters: Haddon to Dorothy and Tong to Margaret, who married Stanley, the second son of Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Derby. Part of a double family tomb.
Edward Stanley (died 1632), last of the Vernon heirs to own Tong, which he sold to Thomas Harries about 1630. He was the father of Venetia Stanley, a famous courtesan of the early 17th century. Lower tier of a double family tomb.
Memorial to George Durant (1731–1780), who bought the Tong estate in 1764.
- "Civil Parish population 2011". Retrieved 1 December 2015.
- Broadley - Royal miracle (Alexander Meyrick Broadley, S. Paul & Co., 1912, p. 65, archive.org ID cu31924028039877.)
Jeffery, Robert (March 2007), Discovering Tong: Its History, Myths and Curiosities, Tong, Shifnal, Shropshire: Robert Jeffery, ISBN 0-9555089-0-8
Media related to Tong, Shropshire at Wikimedia Commons