Friday, 26 September 2014

Shrewsbury, Shropshire.

As a result of a conversation with a blog friend on her site (cheriesplace), I have been inspired to do a three part series about Shropshire.

(September has been a busy month trying to balance my summer inactivity with the greenery in the back garden and friends wanting to go places as a group on returning from their July/August family / solo holidays.
I'm sure that you've guessed by now that I've a back log of material with this post proving that point. These images are taken over two visits in late 2012 where the weather was generally damp, wet and cold whilst the second in 2013 was quite the opposite.
Just for some biographical background to the post ... As a result of my friendship with certain people from Yorkshire with links to another northern organisation, a friend affiliated to the group from the second organisation thought it would be a good idea to arrange a weekend in his home town of Shrewsbury.
The following year a friend of mine more local to me, thought it would be a good idea to to attend a walking weekend with another national organisation. However due to a double booking of an out of town Hotel, the rearranged accommodation was in the centre of Shrewsbury ... an opportunity to update or add additional material.
In reality, there is no end to what I could depict here, so hopefully I've covered variety as it took far longer to publish due to altering some images to suit the text.)

Sun not being kind to The Welsh Bridge
Shrewsbury is the county town of Shropshire which sits near to the Welsh Border and indeed was the scene of many English / Welsh battles. In a sense it was chosen as a settlement due to the natural defence of the River Severn meandering around most of the town.

The Welsh were finally defeated in 778 by King Offa of Mercia and upgrading to town status occurred soon after in 800 AD. The last unsuccessful assault in 1069 proved futile as William the Conquerer held the town and subsequently donated the town to Roger de Montgomery.

Shrewsbury Castle
Five years later in 1074 he built a castle to improve defences at the riverless north east corner of the town. The castle became a touch paper for internal English rebellions and battles until the Middle Ages, the most famous of which was immortalised in William Shakespeare's Henry IV part 1 Act 5.

Laura's Tower, Shrewsbury.
Thomas Telford the great Civil Engineer who left his mark on the county of Shropshire and beyond in later years can't be omitted from this post as he also got in on the act.  Telford had just arrived to the region as a young stonemason and started working for local MP Sir William Pulteney, the wealthiest man in Britain at the time. Pulteney who had previous famous building interests in Bath and Weymouth, gave Telford the task of restoring Shrewsbury Castle from a ruin to become his residence.
One of his other projects on site was the building of a summerhouse folly in 1790 at the high point of the castle grounds with extensive views over the east side of Shrewsbury and Shropshire. Laura's Tower might be what dreams are made of as a budding young stonemason builds a house for the daughter of the richest man in Britain ... no, you've just read into that :-)
It's rather poignant though that the Civil Engineers work now immediately overlooks the major railway junction to the south and the railway station built over 50 years later.

One of Sir Pulteney's most recent political predecessors was Robert Clive who was immortalised on a plinth in the square. In addition to his great oratory skills in politics, he was a Major General, an explorer and imperialist on his travels to India at a time when European nations were fighting for territory to gain supremacy in trade and power.

The Old Market Hall in the square built in 1596 dealt in Welsh Wool upstairs, Farmers corn downstairs and ... wet weather everywhere else !!

At least it's a great shelter nowadays where one can view woollen products from the modern age at a safe distance !

Night falls and it's not that I've waited for the rain to stop ......... have I been here for that long !!

It would be unfair not to show you the ... err ... modern 1960s Market Hall tower which is an imposing structure on the skyline. Local opinion still seems divided on it's place in the historic town, although this viewpoint in my opinion was my only photogenic capture of it. Partly because it tries and almost blends in to this street with the light.

One of the most surprising aspects of the towns history was the petition to Henry VIII for a grammar school. It was founded in 1552 and as a result of its success, was expanded by Queen Elizabeth in 1571, moved to purpose built facilities in 1630 and then relocated to a former workhouse and hospital next to the river in 1882. No doubt you guessed that rowing is one of the schools many activities.

Shrewsbury's business was steeped in the woollen trade and eventually became an important market town particularly as it was on the route from London to Ireland via Holyhead. The Lion Hotel was a typical coaching Inn where we were relocated to on my second visit.

The circular shaped church of St Chads was rebuilt on a new location following the collapse of a previous structure due to expansion attempts in the crypt. Interestingly it was Thomas Telford who advised the workers to stop the renovations just a short period before the collapse.

One of Shrewsbury's famous sons, Charles Darwin, was baptised here by his father although its not surprising what he ended up doing as he attended the more liberal unitarian church with his mother.

Quantum Leap, Shrewsbury
The town celebrated Darwins 200th birthday with a bizarre sculpture called Quantum Leap. Not the best viewpoint given the circumstances of crossing a 4 lane ring road around the outskirts of the town centre, whilst trying to keep track of where the complex walking tour was proceeding to next !!

Quarry bandstand, Shrewsbury
The Bandstand is situated in Quarry Park adjacent to St Chads church. The park incorporates gardens and a river walk area incorporates a popular river walk as the the River Severn curves around and encompasses the town. This large space is home to a variety of events including a top Horticultural show, river regattas and occasional pop concerts.

Riverside pub, Shrewsbury

Catching the light at one of the many Tudor buildings ... funnily enough yet another woollen seller loved by tourists ... The Edinburgh Woollen Mill !!

One of the things about being with a group of friends from different parts of the country is that I have been privileged to see towns and countryside that I wouldn't normally have chosen to visit. The downside of that is I have a small amount of time on my own with the camera ... to wait for people at a designated point when one needs contact lens solution, another needs the toilet and a third has to get a birthday card or something for a relative. haha. The meeting point that I didn't move from was a famous Chocolate shop about to get ready for their Christmas haul. It was a very busy pedestrianised shopping street and so it took me the full 15 minutes to get the correct balance of shop window art, tudor building and more importantly no-one walking in and out of my frame !!

Strangely enough I remembered where there was a post box for the birthday card !!

Awakening from sleep and opening the curtains at the Lion Hotel, the view from my bedroom window may not have been interesting although the view was extensive. It was more than just next doors chimney pot ... it was also the focus of the next post in the centre of the image !

It's nice to know that austere looking hotels from the past don't take themselves too seriously as I caught sight of a print on the wall on the way to breakfast .....


  1. I really enjoyed this wander round. The first image is perfect. the tower is a real gem but my favourite is the light in the row of terraced houses. A stunning image.

    1. Thanks Adrian, it's amazing what you see wandering around a town with no preconceptions of the place. With the time constraints that I had, the light worked both perfectly and not good at all.

  2. I enjoy your travels so much. The English countryside/villages always look magical to me. I thought Laura's tower was my favorite, but then I saw the b/w with the red post box. Very nice.

    1. Thanks as always Michelle. Sometimes I never quite know where travel plans are going to take me, others suggest going to events that capture my imagination for a post like this one. Shrewsbury is not an obvious destination and hopefully I have done its uniqueness justice.

  3. Another great tour around.... Just like Michelle I thought that Laura's Tower was my favourite...that is until I saw the B+W image with the red post box....I just love it....

    1. Thanks Trevor, a surprising destination needs some surprising pictures.

  4. It's a great series of captures accompanied by interesting history facts, J. The rainy weather added atmosphere to the photos, reflections and new colours... My favourite photo is the "golden alley", I find it impressive.

    1. Thanks Petra, the varying weather gave the post more variety.

  5. I am glad I inspired you :-) You have captured some wonderful photographs of Shrewsbury. You have taken/viewed some of the buildings in ways I have not seen before. Thank you :-)

    I am looking forward to your next post in the series :-)

    1. Thanks Cherry Pie, it's good to know that you are pleased to have Shrewsbury in a different light. Shrewsbury and Shropshire have a lot of photographic potential that not many people from other parts of the country know about. Thanks for your inspiration as I try to enthuse myself with old material. Look forward to publishing the next post with the third one being a bit of a Pot Pourri post.

      I've since been back for a weekend just outside Whitchurch which included a nearby canal walk to a lock side coffee shop. Another time though as I haven't even begun to look at them properly yet.

  6. The history was great, the photography exceptional. You did some wonderful things with wet pavement. If I'm ever there I'll make sure to visit the chocolate shop.

    1. Thanks JoLynne, I appreciate your feedback. The Thornton's chocolate shops are everywhere here and an outstanding hit with shoppers before Christmas. It just makes it more worthwhile photographically in a historic building.

  7. Sorry I'm so late to this post, J! I love these photos of Shrewsbury. We visited there and thought the town was so pretty, positioned along the river. It was raining, so we didn't spend much time outdoors there, and also I think the parking was an issue. Anyway, beautiful photos of such an interesting town. I love the old architecture, the Darwin sculpture looks bleak and hopeless. I wish that Shropshire and Herefordshire were covered better in the guide books. There is so much in both of them that is worth a visit. Beautiful post!

    1. Thanks Cranberry Morning, Shropshire is definitely underrated and a bit of the beaten track for a lot of people, most people in the general area would opt for Chester or Liverpool. On one of these visits, we had a short official tour from someone at the Tourist information and I must say that I found the Darwin history far less than inspiring. Missed turnings and opportunities if you know what I mean. The guide plugs it as an important part of the towns history despite him moving on to other locations and things.
      It was quite unfortunate that the weather was dull and wet on the first visit and it was amazing how a bit of sun here can be so photographically inspiring.
      Parking is a definite problem here although on the second visit, my friend was happy with the extensive parking in The Lion Hotel Garage.

      For anyone else reading the comments section here, as a result of the first of the two trips in this post, I stayed outside the town with a friend and travelled in. I recommend that you check out the car parks at the south east of the town and also across the English Bridge to the east beside the Abbey.

  8. Great post J - a fabulous meander and potted history of a town I'd like to know better. I endured a mind-numbingly boring meeting with some particularly dense council officials there once. I'm sure my experience is not unique. Your pictures, as always, are superb. The shot of the terraced housing is simply wonderful and I too liked the monochrome with the highlighted post-box. How do you DO that?!! It's a shame to have arguments in schools, though... Btw - thank you so much for your incredibly generous comments over at my site!

    1. Thanks Mike, Sorry your experience of Shrewsbury wasn't great. It seems to me to be an unassuming place way down the pecking order of places to visit and overall tourist experience. I've been here 5 times now with circumstances drawing me on the last four occasions during the last 12 years and it's growing on me slowly.

      The black & white / minimal colour is a processing method available on several photo storage systems. Essentially the image is converted to black and white and colour is restored using a cloning tool.

      On a side note ... People used to think I was a good photographer back in my non digital days (pre 2009) but I knew I was only average. After a superb start, I became complacent in the middle years just recording standard shots or detailing mountain walks. Even though there are elements in this post (composition and framing) that take me back to my teenage years, following and being followed on blogger pushed my inspiration and performance further.


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