Gnosall Parish Council
Our Mission is to improve the quality of life for those who live and work in the Parish of Gnosall and those who visit it.
Gnosall is a large village which lies 7 miles south west of Stafford and 6 miles north east of Newport.
The Parish of Gnosall is a largely rural area, with predominantly a mix of intensively farmed arable and dairy pasture. The land is gently rolling and lies mostly between 300 and 400 feet high. Medieval maps show that much of the parish has long been farmland, though many of the former common lands have now been enclosed.
The village sits in a valley of the Doley Brook, surrounded by gentle low-lying hills. The name derives from the Old Welsh ‘Genou’ meaning ‘constricted valley ‘and Old English ‘halh’ for low-lying land by a river and so translates to a ‘narrow valley that suddenly opens out into a wider one’. It is only by chance that we have ended up with today’s spelling of Gnosall, as there are at least 27 recorded versions of the village name! The earliest surviving record of Gnosall is in the Domesday Book of 1086, where the name is written as Geneshale. However, it is likely that Gnosall had been in existence for a long time prior to this date.
By the time of the Domesday survey, Gnosall was a modestly sized settlement consisting of 8 ‘villein’ households - tenants who held land in return for labouring on behalf of their lord, and 4 ‘bordars’ or smallholders. Domesday records that there was sufficient arable land to keep two ploughs in work and that these local people had two ploughs.
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 earliest detailed map of Gnosall was the 1839 Tithe Map. The map shows the layout of floodplain fields much as it is today, with ditches used as boundaries instead of hedges. Some of the fields west of the brook were known as Moors, a term indicating low-lying damp areas (such as the once extensive Weald Moors west of Newport). There were also several fields to the west with Willow in the title – possibly where withies (osiers) were grown & harvested - and also the origin of Willy Lane and Farm.
The canal runs north-south through the village and was an important early route for transporting materials on the extensive canal network. It links the waterways system of the West Midlands at Wolverhampton, with the River Mersey and Manchester Ship Canal at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire. Today the canal is a Conservation Area (managed by British Waterways) and still widely used, though primarily by people living on traditional old boats and by holiday makers. British Waterways also maintain the towpaths, which are widely used by walkers.
There are some notable bridges and features on the route through the parish. Most famous is the Cowley Cutting where the canal enters a 74m tunnel. Originally the tunnel was planned to be 630 m long, but after excavating the first section of tunnel, the ground was found to be unstable, so the remaining length was opened out to form the present narrow and steep-sided Cowley Cutting.
The local landscape changed dramatically when the Shropshire Union Railway line (from Stafford to Shrewsbury) opened in 1849. A raised embankment was built through the village to take the line above the boggy floodplain of the Doley Brook, with Gnosall Station situated near the railway bridge over the current A518. The line eventually fell to the ‘Beeching’ cuts and passenger services ceased in 1964, with the line removed in 1970.
Today the line is managed by Staffordshire County Council as a popular footpath and cycleway - now part of Sustrans national Route 55, from Stafford to Newport.
The parish is traversed by many roads, but the main road through Gnosall is the A518 which runs east-west from Stafford to Newport. Further north the A519 also runs east-west (Eccleshall to Woodseaves), almost parallel with the B5405 from Great Bridgeford top the south.
The main watercourse of the parish is the Doley Brook, which rises to the north-west of Gnosall at Doley Common. At the Acres it is joined by the Hollies Brook (flowing south from Knightly) and the Ashbrook, (now mainly culverted through the village), before flowing south through Gnosall. After leaving the village the brook runs downstream to enter the Church Eaton Brook, which in turn feeds into the River Penk, before finally meeting the River Trent in Stafford via the River Sow at its confluence near Baswich. The brook is classified by the Environment Agency as a Main River - forming one of many important headwaters of the River Trent catchment.
As with any natural watercourse, the Doley Brook has its own floodplain - a low-lying area over which water periodically floods after heavy rainfall. This system performs a vital function - providing a natural place in the local catchment to collect and store excess water, before slowly releasing it back into the brook system.
Located between Gnosall and Newport (SJ 770 205), this is the largest natural lake in the West Midlands. The National Nature Reserve is managed by Natural England, the reserve also includes reedbeds, woodland and low-lying wet grassland.
Located midway between Haughton and Church Eaton (SJ 858 193), this small wet pasture is managed by Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and is one of the most important areas of species rich lowland grassland in Staffordshire.
The National Nature Reserve is located between Church Eaton and Wheaton Aston and managed by Natural England. It consists of a series of traditional wildflower alluvial flood meadows which have been managed for hay making for many centuries. They support over 240 species of flowering plants, including the rare snake's-head fritillary.