The Old Market Hall in the Square
|Postcode:||SY1, SY2, SY3|
Shrewsbury is the county town of Shropshire. It stands on a hill in a bend of the River Severn in the midst of its county, a town of some 70,000 inhabitants, if grown from its original historic heart and trespassing over that broad water. Shrewsbury is the second largest town in the county, after Telford.
Shrewsbury is a historic market town with the town centre having a largely unaltered mediæval street plan. The town features over 660 historic listed buildings, including several examples of timber framing from the 15th and 16th century. Shrewsbury Castle, a red sandstone castle fortification, and Shrewsbury Abbey, a former Benedictine monastery, were founded in 1074 and 1083 respectively, by the Norman Earl of Shrewsbury, Roger de Montgomery.
Shrewsbury serves as a cultural and commercial centre for Shropshire and a large area of mid-Wales, with retail output alone worth over £299 million a year. There are some light industry and distribution centres, such as Battlefield Enterprise Park, located mainly on the outskirts. The A5 and A49 trunk roads cross near to the town, as do five railway lines at Shrewsbury railway station.
Name of the town
There is disagreement even locally about how the name of the town is to be pronounced; whether ˈʃroʊzbri or ˈʃruːzbri. The latter is traditional, the former becoming more frequent.
Gerald of Wales said that Shropshire was the lost half of the Kingdom of Powys and Shrewsbury its capital, then known as Pengwern, menaing "the alder hill".
The earliest name in English was Scrobbesburh (or in the dative Scrobbesbyrig), which means "scrub-land fort-town" or "shrubstown". This name was gradually corrupted in three directions: Scrobbesbyrig became "Shrewsbury", while its shire, Scrobbesbyrigscir became shorterned to 'Sciropscire' and thence Shropshire, while a corruption to Sloppesberie became "Salop", an alternative name for both the town and its county.
In Welsh, the town's name is Amwythig, meaning "scrubland fort"; a translation of the Old English name.
Shrewsbury may have been a Dark Age capital of Powys, Pengwern, but in its current form it is believed to have been founded around the year 800. It flourished in the Middle Ages and retains significant mediæval heritage. It was during the late Middle Ages (14th/15th Centuries) when the town was at its height of commercial importance, mainly due to the wool trade, a major industry at the time, with the rest of Britain and Europe, and the town could send its wares out along the River Severn and Watling Street.
Over the ages, the geographically important town has been the site of many civil conflicts, whetehr those between the English and the Welsh or those amongst the nobles. Shrewsbury was, it is said, the seat of the Kings of Powys for many years, but at an unrecorded date the Mercian English took possession of it and drove the Welsh frontier back to the hills.
The town first appears named in a charter of 901, the reign of Edward the Elder. His son, King Athelstan, established a mint there in 925.
After the Norman Conquest, Edric "The Wild" rose in rebellion against the Normans, allied with a local Welsh prince and besieged the town in 1069, until repelled by William the Conqueror. Roger de Montgomery was given the town as a gift from William, and built Shrewsbury Castle in 1074, taking the title of Earl. The 3rd Earl, Robert of Bellême was deposed in 1102 afer rebelling against Henry I.
In the Wars of the Roses in 1403, the Battle of Shrewsbury took place a few miles north of the town centre, at Battlefield; it was fought between King Henry IV and Henry Hotspur Percy, with the King emerging victorious, an event celebrated in William Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1, Act 5.
It is believed that Henry VIII intended to make Shrewsbury a cathedral city in the reform of the Church of England, but the citizens of the town declined the offer.
The town is home to the Ditherington Flax Mill, the world's first iron-framed building, which is commonly regarded as "the grandfather of the skyscraper". Its importance was officially recognised in the 1950s, resulting in it becoming a Grade I listed building. Shrewsbury in the Industrial Revolution was also located on the Shrewsbury Canal which linked it to the Shropshire Canal and wider canal network of Great Britain.
Nearby is the village of Wroxeter, 5 miles to the south-west, where the now ruined Roman city of Viroconium Cornoviorum lies. Viroconium was the fourth largest civitas capital in Roman Britain. As Caer Guricon it may have served as the early Dark Age capital of the Kingdom of Powys. Wroxtere today is just a small village.
About the town
The town was not bombed in Second World War and so many of its ancient buildings remain intact and there was little redevelopment during the 1960s and 1970s, which arguably destroyed the character of many historic towns in the United Kingdom. However, a large area of half timbered houses and businesses was destroyed to make way for the Raven Meadows multi-story car park, and other historic buildings were demolished to make way for the brutalist architectural style of the 1960s. The town was saved from a new 'inner ring road' due to its challenging geography.
The town has two expanding business parks, the Shrewsbury Business Park and the Battlefield Enterprise Park. There are many residential developments currently under construction in the town to cater for the increasing numbers of people coming to live in the town to as far as Birmingham.
Arms of the town
The ancient arms of the Town Council, depicts three "loggerheads" (lions' faces), with the motto Floreat Salopia, a Latin phrase that can be translated to "may Shrewsbury flourish" or "may Shropshire flourish".
Shrewsbury Abbey is the most prominent church in the town. It was founded by Roger de Montgomery in 1083. The Abbey was dissolved at the reformation but the church remains active within the Church of England.
Notable Churches in the town include:
- Church of England:
- Baptist: Claremont Baptist Church
- Independent Evangelical: Shrewsbury Evangelical Church
- Methodist: Belle Vue Methodist Church
- Pentecostal (Elim): Rivers Way
- United Reformed Church
- Eastern Orthodox: Orthodox Church
- Roman Catholic: Shrewsbury Cathedral
Many community projects in Shrewsbury are based in, or have been started by local churches, including the Isaiah 58 project, which is the primary work amongst homeless people in the town. Basics Bank is another example, based at The Barnabas Centre, which provides debt relief for local people.
Churches Together in Shrewsbury is seeking to continue its long term commitment to helping homeless people through The Ark project.
One of the houses in Fish Street, facing St Alkmond's Church, is noted as being the location of John Wesley's first preaching in Shrewsbury, on 16 March 1761.
Sights of Shrewsbury
The historic town centre still retains its mediæval street pattern and many narrow streets and passages. Some of the passages, especially those which pass through buildings from one street to the next, are called "shuts" (the word deriving from "to shoot through" from one street to another). Many specialist shops, traditional pubs and local restaurants can be found in the hidden corners, squares and lanes of Shrewsbury.
Many of the street names have also remained unchanged in centuries and there are some more unusual names, such as Butcher Row, Longden Coleham, Dogpole, Mardol, Frankwell, Roushill, Grope Lane, Gullet Passage, Murivance, The Dana, Portobello, Bear Steps, Shoplatch and Bellstone.
The Public Library, in the pre-1882 Shrewsbury School building, stands on Castle Hill. Above the main entrance are two statues bearing the inscriptions "Philomathes" and "Polumathes". These portray the virtues "Lover of learning" and "Much learning" to convey the lesson that it is good to gain knowledge through a love of learning.
In the centre of the town lies The Quarry. This 29 acre riverside park attracts thousands of people throughout the year and is enjoyed as a place of recreation. The Dingle, as it is known was a quarry transformed into a scenic garden in the Victorian era.
Shrewsbury is known as the "Town of Flowers" and this was the motto was formerly printed onto many of the signs on entrance to the town by way of major roads.
Lord Hill's Column in the town the largest free-standing Doric column in the world.
The Light Infantry has been associated with Shrewsbury since the 17th century when the first regiments were formed and many more regiments have been raised at Shrewsbury before being deployed all over the world from the American Revolutionary War to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, after several major reorganisations, the Light Infantry Brigade now forms part of the regiment known simply as The Rifles. Shrewsbury's Copthorne Barracks, spiritual home of the Light Brigade, still houses the Headquarters of the British Army's 5th Division.
Between 1962 and 1992 there was a hardened nuclear bunker, built for No 16 Group Royal Observer Corps Shrewsbury, who provided the field force of the United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation and would have sounded the "four minute warning" alarm in the event of war and warned the population of Shrewsbury in the event of approaching radioactive fallout. The building was manned by up to 120 volunteers who trained on a weekly basis and wore a Royal Air Force style uniform.
After the breakup of the communist bloc in 1989, the Royal Observer Corps was disbanded between September 1991 and December 1995. However, the nuclear bunker still stands just inside Holywell Street near the Abbey as a lasting reminder of the cold war, but is now converted and used as a veterinary practice.
Events and venues
Shrewsbury is home to one of the largest and oldest horticultural events in the United Kingdom: the annual Shrewsbury Flower Show. A two-day event, the Flower Show takes place in mid-August, has been running for more than 125 years, and attracts around 100,000 visitors each year. Set in the Quarry park, there are a multitude of events, exhibitions and displays, with a fireworks display at the end of each day.
The town is well known for its flower displays, and has won numerous awards in recent years.
The Music Hall was formerly the town's theatre the building is currently being converted into its museum and gallery.
Shrewsbury is also home to one of the region's main agricultural shows - the West Mid Show. This is held every year, usually in May, at the Shropshire Agricultural Showground on the outskirts of town at Coton Hill.
The town hosts the Shrewsbury International Music Festival, when musical groups from all over the world come to perform for about a week for local residents, and give a final concert in the Abbey. The festival is organised by WorldStage Tours.
2006 saw the first Shrewsbury Folk Festival, after the event moved to the town from nearby Bridgnorth. Held annually over the August bank holiday, the event is very popular, with people travelling from across Britain to attend. In 2006 much of the event was held in the Quarry, with other related festivities happening around the town. For 2007 the event moved to the West Midlands Showground on the other side of the river. A new annual arts festival - the Shrewsbury Summer Season - was established in 2004 and runs each year from June to August with an extensive programme of music, visual arts, theatre and spectacle.
There are some very old public houses, which have been continuously open as pubs, such as the Golden Cross, the Dun Cow and the King's Head. The Golden Cross is reputed to be the oldest licensed Public House in Shrewsbury and records show that it was used as an inn as far back as 1428. Its original name was the Sextry, because it was originally the sacristy of Old St. Chad's Church.
Construction of Theatre Severn, a new entertainment complex in Frankwell, was commissioned in September 2006. Actual construction began on the site in April 2007. The design features a prominent glass curve and steel frame. The site is positioned next to the Guildhall, alongside the namesake River Severn. The new complex replaced the old theatre, the Shrewsbury Music Hall. The Music Hall is currently being refurbished, to take on the role of Rowley's House Museum, which will soon be closed for renovation for the foreseeable future.
The town appears in the Brother Cadfael novels by Ellis Peters (pen name of Edith Pargeter). The novels take Shrewsbury Abbey for their setting, with Shrewsbury and other places in Shropshire portrayed regularly, and have made Mediæval Shrewsbury familiar to a wide worldwide readership.
The local author, Carol Ewels has written two children's books, including Jack the Cat, which are set in the town. Also, the children's author Pauline Fisk writes about a town called Pengwern, which is based entirely on Shrewsbury, in books including Midnight Blue, and Sabrina Fludde. Frank Cottrell Boyce, another children's author, writes briefly about Shrewsbury in his book Millions.
- Beacon Shropshire
- BBC Radio Shropshire
- The Severn
- New media:
- shropshirelive.com, is based in Shrewsbury with local residents encouraged to get involved with the web site by becoming citizen journalists and contributors.
- Frankwell footbridge is a modern pedestrian footbridge between Frankwell and the town centre spanning the River Severn.
- The Welsh Bridge was built in the 1790s to replace the ancient St George's Bridge
- The Porthill Bridge, a pedestrian suspension bridge running between The Quarry and Porthill, built in 1922.
- The Kingsland Bridge, a privately owned toll bridge.
- The Greyfriars Bridge, a pedestrian bridge between Coleham and the town centre.
- The English Bridge, historically called "Stone Bridge", which was rebuilt in the 1930s.
The railway station, which is partly built over the river.
- The Castle Walk Footbridge, another modern pedestrian footbridge.
- Telford Way, which has separate lanes for vehicles (A5112), bicycles and pedestrians.
A E Housman wrote of the area this verse, which mentions the bridges of the town:
High the vanes of Shrewsbury gleam
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