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United Kingdom
Shrewsbury 5 1900.jpg
Flag of Shropshire
Floreat Salopia
(Let Shropshire flourish)
[Interactive map]
Area: 1,343 square miles
Population: 441,498
County town: Shrewsbury
County flower: Round-leaved sundew [1]

Shropshire (abbreviated Salop or Shrops) is a shire in the west of the Midlands. Shropshire is one of England's most rural and sparsely populated counties with a population density of 337 a square mile according to the 2001 census.

The county has six main towns, each separate, of which the county town is Shrewsbury, an ancient town full of history, reflected in its buildings.[1] The largest town though is Telford, a new town built from scratch and named after the Dumfriesshire engineer Thomas Telford. Nevertheless, in its urban area it has taken in a number of older towns, most notably Wellington, Dawley and Madeley.[2] Oswestry stands in the north-west of the shire and Newport in the east. Two towns stand on dramatic defensive hills topped with castles; Bridgnorth above the Severn guards the south-east of the county and Ludlow above the River Teme to the south. In northern Shropshire are Whitchurch and Market Drayton.


Countryside of mid-Shropshire.
The Severn at Shrewsbury

The River Severn, Britain's longest river, courses through the heart of Shropshire and creates a broad, green valley with vast meadows. It curls around the ancient town of Shrewsbury and later squeezes through Coalbrookdale to the Ironbridge Gorge where it once fuelled the start of the industrial revolution, then runs south through the county into Worcestershire on its long course to the sea. In contrast to the meadowlands of the Severn, Shropshire is also struck with dramatic hills, such as the Long Mynd and an enigmatic hill on its own in the midst of the shire, the Wrekin.

The Ironbridge Gorge area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, covering Ironbridge, Coalbrookdale and a part of Madeley.[3] There are, additionally, other notable historic industrial sites located around the county, such as Broseley, Snailbeach and Highley as well as the Shropshire Union Canal.[4]

The Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covers about a quarter of the county, mainly in the south.[5]

The Wrekin, 1,335 feet high, is one of the most famous natural landmarks in the county,[6] though the highest hills are the Clee Hills running up hard against to the boundaries with Montgomeryshire and Radnorshire,[7] in which the county's highest point is found: Brown Clee Hill at 1,772 feet. Other high hills in western Shropshire are Stiperstones (1,759 feet)[8] and the Long Mynd (1,693 feet at Pole Bank).[9]

Wenlock Edge is another significant geographical and geological landmark; a long limestone escarpment which runs 15 miles between Craven Arms and Much Wenlock.[10] In the low-lying north-west of the county and overlapping the border into Flintshire is the Fenn's, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses National Nature Reserve, one of the most important and best preserved bogs in Britain.

Northern Shropshire

The North Shropshire Plain is an extension of the flat and fertile Cheshire Plain. It is here that most of the county's large towns, and population in general, are to be found. Shrewsbury at the centre, Oswestry to the north west, Whitchurch to the north, Market Drayton to the north-east, and Newport and the Telford conurbation (Telford, Wellington, Oakengates, Donnington and Shifnal) to the east. The land is fertile and agriculture remains a major feature of the landscape and the economy. The River Severn runs through the lower half of this area (from Montgomeryshire in the west, eastwards), through Shrewsbury and down the Ironbridge Gorge, before heading south to Bridgnorth.

The area around Oswestry has more rugged geography than the North Shropshire Plain and the western half is over an extension of the Wrexham Coalfield and there are also copper deposits on the western border. Mining of stone and sand aggregates is still going on in Mid-Shropshire, notably on Haughmond Hill, near Bayston Hill and around the village of Condover. Lead mining also took place at Snailbeach and the Stiperstones, but this has now ceased. Other primary industries, such as forestry and fishing, are to be found too.

The Wrekin standing over the east of the county

Most of Shropshire's modern commerce and industry is found along the A5 road and the M54 motorway, the two roads forming a major transport route running from Wolverhampton in Staffordshire across to Telford, around Shrewsbury parallel to the line of Watling Street. The A5 then turns north-west to Oswestry, before heading north into Denbighshire. Telford new town is found where the M54 disgorges onto the A5. The county's railways meet at Shrewsbury.

The new town of Telford is built partly on a former industrial area centred on the East Shropshire Coalfield as well as on former agricultural land. There are still many ex-colliery sites to be found in the area, as well as disused mine shafts. This industrial heritage is an important tourist attraction, as is seen by the growth of museums in the Ironbridge, Coalbrookdale, Broseley and Jackfield area. Blists Hill museum and historical (Victorian era) village is a major tourist attraction as well as the Iron Bridge itself. In addition, Telford Steam Railway runs from Horsehay.

Southern Shropshire

The Long Mynd near Church Stretton

South Shropshire is more rural, with fewer settlements and no large towns, and its landscape differs greatly from that of North Shropshire. The area is dominated by significant hill ranges and river valleys, woods, pine forests and "batches", a colloquial term for small valleys and other natural features. Farming is more pastoral than the arable found in the north of the county. The only substantial towns are Bridgnorth, with a population of around 12,000 people, Ludlow and Church Stretton. The Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty spreads across the south-west, covering 310 square miles: it is the only specifically protected area of the county. Inside this area is the popular Long Mynd and Stiperstones to the east of the Long Mynd, overlooking Church Stretton.

Because of its valley location and character, Church Stretton is sometimes referred to as a Little Switzerland. Nearby are the old mining and quarrying communities on the Clee Hills, notable geological features in the Onny Valley and Wenlock Edge and fertile farmland in the Corve Dale. The River Teme drains this part of the county, before flowing into Worcestershire to the South and joining the River Severn.

The Clun Forest in south-western Shropshire against the Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire boundary is a little known and remote part of the county. Through it runs a portion of Offa's Dyke and also the River Clun and the River Onny. The small towns of Clun and Bishop's Castle are in this area. The countryside here is very rural and is in parts wild and forested. To the south of Clun, the town of Knighton stands across the boundary of Shropshire with Radnorshire. Its Welsh name Tref-y-Clawdd means "Town on the Dyke".


The rocks in Shropshire are relatively new, especially compared to the Cambrian mountains. Shropshire has a number of areas with Silurian and Ordivician rocks, where a number of shells, corals and trilobites can be found. Mortimer Forest is an example where a number of fossils can be found.

Name of the shire

Shropshire is the original proper noun for the county descending from the Old English "Scrobbesbyrigscir", meaning "Shrewsburyshire".

Salop is an alternative name sometimes used as an abbreviation for Shropshire. "Salop" comes from the Latinised "Salopesberia". It is the correct term to use when referring to the County of Salop, and Shropshire residents are still referred to as "Salopians".

The various county councils established since 1889 were called "Salop County Council", but the council renamed itself from Salop to Shropshire in 1980, not least because they hoped to meet European counterparts and knew what salope means to French ears.


The lands of Shropshire were during the Iron Age part of the lands of the Cornovii, who spread over Cheshire, Shropshire, northern Staffordshire, northern Herefordshire and eastern parts of the Cambrian mountains. Ptolemy's 2nd century Geography names one of their towns as being Viroconium Cornoviorum (Wroxeter), which became the tribal capital under Roman rule and one of the largest settlements in Britain. Wroxeter is now a small village but preserves an ancient name. Viroconium took its name from the Wrekin, which looms over the landscape, and whose slopes might have been the town's original location.

After the Roman occupation of Britain ended in the 5th century, the Shropshire area was in the eastern part of the Welsh Kingdom of Powys; known in Welsh poetry as the Paradise of Powys. The kingdom's capital was Pengwern, which Gerald of Wales identifies as Shrewsbury. Gerald, writing in the twelfth century, says that Powys anciently has six cantrefs, of three were taken by the English and became Shropshire.

In 641 King Oswald of the Northumbrians was slain in battle by Penda of Mercia at Maserfelþ or Maes Cogwy, and his body dismembered. Here then was founded the abbey of Oswaldes treow; Oswestry, which grew from pilgrimage and those seeking the healing qualities attributed to the well here. It was about this time that lowland Powys was annexed to the Kingdom of the Mercians by King Wulfhere in, a moment recalled by the poetry of Llywarch Hen:

High may the mountain be
I care not that I herd my cattle there.
Thin seems my cloak.
. . .
Gone are my brethren from the lands of the Severn
Around the banks of Dwyryw

In the next century King Offa fixed the border in the eighth century, building two significant dykes there to mark the bounds of the kingdom and defend his territory against the Welsh princes. The Mercian Tribal Hidage names one of the Mercian's underkingdoms as Wrocensæte; the people of the Wrekin, who had seven thousand hides,[11] which "Wrokenset" was the precursor of today's county.

In subsequent centuries, the area suffered repeated Danish invasion. In the reconquest, fortresses were built at Bridgnorth and Chirbury.[12]

After the Norman Conquest in 1066, major estates in Shropshire were granted to Normans, including Roger de Montgomerie, who ordered significant constructions, particularly in Shrewsbury, the town of which he was Earl.[13] Many defensive castles were built at this time across the county to defend against the Welsh and enable effective control of the region, including Ludlow Castle[14] and Shrewsbury Castle.[15] The western frontier with Wales was not finally determined until the 14th Century. Also in this period, a number of religious foundations were formed, the county largely falling at this time under the diocese of Hereford and that of Coventry and Lichfield. Some areas in later times fell under the diocese of St Asaph until 1920.

The county was a central part of the Welsh Marches during the Middle Ages and was often embroiled in the power struggles between powerful Marcher Lords, the Earls of March and successive kings.[16]

Henry VIII's parliament abolished the marcher lordships and the western border of Shropshire was settled. Until 1688 however Shropshire and other marcher counties were administered separately from the rest of England, by the Council of Wales and the Marches, which had functions here similar to those exercised by the Privy Council in London. The capital was Ludlow and the Lord President of Wales dwelt at Ludlow Castle.

The Welsh language continued to be spoken in parts of Shropshire, notably Oswestry, into the twentieth century.

The county now contains a number of historically significant towns, including Shrewsbury, Ludlow and Oswestry. The area around Coalbrookdale is seen as highly significant to world history, this was one of the birthplaces of the Industrial Revolution, and one of the products of the forges set up here, the Iron Bridge still spans the Severn at the village it created; Ironbridge.

The Iron Bridge

Towns and villages


Telford is the largest town in the county with a population of 138,241; some 30% of the county's total. Shrewsbury, once one of the great towns of the realm, has population of about half the size. The other sizeable towns are Oswestry, Bridgnorth, Newport and Ludlow. The historic town of Wellington now makes up part of the Telford conurbation. The majority of the other settlements can be classed as villages or small towns.

Shropshire's largest towns and villages by population are:

Things to see in Shropshire

Shrewsbury Castle
Cathedral/Abbey/Priory Cathedral/Abbey/Priory
Accessible open space Accessible open space
Amusement/Theme Park Amusement/Theme Park
Castle Castle
Country Park Country Park
English Heritage English Heritage
Forestry Commission Forestry Commission
Heritage railway Heritage railway
Historic house Historic House
Museum (free)
Museum (not free)
Museum (free/not free)
National Trust National Trust
Zoo Zoo

Place in literature

For the place of Shropshire in literature, pride of place must go to A E Houseman' A Shropshire Lad, a collection of beautiful poems reflecting many aspects of the life of man and of rural life.

  • A Shropshire Lad, the most famous work by A E Housman, uses Shropshire as the setting for many of its poems.
  • St Mawr, a novella by D H Lawrence, is partially set in the Long Mynd area of southern Shropshire.
  • In Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Jonathan Strange is from the county, and some parts of the book are set there.
  • P G Wodehouse's fictional Blandings Castle, the ancestral home of Lord Emsworth, is in Shropshire. Also from Shropshire is Psmith, a character in a series of Wodehouse's novels.
  • In The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, Jack pretends to live in rural Shropshire, to mask his double life
  • White Acre vs. Black Acre a 1856 plantation literature novel by William M Burwell features two Shropshire farms acting as an allegory for American slavery - White Acre Farm standing for the abolitionist Northern States, and Black Acre Farm for the slaveholding Southern States.
  • The Brother Cadfael mysteries by Ellis Peters often feature Shrewsbury Abbey and Shropshire generally; Brother Cadfael is a monk of the Abbey.
  • In the novel A Room With a View, Charlotte Bartlett states that the romantic Italian landscape reminds her of the country around Shropshire, where she once spent a holiday at the home of her friend Miss Apesbury.
  • In music, the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote "On Wenlock Edge" in 1907.
  • The county has often appeared in film, whether to conjure up a Victorisn toen (Shrewsbury used for London in for example A Christmas Carol (1984), or the rural idyll of its countryside, as used in Blott on the Landscape or the 2005 sit-com The Green Green Grass.


Shropshire has one of five National Sports Centres, at Lilleshall Hall just outside Newport in Lilleshall. The 1966 England National football team trained here for two weeks before their success in that year's World Cup.

The area also has a rich motorsport heritage, with the Loton Park Hillclimb and Hawkstone Park Motocross Circuit situated near Shrewsbury. Shrewsbury Motocross Club has staged motocross events in the area for over 30 years. There is additionally an ice hockey club in the county, the Telford Tigers.

One of the biggest one day events in Shropshire and the biggest one day cycle race in Britain is the Shropshire Star Newport Nocturne. Held every four years, it is Britain's only floodlit cycle race.[17]

The historic Wenlock Olympian Society Annual Games are held annually in Much Wenlock during the second weekend in July. A four-day festival, the Games include cricket, volleyball, tennis, bowls, badminton, triathlon, 10k road race, track and field events, archery, five-a-side football, veteran cycle events, clay pigeon shooting and a golf competition.


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