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Britain > West Midlands > Shrewsbury

A riverside town, with castle and abbey and knicknamed The Town of Flowers

The name of this old market town has caused a few arguments over the years. Half of the population insist that it's "Shroos-bury", while the other half swear blind that it's "Shrows-bury". Bringing up the subject with a group of locals is a guaranteed way to start a heated debate!
Just to further confuse matters, the town also has a Welsh name: "Amwythig". This is because the Welsh border is a mere 15 kilometres away. Throughout history, this has led to the ownership of Shrewsbury being a matter of serious disagreements. The Welsh made repeated attempts to capture the town and take it for themselves. The conflicts were often bloody and violent, especially the famous "Battle of Shrewsbury", in 1403. Over 6000 people died in less than three hours. It was such a dramatic event that Shakespeare wrote about it, in his play "Henry VI".
The most important part of the town's defences has always been Shrewsbury Castle. It was first erected in the 11th century, although many other additions and restorations have since been completed. The main building material is an unusual red sandstone, giving the structure a distinctive appearance. The fortress includes the Shropshire Regimental Museum, which displays all sorts of weapons and uniforms.
Shrewsbury Castle is only one of around 600 listed buildings in town. Many of the others are in the traditional black and white timber framed Tudor design. There are plenty of other places in England with structures of this type, but Shrewsbury has arguably the most impressive and numerous examples.
Another of the town's listed buildings is the Abbey. It was founded at around the same time as the castle, nearly 1000 ago. As with most monasteries, it was destroyed during the 16th century by Henry VIII. However, some sections were thankfully left standing, including the main church. Even today, services are still held here. Shrewsbury Abbey is most well known for being the home of Brother Cadfael, the fictional main character of an immensely popular series of novels. Cadfael was a sharp-witted monk who managed to solve dozens of murder mysteries in 12th century Britain. The books were written by Ellis Peters in the late 1900s, and since then the abbey has seen a sharp jump in visitors.
The main centre of Shrewsbury is enclosed within a loop in the River Severn. This means that boat cruises and riverside walks have become a popular way to see the town. You can head out towards the countryside, but you don't have to go that far to find some beautiful sights. A particularly good example is Quarry Park, Shrewsbury's biggest green area. As well as the lakeside, it boasts beautiful lawns and plantlife. The displays of greenery reach their peak during the annual Flower Show, when literally thousands of different specimens are put under the public eye. It's one of the biggest and best events of its kind in the country, and the world. At other times of the year, there are still numerous displays of colourful blooms scattered all around town. Thanks to this, Shrewsbury is nicknamed the "Town of Flowers".
The settlement's other connection to the world of nature is Charles Darwin, who was born and educated here. In the 19th century he developed his theories on evolution, which took the scientific world by storm. Darwin's work was a very hot topic in its day, and it attracted a large degree of criticism. Nevertheless, Shrewsbury was proud of its son, so it erected a statue in his honour.
Just like the animals in Darwin's theory, Shrewsbury is a place that has evolved. Its old architecture mixes well with modern facilities and amenities. Despite all its history, the town has moved confidently into the 21st century.
Visitor Information
Shrewsbury Castle is open daily from 9am (10:30am Sundays) to 5pm. Entry to the grounds is FREE. Entry to the museum (closed Thursdays) costs around £2.50 adults, children are FREE. Castle Gates, Shrewsbury SY1 2AT. Tel: 01743 281 205
Shrewsbury Abbey is open daily from 10am to 4:15pm (2:30pm Sundays). Entry is FREE. Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury SY2 6BS. Tel: 01743 232723

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