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Shrewsbury - A travel report by Terry
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Shrewsbury,  United Kingdom - flag United Kingdom
5636 readers

terje's travel reports

Where Cadfael meets Charles Darwin

  14 votes
Page: 1 2
Some years ago, I stumbled over a series of crime literature, with a intelligent monk as the detective. The monk's name was Cadfael, and the story was set in a fortified city called Shrewsbury.

Shrewsbury Abbey
Shrewsbury Abbey
With the River Severn forming a peninsula, the heights on which Shrewsbury is found, was a obvious place to build a strong fort. As with many ancient strongholds, there is no exact date of founding, but it is believed that Shrewsbury was founded around 800 AD.

Another assiciated names are the briton Pengwern and the latin name Salopia.

The earliest reference of Shrewsbury is a anglo-saxon land charter. Scrobbensis became Schrobbesbyrig and then Saropesberie, before todays name evolved.

Shrewsbury was on it's commercial heights in the late Middle ages, when the wool industry in town shipped it's goods to most parts of Europe.

The town has also been the center of conflict between England and Wales, a conflict that started in 778 and ended with the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403.

I arrived in the city a late afternoon in May. I searched for a parking space near the castle and found one next to the church named after St. Mary the Virgin. This happened to be at the highest point of the city, and a perfect start for my round trip.

As the Cadfael story is set i Shrewsbury Abbey, I headed down the hill towards the English Bridge and the red Norman building on the other side of the river. The Abbey was founded by Roger de Mongomery in 1083 and flourished during the late medeival times, particularly after Robert Pennant, the prior at that time, managed to acquire the bones of St. Winifred, for which the abbey became a center of pilgrimage.

My next sight was the Cathedral, which turned our to be a lot smaller than expected. This building belongs to the Roman Catholic church, and the reason for the relatively small size for a cathedral is the weak foundations at the city walls. One should notice the 6 beautiful glass windows designed by the local Margareth Rope. Below the cathedral and the city walls, there are some beautiful gardens with vegetables and berries, in which I could imagine the medeival monks work carefully to prepare healthy food and wine.

Favourite spots:
The blue gate in front of The Quarry
The blue gate in front of The Quarry
After my fantasy flight back in time, I was brought back to reality when I came to St. Chads church. Well, the reason for my awakening was not really the church itself, but the statue in rememberance of the Anglo-Boer war of South Africa in 1899 - 1902.

A few meters away, another war memorial is raised inside the Quarry recreational area. This is dedicated to the two world wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45.

These memorials shows the assosiaction of Shrewsbury with light infantery regiments of the British Army, known as Shrewsbury Rifles, which has played important roles in all major warfare from the American Revolutionary War until recent engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The entrance to the Quarry recreational area is a gate of distinctive blue colour, very much like the gate in front of Buckingham Palace in London.

In all this warfare thinking, I completely forgot about St. Chad, whom I later found was a anglo-celtic monk and bishop, fighting for political and apostolic rights.

What's really great:
The Darwin Gate sculpture
The Darwin Gate sculpture
Much of this report so far has been about churches and christian buildings and sights. Shrewsbury can also offer the history of a man who redesigned much of the established thinking of his time, the father of the Theory of Evolution, Charles Darwin.

Charles Darwin was born in his family home called The Mount in 1809. His father was a wealthy doctor, but the talented young man played his way through school and only by coincidence became a member of the second voyage of HMS Beagle in 1831-36.

Today, Darwin is visible all over Shrewsbury;

* The Mount building

* The library where he studied in the early years

* The Darwin shopping mall

* The Darwin Gate Sculpture

* The statue outside the library, across from the castle

As mentioned in many of my earlier reports from Britain, I always enjoy black and white architecture. In Shrewsbury I found more of this architecture than I have done in other cities of Britain. In particular, the Mardol street have several buildings of this style.

2 cannons outside Shrewsbury Castle
2 cannons outside Shrewsbury Castle
One cannot write about Shrewsbury without mentioning the Shrewsbury Castle, another building founded by Roger de Montgomery. In 1070, the castle was first build in timber, but was later developed with the same red sandstone as the Shrewsbury Abbey.

The castle fortifies the part of Shrewsbury that was not protected by the river.

The castle has been in both royal, private and parlamentarien hands since it was last used as a castle in the 1300's. Today, the castle is owned by the Borough Council and hosts the Shropshire Regimental Museum. Entrance to the museum is free for borough residents, but costs £2,- for non-residents.

I came there after opening hours, and all I got to see was 2 cannons and a very beautiful flower display in the park in front if the entrance.

A Tudor style house in Mardol street
A Tudor style house in Mardol street
As I cannot resist Tudor style, I would recommend Prince Rupert Hotel in central Shrewsbury, although visitors seems to rate the service and rooms from top bottom to first class. I would definately go for one of the 12th century suites with 4 post canopy beds.

Prince Rupert was the grandson of King James I, and the hotel is his former residence.

See and read more on:

If this does no tempt you, please use or for a listing of Shrewsbury Hotels.

Other recommendations:
Darwin and the library
Darwin and the library
I discovered that Shrewsbury has a lot of good shopping opportunities, with nice and modern stores in the city center. This might be good if you bring along members oof the family/group that does not like to dive into history or literature.

Besides this, I am very happy for being in Cadfaels town, the place where church history meets modern science.

Published on Monday August 25th, 2008

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Thu, Sep 18 2008 - 07:10 AM rating by voyager

Thanks! You really captured the essence of the city and its history and presented it in a very professional manner. I personally would have liked some information about restaurants and pubs in the area but that does not detract from a very well written report.

Thu, Sep 04 2008 - 06:06 AM rating by marianne

very interesting background info and great photos

Wed, Sep 03 2008 - 02:07 AM rating by davidx

Great stuff - on a city that deserves to be more widely known. The first walk I remember - I must have been 6 or 7 - was up 'The Wrekin' near Shrewsbury.

Mon, Sep 01 2008 - 08:08 AM rating by rangutan

Great details, well presented. [4.5]

Fri, Aug 29 2008 - 10:53 PM rating by downundergal

I like the way that you wove fiction and history through your report - it made it a very interesting read.

Mon, Aug 25 2008 - 01:15 PM rating by krisek

A piece of history and personal touch. A great report indeed. Many thanks.

Mon, Aug 25 2008 - 12:20 PM rating by jorgesanchez

I liked the lecture of this wonderful report

Mon, Aug 25 2008 - 12:12 PM rating by eirekay

Terrific report with tons of detail! A pleasure to read!

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