Rambling around Shrewsbury

Trip Start May 22, 2010
Trip End Oct 31, 2010

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Alan and Alison's home

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Friday, October 22, 2010

I was not feeling the best when I woke with a series of coughs but a lie in seemed to help. John was up first and uploaded some blogs then we set off to do some caching, visit the Information centre and buy an extra bag.

We had kept looking at a series of caches called the Reabrook Wander. This takes people for a wander along the sides of a river, the Reabrook. This links up with the Severn, the main river that surrounds Shrewsbury. Our concern was that it was a not a circuit and we were not sure how we would get back to our car at the end. We found a spot that was near the 10th cache and decided to do a part of the series. This took us along a well worn trail where we saw a few dog walkers and no one else. We managed to find 3 of the 4 caches and had an enjoyable walk.

We then found a park in the centre of the city although I had to buy some sweets to get enough change for the meter. I had done too well getting rid of coins. We booked a walking tour for me then had lunch – in a supposedly French bistro which proudly claimed its food was made locally - except for the baguettes and pain ou chocolate from France, Danish from Denmark etc.

We then drove to a new start and did the final 2 caches in the river series. We ended up at a bench with a glorious view of the river. Then John dropped me at the Information Centre for my walking tour while he left with the information needed to do the starting caches in the series.

There was a grand total of 5 on the tour so it was almost individual attention. It started at the Information Centre because it was a Tudor mansion, with a brick mansion added on about 40 years later. Robert, the guide, talked about Tudor buildings first. The famous black and white was a Victorian adaptation and we later saw some in their original form. The brick house was the first in the town and belonged to a draper and brewer called Rowley at the time the prosperity of the town was built on wool and cloth. The base was of red stone which came from the sale of the local monastery properties after Henry VIII dissolved it leaving only the chapel to be the parish church.

We were told a bit from the Ghost tours as we went around. One couple had done it the previous night and our guide has just been interviewed about them. They only run on Thursdays so we were too late although he later said they are considering adding in an extra night. The information centre has a museum nearby and an old marriage bed in the museum is meant to have a ghost of a woman who died in childbirth.

At our next stop we saw a slightly later building of grey stone which was the other main stone we saw around the town. It had a coat of arms with a lion and a dragon which was used by Elizabeth. We also started to see a shield with 3 supposed leopards (although they could be lions) which are the symbol of Shrewsbury. Once we were shown one we kept seeing others everywhere.

The market square came next and this was the centre of trade for many years. The Market Hall was built in 1595. Corn trade happened outside under the arches while inside Drapers negotiated the purchase of woolen cloth brought here by ponies from Wales. The building is now a cinema and café. When we saw this part with Allan when he gave us a tour there were even some stalls underneath although today all was quiet. Robert pointed out an oddity – a block with a lot of small holes that is believed to have been used as a sort of abacus. Another building was pointed out as being Tudor on the first floor but with a much later addition on the top – it looks the same on a quick look but is too uniform when looked at closely.

Robert also told us about jerrying. This is when the 1st floor overlaps the ground floor making the floor area bigger. It was done for this very reason – so the owner could provide a bigger area and hence collect a larger rent. Most of the older buildings were like this.

We stopped at the statue of Clive of India, here because he was also a mayor of Shrewsbury and a local MP. There is a museum dedicated to him in a nearby town. We later saw a new sculpture which is meant to suggest an Anglo Saxon helmet (and does). Shrewsbury was an Anglo Saxon town and later had Norman influences but the Romans never came here although their 2nd largest city in Britain was at Wroxeter which is only a few miles away.

Of course we were told more about Charles Darwin who is the most famous former resident. Allan had already shown us the school he went to and the entrance to the Darwin shopping centre and I saw them again on this tour. We heard that Charles' father was a local doctor who was also a shrewd investor who made a fortune from local industry and was highly respected in the town. Charles had poor reports from his time at the school. He had been a boarder because at the time all students had to board even if they lived locally. The old school is a library and the new school is still exclusive, fees are about 20,000 pound and it was boys only until about 5 years ago when girls were accepted into the senior school.

We went past the building that Allan had shown us that was restored about 20 years ago with traditional colours to the Tudor façade, heads of Margaret Thatcher and Michel Hazelton on the side and the beam with the curves of the river enclosing 90’s icons like a shopping trolley and motorbike. We were asked if we recognised the heads and I said I wouldn’t answer as I had already been told. Margaret Thatcher had been in the news this week because she has been in hospital and Hazeldine was a local.

We went to the original market area, again a place Allan had taken us to. We had been up Grope Lane, which had been the red light district of the time, and then into Milk St, Fish lane and Butchers row. This had been the market area in the 13th century when the shops would have had wooden covers to the window paces that folded down to make tables for display of the goods. We were shown some of the original butchers hooks where the meat would have been hung.

One building here is the Prince Rupert Hotel, the oldest hotel in the town. He was the grandson of James 1 and held control in Shrewsbury for the royalists and this was his home at the time. The Abbot’s House was almost opposite, the residence for the Abbot when in Shrewsbury on business and dating to the 15th century.

In various places the iron heritage of the area was shown. St Alkmunds, the church in the original market area, had been rebuilt with iron windows. A lovely building containing Thomas Cooks Travel had what looked like lovely plaster but it was in fact iron work. There is also the first iron framed house in the town although it is still being restored. Robert said it was the forerunner to skyscrapers because the technique used is used to build them.

We stopped at the high cross, installed by Shrewsbury College a few years before to mark its 4th centenary.  It stands on the spot where a previous high cross had been until 1705. It marks the place of public executions, including famous people who are mentioned on a nearby plaque . The last official Welsh Prince of Wales was executed here in 1283 – hung, drawn, beheaded and quartered – by order of the Parliament which was the first to include Commons. The others mentioned were displayed here after they lost the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. The Earl of Worchester and another knight were executed here and the body of Hotspur (Harry Percy, the leader of the rebellion) was placed between 2 mill stones then beheaded and quartered. The nearby house is meant to be haunted – which is not surprising given the outlook.

We went on to the castle and were told the towers are the oldest part. The main part was remodeled for use as a family home and Thomas Telford, the A5 road man, was the main person in charge of the design. The castle is open for visitors and on Wednesday in summer, afternoon tea with the mayor is included. We were told about the building of Laura’s tower which was a gift to Laura for hr 21st birthday but we didn’t have time to go up it today. The Tudor timbered house nearby was actually moved to the site many centuries ago. We were told the owner (Newport) moved it so he could build a new brick home where this had been – then he moved his mistress into the old home. We later saw his brick house and it too was lovely. We were shown a map of Shrewsbury and it was clear that the town is protected on 3 sides by the River Severn and the castle was placed to block the 4th side.

We went to the Council House area and were told that it relates to meetings held here by the Council of the Marches. The beams at the sides of buildings here were huge. Both Charles I and James I stayed here in their days.

We went into the Traitors gate area which 'commemorates’ the guard who opened a gate to let the Parliamentarians in during the Civil War. The gate no longer exists (although we could see the arch) and the name of the traitor doesn’t seem to have been recorded.

We had been through and past a few of the shuts or narrow lanes. One was especially pointed out to us as being the narrowest in the town. It was hardly wide enough for 1 person to walk down it and it appeared to be a open small passage in a house rather than a public walkway.

St Mary’s church was just still open so we had time to pop in and take photos of the spectacular stained glass and also the ceiling. The glass had been in 2 previous churches before taking up place here. The ceiling was carved wood. In the entrance there was a board listing various benefactors for the church and for the poor. Outside there was a quirky rhyming memorial to a man called Cadman who attempted to fly from the steeple and across the river.

We were now in Wylie Cop and were told cop meant at the top. It was part of the A5 and has always been a busy road since coaching days. Robert pointed out a chocolate place that had been the residence of royalty with Barracks Street nearby where the body guard stayed. The Lion is still a pub but was also a coaching inn in the past.  The top of the cop was flattened and widened many years ago so coaches could sweep around the corner and into the Lion.

This was nearly the end of the tour. We walked back to market square and were shown one of the churches that the lovely St Marys stained glass had come from. Then back to the start for John to pick me up.

He had had a frustrating time with traffic and lack of parking so had not done any of the caches he had intended. However, the weather was better so we decided to start the Reabrook Ramble at number one for a change. The park was at a big retail park so it was handy to know these shops existed as well.

We managed to do the first three of the series in the correct order and also had a good look at the back of some nice houses as well as the golf course. We didn’t even try number 4 as the last few people haven’t found it so we went back via another cache by the golf course.

It was still light so we decided to see how close to number 5 we could park – and it turned out to be less than 50 m away. So we had time to do numbers 5 and 6 and also an extra one that was in the area. So 10 of the series of 12 plus 2 others so we did 12 – and a lot of walking.

We decided to go for tea to a place that Alison and Allan had recommended and found it was in walking distance once we started driving. It was a very friendly place and the food was reasonable so we were very happy. The waitress even apologized for the delay on the tea and coffee but it wasn’t really long. We then went to a couple of supermarkets to try to get a suitcase as John had forgotten to get one today but they are ‘seasonal’ so none were available.
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