Tuesday, 26th April
Wow! You’re back again! – thanks for continuing to read my ramblings!
Weather-wise, it looks much the same as yesterday but with the added risk of a bit of rain!
Today, we’re off to the town of Shrewsbury. We’re heading for the Museum & Art Gallery and then the ‘old’ prison (for research purposes, you understand!). Time permitting, we’re also going to drop into St Peter’s Church in Melverley on the way back.
Shrewsbury is only about 15 miles from base-camp here at the Tractor Shed and although the roads so far have been hassle-free, we’re cheating! We’re using one of the three Park ‘n’ Rides for Shrewsbury (Three? That’s impressive for the size of the town) – called ‘Oxon‘ – for completists, the other two are named ‘Harlescott‘ and ‘Meole Brace‘. Just £2 return each for us… a bargain..! Anyway, we didn’t feel like trying to park in an unfamiliar town (and it was bound to be expensive!)
9.20am: We’re off! Again, just like yesterday, we’re in full ‘explorer mode’ today!
9.42am: Crikey, that was a short journey! We’ve not been here before and I think it’s the quietest Park ‘n’ Ride we’ve ever used – only about a tenth full with just 30 cars already parked-up.
Damn! We just missed the 9.40! ☹️
We caught the 10am and it was another quick journey! By ten-past-ten, we were in the town centre, working out where to start!
We decided to look around the town with emphasis on the architecture – and if there were any old Churches, we’d take a look at them too! We didn’t have to look far! First stop was St Mary’s Church. It didn’t look that impressive from the outside, but once through the door, it was magnificent! PS the clock isn’t working!
We learned that the Church dates from Saxon times and has one of the tallest spires in England. Apparently, a local tried to slide down it as a prank in 1739 – he has an engraved obituary in the Church! It contained tombs going as far back as the 10th century. It also has famous 14th-century stained-glass windows (in almost perfect condition) and a carved wooden ceiling. We loved it for its overall grandness and especially its ceiling!
There’s certainly plenty to see here! We already decided that a return trip was on the cards so that we can explore more of the town. As we wandered around, nothing seemed familiar based on our trip back in 2004. Perhaps as the day progressed, it would eventually come flooding back? Maybe!!
The day was getting warmer bringing out the best of my first few photos of the immediate surroundings. We’d heard about a famous Bridge here called the ‘English Bridge‘ (Ed: Technically speaking, it’s a viaduct) that was rebuilt in 1926 from the original by John Gwynne in 1768. It crosses the River Severn on the site of a similar construction that goes back to Norman times.
Actually, it wasn’t much to look at – it’s no Tower Bridge – but it’s well known and respected locally because of the Norman connection.
As we continued to explorer, we realised that Shrewsbury must have the highest C/m² (Churches per Square Metre) in England! It seemed that every time we turned a corner, there was another! In truth, we learned that they weren’t ALL Churches. Case in point our next discovery…
…Shrewsbury Abbey! aka The Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul. The Abbey was founded as a Benedictine Monastery by Roger de Montgomery in 1083 on the site of an existing Saxon Church and has been welcoming Pilgrims ever since. Not quite as grand inside (IMHO) as our previous stop – St Mary’s, but still very impressive (and the clock was working!)
Church (check!) Abbey (check!). All we need now is a Cathedral... and as we continued our wandering around the streets of Shrewsbury, we found one!
It didn’t look very ‘cathedral-like’ from outside, and we wondered if we’d got the right place?
We were! That’s three out of three!
Construction began on the Shrewsbury Cathedral in 1851 and it was opened in 1856. Over the years, many changes have been made internally. In fact, in 2019 a decision was made to restore it to its original state restoring hidden paintings and declaring that ‘improvements’ made in the 70s and 80s were ‘unsympathetic’.
As we left the Cathedral, surely there weren’t any more ‘religious establishments’ in the town? As we looked up, we could see two more with their spires almost adjacent to each other. Enough religion already… time for a coffee!
By complete chance we ended up very close to our next destination – the Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, very near the Old Market Hall (above). So, we grabbed a slice of cake and a beverage from their own café and planned our visit.
The Museum & Art Gallery
11.39am: Entry was free (which was a very pleasant surprise!) – and even more surprising once we began looking around. What a treasure-trove of stuff!!! 👍
The Museum was arranged chronologically. On the ground-floor was Roman Britain containing a lot of finds they couldn’t fit in at the small Museum we visited yesterday at Wroxeter.
The pride of their Roman collection was the silver mirror (made originally in the Rhineland) and discovered during a 1920s dig.
As we left the Roman era and headed upstairs, we were transported through time. What struck us the most was the variety. The Museum wasn’t that large (even though it looked like it had been extended in the past) but they had packed such a lot in…
…and that’s how it continued across all floors! Our impression was, just like many other museums, it could have easily have been double the size -and they’d still have plenty to show! 😲😲
Our final visit was to one of their ‘special temporary exhibitions’. At the time of writing, it was a tribute to the Publisher ‘Ladybird Books’. I think we’ve all had one or two of their publications at some point in our childhood, but it looked like the Museum had one of EVERYTHING! 👍
The above photograph shows a collection of almost 500 titles! How many have you read?
This had been a very impressive collection! In fact, the whole Museum punched well above its weight – and we still can’t believe it was completely free to get in! Definitely worth a look in if you’re passing!
12.40pm: Time for some lunch, courtesy of nearby Côte. We only chose them because it was on our doorstep from the Museum. The soup was excellent, pity about the chicken! (but at least I won’t need to get my shoes soled and heeled for a few years!). Luckily, for next time, Shrewsbury has a wide range of eateries for every pocket offering every cuisine. 😋😋
2.02pm: Whilst at lunch, the weather had improved dramatically – it was now a gorgeously warm day. After a bit of walking we eventually found the prison (it’s right next to the railway station). This 18th-century ‘accommodation’ (originally constructed in 1793 and closed in 2013) was totally geared-up for visitors and had maximised every opportunity to engage its visitors as a Museum. They offer tours during the day, one at night; there’s a ghost tour, and you can even stay there for a night in one of their cells to experience the ‘real feel’ of incarceration!
However, once we got inside, it all felt very bleak (but I guess that’s the point!).
Everything had been well-preserved down to the smallest detail. They even had some adjacent cells illustrating how the cells had evolved through the years from the rope hammock to a TV and a toilet! (I think I used a training room like that once, back in the day!) 😁😁
There was plenty of supporting materials on the walls throughout the prison, and we learned a lot about life behind bars. I never knew that all executions were carried out at precisely 8 o’clock in the morning, the quickest death, following execution, occurred after just seven seconds and the last execution here was carried out as late as 1961!
On a slightly lighter note, the Prison was used in the BBC drama series ‘Time’ starring Stephen Graham and Sean Bean.
In one of the rooms describing prolific killers from the past, I came across a namesake. Known as the Rudgeley Poisoner, he dispatched his friends and family using poison!
Ann’s decided to cook tonight! 😲
This had been a superb experience! It really brought home the life of an inmate – and the sight of a hangman’s noose in one of the last rooms we visited will be hard to forget!
Still, we did leave with a smile on our face after seeing this sign (below)…
…or is that just me????
Wow! What a day! For us, this had been the best day so far. Shrewsbury as a town was beautiful- and we’re definitely coming back. We did so much, we ran out of time, so we didn’t get an opportunity to visit St Peter’s Church in Melverley – maybe next time??!! We headed back to the Park ‘n’ Ride and then back to the Tractor Shed.
We didn’t too bad with our walking either! In total, almost 5 miles today!!
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