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Shropshire


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Is a large and beautiful county. The hilly southern part includes the Wrekin, the Long Mynd, Clee Hill, and Wenlock Edge: the north, adjoining Cheshire, is flatter, with some notable meres. Shrewsbury grew up as an important crossing over the Severn and as a bastion against the Welsh. Whitchurch is the chief town of the northern half, Ludlow, in Tudor times home to the Council in the Marches of Wales, of the south.

In Roman times, the area fell between the Cornovii and the Ordovices. The Roman road Watling Street ran through the county and Viriconium (Wroxeter), where it crossed the Severn, was an important legionary base. The region was disputed between Britons and Saxons and at one stage much of it belonged to the kingdom of Powys, whose capital, Pengwern, may have been at Shrewsbury. By the 8th cent. it formed part of the kingdom of Mercia and Offa's Dike runs through the western parts of the shire. By the 10th cent. it was in existence as a shire.

The Normans, finding Saxon pronunciation difficult, called the county Salopescira and studded it with castles, at Shrewsbury, Ludlow, Bishop's Castle, and Clun. Even so, the western parts were defended against the Welsh with difficulty. The county was again at risk during Glyndŵr's rising in the early 15th cent., when Clun was destroyed, but Glyndŵr's allies, the Percies, were defeated just north of Shrewsbury in 1403 and Henry Percy (Hotspur) killed.

Until the 18th cent. Shropshire was overwhelmingly an agricultural county, famous for sheep, but the development by the Darby family of a great mining and iron industry at Coalbrookdale produced the strange phenomenon of blast furnaces and chimneys amid lush wooded valleys. The Iron Bridge, built in 1777, and now the centre of a splendid museum complex, was for decades regarded as one of the wonders of technological progress.

Shrewsbury retained its primacy as county town without difficulty, hosting the assizes and the parliamentary elections. Defoe found it ‘beautiful, large, pleasant, populous and rich: they speak all English in the town, but on a market‐day you would think you were in Wales.’ Its central position was enhanced by the coming of the railways in the mid‐19th cent., which confirmed its importance as a route centre. The county was not affected by the Local Government Act of 1972, but the balance of population began to change with the development of a new town in the east, absorbing Dawley, Oakengates, and Wellington. It was renamed Telford, after the great engineer who was county surveyor from 1788 to 1834.

Subjects: British History.


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