Brightoned Out, But So Glad I Went

I forced myself out of bed early this morning for two reasons: 1) to get a bit of work done so I wouldn’t have a daunting amount left after my outing; 2) to encourage me to get to sleep early…

My destination for today was Brighton proper. My host strongly recommended that even though it’s only a 3mi/5KM round trip on foot that I buy a £2.90 return ticket and go on the train to save my energy, which I think was very good advice. I headed out around 9:45 to take the 10:08 train, but I got in with plenty of time to catch the 9:59 even with having to stop to collect my previously purchased ticket.

That put me in Brighton just past 10:00 and I headed out of the station to my first destination of the day. There was plenty of signage and clues that I was heading to the touristy part of town.

The first touristy thing of interest that I saw was the Brighton Dome, an arts venue. It is part of the Royal Pavillon complex and is quite impressive from outside!

I walked around the Dome and got my first view of the Royal Pavillon. Keep reading for more details, but let’s just say that I was not expecting this in Brighton and am so happy my host and her decorator put it on my must-do list! There were even palm trees by it, adding to the exotic feel.

I wandered up North Street to find a second breakfast.

Then sat in front of the entrance to the Royal Pavillon to enjoy my last sausage roll and really good coffee from Greggs.

Then, it was time to enter what is, bar none, the most incredible building I have ever had the privilege of visiting.

Unfortunately, interior photography is not allowed in King George IV’s seaside pleasure palace. But the are tons of high resolution photographs on the palace’s website. Please head there now to at least look at photos of the banquet hall and its dragon chandelier. This palace was sold and completely stripped by Queen Victoria, who did not find it a suitable home for her family, but was bought by the city and carefully restored over the years to give an inkling of how sumptuous it was in the days of George IV. Spoiler: while the outside is of decidedly Indian influence, the interior decor is of Chinese influence!

I could have spent a day going through the palace as there were so many exquisite details to take in, but it was overrun by school children and hard to visit leisurely. 🙁 I think the music room was my favourite, but the dragon chandelier that is just two feet shorter than Miranda (!) was the most memorable feature.

Entrance to the palace is £12.50, or you can buy online a combination pass with the Brighton Museum for £15 (plus play an additional £2 for the palace audioguide if you want to get any real value out of your tickets). So the museum was my next stop.

It’s adjacent to the Dome.

The museum has a hodgepodge of exhibits, most of which are behind glass, so difficult to photograph. The building held  more interest, to be honest. Here are photos of a few things that caught my eye.

The tiles are gorgeous and have so much depth!

I enjoyed making a motif of Iranian-style tiles.

This turquoise colour is very traditional in Iran.

This pot looks like a beautiful work of art, but is a”stealth bomb.” The background of the images are of unspeakable wartime horrors.

This stack of crockery has a rod going all the way through it to hold it.

There was an exhibit about how Brighton was the place to come for a “dirty weekend.” This is very much England’s Sin City.

The mosaic floor in parts of the museum was a work of art.

This French-inspired bathing costume was the standard in Brighton for a long time.

I really liked these.

This one looks like a rainy day viewed through a window.

This one is deceptively simple. So many colours in it!

Frankly, at £5.20, I don’t think the museum is worth a detour unless you pair it with the Royal Pavillon and basically get in for half price.

I was ready for lunch when I came out of the museum and knew where to go, a little Japanese restaurant right in front of the Dome. Get this. I was thinking I wanted Asian noodles for lunch and was going to ask my host if she could recommend a place, but she beat me to it! It’s rather scary how well she’s gotten to know me! The restaurant is Pompoko and it was super busy, always a good sign. I went with their lunch special of udon noodles with prawns and squid. This picture is terrible, but if you squint, you can see how they cut the squid to make it more tender. This was crazy good!

I then meandered my way down to the water.

My destination was, of course, the tourist trap that is the Brighton Pier.

The pier is free to access, so I got to take it all in without spending a penny. The entire structure is owned by one company so prices are the same throughout all the shops. Not much was open today.

There are free deck chairs to use on the pier. I imagine these go very quickly in the hotter months!

At the end of the pier are a bunch of rides, some for kids, some for adults.

I learned while watching a programme recently that that tower at the back with a slide is called a helter-skelter.

I eventually reached the end of the pier. I’m looking towards France here.

Spot the annoying typo.

The last thing on my list was to walk through “The Lanes,” Brighton’s shopping district in a maze of narrow lanes not unlike the bazaar in Sarajevo.

On the way there, I paused for a gelato, surprising myself when I picked “sour cherry,” which was exactly that, with very tart fruit contrasting pleasantly with the smooth vanilla ice cream.

Brighton Square.

This block of flats does not suit the ambiance of the neighbourhood.

Most of the shops in The Lanes sell jewelry.

I didn’t linger long and decided that I was ready to go home after having a beer.

More pretty tile work at a hotel.

Another church made of flint.

This pub seemed welcoming.

I ordered a half pint of bitter and was offered a choice of four. I went with their darkest and strongest, Laine’s Best Bitter. So pretty! One of the options was an American pale ale, so I’m thinking that’s what I have to look for in North America.

I then meandered my way back to the train station.

But took a detour up a very steep hill to check out St. Nicholas’ Church.

I am fascinated by the use of the flint as a construction material. It is exquisite!

And here I am back at the Brighton train station, where there was a train only going to Hove leaving in two minutes. Talk about good timing with trains today!

I’m glad I went to Brighton for the day, but it’s definitely not a place I would care to return to and I’m happy I stayed in Hove. As I’d been warned, Brighton proper is very dirty, run down, and full of panhandlers. It’s also very tourist and gaudy. I can imagine that there are much nicer places to go for a seaside holiday in England. But the Royal Pavillon is worth the detour!

When I got into Hove, I had the bright idea of picking up my ticket for Gatwick tomorrow to save me a step. Well, I witnessed a distraught young girl have her money eaten by a machine. She said that there’s never anyone working at the Hove station and that when this has happened in the past, she was never able to get her money back. A nice man stepped in to buy her a ticket on his card before I could offer, so she was able to get home. But that sure validated my feelings of hopelessness the other night when I missed my stop!

I popped into Tesco to pick up a pizza and a small bottle of wine for dinner. One of the first things my host showed me in her kitchen was how to use the grill to heat up a pizza, so I knew I wouldn’t have any trouble doing that for my dinner.

Now, my host is the lovely Moira! I don’t like to say where I stay when I’m there, but I can finally give a shoutout to her and her  Airbnb listings. Coming home tonight, I marvelled that I’ve been living with her a full week and haven’t gone nuts yet! 🙂 Her home is unfussy, cosy, clean, and so welcoming. I could make meals at home if I wanted, watch telly in the lounge with her in the evening, and just live my normal routine. It says a lot that I felt comfortable leaving the door to my office open while I worked and didn’t feel the need to squirrel myself away to be as invisible as possible.

My European adventure has wound down. If I have time to grab a late lunch in Iceland tomorrow instead of just rushing through the airport, that will be icing on the proverbial cake! It’s been incredible and I feel so grateful to have had this opportunity.

Now, it’s time to go pack. I’m told WOW Air is extremely strict and won’t let me on with my purse in addition to my backpack and suitcase, so I have to get everything packed the way it was when I came over here. Even though I actually have less than when I arrived, I’ve been struggling with the packing, so I really need to go spend some time on that. Then bed, because 5:30 is going to come really soon…

A Day in Lewes — a Castle, an Ancient House, Priory Ruins, a Great Pint, and the South Downs, Oh My!

Today, I decided to head to the nearby town of Lewes (pronounced just like Lewis) to visit its castle (and other sites) and get a chance to walk on the famous South Downs. I headed out around 9:30 this morning to catch a 10:08 train to Brighton and then the first train to Lewes. Since my Airbnb is right near the train station, I was very early, even after collecting my ticket, and on top of that my train to Brighton was delayed. So I headed down to the Barclay’s to do a withdrawal so I wouldn’t have to do that in Lewes.

Standing on the platform, I could look up the stairs to the locked gate onto the pedestrian bridge.

Not sure I would want to live somewhere called “Bad House”…

Brighton train station was quite impressive!

I didn’t have to wait for a train to Lewes so I ended up having a very quick trip. It was one stop to Brighton and then four or five to Lewes.

Looking out over Brighton from the train to Lewes.

I still can’t get over the daffodils in early March!

The Lewes train station was similar to Hove’s.

I headed uphill from the train station to find the High Street and the tourist information centre.

I liked the turquoise trim on this house.

The lady at the tourist information centre was super helpful. I asked her about walking on the South Downs if I had only an hour or two and she gave me a map, a leaflet, and excellent directions for what sounded like exactly the perfect walking option. I decided to start my day with the castle, though, and she sent me in direction of it.

This narrow street rather reminded me of a Shrewsbury shut.

From the High Street, there’s a sign saying to turn right for the castle. You do so and, boom, there’s its gate!

I bought a combination ticket for the castle and an old Tudor house for £12.50. The lady who sold me the ticket gave me directions to the house and then a route to another location that would let me do a nice circle back around to the High Street to find lunch after.

It is very, very, very late, so I’m not going to get into the very complicated history of this castle. It’s been built and rebuilt many times and has had many owners so it’s not really that old.

Stocks.

My first destination was the top of the barbican, over the entrance gate.

That “guy” scared the heck out of me when I came into the room!

I had fun trying to figure out how to use a medieval crane.

Ah… the famous chalk hills of Sussex, or the South Downs. I first learned about them when I was reading the Sherlock Holmes stories as this area is where he retired.

Shame it was so misty. I was tempted later in the day, when the sky cleared, to ask if I could come back up, but I was too tired and foot sore.

The castle is made of local flint.

Looking out over the bowling green, the lumpiest in England! Thomas Paine (Rights of Man) played there in the 18th century when he lived in Lewes!

Remains of an old cooking fireplace, when this part of the castle would have been indoors.

I headed inside to climb to the very top of the castle.

Looking out to Lewes prison.

It was surreal to be here! This isn’t even the most famous view of the chalk hills and I didn’t feel any need to go seek it out.

After the castle, I did the little attached museum. This tapestry was impressive.

Mirror

Swords

Flint tools

This is apparently what a medieval felt hat would have looked like.

The floors in the upstairs of the museum was embarrassingly creaky!

After the museum, I continued down the High Street.

Little did I know I would be back to the Brewers Arms.

The 15th century bookstore, where I had to turn off the High Street.

I passed what looked like a pretty garden and was thrilled that it was open to the public.

My tour of this lovely garden done, I continued on, passing yet another lovely church.

My next destination of Anne of Cleves House. She was one of Henry VIII’s wives. She won this house in their divorce settlement, but never actually lived here although she might have visited. I have so much information about this house that I may come back and do a page about it when I’m not so knackered. There’s no way I can do it justice tonight. It’s a fine example of a Tudor manor, but it was much improved upon over the years and does not resemble its original form.

The entrance is the former great hall.

From there you can go right (left looking at this picture) into the east bedroom.

It was a really vast and voluminous space. Two ladies and a little girl were there and we had a chat about the history of building and how mind boggling it is that it took so long for Western society to start using insulation. We also had fun playing with those costumes!

This could serve as a chair, table, or chest!

The floor of the parlour was incredibly uneven and not level!

I find that expression hilarious.

Remember his thoughts on Shrewsbury?

This represents an avalanche in Lewes in the 19th century.

Hops!

The tour of the house ends with the garden.

I found the Anne of Cleves House was very interesting to walk through. It smelled exactly as it should, so musty and old, and the exhibits were interesting. But I paid £1.50 extra for a leaflet that had pretty much the same information as on the walls and it was not laid out in a logical manner. I found that the museum could have done a better job with it and to help guests through the rather confusing layout.

more palm trees!

My last stop before a badly needed lunch was Priory Park, which is free to walk through.

From the priory, I had to go past the rail station to get back to the High Street. I passed one of the many “rail replacement” buses since there is a lot of work being done on the railways.

Exterior of Lewes train station.

I had lunch at the Brewers Arms pictured above. I went with the lunch special of sausages and mash with a pint of Harvey’s Best Bitter, a beer brewed right in Lewis. All was yummy. 🙂 I took my time with lunch since I was very tired by this point and wanted a rest before heading onto the South Downs.

After lunch,  I went down the High Street in the other direction towards the South Downs.

The High Street ends with a pedestrianised bit.

I was happy to find (very expensive) ice cream, to which I added a Flake!

Unfortunately, you have to book brewery tours eons in advance.

At the end of the High Street, I started up the very steel Chapel Road.

Not even all the way up, I already had amazing views of Lewes and the valley.

The walk on the South Downs takes you right by cows. That black one on the right had a shifty gaze.

I couldn’t believe how much this part of the South Downs looked like the rolling hills around Haven. And just like at home, the internet up with the cows was much better than down in the valley where the people live. *wry grin*

And the point of this gate is?

I descended into a valley full of sheep.

My walk leaflet mentioned this pond. Little did I know I would spend so much time here that it would be my final destination on the Downs!

It was full of frogs! I spent so much time watching them. I believe it’s mating season.

So cute!

I couldn’t believe the number of them there were, all around the pond.

One on the grass posed for me.

I was supposed to catch a 5PM train back to Hove and it was past 3:30 by this point, so it was time to go back.

But I couldn’t resist capturing one last cutie for posterity.

I headed straight back to the railway station, avoiding the High Street except for the pedestrianised bit.

I passed yet another church.

This was a rather lovely building. I like the rounded corner.

A clearish view of the chalk hills.

Somewhere along the day, I picked up a copy of The Big Issue. It is a very good publication that is sold by homeless people in the UK. They buy the magazines for £1.25 and then resell them for £2.50. So every copy they have is money the invested in their business. Please support a Big Issue seller if you come across one as the program provides gainful employment that contributes to some people getting off the streets .

The train station was a mess. Many trains were cancelled, included my 4:59 home. I was early, so I took the 4:41 into Brighton.

I then just barely made the train to Hove. Exhausted, I looked forward to popping into the Tesco by the station and then only have a short walk home. Well…

No one in my carriage got off at Hove with me and I was unable to get the door to open to let me off! I asked for help and people just laughed and said it was too late as we took off again! Thankfully, the next station wasn’t too far, but I was in a real pickle since UK public transportation in general does not look kindly on folks riding outside of their allotted tickets. I could get on a train back to Hove, but if an inspector requested to see my ticket, I could be in a lot of hot water. They really don’t care about sob stories and I’m pretty sure they make most of their money from fines.

I checked where I was and I was just a block from my road and then two kilometres away. The next train back was in an hour (!) so it made sense to just hoof it. Slightly problem, you have to scan your ticket to get out and I did not have a valid ticket for that station so I couldn’t get out. There was literally no legal way out of this jam since I couldn’t even buy new tickets since the machine was on the wrong side of the gate!

It was getting cold by this point and I was exhausted. Soon as I saw someone come through the wide handicapped gate, I squeezed through by her before they could close. Talk about a ridiculous predicament!

I was so foot sore by this point that I didn’t want to detour to get dinner. I figured I could have a bowl of cereal or maybe a slice of toast. Well, my host invited me to sit in the lounge by a proper fire with a friend of her’s and wine and eventually dinner materialised! Wow! I was inordinately grateful and that really helped make the train stupidity a footnote in my day instead of a spoiler of it.

I’m going to hit post on this as I’m starting to see double. Please pardon the typos. 😉

Sushi at Umai and then the Self-Guided Tudor Town of Shrewsbury Tour

I had to finish up a super tedious file today with a very late deadline, so I decided to do half the work this morning, go and have some fun, and then come home to finish. I wanted to be gone all afternoon to have lunch and do two walking tours, so that would mean an outing of 3.5 to 4 hours, the longest I’ve been away from Puppy. Needless to say, I planned my outing with military precision!

I worked steadily to noon with a mid-morning break to give Puppy a walk. Noonish, I gave her lunch, then had a play session to wear her out. Once she’d had a bowel movement and pee, she was very happy to go into her crate for a nap. Knowing that she’d had plenty of exercise and was being left with a fully tummy and empty bladder, I felt comfortable leaving her. She didn’t even whine as I prepared to head out, which was gratifying.

So first stop was Umai Japanese restaurant. I haven’t had a proper sushi meal since Málaga (and even that was stretching it a bit) and was very overdue, especially since I’ve been having the truly mediocre Tesco stuff to soothe the itch. We’ve been by the restaurant a few times as it’s in the Cross Keys Passage. I doubt I’ll have time to come here for dinner before I leave, but I realised this afternoon that I really should go see Shrewsbury after dark and whether these shuts are as spooky then as I think they would be!

I thought the restaurant was just this tiny bit on the shut, but, nope. There’s a large dining room at the rear towards Princess Street.

I went with the £12.50 mixed sushi special as that would give me the most bang for my buck. Such specials tend to be at the chef’s discretion, but I really wanted octopus. So I asked if a couple of my five nigiri could be octopus. The server said she could ask, but normally there are no substitutions for the lunch special and octopus is never included. So I was delighted when this beautiful plate came very quickly!

Everything was so fresh and this was the first time I’ve been able to describe the maguro (tuna — dark pink) as “buttery.” Whenever I’ve read that description of the fish, I’ve thought people were off their rockers or there was something wrong with my tastebuds! My only quibble is small, that I got three pieces of salmon sashimi plus a salmon nigiri and salmon isn’t my favourite (I’d rather maguro, but I know that’s much more expensive!). The maki (roll) had crabstick in it, so it wasn’t special, but I loved the masago (the orange stuff round it) as I haven’t had it in a while. The octopus was absolutely perfect and exactly what I hoped it would be.

I was enjoying my last piece of it when the server went to take away my plate and I had to quickly swallow and tell her that I wasn’t done as I still had my ginger left! I always save it for the end so that I don’t walk out with a fishy taste in my mouth. That’s one thing I haven’t missed about Canada, the US, and the UK, how I feel rushed to get out of a restaurant. Anyway, my lunch was YUM and very filling. I couldn’t believe the quality and quantity for the price.

I then walked a short distance to the Shrewsbury Museum, where I bought two more self-guided tour pamphlets, a second one for today and one to save for perhaps Monday. Then, it was time to start my tour of the Tudor Town of Shrewsbury. This was the least value tour as it is very light on stops. It said to plan for two hours, but I think I got it done in 30 minutes!

Here’s their map of the tour (click to embiggen to legible size):

The introduction to the tour from the brochure: “Following a disastrous trade depression in the previous century, Shrewsbury’s fortunes revived in the later Tudor period. The population grew and merchants thrived, especially drapers, the middle-men dealing in woollen cloth. It was a period of great re-building. Shrewsbury is one of the best-preserved Tudor towns in England, with many listed 16th century buildings. In this walk, we will draw your attention to just a few, but hope that you enjoy the Tudor townscapes. All of this is, of course, against a background of medieval buildings, many of which still remain — not just the parish churches, but also many of the commercial buildings.”

So chronologically speaking, this tour comes after the medieval one. The first stop is the Tudor exhibit in the museum, where we’ve already been.

Next up, I got all my questions, and then some, answered about the Old Market Hall I have passed a kazillion times. It’s right in front of the museum/music hall.

The Old Market Hall “was built in 1596 by the powerful Guild of Drapers who chose to use stone, which is slightly unusual since most market halls of this era were timber-framed. Tuscan columns support the first floor, where there was a chamber for Welsh cloth dealers and Shrewsbury drapers to meet and negotiate prices.

“The covered area beneath was for the sale of corn. In the far left corner, note the tally stone used to record or document quantities or prices.

“The Square had been the market place since the 13th century, long before the Market Hall was built, and milk and vegetables continued to be sold here until 1868 when the general market was built.”

There are many decorations around the hall.

“On the west side, the large coat of arms with the Tudor dragon and the English lion belongs to Elizabeth I, who was reigning when the building was erected.”

The hall was restored in 2001-2 and is now a café and cinema. You can go upstairs to see the roof.

Directly across from the Old Market Hall, on High Street, is “Owen’s Mansion, built in 1592. Richard Owen was a prominent woollen cloth merchant and this was his prestigious house, in the centre of the commercial area.

“This is a good place to note the curved braces, a shallow S, used to strengthen the frame and the quatrefoils, 4-pointed designs. These and the carving of timbers to form cable mouldings are typical of the Shrewsbury school of carpentry. … the finials depict a warrior and his lady.”

Across the street is Ireland’s Mansion. “This was described by Sir Nikolaus Pevner, the 20th century writer on art and architecture, as the ‘Grandest timber framed house in Shrewsbury.’ This massive building, tall, broad, and symmetrical, was constructed in 1575 for commercial purposes by Robert Ireland, another wealthy wool merchant. It was three different houses, with shops on the ground floor, offices above, and accommodation in the attics. Locals are said to have called it ‘Ireland’s Folly’ because of its immense size. It has four projecting full height bays and four large gabled dormers.”

“This is a good place to see cable carving at close quarters.”

Next stop was my favourite building on Pride Hill.

“Space on major commercial streets was at a premium and often shops were very narrow, but the owners made up for it by building several storeys and also by adding jetties jutting out into the street at both first and second floor levels. This very narrow timber-framed house is Thornton’s. “This probably was a medieval shop with a single chamber above.

“The decoration on this building is interesting: under the first floor window is a design of cusped concave lozenges and the bargeboards are original, with damask work decoration. For some reason, the gable has been placed asymmetrically.”

Then, I was off to the library. By this point, one of the reasons the tours were taking less time is that I knew my way around!

The library used to the Grammar School, which “was founded in the reign of Edward VI in 1552, partly financed with money gained from the dissolution of the collegiate churches of St Chad and St Mary. The building is an amalgam of dates from 1450 to 1630 (main façade).”

I went into the library’s courtyard.

Across from the library is a big yellow house I’ve been curious about.

This is “a fine example of a late Tudor house.” It was moved from its original location around 1700.

I then headed to Windsor Place to see a long, curved building. It “is a side wing of John Perche’s house built in 1581. Its front is hidden behind the shops on Castle Street. This more natural brown and cream was the norm in Tudor times rather than the Victorian ‘renovations’ in black and white. … John Perche was another rich wool merchant and he served as bailiff four times.”

I then headed around the back of St Mary’s Church to find my next location almost at the corner of St Mary’ Street.

It is Drapers’ Hall, now a restaurant. “The trade in wool and cloth manufacture brought great prosperity to Shrewsbury in Tudor times and the Guild of Cloth Merchants or Drapers dominated other tradesmen like shearmen (finishers) and the mercers (retailers). The built this hall as a meeting place in 1577-78and added a second story in 1580. … The Drapers were a reliouss as well as a trade guild — The Brethren of the Holy Trinity.”

On my way to my next  destination, I saw something that drives me nuts and which I admire Amsterdam for not doing, changing the name of a long street partway.

My next stop was the original site of the Bradford House we saw above.

Heading back to The Square, I learned some interesting things about this Costa at the corner of Grope Lane. It was once the Cross Keys Inn. “It was restored in about 1990 and the beams were stripped of their black Victorian paint to reveal the original brown colour. The first floor [upstairs in the UK] is much the same as it was, but the restorers added a number of contemporary allusions in the carvings on the replacement bargeboards.”

I can’t see it, but one of those tiny figures is supposed to be Margaret Thatcher.

I went back through Gullet Passage to get to my next destination.

Right at the end of this passage is an unnumbered stop. This building is timbered on one side, but has a brick front, a good example of a Tudor building that was modernized in the 18th century.

The last stop is another place we’ve been. This is where I thought I would have done well to read the pamphlets ahead of time to save myself steps, but, hey, the exercise is good! Anyway, we’re back at Rowley’s House. “Today it stands in solitary splendour, surrounded by car parks, but originally it stood amongst a jumble of yards and passages, which may account for the unusual shape and positioning of the building. It was built in about 1590 and, since it has no chimneys, it is believed to have been business premises. It probably was used by William Rowley, a draper, brewer, and malster, as a warehouse. A little later, early in the 17th century, Rowley built himself a fine brick mansion attached to the timber-framed building. This is believed to be the first brick building in Shrewsbury.”

I was underwhelmed by the Tudor tour, but grateful to have that knowledge about some of the buildings I’ve noticed many times. But I found myself wondering if the next tour would be worth my time since I felt like I was just basically walking in circles around Shrewsbury’s core repeatedly (to the point that a couple of panhandlers felt a need to ask me if I was lost and needed help!). But I’d paid for the guide, so I figured I might as well go ahead.

Little did I know, I was minutes away from falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland.

To be continued…

A Self-Guided Stroll Around Shrewsbury’s Shuts

I woke up to the calm after Storm Doris (or Doris Day, as many people called it!). It wasn’t that bad as far inland and south as I am, but it was loud and wet. Puppy needed a lot of coaxing to go do her business!

I had no work in the queue, so I thought of doing another self-guided walk. But, of course, I woke up to a large, difficult job available to me if I wanted it. I’ve been having trouble getting work with this client during the week since I’ve been in Europe because of the time that work is assigned, but if there’s anything for the weekend, I tend to get it as I appear to be the only one who regularly works at that time. So the client assumed I’d want it and gave me both a bonus and an extension as an incentive. So of course I accepted it and thanks to the extension, I could still take today off. I’ve been sleeping really poorly the last few days and just had my first decent night, so I should be raring to go on the job tomorrow.

I did all the Puppy stuff and put her away for a nap around 9:30, then headed out. The morning was bright, but cold. I passed the perfect car for me along the way…

Coming into downtown, I was more than a little peckish since I’d had a super light breakfast. I decided to pop into Greggs for a coffee to warm my hands and a sausage roll as a second breakfast. Think of Greggs as being about as close to Tim Hortons or Dunkin’ Donuts as one can get in the UK. They have sandwiches, soups, baked goods, and reasonably priced coffee. I was disappointed that the combo would be more than it was in Manchester, according to the menu, but, no, it was still £2. It’s almost not worth getting a sausage roll if you get a coffee!

I munched my treat as I headed to the Music Hall/Shrewsbury Museum. Outside of it, I spotted an exhibit I either missed the other day or which is new. It’s a bunch of photographs from all over the world showing the many facets of humanity.

Some of my favourites included this one from a Soviet prison, in 1988…

…this hilarious scene from New York City…

…a sad-looking Canadian couple…

…a Tanzanian family…

…and Japanese folks enjoying the artificial beach in Ocean Dome, Miyazaki.

It was then time to start the tour. It covered most of downtown in a very logical, but twisty sort of manner and there’s no way to make a Google Map that would make sense of the tour. Here’s the very detailed map provided in the brochure. If you open it in another tab, it does so to full, legible size. I will number each of the stops so you can follow along if you want.

So today’s self-guided stroll was about Shrewsbury’s shuts. “‘The Shuts of Shrewsbury are a notable feature of the topography of the town.’ So wrote L.C. Lloyd in 1937. For those unfamiliar with the word, ‘shuts,’ they are called snickets, ginnels, chares, alleyways, entries, wynds, weinds, wiends, twitchells, opes, and twittons in other towns. In other words, they are narrow passages connecting one street to another. True shuts must be open to the public, used mainly on food, and should not be culs-de-sac. Other desirable qualifications are that they are ancient and between walls, with steps, archway(s), and a corner or two. … Many of the shuts have disappeared and most of the survivors have exchanged their picturesque (or scurrilous) ancient names for something more genteel.”

Let me tell you, the £1 price for this guide felt like a bargain! I was curious about the various passageways I’d seen through town, but had no idea if they were open to the public or not. I was off on a wonderful adventure!

My first stop was Gullet Passage (1). “‘Gullet’ means a water channel and, in fact, this shut follows the course of a former stream that was drained from a peat bog. This was filled in to make a new market place, which eventually became The Square.”

Phoenix Place/Passage (2) was unmarked. I was grateful that the brochure had pictures of all the entrances so it was easy to spot them. Whomever made these brochures should be commended.

“As this shut widens, note the remnants of doorways and fire-places in the brickwork. These are the remains of the 19 houses recorded here in the 1851 census, a warren of unhealthy dwellings in a crime-ridden area.”

“From this wide section the shut narrows again to dive under timber-framed buildings.”

The entrance on this side is well marked.

I passed the King’s Head Inn, which dates back to 1404.

Right after the inn is King’s Head Passage (3).

“As the shut leaves the inn, it curves round, as did all the shuts in this low part of town, and runs toward the river. In times of flood, water collects at its lowest point, where the town ditch was cut across it in medieval times.”

Looking back.

Emerging into blessed sunshine and blue sky.

I ended up on Smithfield Road and my attention was drawn to a plaque at the corner of Mardol, which has information about the Welsh Bridge.

The original bridge is gone, of course, but here stood one of Shrewsbury’s oldest bridges. It was built of stone, likely shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066. It was then known as St. George’s Bridge. “Legend has it that in 1485, Thomas Mytton closed the bridge to Henry Tudor (later Henry VII), who was on his way to fight Richard III at Bosworth. Mytton declared that Tudor could only enter Shrewsbury ‘over his lifeless body.’ Forced to compromise, Mytton lay down and Tudor entered the town by stepping over him.”

Floods rendered the bridge unsafe in 1672. Some repairs were carried, but in 1795, St. George’s Bridge was replaced by the current Welsh Bridge.

“St. George’s Bridge provided the Welsh with important access to the English wool market, a trade that made Shrewsbury very wealthy.”

The other side of the plaque has information about Mardol. “Like much of Shrewsbury, Mardol has a hidden history. Behind its brick façades are complete timber-framed medieval buildings, traces of Saxon stonework, and Shrewsbury’s ancient ditch and wall defences. In Saxon times (900AD), Mardol was home to tradesmen who gained access to the river via long curving gardens. … By the 15th century, Mardol was home to wealthy merchants living in fine, timber-framed houses. Many of these were extended and brick faced in later centuries. … By the 17th century, Mardol had become the town’s red light district, providing drinking and whoring for the river boatmen and their crews. Today, it’s a thriving commercial street in Shrewsbury’s historic centre.”

Carnarvon Lane (4) was my next stop. You can see the entrance in the picture above, the rounded arch nearest the car.

“Ludovick Carnarvon lived here in 1460.”

I passed a lot of these tiles on my walk, but could not find anything about them.

“Rowley’s Mansion, one of the earliest brick houses in Shrewsbury, built by a wealthy draper and brewer in 1616-1618.”

Darwin’s Gate sculpture.

After a few turns, I came to Drayton’s Passage (5).

These dog heads “represent the Talbot breed, used for hunting in the 18th century, and provide a reminder that this was once The Talbot, a bustling and competitive coach inn at that time.”

This brought me back to the Music Hall, but I was only getting started!

Next to the Music Hall was the Coffee House Passage (6).

There is an intricately carved beam overhead. Is that a pineapple?

I love how the doorframe compensates for the crooked building.

More tiles. I looked up and didn’t see much…

I emerged to this pretty sight:

The tour then took me across Old St. Chad’s Churchyard. “The church was founded by King Offa, and is mentioned in the Domesday Book.”

Once again, the pamphlet directed me to an informational plaque I would have otherwise missed.

“The Church where Shrewsbury began? Many believe that here, on one of the two hilltops in the loop of the RiverServern, stood Pengwern, the court of the Princes of Powys (7th century AD). We know that by the reign of Offa, King of Mercia (757-96), there was a monastic college on this site. In 1148, it was replaced by a much larger church, which extended from Belmont to College Hill. … The building in front of you is known as ‘Lady Chapel.’ It is the only standing remains of the church, after it collapsed sensationally in 1788. Four years later, new St. Chad’s church was built near the quarry.”

This plaque had a wonderful timeline of key moments in Shrewsbury history. Here are some highlights:

901: First written reference to Shrewsbury as ‘Scrobbesbyrig.’

1068: Shrewsbury Castled built by Norman invaders.

1148: Found of Old St. Chad’s Church.

1216: Henry III orders the construction of town walls.

1349: Black Death kills half of European population.

1403: Battle of Shrewsbury.

1645: Capture of Shrewsbury by the Parliamentarians.

1788: Collapse of Old St. Chad’s Church.

1809: Birth of Charles Darwin in Shrewsbury.

1918: Wildfred Owen dies in WWI.

Wilfred Owen? A poet best remembered, by me at least, for his poem “Dulce et Decorum est.” I actually used to know it by heart.

I then noticed this plaque by a tree and it made me tear up. “In memory of Nigel Johnson, who lost his life whilst carrying out his duties on behalf of the people of Shrewsbury. A tree for a tree man.”

I then had to turn onto Belmont Bank, a part of which I walked on the medieval tour. In 1610, it was Back Lane, a name that was in use until the 1950s.

Next up was Barracks Passage (7), which we’ve been to before.

This passage was called Elisha’s Shut in 1725. “The long range of timbered buildings on the right contains timbers felled in 1426.”

This projecting window might have been for a tallyman to log the carts in and out of the passage.

A very short distance away is Compasses Passage (8), named for the Compasses Inn that stood on the site in 1880. “An old tale tells of a bull on its way to market straying from Wyle Cop and getting stuck in this narrow shut.”

You emerge on Belmont Bank. You can see Barracks Passage up the hill (the arched doorway before the red door).

On the way to my next stop, I passed a violin maker. Vicki, have they got a violin for you! 🙂

This private shut on Wyle Cop is not a numbered item on the list. It’s just big enough for a packhorse to enter the yard.

“The Lion [was] a notable competitor of The Talbot for the coaching trade in the 18th century.” Just across from it up and up a bit around the bend was my next turn, Dogpole.

The name of this shop caught my eye as it sounds familiar.

Does Wysteria Lane mean anything to any of you?

The unnamed shut in front of Dogpole House (9) was my next stop.

It brought me back to St. Alkmund’s Square, where we’ve been a few times.

I liked that this stroll brought me back to places I’d been from a different direction, offering me a chance to see them with fresh eyes.

I went back down the Bear Steps (10) and then turned right to come right back up to the edge of St. Alkmund’s Square so I could turn onto Butcher Row.

“There were 15 butchers’ shops here in 1828, and Abbot’s House still retains some of its meat-hooks and ancient shop fronts.”

Pride Hill, the pedestrian street, is at the end of Butcher Row. I turned right and went just past the Darwin Shopping Centre to a shut called 70 steps (11). “This is the last remaining shut of the four that used to link Pride Hill to the meadows at the bottom of the slope, beyond the town wall. When the shopping centre was built, the shut was incorporated, providing a long, dark, and uninviting descent, which we do not recommend.”

I just peered in, as they instructed, and continued on Castle Street (Pride Hill becoming it in the direction of the train station) and found, thanks to their picture, Castle Court (12). “Here is an inviting cluster of houses and flats, those on the left converted from a chapel and those on the right once part of the old County Gaol and House of Correction.”

For this one, I had to turn back and go the way I came, to Castle Street, and continue along to School Gardens (unnumbered), “once part of Shrewsbury School,” which Charles Darwin attended. Yes, another scaffold. There are a lot of construction works going on in Shrewsbury. Must be all the old buildings keeping everyone employed.

This courtyard was part of the old goal and was “the quadrangle used by prisoners for exercise.”

I continued along to emerge at the Darwin statue in front of the library and archives.

I then circled back around up Castle Street (towards Pride Hill) and found St. Mary’s Shut (13). “This has the longest covered section of all the shuts in Shrewsbury and is very narrow and dark.”

The brochure told me not to miss the second part of it, across a carpark, but I was disappointed that there was scaffolding blocking it. Thankfully, I was able to access it from the other side.

This part of St. Mary’s Shut “is probably the narrowest in England with a minimum width of 56cm. Old maps show the shut closed in by buildings throughout its length.”

This brought me to St. Mary’s Place. I circled around the back side of St. Mary’s Church.

St. Mary’s Court is #14, but there wasn’t really anything to photograph.

Here I am emerging from it onto St. Mary’s Street, with Church Street directly opposite, which I took.

This brought me back to St. Alkmund’s, where I followed the path (15) to the La Lanterna restaurant, where I had a nice lunch the other day. Here’s its entrance.

I went down the stairs and turned right on Wyle Cop (Barracks Passage, etc. is to the left). Next up was another place we’ve been before, Golden Cross Passage (16). Let me tell you, I was seriously tempted by that affordable sushi, but I’d been out for a few hours and it was getting close to Puppy’s lunch time.

Emerging from Golden Cross, I turned right on Princess and then right again into Peacock Passage (17).

Of note in this shut is that you can see the spire of St. Alkmund’s Church. The effect was rather impressive.

At the end, you cross the High Street (difficult unless a cute delivery guy stops to let you cross) to get to Bank Passage (18).

It used to have more steps.

More tiles.

You emerge on Fish Street below St. Alkmund’s Church.

Looking back down Bank Passage.

Looking down Fish Street.

Do you know where you are? The Bear Steps are to the right after this building and Grope Lane (19) is to the left.

Bear Steps yet again.

And back to Grope Lane, which was the first stop on the medieval tour.

I emerged on High Street. Market Place and the Music Hall are to the left. I continued ahead to Pride Hill.

I passed a bookstore along the way. I need this book.

I turned right on Pride Hill and popped in at Tesco’s for a few things, including some mediocre sushi for lunch. I haven’t had proper sushi yet in England, so that’s something I definitely intend to do before I leave. The place I passed today is apparently really good and has very reasonably priced lunch specials.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of Shrewsbury’s shuts as much as I did! I have one more tour pamphlet left, but I may go buy more since I have almost two weeks left here. Let’s hope the weather holds up!