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You Say Shrewsbury and I Say Shrowsbury
Shrewsbury in General
Member Name: kitschkitty
Shrewsbury in General
Advantages: A beautiful, picturesque town steeped in history
Disadvantages: None. There's something for everyone here.
Having already read some fantastic reviews on the town of my birth, I wasn't entirely sure if there was much point in me adding my two penneth. But having spent the first 18 informative years of my life growing up there, I decided I perhaps do have enough Shrewsbury trivia to warrant an alternative guide to Shropshire's county town. Of course if you're looking for valuable information on National Trust sites in the area or the opening times of Shrewsbury Market, then the Tourist Information Centre would perhaps be a better port of call. But if you're intrigued by some of the more obscure stories behind the town, then I hope the following will be both entertaining and enlightening.
Despite its relatively small population of around 100,000, I tend to find that everyone I meet has either visited or passed through Shrewsbury at some point. Most people have brief but fond stories of their time spent in Shrewsbury but one harmless drunk I met in a pub showed less affection towards my hometown as he described the many months he spent bunking up with another fellow in a rather chilly Victorian building. It was not until he pinpointed his location to me that I realized his less than favourable impression of Shrewsbury had been garnered from a stay at Her Majesty's Pleasure at the Dana, now more commonly referred to as HMP Shrewsbury. According to a 2005 report on the UK prison population, Shrewsbury prison is the most overcrowded prison in England and Wales so I can only anticipate that the above scenario will become more common place.
Of course, if you choose to make a visit to Shrewsbury for social reasons, then you will be free to explore and enjoy the town. The town centre is filled with timber framed buildings to admire and a visit during the spring or summer wouldn't be complete without a trip to the Quarry Park to admire the flora and fauna in The Dingle. But if you search a little harder, you'll find some of the quirky oddities that sparked my initial love of Shrewsbury and have ensured it retains a place in my heart 8 years after heading 'up North.'
Let's face it, despite the fact the Shrewsbury is a town steeped in history, not everyone is partial to visiting museums or partaking in guided walks in order to appreciate the town's historical roots. So I have found the perfect compromise. It's not often that I would recommend visiting a McDonald's restaurant but the McDonald's on Pride Hill in Shrewsbury is an exception to the rule. This is the oldest building in the world to house a McDonald's with some of the exterior walls dating back to the 13th century. So whilst the children enjoy a happy meal, you can sit back with a McFlurry and admire the historical surroundings. Incidentally, before you take offence, the large banners downstairs refer to King Cnut, also known as Canute the Great. A quick glance can easily give the wrong impression and perhaps a more derogatory view of McDonald's than this particular branch deserves.
So now you've witnessed some 13th century architecture, albeit in the guise of a fast food restaurant, now it's time to take a trip to St Chad's church. Like a mother disguising vegetables in pasta sauce, I have another trick up my sleeve to make a seemingly boring trip to a church a far more exciting experience. Of course I'm sure there will be visitors who will marvel at the unique and controversial design of St Chad's church which features a round nave as designed by architect George Steuart. But if the church's complex fusion of Ionic, Doric and Corinthian styles fails to impress then perhaps a trip around the graveyard will prove to be more interesting. Christmas just isn't Christmas without curling up on the sofa to watch one or other adaptations of Dickens' enduring classic A Christmas Carol and, despite the annual influx of demonized, Americanized and muppetized interpretations, there is one version that has always been my favourite. Clive Donner's 1984 film of A Christmas Carol starring George C Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge was filmed in Shrewsbury and features some fantastic and familiar scenes from the town as well as my personal favourite performance of Scrooge. Visit St Chad's graveyard and you will still find Ebenezer Scrooge's gravestone which was erected in 1984 for the filming of A Christmas Carol and has remained there ever since.
And if you need another incentive to explore the historical buildings of Shrewsbury, then perhaps the promise of ghosts and ghouls might intrigue you enough to venture around some of Shrewsbury's more famous historical buildings. Rowley's House, for example, not only houses Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery but is also the home to two costumed figures who have been seen wandering the corridors of this large timber framed building. Shrewsbury also offers the opportunity to combine ghost hunting with some light refreshment with pubs including The Hole in the Wall, The Nag's Head and The Dun Cow all boasting stories of hauntings and apparitions.
And finally, if you're looking for another good reason to visit Shrewsbury, then the list of Proud Salopians that have inhabited the town will surely be enough to whet your appetite. Lauded as the birth place of Charles Darwin Shrewsbury was also home to famed Salopians Wilfred Owen and Robert Clive (Clive of India). But more recent celebrities from in and around the town include actor Pete Postlethwaite, writer of the Brother Cadfael series of books Ellis Peters (and incidentally Brother Cadfael himself) as well as Roy Wood of Wizard Fame, writer of Well I Wish it Could Be Christmas Everyday and father of my childhood friend. And then there's the famous scholars who attended Shrewsbury School which include Michael Palin, John Peel, Tim Booth (lead singer of James), Willie Rushton and Michael Heseltine. So you will amongst illustrious company if you spend a weekend in Shrewsbury.
As I've said, Shrewsbury's Toruist Information Centre (located within the Music Hall, at the back of The Square) will provide you with plenty of leaflets and pertinent information regarding particular attractions. Despite the laid back and relaxed atmosphere of the town, there really is something for everyone in the vicinity. Fro historic timber framed buildings to quaint gift shops, from haunted pubs to idyllic gardens of The Quarry Park, Shrewsbury is a town with plenty to keep you occupied and hopefully you'll leave with fond memories of this little town.
Summary: A town for all seasons