Scrobbesbyrig/Shrewsbury: A look at stone buildings

Although I lived in Shewsbury for two years at the beginning of the millennium, and relocated to south Shropshire four years ago I have not written much about the county town. I do have rather a large number of photos though taken over several years from various visits and since it has quite an interesting history, including buildings of various designs and styles built over a thousand years, I thought it time to set this right.

The first written evidence that refers to Shrewsbury dates back to 901. It refers to Shrewsbury as ‘Scrobbesbyrig’ which indicates that it was then a fortified settlement with ‘Scrobbes’ most likely referring to a scrub covered hill, and ‘bryig’ suggesting the presence of fortifications. Shrewsbury is a stunning historic town with over 660 listed buildings and some very strange street names – Dogpole and Mardol, Gullet Passage and Grope Lane. And there is still disagreement as to whether the modern-day name is pronounced Shrewsbury, or Shrowsbury.

Shropshire is England’s largest inland county with Shrewsbury as the county town. Curled up within a horseshoe bend of the River Severn (Great Britain’s longest river), it narrowly escapes being an island.

towntrailmap (stone)

A thriving Saxon town it had a mint by the early 900s and following the Norman Conquest, a castle and a monastery. By the 1380s Shrewsbury was the third largest centre after London and York. The town’s heart still remains within the embrace of the river, protected and rich in ancient streets and historic buildings.

Charles Darwin is Shrewsbury’s most famous son and recently voted as one of the greatest Britons. Born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire on the 12 February 1809 at Mount House, he was the son of Robert, a well respected doctor, and Susannah a member of the Wedgwood family.

library
Library

His statue can be found outside the town’s library (12) which started off as the original Shrewsbury School, (The Royal Free Grammar School 1594 – 1630). It was beautifully restored between 1974 and 1983.

darwin-b-&w
Charles Darwin

The Victorian railway station was built in the same design as the library and opened in 1848 providing a new communications system with its line to Chester.

railway station
Railway Station

The Norman castle (13) was established by a kinsman of William the Conqueror, Roger de Montgomery, the Earl of Shrewsbury. Built to defend the county against the Welsh, the western frontier was not determined until 14C. During the reign of Henry II the castle was rebuilt in the red sandstone seen today. The great hall holds the regimental museum.

The castle, churches, fragments of the town walls and some medieval houses are the earliest stone buildings remaining. Four churches remain within the loop of the river, and the Abbey outside it, were founded between the eighth and twelfth centuries. The earliest, old St Chad’s, (32) collapsed in the 18th century and was replaced on a new site.

Old St Chad
Old St Chad – Lady Chapel
St Chad's
(New) St Chad’s

New St Chad’s (48) is England’s largest round church. The building caused some controversy but went ahead and was consecrated in 1792. It overlooks Quarry Park and opposite can be found an impressive War Memorial. Charles Darwin was christened at St Chad’s but attended the Unitarian Church in the High Street.

St Chad's
St Chad’s

It is inside the churchyard of St Chad’s that Scrooges’s gravestone lies, erected for the film ‘A Christmas Carol’. The churchyard is also a wildlife oasis.

St Chad's
St Chad’s
War Memorial
War Memorial

St Julian’s (34) and St Alkmund’s (2) churches were rebuilt during the same century and St Mary the Virgin (6) stands on earlier Anglo-Saxon church footings, reconstructed by the Normans.

St Julians
St Julian’s from Fish Street
St Marty
St Mary’s steeple from Swan Hill
st alkmund's
St Alkmund’s from Church Lane

The wooden Saxon church situated in the outskirts of the town was transformed into a richly endowed Abbey, which was mostly destroyed during the reformation. The Abbey (56) was damaged during the Civil War and in the 1830s most of the monastic buildings were wiped out by Thomas Telford’s new road, leaving a refectory pulpit on the opposite side of the road isolated from the Abbey building.

shrewsbury 075
The Abbey

The three thirteenth century friaries established in the north, south and west edges of the town did not fair well. Little remains of them as the Dominicans, Franciscans and Augustinians faced the anger of the Reformation which was directed at their buildings more than any other. There is a hint of one of the Francsicans’ buildings besides the Greyfriars footbridge – seen in the cottages’ stonework and windows.

P1100619

In the last quarter of the eighteenth century the Roman Catholics erected a small chapel, which was replaced by a Cathedral (46) in the Gothic style almost a century later along the town walls.

RC Church

And the United Reformed Church, just across the English bridge, can also be seen in the header photo, is another example of a nineteenth century exterior.

United Reformed Church

Next time we’ll have a look in the centre of the town at some of the more interesting buildings, including the timber-framed medieval halls, Jacobean and Elizabethan styles, and the later Georgian and Victorian influences.

If you enjoy a walk, long or short, then have a look at Jo’s site where you are welcome to join in.

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Heyjude

I now live back in the UK, but spent several years travelling the world and then living in South Africa. I look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

50 thoughts on “Scrobbesbyrig/Shrewsbury: A look at stone buildings”

    1. You have been around Carol! Yes, you probably do need more than a day to appreciate all the history Shrewsbury has to offer. My photos have been collected over several visits. A couple of dedicated ‘walks’ and I still haven’t seen everything of interest. I must go there on a nice day to complete the walks 🙂

      1. We went there in July 1999 with our daughters who were 12 and 9 at the time and the only reason we went was because I had just finished reading the Cadfael series and insisted we go out of our way to visit. It was such a pretty place so I will look forward to seeing more of your posts.

  1. This took me back to a holiday in Much Wenlock, in the early 1990s. We were very impressed with Shrewsbury, and returned on several occasions during our time in Shropshire. It is a true historical gem.
    Regards as always, Pete. x

    1. It is a lovely town, though I prefer Ludlow, which is much smaller and less spoiled I think. But there are some gems in Shrewsbury and the walk along the tow path is rather nice. Though a few more riverside pubs would be good 🙂

  2. I have been to Shrewsbury once (just passing through) but feel I know it a bit better than that having followed the late Pauline Fisk’s blog My Shrewsbury Tonight. I even bought some music from a band she wrote about who were playing in one of the pubs! Can’t remember the band’s name though so I’ll probably never find it again 😦

      1. For the past couple days, I haven’t been able to respond (as in type comments) or they vanish. I have to wait for letters to appear way after I type them. I feel a headache coming on . o_O You haven’t had any problems?

        1. I have had some problems with my comments disappearing, so I figured they went into spam, even though on sites I regularly comment. Perhaps WP are fiddling with the site – again – as I have also found it slow over the last week.

  3. Shrewsbury, where some of my most favourite historical mysteries, the novels around Brother Cadfael [by Ellis Peters], are set! Thanks for taking me around,
    Pit

  4. Yet another example of a beautiful city/town with a long – very loooooong history. With a pedigree like that, it’s no surprise there is SO MUCH to see and visit.

    Not sure I would want to list my address as Grope Lane though … 😉

    1. Trust you to pick that one out! It does refer to the previous medieval red light district; most places have renamed such lanes as Grove or Grape. I won’t tell you what the original name was!

  5. That’s pretty comprehensive, Jude! There seem to be a few of us who’ve been for 1 day only 🙂 How do YOU pronounce it? And did it flood in the recent heavy rains?
    It’s a very fatherly looking sculpture of Darwin. Love the wrinkled brow. 🙂 Many thanks for the walk, Jude. No idea where to go next Monday. Penrith is a possibility, but I might need an early dose of Algarve sunshine.

    1. I pronounce it the same as the OH – SHROWSbury. Even the BBC cannot make their minds up! They have flood barriers in place now, but when I lived there I did have to wade through water to reach my placement at the newspaper office! (Only ankle deep). And our cellar became very wet!

  6. What a lovely town Jude, a real pootling place, Swan Hill and Church Lane and such an abundance of churches. You’ve written this up brilliantly, can yo sell t to the tourist information office? I don’t know Shropshire, just passed through on my way to Wales many years ago. From you and Tish I realise I’ve missed out.

    1. I think most people only know Shropshire by passing through on their way to Wales! Perhaps why it is such an unspoilt county (although the town planners had a good go at that during the 1960s) and there are not very many towns! And even less trains and buses to connect them. Nice walking country though, with some lovely landscapes.

  7. As I’ve said before it’s hard to wrap my head around a town dating back to this kind of time frame. My eyes go wide as we ‘walked’ through the town. All so amazing to me.

    1. The tow path may well have been underwater, but they do have flood barriers in place now around the Welsh bridge which prevents flooding in the town, but no doubt there was a lot of water along the river banks elsewhere!

  8. Thanks for the wander, Jude…from this, I realise that I have seen very little of this town despite having visited a few times in the past….

    1. You may recognise more buildings in the coming posts Sue. I want to try and head back there to get a few better pictures (some of my trips were around Christmas time when the weather was inclement to say the least!)

  9. Like Sue Slaught I find it so astounding to try and imagine all that history dating so far back. The varied style and history of the buildings makes interesting reading Jude and your photos do the town justice.

  10. I’ve learnt so much about your part of the world through your posts Jude, it always strikes me as such a beautiful part of this wonderful isle of ours, and a county we hope to visit and explore one of these days. I’ll know where to come for the perfect tourist guide 🙂 xx

  11. Add one more to the “I was there for one day” list. 😀

    It was wonderful to see all these photos because I only have two – the library and the castle. But this was in the days when you had to pay for film and processing and then I had to lug them around for a year so I had to be conservative.

    My main reason to be in Shropshire was to go to Ironbridge for the Merrythought factory. 🙂

    1. The red sandstone is quite a contrast. I have a vague idea there is a quarry outside Shrewsbury or at least I have seen a huge red cliff.
      “Much of North Shropshire is a plain which is a basin of Permian and Triassic New Red Sandstone, overlain by Jurassic deposits in a small area near Wem”

      Apparently according to Wikipedia which we all know is always accurate, Shropshire has a very diverse geology. A fascinating geological region and Ludlow was once under the Silurian sea.

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