Shrewsbury and Shropshire

Shrewsbury and Shropshire

Shrewsbury and Shropshire

Information Office, The Square, Shrewsbury, S71 1LH. 0743 52019.

(posted Nov 2011): Shrewsbury (0743 59623).

A glance at a map shows exactly why Shrewsbury achieved such importance as a fortress against the Welsh. A dozen roads fan out from Shrewsbury and five lines converge on to the Victorian Gothic station. At this mid-point in its flow the river Severn suddenly contorts into a loop encircling the town, which has been built on the rising ground inside the coiled river. If you come to Shrewsbury by train you will wonder why it was that the Romans settled themselves down at Wroxeter (Viroconium), 6 miles to the west, when there was such a strategic site ready-made for them at Shrewsbury.

It was after the Romans left Viroconium that the inhabitants moved to the comparative safety of Pengrwern, as Shrewsbury was then named. The Princes of Powys made it their seat in the fifth and sixth centuries, and during the eighth century it became part of the kingdom of Mercia, which is when it was given its Saxon name of Scrobbesbyrig. How it got that name is anyone's guess. There are three front runners, either it was named after someone called Scrobb, whose fortified place this was; it could have been Anglo-Saxon for a scrub covered hill; or it could have marked it as the centre of a wooded plain.

Today it is the best preserved of all English medieval towns with many half-timber framed buildings. There are the town houses of the country gentry which bear witness to Shrewsbury's wealth and prosperity as a market and trading town in the late Middle Ages, Tudor and Elizabethan times. Trade was mainly concerned with Welsh sheep, wool and flax because in those days the River Severn was navigable for almost forty miles beyond Shrewsbury. Once law and order had been established on the Welsh Marches the town thrived and the building of the black and white half-timbered houses spread up the hills rising from the banks of the Severn to make Shrewsbury the showplace it is.

It would be idle to pretend that nothing has changed in Shrewsbury since then, but I must say that it has to a very large extent escaped the 'renovating and rebuilding' suffered by some other medieval towns in Britain. There is the occasional new building towering up, such as the new Market Hall with its ultra-modern clockface shining the hours; there is a one-way system of roads which must have been the creation of the man who invented spaghetti. There remains an immensely rich legacy of Elizabethan, Queen Anne, Georgian and Victorian buildings.

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British Rail News 2015

These rights and privileges were resented by some of 'The Town' who rebelled against 'The Gown' and many of those rights were eventually abandoned.

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