The original castle – now just a few stones was built in 1127. The town stands on the edge of the Clun Forest, 500ft above sea-level and surrounded by hills, the highest rising to 1500ft. It has three Tudor houses the Old Hall, the Old Market Hall and the Old House on Crutches, with its overhanging upper storey supported on posts. The Town Hall is one of the smallest in England and contains two silver maces hallmarked 1607. The e Three Tuns Inn dates from 1642 andbeer is made on the premises.
The old market town of Bridgnorth is divided into Low Town and High Town by a red sandstone cliff, the two parts linked by steps and by the Castle Hill Cliff Railway. Caves in the sandstone were used as dwellings until Victorian times, and one the Hermitage is said to have housed Ethelred, brother of King Athelstan, in the 10th century. The tower, sole remnant of the castle, leans 17 degrees from the perpendicular because it was undermined during the Civil War. Bishop Percy’s House (1580) is the most ancient building in Bridgnorth; it was the birthplace in the 18th century of Thomas Percy, who became Bishop of Dromore. St Mary Magdalene‘s Church, Italianate in style, was designed by the engineer Thomas Telford.
In summer, the Severn Valley Railway runs from here to Kidderminster. Midway between the two is Alveley, where the church contains glass from the ruined chapel of Coton Hall, One and a half miles north east.
Locals claim this attractive old place to be the birthplace of William Langland, one of the great English medieval poets, who wrote his masterpiece, Piers Plowman in the 14th century. No evidence has been found, but one of the east windows in the church is dedicated to the poet. Appropriately it shows Piers dreaming his dreams. The wooden church spire has an interesting twist to it, and has defied all efforts to straighten it.
Cosford Airfield has a fascinating Aerospace Museum. The array of aircraft includes the World War II Spitfire, Mosquito, Messerschmitt, and V1 and V2 rockets. The British Airways collection and a Moon Buggy reflect less bloodthirsty achievements.
This pleasant little market town lies at the heart of Shropshire’s lake district, a tranquil region of nine lakes in the north west of the county. Some, such as Cole, Blake and Kettle Meres are small, wooded and more or less untouched by the 20th century; others, such as White Mere and The Mere, are used for sailing and other leisure activities; Crose Mere and Sweet Mere are well known for their bird life.
A rare chained 15th-century Nuremberg Bible can be found in the 14th-century church of this small hill town, which has black and white timbered houses typical of north-west England. The beautiful 60-acre landscaped gardens of Victorian Hodnet Hall are well worth a visit.
The town is situated in the deep, wooded gorge of the River Severn and developed, like many others in this region, during the Industrial Revolution. The community takes its name from the world’s first iron bridge, built here in 1778-81. It was designed by the ironmaster Abraham Darby III as an example of the quality of his cast iron and was cast at his foundry in Coalbrookdale. The bridge is 196 ft long, weighs 380 tons and, seen from a distance as it spans the wooded Severn Gorge, presents a romantic and inspiring picture. Abraham Darby I had been the first man to smelt iron using coke, 70 years earlier. His grandson’s iron bridge is built using woodworking joints. Nowadays accessis restricted to pedestrians. Scattered along the Gorge is a unique series of museums of industrial history, under the general title of the lronbridge Gorge Museum. These include: Blists Hill Open Air Museum, which covers 42 acres, recreating the iron, coal and clay industries; Coalbrookdale Museum and Furnace Site, Abraham Darby’s original blast furnace; the Coalport China Works Museum; and the Severn Warehouse. Two miles to the north west of the town are Buildwas Abbey ruins, and 1 mile south west is Benthall Hall, an interesting 16th-century house.
ln Ludlow, wide Georgian streets contrast w ith narrow medieval alleys, and elegant 18th century brick and stucco rubs shoulders with half timbered Tudor buildings with leaning walls and steep-pitched roofs. In the 12th century Ludlow was a ‘planned town‘, its streets designed on a gridiron pattern that can still be traced today. The most famous of all the timbered buildings, the Feathers Hotel, its exterior ornamented with heads and other carvings, has stood in the Bull Ring, where bulls used to be penned before market, since 1603. Even older is the Bull Inn, and another attractive old tavern is the Angel, its overhanging upper storeys supported on slender columns. More ancient than the inns and overlooking the church is the Reader’s House, a medieval stone building with an attractive three-storey timbered porch. Mary Queen of Scots is thought to have been held prisoner here for some time.
Much Wenlock lies at the northern end of Wenlock Edge, the landscape ‘ celebrated in the poetry of A E Housman. The atmosphere of a medieval market town prevails. The stocks still stand outside the Guildhall, which rests on wooden pillars, and the old Market Hall is now a local history museum. A lane leads to the ruins of St Mildburga’s Priory, founded in the 11th century.
A town fought over by England and Wales for centuries, Oswestry nowadays makes an excellent centre for visiting both the Shropshire and the North Wales countryside. Few of its medieval buildings survived the years of conflict, but the old grammar school dating from 1407, is still there, now divided into cottages. In the parish church are monuments of Hugh Yale and his wife -related to Elihu Yale, benefactor of the American university. The interesting Llwyd Mansion, a black and white 17th-century timbered building bears the insignia of the Holy Roman Empire, a double-headed eagle, on its walls. The arms were granted to an ancestor of the family for service in the Crusades. To the north of the town is the Iron Age hill-fort known as Old Oswestry.
Shrewsbury, situated on a bend of the River Severn, has ten bridges spanning the river. The town may have been founded by Britons who fled from the Roman city of Vicoconium (now Wroxford) 5 miles south east, and there are relics of the Roman occupation in Rowley’s House Museum, one of Shrewsbury’s many half-timbered buildings. In the old part of the city are winding streets such as Wyle Cop, Grope Lane, and Gullet Passage, and Bear Steps, a restored 14th-century cottage, with old shops and a meeting hall, is well worth a visit. The Norman castle, built high above the river, was much enlarged by Edward I, and in the 18th century was converted into a house by the architect and engineer Thomas Telford for Sir William Pulteney. St Mary’s Church, with its lofty spire, dates from the 12th century. The nave has a 15th-century carved roof and some fine stained glass, particularly in the Jesse Window.
Stokesay Castle is one of the earliest fortified manor houses in England the oldest parts date from the 12th century and the great hall from the 13th. It is an extraordinary structure its massive stone towers topped with a timber-framed house and of outstanding interest.
From the wooded slopes of the Wrekin (1334ft) you can see one of Britain’s newest New Towns, named after the famous 18th-century engineer and former county surveyor of Shropshire, Thomas Telford. The planners hope to weld a number of established industrialised towns and villages into a ‘Forest City’. Over a million trees and shrubs are to be planted and a new city centre is planned at Randley Lake. Ironbridge and Coalbrookdale form part of the conurbation and are designated areas of special architectural and historical interest.
The Wrekin, probably the country’s oldest hill, lies two miles south of the town of Wellington. Its summit, at 1334ft, is not the highest point in Shropshire, but it offers incomparable views that take in several counties. A beacon fire on this hilltop warned of the coming of the Spanish Armada and traces of an Iron Age camp indicate that it was recognised as a good defensive site almost 2000 years ago.
Wroxeter, on the ancient highway of Watling Street, contains the remains of the roman settlement of Viroconium, which was established as an army camp about the middle of the 2nd century, and when the garrison moved north a new town grew up, probably remaining inhabited until the 8th. The site was excavated in the 1920’s, and finds are exhibited in the local museum and in Rowley’s House in Shrewsbury. Some Roman material can be seen in the church though the workmanship is Saxon and the columns flanking the entrance to the churchyard are Roman.