Sunday, July 29, 2007

Shrewsbury

Yesterday Tevye gave me a day off (stand up, dear, and take your round of applause!), so I took a day trip to explore a town I have never visited before ... Shrewsbury, setting for Ellis Peters' Cadfael books. In British terms Shrewsbury is a long way from Bedfordshire, but I am an intrepid train traveller. I booked value advance tickets, undaunted by the prospect of a three hour journey, requiring four trains there and three back. Initially the plan went awry when the departures screen showed the very first train running ten minutes late, wiping out all leeway for the first change, but Tevye rose to the occasion and drove me two stations up the line to make the connection. After that every train ran like clockwork, making it a very pleasant and easy journey.

Shrewsbury is a lovely town, well worth a visit. It is built on a hill by a bend in the River Severn, and the combination of the river setting with the up and down streets gives it character. The town centre has a number of old black and white timbered buildings and narrow streets like this one ...

The church in the background was St.Alphage's, one of a number in the town centre, though not all are in regular use. I spent some time in St.Mary's, which was simply stuffed with extraordinary stained glass. This stunning Jesse Tree window dates from the 1340s. It was originally in the Greyfriars (Franciscan) Church, at the Reformation it was moved to the parish church of St.Chads, and then when St.Chad's was damaged beyond repair by the collapse of its tower in the late 18th century, the window was moved again to its current situation ...

The yellow patch near the bottom of the window is the recumbant figure of Jesse, from whom a vine twines upwards to pictures of his descendants, culminating in panels at the top showing Joseph, Mary with the baby Jesus, and the Crucifixion. The colours glow as brightly as they must have done when the window was first made.

Another window that particularly attracted me was a smaller window of 17th century Dutch glass containing a dozen of these delicate roundels. I particularly liked the scene at the top showing the Adoration of the Magi ...

Across the river from the town centre I found the remains of Shrewsbury's Benedictine Abbey, home to Brother Cadfael. The monastic buildings were largely destroyed at the Reformation, and those left were finished off by 19th century road builders - all except an ornate refectory pulpit marooned on the opposite side of the road. Today's church is a shadow of its former self as the original chancel was demolished, leaving just the nave. What is left is little more than half the size of the medieval church. I found it all rather sad, and didn't bother to pay £1 for a licence to take photos of what is left of the Norman interior. At least I managed to eliminate the busy road from this photo ...

From the Abbey I walked back across the English Bridge (at the other side of town is the Welsh Bridge leading, rather predictably, to Wales) and round the remains of the town walls to the "new" St.Chads (an unusual round church built in the 1790s) and the Quarry park. Within the park is an enclosed garden known as The Dingle, converted by the Victorians from an old quarry. I was lucky with the weather, and with the sun shining this garden was beautiful. I sat for a while overlooking the lake and just enjoyed watching the world go by ...

Shrewsbury also boasts the remains of a castle. The Great Hall is now a military museum, but is also used for weddings. Yesterday's wedding party couldn't have picked a better day after all the miserable wet weather we have had ...


Finally, here is a picture of the old Shrewsbury School building (now the public library). In front is a statue of its most famous alumnus, Charles Darwin. Who put that plastic barrier there to spoil the view?

I got home at 9pm tired but relaxed, and very grateful for the luxury of day to myself to explore such a lovely place.

6 comments:

dorothy said...

Fabulous pictures, Kathryn! You ARE intrepid - 4 trains?

We drove up to the Middle of Nowhere on Friday (Wenlock Edge area of Shropshire) and it took a couple of hours. I *knew* we should have made time to visit Shrewsbury! Next time!

Karen E. said...

Oh, Kathryn, it looks and sounds wonderful!

And, btw, I love your new look here!

Carole ... in the Heartland said...

Lovely pictures, Kathryn! We love Cadfael ... perhaps we will someday have the opportunity to visit there as well.

I also love your new look! I thought I recognized Kenilworth from a long ago visit to England. That and the Magna Carta are perfect for your blog.

Alice Gunther said...

First of all, love the way the blog looks--gorgeous!!!

And these pictures are just incredible. I would love to visit such a place, particularly if you could play tour guide for us!

The Bookworm said...

Alice, I would love to play tour guide :)

Anonymous said...

It looks like a great day off, i could do with one of those myself lol.
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