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Clun Bridge over the River Clun
Grid reference: SO302808
Location: 52°25’17"N, 3°1’47"W
Population: 642  (2001)
Post town: Craven Arms
Postcode: SY7
Dialling code: 01588
Local Government
Council: Shropshire

Clun is a tiny town in southern Shropshire, which stands entirely within the "Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty". The 2001 census recorded 642 people living in the town. Research by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England suggests that Clun is one of the most tranquil locations in England.[1]

Clun takes its name from the river upon which it stands. Deriving from an earlier Colun, it shares its very early British root with a number of rivers named "Colne", in Hertfordshire-Buckinghamshire-Middlesex, in Lancashire, in Essex and in Yorkshire.


Clun grew up around the site of the later Saxon church towards the end of the 7th century AD. However, in the surrounding area there was a scattered population at least as early as the Neolithic period, about 5000 years ago. Clun was on the historic drove road where flocks and herds were driven from the Cambrian Mountains to the markets in the Midlands and London.

At the time of the Norman Conquest Clun formed part of the extensive lands of Eadric The Wild, who led a revolt against King William I, whereon his lands were confiscated and given to Roger de Montgomery who was created Earl of Shrewsbury. Roger in turn granted 27 manors, of which Clun was the largest, to Robert (or "Picot") de Say. These lands constituted a single Marcher Lordship which became known as the Barony of Clun. The present holder of the title is the Duke of Norfolk. The early Lords of Clun had the power to carry out the death penalty, and one William Kempe held his house by the service of carrying to Shrewsbury the heads of felons executed at Clun.

The Normans established a Borough near the castle; the typical grid pattern is still quite clear in High Street, Newport Street, Kidd Lane, Powell's Lane, Ford Street and Hospital Lane. In 1204 King John granted a charter for a three-day fair to be held at Martinmas (11 November) and, at an unknown date, another three-day fair was established commencing on 12 May, the feast of Saints Nereus, Achilles and Pancras. In 1272 there were 183 burgages (or tenures) although the number declined soon after. The mediæval lords had a Portmoot to collect market dues, a Halmoot to deal with their Welsh tenants and a Swanmoot to enforce the laws of Clun Forest. The later Manorial Court, together with the Borough Court, occupied a building which stood on the site of the present bowling green. In earlier times there may have been a chapel here, attached to the castle. However, in 1780 the 2nd Lord Clive pulled down the old courthouse and used the material towards the building of what is now the Town Hall.

The principal officers were two bailiffs; their silver-mounted maces, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, are on display in the museum together with the silver armorial seal of the Walcots of Walcot Hall. The Walcots were the Lords of the Manor from the mid-17th century until 1760, when they sold it to Lord Clive of India, whose descendant, the Earl of Powis, is the present Lord.

The 14th-century pack horse bridge that crosses the river connecting Saxon Clun to Norman Clun has given rise to a local saying: "whoever crosses Clun Bridge comes back sharper than he went".

Clun Mill located to the north of the town is nicknamed the "malevolent mill" on account of numerous deaths having been recorded there and occupants disappearing after purchasing it. It was unoccupied for the majority of the 20th century and fell into disrepair. In 1985 it was purchased by the Youth Hostel Association and restored using the original machinery; it also functions as a youth hostel.


The town's name is taken from that of the River Clun (Welsh: Colunwy), which flows from west to east through the village. The Clun Valley is dominated by agriculture, though some areas of woodland remain. The River Unk joins the Clun just to the west of the town.

The A488 and B4368 roads cross in the town of Clun. Craven Arms, Bishop's Castle (six miles to the north) and Ludlow are the neighbouring Shropshire towns, and Knighton, which straddles the border of Shropshire with Radnorshire, is seven miles to the south. Nearby is Offa's Dyke and the Offa's Dyke Path.

The Clun Forest is to the west of the town, further upstream of the Rivers Unk and Clun. The Jack Mytton Way passes through the town as does the Shropshire Way and further significant historic routes pass through the area.

The town centre on the north bank of the River Clun lies 607 ft above sea level while the oldest part of the settlement, by St George's Church on the south bank, is a little more elevated, at 633 ft. Between the two, Clun Bridge carries the A488 and B4368 routes across the river.

In addition to Clun Bridge there is also a ford further downstream, at Waterloo, which has recently been made usable to most motor vehicles, and a third crossing point, a footbridge just upstream of Clun Bridge, connects the town's main car park to the castle grounds.

Sights about the town

Attractions in the town include:

  • The Norman Clun Castle, now only a ruin but with grounds which are used for the May fair
  • The fifteenth century Clun Bridge (basically a packhorse bridge), most of which is still the original stone despite being a road bridge today used by all vehicles
  • Trinity Hospital, almshouses built in 1614, on Hospital Lane
  • a museum in the Town Hall, on the corner of The Square and High Street

The main church in the town is St George's Church, which is situated on the steep rise out of the town ("Church Street") to the south of Clun Bridge.

Clun is a popular starting point for walkers who wish to explore the Shropshire Way, the Jack Mytton Way or the local circular walks. A walkers car park is situated at the Memorial Hall.


Over the three days of the first May bank holiday every year, the Green Man festival is held. On the bank holiday Monday the Green Man enters Clun to battle the spirit of winter at Clun Bridge and a May fair is held in the grounds of Clun Castle with a May Queen.[2]

The first Saturday in August every year sees the Clun Carnival take place with a procession through the town's streets and a fete at the playing fields to the north of the town.

The first weekend in October sees the Clun Valley Beer Festival[3] which takes place in the seven open pubs of the valley (from Anchor, Shropshire|Anchor to Aston on Clun).

In culture

  • In A Shropshire Lad, A. E. Housman wrote the verse:

Clunton and Clunbury,
Clungunford and Clun,
Are the quietest places
Under the sun.

  • In Douglas Adams' book The Meaning of Liff, Clun is listed as "a leg that has gone to sleep that you have to drag around behind you".
  • E. M. Forster visited Clun, which subsequently featured as Oniton in his novel Howards End (1910).
  • Sir Walter Scott is believed to have stayed in The Buffalo Inn while writing The Betrothed and The Talisman, published jointly as Tales of The Crusaders in 1825. Clun Castle is supposed to have inspired Scott's Garde Doleureuse in that work.
  • Malcolm Saville wrote a series of books about a group of children who solve mysteries and have adventures (The Lone Pine Club) either in Clun or in places close to the town.

Outside links