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Bradshaw’s Guide

Shrewsbury

Ireland’s Mansion, Shrewsbury, England. Taken between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900. Original: Library of Congress

This fine old capital of Shropshire, and parliamentary town, is 42 miles beyond Birmingham, 161¾ miles from London by the North Western (or 171 via Birmingham), and 171 by the Great Western. The new line between Gloucester and Hereford affords another route by way of Leominster, Ludlow, &c., and is 195¼ miles. The station is a splendid Tudor building, which, together with the site, cost £100,000. Two members. Population, 22,163. No particular manufacture, but celebrated for its cakes and brawn. It is beautifully placed on a peninsula of the Severn; one main street entering it from Abbey Foregate, by English Bridge and Wyle Cop, and leaving it on the opposite side by Mardol and Welsh Bridge over to Frankwell, whilst another from Drayton comes in at the neck of the isthmus from Castle Foregate. On this favourite site the Britons began a town which the Mercian Saxons, after driving them out, called Scrobbesbyrig, signifying a wooded hill. From this its modern name and that of the county are derived. Henceforth it became an important frontier position; and here Roger de Montgomery, one of the Conqueror’s firmest adherents, built his Norman castle, planting it at the neck of the isthmus, in the most commanding spot that could be selected. The great keep and walls still remain, partly restored. Close to it is the County Gaol, built by Telford in 1793, on the plan of Howard, whose bust by Bacon is placed over the gateway.

Shrewsbury, which the Welsh style Amwythig, or delight, is a good specimen of an old town, with its narrow irregular streets and ancient buildings, – all, however, somewhat highly picturesque to the eye. Many of the houses are timbered. The Market House, in High-street, is an Elizabethan edifice, dating from 1595, beneath which is the Corn Market, and a statue of Richard, Duke of York, father of Edward IV. who was ably supported by this town in his contest with the Yorkists, and two of his sons were born at the Black Priory, and his portrait (not painted till 1695) is in the Drapers’ Hall, another ancient building. There was a still older structure here, the Booth Hall of Edward II.‘s time, but this has been replaced by the handsome County and Town Hall built by Smirke, containing several portraits of kings, and the famous Admiral Benbow, who was a native of this place. The Council House, with its gate and old hall, 50 ft. long, still remains; adjacent to it is St Nicholas Chapel, now a stable. The theatre, 100 ft. long, formerly the site of the Charlton’s seat. Next to the old Post Office Inn is the Clothworkers’ Hall, deserving notice. The Grammar School, founded (1550) by Edward VI. and possessing an income of about £3,500, takes a very high rank as a place of instruction, and is now under the charge of Dr. Kennedy, one of the first scholars in England. There is a chapel and a museum, in which are several Roman antiquities from Wroxeter. Bishop Butler, author of the well known Geography, was formerly head master; and it boasts of Sir P. Sidney, Wycherley, the poet, Waring, the mathematician, and others, as pupils. G. Bagley, the linguist, was for sometime master of Allatt’s school; he published a curious and important work, the “Grammar of Eleven Languages,” all of which he had acquired by his own exertions.

Of nine churches the oldest is Holy Cross, a Norman structure, near English Bridge. It was the church of an abbey founded by Roger Montgomery, portions of the monastic buildings being incorporated into modern houses. There is one relic, a beautiful stone pulpit, in the decorated Gothic style, covered with ivy. Further on the London-road, past Lord Hill’s Column (186 ft. high), is the little old church of St Giles, lately restored. White Hall is north of the road, an Elizabethan house, built by Prince, a lawyer. Another ancient church, St. Mary’s in Castle-street, cross-shaped, with a spire 220 feet high. Many years ago a hare-brained fellow undertook to slide down a rope laid from the top of this spire to the other side of the river, but he was killed in the attempt. St. Alkmond’s, near this, has a spire 184 ft. high; the church is modem. St. Chad’s, on Claremont Hill is also modem, having a round Grecian body, set off with Rubens’ “Descent from the Cross” in the great window. From it runs the sheltered avenue of the Quarry Promenade, down to the river, planted with limes in 1719. This is a very agreeable spot. On the opposite side of the Severn, at Kingsland, is the House of Industry. From hence the well known author of Sandford and Merton chose a foundling, and educated her with the intention of making her his wife, but the scheme did not succeed. Miss Edgeworth’s “Belinda” is in part founded on this circumstance. At Kingsland is celebrated the show on the second Monday after Trinity Sunday, when the different trades, with music and banners, assemble here – a remnant of the Romish festival of Corpus Christi.

The Severn winds about in a remarkable manner both above and below Shrewsbury, but its banks are most uninteresting. A little above the town is Berwick Hall, the seat of the Hon. H. W. Powys. Near Bicton is the famous Shelton Oak, 44 feet in girth, which they say Owen Glendower ascended to watch the issue of the battle of 1403. This battle, in which Henry TV. defeated the combination of great men under Hotspur, was fought in 1403, at Battefield, three miles north of the town, where a half-mined church marks the site of the victory. Which of the town clocks measured that long hour’s fight between the defunct Harry Percy and Falstaff it is impossible to say, as we have it solely on that fat rogue’s authority.

Fal. There is Percy: if your father will do me any honour, so; if not, let him kill the next Percy himself. I live to be either earl or duke, I assure you.

Prince Henry. Why, Percy I killed myself, and saw thee dead.

Fal. Didst thou? Lord, Lord, how this world is given to lying! I grant you I was down, and out of breath, and so was he; but we rose both at an instant, and fought a long hour by Shrewsbury clock. If I may be believed, so; if not, let them that should reward valour bear the sin upon their own heads.

Sundorne Castle is the seat of D. Corbet Esq., not far from the remains of Haughmond Priory, a mixture of the Norman and pointed styles. Further north are Hardwicke Grange and Hawkstone, both the seats of Viscount Hill, nephew of the first peer, the Hero of Almarez, &c. Hawkstone Park contains several curiosities, grottoes, &c., and points of view, – one of the best being Sir Rowland Hill’s Column, 112 feet high. Longnor belongs to Lieut-Col. Corbet, and was the birth-place of Dr. Lee, the self-taught Oriental scholar. Condover, the seat of E. W. S. Owen, Esq., an ancient Elizabethan house, with many pictures, &c. Cound, Rev. Henry Thursby Pelham. Pitchford has an old church, and is the seat of John Cotes, Esq. Acton Burnell, Sir C. F. Smythe, Bart.; here are remains of an old castle and grange, in which Edward I. held a parliament or great council in 1282. Attingham belongs to Lord Berwick, a charming spot on the Severn, where the Tern joins it. Lower down are the rains of Buildwas Abbey, and the busy mineral district round Coalbrookdale, Wenlock, &c.

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