1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bridgnorth

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BRIDGNORTH, a market town and municipal borough in the Ludlow parliamentary division of Shropshire, England, 150 m. N.W. by W. from London by the Great Western railway, on the Worcester-Shrewsbury line. Pop. (1901) 6052. The river Severn separates the upper town on the right bank from the lower on the left. A steep line of rail connects them. The upper town is built on the acclivities and summit of a rock which rises abruptly from the river to the height of 180 ft., and gives the town a very picturesque appearance. The railway passes under by a long tunnel. On the summit is the tower of the old castle, leaning about 17° from the perpendicular. There are also two parish churches. That of St Leonard, formerly collegiate, was practically rebuilt in 1862. This parish was held by Richard Baxter, the famous divine, in 1640. St Mary’s church is in classic style of the late 18th century. The picturesque half-timbered style of domestic building is frequently seen in the streets. In this style are the town hall (1652), and a house dated 1580, in which was born in 1729 Thomas Percy, bishop of Dromore, the editor of the Reliques of Ancient English Poetry. The grammar school, founded in 1503, occupies an Elizabethan building; there are also a college of divinity, a blue-coat school, and a literary institute with library and school of art. There are large charities. Near the town is a curious ancient hermitage cave, in the sandstone. At Quatford, 1 m. south-east, the site of a castle dating from 1085 may be traced. This dominated the ancient Forest of Morf. Here Robert de Belesme originally founded the college which was afterwards moved to Bridgnorth. Bridgnorth manufactures carpets; brewing is carried on, and there is trade in agricultural produce. The town is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 councillors. Area, 3018 acres.

The early history of Bridgnorth is connected with Æthelfleda, lady of the Mercians, who raised a mound there in 912 as part of her offensive policy against the Danes of the five boroughs. After the Conquest William I. granted the manor of Bridgnorth to Earl Roger of Shrewsbury, whose son Robert de Belesme transferred his castle and borough from Quatford to Bridgnorth, but on Robert’s attainder in 1102 the town became a royal borough. It is probable that Henry I. granted the burgesses certain privileges, for Henry II. confirmed to them all the franchises and customs which they had in the time of Henry I. King John in 1215 granted them freedom from toll throughout England except the city of London, and in 1227 Henry III. conferred several new rights and liberties, among which were a gild merchant with a hanse. These early charters were confirmed by several succeeding kings, Henry VI. granting in addition assize of bread and ale and other privileges. Bridgnorth was incorporated by James I. in 1546. The burgesses returned two members to parliament in 1295, and continued to do so until 1867, when they were assigned only one member. The town was disfranchised in 1885. A yearly fair on the feast of the Translation of St Leonard and three following days was granted to the burgesses in 1359, and in 1630 Charles I. granted them licence to hold another fair on the Thursday before the first week in Lent and two following days.