The Hermitage is one of these, the prospect from which, on a clear, sunny day, is such as to commend the choice of the anchorite, who is said to have exchanged the excitements of a court for retirement in such a spot. The tradition is, that Ethelwald, brother of King Athelstan, who succeeded his father, Edward (924), retired here to escape the perils of the period; a tradition which receives support from the following royal presentations found on the rolls of Edward: “On the 2nd of February, Edward III., 1328, John Oxindon was presented by the king to the hermitage of Athelardestan, near Bridgnorth. On 7 Edward III., Andrew Corbriggs was similarly presented to the hermitage of Adlaston, near Bridgnorth. On 9 Edward III., 1335, Edmund de la Marc was presented to the hermitage of Athelaxdestan,” a name signifying the stone or rock of Ethelwald.
The Cemetery lies embosomed in a sunny opening of the rocks below the Hermitage, where nature and art combined—the former predominating so much by means of a noble amphitheatre of rocks—have given to the spot a quiet, pleasing interest. Outside the Cemetery, a winding path leads to the High Rocks, the road to which the inhabitants have recently improved. This elevated position above the Severn well deserves a visit, commanding as it does the Vale, through which the river winds amidst alluvial lands, bounded by the heights of Apley and Stanley, the hills of the Wrekin and Caradoc, and those of the Brown and Titterstone Clees, with the Abberley and Malvern hills in the distance. The castellated structure at the foot of the High Rocks, now used for manufacturing purposes, occupies the site of the Old Town’s Mills, given by Henry III. to the inhabitants, and out of which he made provision for the hermit of Mount St. Gilbert.
On leaving Bridgnorth the scenery becomes exceedingly interesting. On the left is Hoard Park, Severn or Sabrina Hall, and Little Severn Hall. Astley Abbots and Stanley lie higher up on the hill on the same side; whilst on the right, rocks, crowned by trees, rise from the river in undulating lines, and introduce us to the picturesque grounds of Apley. The house is a castellated structure of fine freestone, with a domestic chapel on the north side; it occupies a slight elevation above the river, where it is thrown into pleasing relief by woods that crown still greater heights. The park is diversified by clumps of noble trees, by projecting rocks, pleasing glades, and grassy flats, on which groups of browsing deer are seen; and the terrace is one of the finest and most extensive in England. From its great elevation it commands pleasing views of the park, of the Severn, and of wide, undulating districts on either side, rich in sylvan beauty. The proprietor is T. C. Whitmore, High Sheriff of the county, whose ancestors, from the time of Sir William Whitmore (1620), have occasionally enjoyed that honour. Opposite to Apley is