About Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury is a market town whose centre has a largely unaltered medieval street plan and over 660 listed buildings, including several examples of timber framing from the 15th and 16th centuries. Shrewsbury Castle, a red sandstone fortification, and Shrewsbury Abbey, a former Benedictine monastery, were founded in 1074 and 1083 respectively by the Norman Earl of Shrewsbury, Roger de Montgomery. The town has historically been a centre for the wool trade and brewing. Horticulture remains popular, and the Shrewsbury Flower Show is one of the largest horticultural events in England.

Located 9 miles (14 km) east of the Welsh border, Shrewsbury serves as the commercial centre for Shropshire and mid-Wales, with a retail output of over £299 million per year and light industry and distribution centres, such as Battlefield Enterprise Park, on the outskirts. The A5 and A49 trunk roads cross near to the town, and five railway lines meet at Shrewsbury railway station.

Shrewsbury began as an Anglo-Saxon town. It was first mentioned in the year 901. Its place name ending ‘bury’ showed it was once a fortified settlement called a burgh. (The Saxons created a network of fortified settlements across England). Shrewsbury was probably protected by a ditch with an earth rampart and a wooden stockade.

In the 10th century Shrewsbury had a mint so it must have been a fairly important place. At the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 Shrewsbury probably had a population of about 1200. It would seem tiny to us but Medieval towns were very small.

The Normans built a wooden fort at Shrewsbury. However, in 1069 a rebellion occurred and the rebels laid siege to the fort. When Norman reinforcements arrived the rebels set the town alight then fled. Although part of Shrewsbury was burned the town soon recovered. (Fire, whether deliberate or accidental was a constant hazard in Medieval towns when most buildings were of wood with thatched roofs. On the other hand, if they burned down they could easily be rebuilt).

Shrewsbury Abbey was founded in 1083 by Roger de Montgomery the first Earl of Shrewsbury. The same man built a castle in Shrewsbury to replace the rough wooden fort.

Medieval Shrewsbury flourished. By the 12th century, it had 2 bridges. In the early 12th century King Henry I gave Shrewsbury a charter (a document granting the townspeople certain rights). King Richard, I gave Shrewsbury a second charter in 1189. In the 13th century stone walls were built around Shrewsbury.

By the 14th century Shrewsbury probably had a population of about 3,000. To us, it would seem no more than a village but by Medieval standards, it was a fair sized town.

There was an important leather industry in Shrewsbury. There were skinners and tanners in the town as well as shoemakers and glovers. In the late Middle Ages Shrewsbury grew prosperous on the Welsh wool and flax trade. There were many drapers and tailors in Shrewsbury.

In the 13th century friars arrived in Shrewsbury. (Friars were like monks but instead of withdrawing from the world they went out to preach and help the poor). Franciscan friars were called grey friars because of their grey costumes. Dominican friars were called black friars. There were also Austin Friars in Shrewsbury.