Market town on the River Severn, Shropshire, England, 244 km/152 mi northwest of London; population (2001) 67,100. It is the administrative headquarters of Shropshire. There are service industries and light manufacturing, and tourism is important. To the east at Wroxeter is the site of the Roman city of Viroconium.
Landmarks include Clive House Museum, the 18th-century residence of Robert Clive (of India) and the church of St Mary with its 14th-century Jesse window. The castle dates from 1070.
In the 5th century, as Pengwern, Shrewsbury was capital of the kingdom of Powys, which later became part of Mercia. In the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, Henry IV defeated the rebels led by Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy). The city declined an invitation in 1539, at the dissolution of the monasteries, to become a cathedral city.
Layout and landmarks
The town centre is on a peninsula of rising ground within a horseshoe bend of the Severn; suburbs beyond the river are reached by two principal bridges which from their position on the main east-west highway are known respectively as the English Bridge and the Welsh Bridge. Shrewsbury retains much of its medieval character, particularly in the centre of the town, with its black and white timber-frame buildings, which sometimes lean out and almost touch, and its unusual street names.
At the narrowest point of the peninsula stands the castle, founded about 1070 by Roger de Montgomery; it served as a royal fortress until the time of Charles II, but was rebuilt by Telford.
Roger de Montgomery also founded a Benedictine monastery at Shrewsbury in 1083, but at the dissolution the monastic buildings were demolished, together with the east end of the abbey church of SS Peter and Paul, the west end being spared as a parish church.
The church of St Mary, part Norman and part Early English, possesses some remarkable glass, including a 14th-century Jesse window of English glass, and stained glass from Trier (Trèves), Germany.
The town was formerly walled, though now only a portion of the original wall can be seen. Substantial remains of a unique 13th-century town house, probably the ‘Bennetteshalle’ known to have belonged to the abbots of Haughmond, were investigated in 1957, prior to demolition. The ruins of Haughmond Abbey, founded in 1135 by William Fitz-Alan for Augustinian canons, lie 5 km/3 mi northeast of the town.
During the time of Elizabeth I many of the timber-framed mansions which survive today were built, for example Ireland's Mansion (1575) and Owen's Mansion (1592). Rowley's House (1595), another 16th-century timber-framed building, houses the museum of Roman antiquities from the city of Viroconium at Wroxeter near Shrewsbury.
By the river is Shrewsbury School, originally situated in the town (the 17th-century school buildings are now the borough library and museum). Charles Darwin was a pupil here. There is also a high school for girls, founded in 1872.
Industries include precision engineering, malting, the manufacture of diesel engines, locomotives, machine tools, electrical equipment, and agricultural implements. The main heavy industries are located in the northern suburbs along garden-city lines. The cattle market, one of the busiest in England, was moved to a new and larger site in the northern suburbs.
From early times to the 17th century
Shrewsbury was occupied by a British community, who called it Pengwern; later the Saxons renamed the site Scrobbesbyrig (alternatively Salopesberia, from which the name Salop derives). Offa made Shrewsbury part of his kingdom of Mercia at the end of the 8th century; in the Saxon and Norman periods it was frequently raided by the Welsh. Early in the 13th century Llewelyn the Great twice captured Shrewsbury; Edward I made it his seat of government (1277-83), and here Dafydd, last Welsh royal prince, was tried and executed (1283). At the Battle of Shrewsbury (1403), which took place just outside the modern town, Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy was defeated and killed. Charles I set up his headquarters here in 1642, but the town fell to the Parliamentarians in 1645.
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