Saxon and Medieval Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury began as an Anglo-Saxon town. Its place name ending ‘bury’ showed it was once a fortified settlement called a burgh. In the 10th century Shrewsbury had a mint and Coins from this mint have been a regular feature on our digs. 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.
Shrewsbury Abbey was founded in 1083 by Roger de Montgomery the first Earl of Shrewsbury. By the 12th century, it had 2 bridges, both of which still stand today. 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.
In the late Middle Ages Shrewsbury grew prosperous on the Welsh wool and flax trade. There were many drapers and tailors in Shrewsbury.
During the 13th century there was frequent warfare between the English and the Welsh. Shrewsbury was, obviously, in the front line because of its position. In 1215 Shrewsbury was captured by the Welsh under their leader Llywelyn the Great. However, the Welsh only held the town for a short time. Nevertheless, warfare between the English and the Welsh continued through the 13th century.
In 1403 the Battle of Shrewsbury was fought (this is directly next to our wonderful accommodation). A powerful noble called Henry Percy (also known as Harry Hotspur) led a rebellion against the king and his forces marched to Shrewsbury. King Henry IV led a larger army against him and the two sides met in battle.
However when fighting began between men at arms the king’s army prevailed. Crucially Harry Hotspur was killed ending the rebellion. The Battle of Shrewsbury was a bloody one. How many men died is not known but the figure ran into many thousands.
As part of the historic dissolution of the monasteries, Henry VIII closed Shrewsbury Abbey in 1540.
Nevertheless the town of Shrewsbury thrived in the late 16th century and the 17th century. It was famous for its wool industry. Drapers Hall was built in 1658. By that time Shrewsbury was an important town with a population of around 6,000. Meanwhile Shrewsbury School was founded by Edward VI in 1552.
Several famous buildings were erected in Shrewsbury in the 16th century. Ireland’s Mansion was built around 1575. The Old Market Hall was built at the end of the century, probably around 1596. Owen’s Mansion was built around 1592. Rowley’s House was built in 1618.
By the 18th century Shrewsbury was a large and important market town. It was also an important coaching town. Stagecoaches travelling from London to Holyhead (for ships to Ireland) stopped at Shrewsbury. In the 18th century the 2 bridges in Shrewsbury were rebuilt. English Bridge was built in 1770s. Welsh Bridge followed in 1795. Meanwhile an infirmary was built in Shrewsbury in 1743. Furthermore St Chad’s Church collapsed in 1788 but it was rebuilt in 1792. Robert Clive, also known as Clive of India was MP for Shrewsbury from 1762 until his death in 1774. He was also once mayor of Shrewsbury, in 1762.