A Day in… Shrewsbury

By | Category: Travel destinations

Shrewsbury Castle from the railway station

Shrewsbury Castle from the railway station

My last trip to Shrewsbury was 35 years ago. I don’t think I’ve been through it on a train since those days and, to be fair, I don’t remember much about it. A castle I remember and a river and that’s about it. So I thought it was overdue for a visit. The only other thing I remember from those days was the stationmaster announcing the arriving trains to a level of indecision as he said “Shrowsbury, this is Shrewsbury” emphasising two different pronunciations of the town name. That didn’t happen this time.

So, once again, by train I went from London’s Marylebone on the newish Shropshire and Wrexham’s train service. Incidentally, the politeness and the service by the train crew fully demonstrated why in the regular Passenger Focus surveys of customer satisfaction, they do so well.

From the station you could get an all day bus ticket (or a PlusBus added to the train ticket) but Shrewsbury is quite compact so you can walk to most places. I was going to write “walk easily” but there is a steepish hill after you leave the station which might put some people off. If you go by car, then there are 13 car parks available plus a couple of park and rides.

Shrewsbury being where it is, can’t help but have a lot of heritage interest. On the borders with Wales, anyone who remembers the Cadfael TV series with Derek Jacobi or who has read the 21 books of Ellis Peters will recognise a place caught in the middle. The series was set in Shrewsbury Abbey which although seen peering over the station, is found after a bit of a walk and crossing the River Severn by the English Bridge. (And yes, there is a Welsh Bridge as well on the eastern side.) The current abbey dates from 1083 but it is on the site of a Saxon church back in the days when Shrewsbury was called Scrobesbyrig. The cathedral in the city is catholic and junior in age being opened only in 1856. But it was designed and constructed by the Pugins, father and son, who did so much influence on Victorian architecture.

Historic Shrewsbury

Historic Shrewsbury

But to go further back visit the Museum and visitor centre in Rowley’s House. The visitor centre (tourist office) is well stocked and was busy on the day I went so you might need to be patient if you want a question asked. The free museum which is in the same building has material from nearby Wroxeter (the Roman site called Viriconium) including mosaics but two things stuck out for me. The first was the link with Charles Darwin, (there is a shopping centre named after him and a statue outside the old school he went to which is now the library. It will probably be the first thing you see is you leave the station and turn left up into the main area.) The second was the museum itself. Shrewsbury has lots of Tudor buildings and Rowley’s House is a maze of passages, slightly altered by having it turned into a museum. You’ll find a mark on one of the walls with 1616 written in it. (The website has 1618 as the date of the building) Go soon however because in 2012 the museum is moving to a new site, the Music Hall.

Up from the museum and looking over the Dingle gardens is a rather unusual church, St Chad’s (not to be confused with the ruins of another St Chad’s near the cathedral.) this is round, gives free concerts on Friday lunchtimes in summer and has a wildlife garden surrounding part of it.
The castle is the other striking feature of the city. Constructed in the century after the Norman conquest, it was built by the same person responsible for the building of the abbey, Roger de Montgomery, but today not much remains. Part of it was converted to a townhouse by another well-known figure, Thomas Telford and that part houses the museum of the Shropshire Regimental Museum. Free to residents of Shropshire, the rest of us adults have to pay the surprisingly small amount of £2.50.

Tudor houses and shops in Shrewsbury

Tudor houses and shops in Shrewsbury

The inner part of the city where the shops are is hilly and part pedestrianised. There are the crazily angled Tudor buildings that you’d expect with street names like Dogpole, Butcher’s Row, Grope Lane (and no, I didn’t ask) and Shoplatch. Down by the river you can circle the city, seeing it from a completely different angle, even the city walls (or those that remain) seem bigger.

There was too much to see in one day. And this was before exploring some of the places nearby like the Ironbridge Gorge and the aqueducts that carry the Llangollen Canal high above the countryside. So Shrewsbury isn’t really for the day tripper. More the weekender.

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