Although Shropshire is a county without a city, it has for centuries been a strategically important area.
Many of its 22 towns have connections to influential events on the national and global stage, and many offer unusual heritage stories.
Here are five places that you may want to visit.
1. Oswestry Castle: the castle of love
Sitting above Oswestry high Street, crowing the town, is the medieval motte and bailey castle.
The castle is referred to as ‘castelle lurve’ in the Domesday survey and was constructed by Reginald, Sheriff of Shropshire.
Despite the romantic reference, it was the scene of many a military battle, but it’s especially significant as the site of a parliament held by Richard II in 1398. At this gathering, Richard II virtually circumnavigated democracy by declaring that no legal restraint could be put on the King, making himself an absolute ruler.
In the following years, the castle fell in and out of favour as a military activity site, and from 1650 it was largely demolished. Today it is grassed over, but visitors can sit with a picnic on top of where a King once handed himself pure power.
It’s a short but fantastic climb to sit atop and enjoy a picnic, commanding views over the Welsh English borderlands. You can also take in other features such as the Iron Age hillfort at Old Oswestry and Offa’s Dyke to the West.
2. HMP Shrewsbury: the heart of prison reform
The former HMP Shrewsbury, which closed in 2013, offers the opportunity to see and hear about the prison reformer John Howard’s pioneering work.
The original jail was rebuilt in 1793 with advice from Howard, who had published The State of the Prisons in 1777 after touring the UK’s prisons.
Howard visited Shrewsbury in 1788 to inspect the plans for the new prison. He suggested several changes that would help improve the health and wellbeing of prisoners.
Visitors can tour the former prison during opening times and learn the history of how incarceration has evolved over the years.
3. St. Chad’s Church: sartorial Sundays in Telford
Blists Hill Victorian Town in Telford features 19th-century buildings and attractions. Nestled in the site is a rare example of a ‘tin tabernacle’ built to attract working-class worshipers.
St. Chad’s tabernacle was initially built in 1888 to serve the mining community around Granville Colliery, but was moved from its location in Lodge Bank to Blists Hill in 1977.
The timber-framed building, clad with corrugated iron, was built at a time when the Church of England believed working-class worshipers were put off attending church due to a lack of ‘Sunday best’ clothing. They thought that these plain buildings would be more successful in serving people from poor communities rather than the established churches’ flashy décor.
4. Bridgnorth: home of the stars
The Shropshire town of Bridgnorth is notable for being the physician and astrologer Francis Moore’s birthplace. Moore was one of the first to publish astrological predictions in 1697.
His book, which came to be known as ‘Old Moore’s Almanack’ and is still published today, caused a sensation when first published.
Bridgnorth is also known for its railway heritage, including England’s steepest funicular that connects the town’s high and low areas. You can even reach the town by boarding the heritage railway line Severn Valley Railway, which runs between Kidderminster and Shrewsbury.
5. The Quarry in Shrewsbury: a floral masterpiece
One of the most beautiful public parks in England can be found in Shrewsbury. The Quarry, 29-acres encircled by the River Severn’s majestic loop, has been an essential site for recreation since the 16th Century.
At the heart of the Quarry lies the Dingle, a floral masterpiece cultivated by world-renowned gardener Percy Thrower, who served as Parks Superintendent for 28 years.
This delightful sunken garden is landscaped with alpine borders, bedding plants, shrubbery and charming water features.
Let us know your favourite places in Shropshire in the comments below.
You might want to add that Blists Hill is actually one of the 10 museum sites which form the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust….set in the World Heritage Site of the majestic Ironbridge Gorge.
Much Wenlock – where Dr William Penny Brookes began the Wenlock Olympian Games in the mid 19th century to encourage local lads to get some exercise etc taking his inspiration from the ancient Olympics. Baron Pierre de Coubertin visited him in his latter years and was greatly inspired by Brookes’ work when restarting the modern Olympic movement.
I wish the Severn Valley Railway came to Shrewsbury, but I’m afraid to disappoint you – it ends at Bridgnorth.