1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Shrewsbury

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SHREWSBURY, a municipal and parliamentary borough, market town and the county town of Shropshire, England. Pop. (1901), 28,395. It is situated on both banks of the river Severn, but mainly on a peninsula formed by the river on the left bank. It is served by the London & North-Western and Great Western railways, being 163 m. N.W. from London. The companies use a joint station, and jointly work the line S. to Hereford. There is water communication eastward by the Shrewsbury canal, and by the Severn below the town. Eastward from the peninsula the English bridge crosses the river, westward the Welsh bridge; southward the Kingsland and Greyfriars bridges. The joint railway station is on the peninsula, and is reached from the south by a massive iron bridge. The streets, many retaining ancient names curiously corrupted, are hilly and irregular, but strikingly picturesque from their number of antique timber houses, among which may be mentioned that in Butcher Row, formerly the town residence of the abbot of Lilleshall; the council-house overlooking the Severn, erected in 1620 for the presidents of the council of the Welsh marches; and the two adjacent mansions of Robert Ireland and Richard Owen, citizens c. 1590. Of the town ramparts built in the reign of Henry III. the principal remains are a portion to the south-west, used as a public walk, on which stands a square embattled tower. The castle built by Roger de Montgomery was dismantled in the reign of James II., and is modernized as a residence, but there remain the archway of the interior gateway, the walls of the inner court and two large round towers of the time of Edward I. The rich abbey of St Peter and St Paul was also founded by Roger, on the site of an earlier church. Of the abbey church (Holy Cross) the nave of massive Norman work remains, especially impressive owing to the warm red stone of which it is built; there are further two Early English arches and the western tower. Of the monastic buildings little is left, save a remarkable roofed pulpit of ornate Decorated work. Among other churches St Mary’s, founded in the 10th century, is a fine cruciform structure with a lofty tower and spire, displaying examples of various styles of architecture from early Norman to Perpendicular, the base of the tower, the nave and the doorways being Norman, the transept Early English and the aisles 15th century, while the interior is specially worthy of notice for its elaborate details, its early stained glass, including a Jesse window, and its ancient monuments. Some 50 ft. of the spire fell in 1894, severely injuring the church and necessitating extensive restoration. St Julian’s was originally built before the Conquest, but rebuilt in 1748, except the tower, the older portion of which is Norman and the upper part of the 15th century. St Alkmond’s also dated from the 10th century, but was rebuilt towards the close of the 18th century, with the exception of the tower and spire. It has a beautiful half-timbered rectory. St Giles’s, originally the church of the leper hospital, dating from the time of Henry I., was altered at various periods. The hollow base of the old churchyard cross bears the name of the Pest Basin, because the citizens cast alms into it in the 16th century during the visitation of the plague, which, according to tradition, first appeared here. The old church of St Chad, supposed to have occupied the site of a palace of the princes of Powis, was destroyed by the fall of the tower in 1788, and of the ancient building the bishop’s chancel alone remains. The new church of St Chad was built on another site in 1792. Shrewsbury is not fortunate in its ecclesiastical architecture of the late 18th century. There are slight remains of a Franciscan house (Grey Friars) founded in 1291, of an Augustinian friary (1255) and of a Dominican house (1222). The old buildings completed in 1630 for the grammar school of Edward VI., founded in 1551, are now occupied by the county museum and free library, the school having been removed in 1882 to new buildings in the suburb of Kingsland S. of the river. It takes rank among the first public schools in England. The ground it occupies in Kingsland was formerly the scene of the Shrewsbury show, a pageant and festival held during the festival of Trinity. Among the principal secular buildings of the town are the fine market house in the Elizabethan style (completed according to an inscription over the northern arch in 1595), the shire hall and guildhall (rebuilt in 1837, and again, after a fire, in 1883), the general market and corn exchange (1869), and the drapers’ hall, a timbered structure dating from the 16th century. The principal benevolent institutions are the county infirmary (1747), Millington’s hospital (1734) and the eye, ear and throat hospital (1881). A monument to Lord Clive, who was member for the borough 1761–1764, was erected in the market-place in 1860, and a Doric memorial pillar to General Lord Hill in 1816 at the top of the Abbey Foregate. The town race-course occupies a portion of the “Soldiers’ Piece,” where Charles I. addressed his army in 1642. To the south-west of the town is a park of 23 acres, known as the Quarry, with beautiful avenues of lime-trees, descending to the river. Glass-staining, the spinning of flax and linen yarn, iron-founding, brewing, malting, the preparation of brawn and the manufacture of the well-known Shrewsbury cakes are now the principal industries. Shrewsbury is a suffragan bishopric in the diocese of Lichfield, and the seat of a Roman Catholic bishop. The parliamentary borough returns one member. The town is governed by a mayor, 10 aldermen and 30 councillors. Area, 3525 acres.

Shrewsbury (Pengwerne, Scrobsbyryg, Salopesberie), then known as Pengwerne or Pengwyrn, was the capital of the kings of Powis during the 5th and 6th centuries, but was taken in 779 by Offa king of Mercia, who changed its name to Shrewsbury (Scrobsbyryg). Owing to its position on the Welsh borders it became one of the chief cities of the Saxon kings, and a mint was established here in the reign of King Æthelstan. After the Conquest the town was included in the earldom of Shrewsbury, and the Domesday Survey shows that the Saxon burgesses paid the same danegeld as in the reign of Edward the Confessor. Until Wales was annexed to England in the 13th century, Shrewsbury was one of the chief border towns, and as such it was besieged by Owen Gwyneddin 1067, but was relieved by William the Conqueror. In the reign of Henry I. it was garrisoned by Robert de Belesme, but surrendered to the king in 1102. It was several times burnt by the Welsh and was taken and held by them from 1215 to 1221. During the Welsh war in the reign of Edward I., the king made the town his headquarters, and in 1283 David, the last native prince of Wales, was tried and condemned to death by a parliament held here. In 1403 Henry Percy, son of the earl of Northumberland, was defeated and killed at Shrewsbury by Henry IV. At the beginning of the Civil War, Charles I. stayed in the town for some time, but it surrendered to parliament in 1645. The first extant charter, dated 1199, is a grant by Richard I. to the burgesses of the town at a fee farm of 40 marks, but Henry II. is known to have granted an earlier charter which was confirmed by King John in 1200. The same king granted two other charters, one in 1200 giving the right of electing the reeves, and the other in 1205 providing that their lands and tenements should be governed by the “laws of Breteuil, the laws of the Barony and the laws of the Englishry.” Henry II. in 1227 granted a gild merchant with a house. Besides these charters there are numerous confirmations before the incorporation charter of Elizabeth of 1586. Charles I. in 1638 altered the corporation to a mayor, 24 aldermen and 48 assistants. In 1684 the burgesses surrendered their charter to the king and received a new one in the following year which, however, did not change the form of government. From 1295 to 1885 Shrewsbury returned two members to parliament, but then the number was reduced to one.

See H. Owen and J. C. Blakeway, A History of Shrewsbury (1825); Thomas Phillips, The History and Antiquities of Shrewsbury (1837); Victoria County History, Shropshire.