ST BARTHOLOMEW'S , TONG

Our Parish

The Parish of Tong Church

Our church 'family'

The benefice of Shifnal,
Tong and Sheriffhales

Although Tong is a parish in its own right, boasting its own church council (PCC) its population of roughly 200 souls means that the church is not viable on its own. For some years we have therefore been pleased to be part of the benefice of Shifnal, Sheriffhales and Tong. Shifnal is the centre for many reasons and we are grateful for the direction, leadership and facilities it offers. The arrangement between the three churches works well, with one Administrator and a team of clergy and lay assistants serving all three churches so that church services, funerals etc can always be co-ordinated and covered from the centre. For example, during the lockdown of 2020 Shifnal masterminded the online, live-streamed services with readers, pray-ers and preachers from all three churches being involved in delivery. We are particularly proud to say that the virtual congregations included many people from the parishes of Tong and Sheriffhales.

St Bartholomew's Church Tong,
St Andrew's Church Shifnal, St Mary's Church Sheriffhales.
1759 reconstruction

Rural idyll?

Changing times

The parish of Tong is essentially rural, though in the last two decades commuters and retireds have moved in and there is a serious proposal for 3000 houses to be built in the not-too-distant future with ancillary factories for employment along the M54. Junction 3 of the motorway is within the parish boundary, and the A41 with its heavy lorries bound for Chester and Ellesmere Port runs between the church and the site of the castle ( demolished in 1954). Much of the land is owned by Bradford Estates who have submitted the development proposal. The Earl of Bradford of Weston Park bought the castle and its farms in 1855. Tong is in Shropshire. Weston Park, a couple of miles distant is in Staffordshire.

Varied architecture

Off the beaten track

The population is just over 200 divided between four hamlets: Tong Village, Tong Norton, Tong Havannah and Neachley. There are four almshouses at present, some agricultural houses and some cottages as well as more substantial dwellings and an estate called Ruckley. The remaining farms are tenanted.

Tong Village is very attractive with some very old houses including the timbered Church Farm which was probably a coaching inn ( on the Chester Road) and a draw for tourists along with St. Bartholomew’s church.

Church farm Tong
The Bell Inn Tong

Easily accessible

Our local 'hostel'

Today most of the amenities have been withdrawn from Tong, although we still have a Parish Council and Parish Hall. Unfortunately there is no bus service, no Post Office, and no shop. Luckily The Bell Inn survives on the A 41 at Tong Norton with an all-night garage next door which sells basic necessities such as milk and bread.

Tong is a hop and a skip from our neighbouring villages of Albrighton and Shifnal, both of which are well supplied with shops, library, post office and even railway stations. Telford Town Centre, with its' retail parks, is just along the motorway - junctions 4 and 5.

Well connected

Tong Castle

With such a small community, why is there such a large and handsome church? The answer lies in the fact that there has been a castle - or something similar - since before the Conquest. The farm land was good, there were trees for firewood and a water supply.

William the Conqueror gave it all to his cousin Roger de Montgomery, but it was in the early Fifteenth Century that the then owner of the Castle had the present structure built along with a College to ensure a supply of priests to say Mass for the souls of the departed.

Many of these wealthy people now lie on tombs in the church and are the draw for many tourists.

18th century castle
listening to a lecture

Everyone is welcome

Join the family

As far as the worshipping congregation goes, the average weekly attendance is about 30, most of whom do not live in Tong. Many people see the church from the A 41 or have read about it because it has a really interesting history and have become involved.

Some have their weddings here and of those a few stay on. Others joined the congregation many years ago and have remained faithful. Because of the distances people travel to get to church it is rare for there to be mid-week meetings except the Church Council, so Sundays are always a good time to get together and to welcome newcomers. Most people stay for coffee/tea long after the service has ended.