It’s nearly the end of the year but I still have unfinished business with my summer holidays – so I am catching up with sorting my Shropshire pictures from August. I’ll leave Shrewsbury churches for another day, but here are some great old buildings in the county town, many of them in the timber-framed black-and-white Tudor style that has sometimes given this area the nickname “magpie country” – or at least I saw it called that in the Reader’s Digest once when I was a child.
I was reprimanded by the train guard when I asked for a return ticket to ShrOHsbury, as if posh people from down south call it that. Further north it is definitely called ShrOOsbury! Although townspeople are apparently divided. In the 7th century the settlement had grown to be a place the Saxons named Scrobbesbyrig, apparently coming from Old English scrubb (scrubland) and burh (fortified place). Nearby, beside the River Severn, there was a plain with scattered alder trees in those days.
Although it is the county town od Shropshire, it has a population of only 72,000 people, under half of nearby Telford’s headcount. Telford was created as a newtown in the 1960s, while Shrewsbury is a very long established market town and municipal centre.
Looking now at a satellite view of Shrewsbury, I realise that we only saw a small fraction of the place, the old town centre almost surrounded by a big bend in the River Severn – and I didn’t even notice the river!
Shrewsbury School was in the building pictured above from 1630 until 1882. Then it moved to a new campus and the building became a free museum and library. Since 1983 it has just been the public library.
Old Salopians, as former pupils of Shrewsbury School are called, include naturalist Charles Darwin, Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, authors Samuel Butler and Nevil Shute, and broadcasters John Peel and Michael Palin. Meanwhile Royal Navy hero Admiral John Benbow was also born in the town.
The remarkable thing about Castle Gates House is that it was built on a street called Dogpole, but moved to its present position around 1700 by Sir Francis Newport, first Earl of Bradford, to make way for the Guildhall. Here in Cardiff we often hear of buildings being dismantled and moved – to the St Fagans National History Museum – but I hadn’t realised people were doing that kind of project so long ago.
I didn’t take a picture of the structure that replaced it in Dogpole, but it is a smart Georgian-looking red-brick building with a steep slate roof – plus Doric pillars added around the porch in the early 19th century. It is known as the Old Guildhall or Newport House (after its former owner) and I think it may now have been converted into posh apartments.
I think the building pictured above may be Ireland’s Mansion in the High Street, constructed in 1596 for wealthy wool trader Robert Ireland.
The building of Shrewsbury Castle began around 1070, under the instruction of the Norman lord Robert de Montgomerie, First Earl of Shrewsbury. Much of the original building was demolished when Edward I went around rebuilding and strengthening defences against the troublesome Welsh.
In the English Civil War the town was Royalist but easily fell to the Parliamentarians in 1645 when a traitor let them in. The castle was eventually surrendered to the crown in 1660, after Charles II was restored to the throne.
Then it was in private hands for centuries before the corporation took it over, restored it and opened it to the public in 1926. It was sometimes used for council meetings but since 1985 it has housed the Shropshire Regimental Museum.
…apparently it’s now a “multi-purpose entertainment venue and events space”. It was originally built in 1835 in heavy Greek Revival style – which seems a bit excessive for what was then a butter warehouse!
Finally, a note on the Shropshire county name, from Wikipedia: The origin of the name “Shropshire” is the Old English Scrobbesbyrigscīr (literally Shrewsbury-shire). Salop is an old abbreviation for Shropshire, from the Anglo-French Salopesberia.