A visit to another one of those great places where there is debate over how you pronounce the name. Is it ShrOWEsbury or ShrOOsbury? Mostly we went for the ShrOOsbury option and just kept our fingers crossed that we didn’t offend anybody. However you say it, it is the county town of Shropshire and bursting with medieval architecture. Let’s go…….
Expert navigation brought us to one of the free (on Sunday) town parks which was just opposite Shrewsbury Abbey. Well actually called the Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul and a great place to start our self-guided “see the sights” tour of this beautiful city.
The Abbey was founded in 1083 but mostly destroyed in the 16th century. Apart from serving parishioners for almost 1,000 years, it has a staggering fact in that it was the location of the first gathering of Parliament. Under the rule of Edward I in 1283, took place in the chapter house. Shrewsbury hosted Parliament a second time 105 years later under Richard II. Not quite a regular occurrence but one those things that we had never realised. The Sunday Service was taking place as we admired the outside of the building so strolled on towards the town.
The English Bridge & City Walls
Just a short walk brought us to the English Bridge which crosses the broad River Severn. Originally known as the Stone Bridge, it is now known as the English Bridge. Is this going to be a day of renamed churches, bridges, castles?
There is another bridge on the other side of the town known as the Welsh Bridge. Although Shrewsbury was once the capital of Wales, both bridges are in England and about 9 miles east of the border with Wales. The Welsh bridge is to the west of the town and called this as it is nearer to the border.
A short walk up the hill away from the English Bridge we came across part of the original city walls and the Town Walls Tower. You know what I am going to say……it is officially called Wingfield’s Tower!! The theme continues. It is the last medieval watchtower in the town. It was finished in the 14th century and used to keep an eye on the approaches to the south of the town across the river.
The Quarry & Hercules
The Quarry is a huge park that follows the curve of the river. In it’s centre is The Dingle a walled secluded garden. For those older folk out there who know the name, it is where Percy Thrower the well known gardener and horticulturist worked as a groundsman before broadcasting and TV fame. There is a statue of him commemorating his connection to Shrewsbury.
A beautiful avenue of lime trees runs along a broad path by the river known as Victoria Avenue. It felt a really well used open space and so close the town. A large children’s play area, cafe and even boat trips on the “Sabrina” or for the more adventurous hire a canoe.
About half way along Victoria Avenue we came across a large statue of Hercules. The plaque beside it said that the statue used to stand outside St Chad’s Church but the gentile ladies didn’t like being faced with his manhood in all it’s glory so the statue was moved onto Victoria Avenue and a well positioned fig leaf fashioned to (almost) cover certain body parts.
St Chad’s & Darwin
With its unusual round shape and high tower, St Chad’s Church looms over Quarry Park. Once again, being Sunday we could hear music inside but also from across the road where there was a choir singing their hearts out in the park.
Apart from it’s religious and architectural significance, St Chad’s has two other striking claims to fame. Firstly, it was where Charles Darwin was baptised and attended church as a young boy. Secondly, in the graveyard is the tombstone for Ebenezer Scrooge. Yes believe it or not the production company filming the remake of The Christmas Carol in 1984, which was filmed in Shrewsbury, got permission to recycle an illegible headstone by engraving it with the name Ebenezer Scrooge and it is still in the graveyard to this day.
There has been a castle on this hill overlooking the River Severn since 1067. Much changed and extended over the years it is open to the public and houses an art gallery and Shropshire Regimental Museum. This museum was attacked by the IRA in 1992 during the Northern Ireland conflict. Thankfully no-one was injured but there was extensive damage to the Castle and the exhibits in the museum.
On the day of our visit, the Castle had switched to Autumn opening times so we were unable to visit and it was hard to get a good view from the little gardens at the front. Our best views were from the river when we took a meander along the river edge.
We had such a lovely day exploring Shrewsbury and, apart from the overwhelming amount of listed buildings and views, loved the feel of the whole town. Here are just a few of the countless photos……
Lyth Hill Countryside Site
Having spent the whole of what was a beautiful day in the town, Jon found a countryside park a short drive outside of the town to stretch our legs and see some views. Being aware of social distancing and remaining aware and vigilant as we walked around the town, it was great to have the freedom that open expanses of countryside gives us. All we could say was wow….the views of the Shropshire Hills were amazing – we could see for miles.
We spent a couple of hours exploring the area which was originally used for rope-making. What was left of the windmill that was used to make the hemp and flax fibres for the trade was now part of a house which, along with some others, were perched on the top of the hill.
It was the perfect end to the perfect day seeing and learning new things about this beautiful part of England. We certainly racked up the steps today so all that was left was to head off to find to somewhere to fill our tummies and try and remember both former and current names of everything we saw. Let the challenge begin……..