Acton Burnell is a small and picturesque village some eight miles south east of Shrewsbury. The name seems to have come from Achetune, meaning Oaktown.
Robert Burnell was Bishop of Bath and Wells between 1275 and 1292, but he was also politically influential as Chancellor to Edward I. For more than thirty years he was friend, confidant and advisor to the king. Robert Burnell obtained a licence to build himself a partly-fortified manor house, which was begun in 1283 (he was granted the licence to crenellate in 1284); its ruins, incorrectly called a castle, still stand in near proximity to the church.
In spite of its thick walls and a tower at each end of the rectangular structure, it was a fortified domestic residence rather than a military fortress or castle.
The church of St. Mary has been described as one of the most complete 13th century churches in Britain. The monuments include one with alabaster effigies to Sir Richard Lee (1591) and Sir Humphrey Lee (1632) forebears of Robert E. Lee of American Civil War fame.
The large house (Acton Burnell Hall) near the church and the castle was the home of the Smythe family for many decades. At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 the Sisters of the Order of Sion established their Convent there and formed a girls school which continued until about 1970, when the nuns vacated the Hall.
The Hall is now Concord College, a private institute of further education catering mainly for overseas students. Occasionally, visiting chamber music groups perform here, when the Hall is opened to the public to attend concerts.
In the parkland belonging to the school, and close to, but only just visible from the church and the castle since a hedge was planted between school grounds and public grounds, are the end walls of a central hall of a very early structure. It must have been a very large hall - the space between the two gables is about 157 feet x 40 feet - and local people to this day call the two gable ends the 'parliamentary barn'.
When Edward I was staying at Acton Burnell in the autumn of 1283, he summoned one of the first Parliaments to be attended by the Commons as well as the Lords. It passed a law for the protection of creditors, which the king ratified here at the castle, and which is therefore known as the Statute of Acton Burnell. There is, however, no direct evidence that the traditional 'parliamentary barn' is the site where deliberations took place.
From a postcard
"Parliamentary Barn' in Acton Burnell - Discover Shropshire
In the 18th century the ruins of Acton Burnell Castle became an ornamental feature in the grounds of Acton Burnell Hall. Today, the historic site is in the care of English heritage.
This is my contribution to That's My World for this week.