A Self-Guided Tour of the Pocket Parks of Shrewsbury

I don’t know if it’s because my time here has come to an end, but getting up this morning was just about impossible. I am absolutely exhausted and looking forward to a very long lie-in my first morning in Brighton. It’s a good thing my last day in Shrewsbury was sunny, otherwise I would have been tempted to not do my final walking tour and instead just spend the afternoon on the couch cuddling Puppy while watching movies!

But it was a beautiful day, so I set off late morning to do the Pocket Parks of Shrewsbury walking tour. We’ve been to most of these stops before and this is the first tour where I wish I’d followed my instincts and done it in my own order since I ended up walking all over town, sometimes for almost nothing, and having to backtrack to get home. The exercise was good, of course, but things were getting rather repetitive. Still, there were a few stops on this tour that were unique and I caught new things even at places where I’ve been.

Here’s a map of the tour (click to embiggen).

“There are several small green havens of peace in Shrewsbury town centre, quiet places to sit, rest, or have a sandwich. … Most are tended by the Town Council gardeners who call them pocket parks.”

So the tour starts at St Alkmund’s Churchyard, where we’ve been countless times. I made it a point to walk around and catch different perspectives.

“St Alkmund’s Church stands on the flattened top of one of the two hills within the river loop, looking as if perched on a pedestal. A Saxon church was once on the site, but the current building dates from the 1790s, except for the tower, which is late 15th century. From Saxon times until 1261, the King’s Market was held here in the space around and between this church and its neighbour, St. Julian’s.”

Note “the unusual 18th century cast iron windows…”

I loved the pretty turquoise front door.

The pub is called The Three Fishes.

Notice a discrepancy between the church and street signs?

Both spellings appear to be used interchangeably.

From St Alkmund’s, I moved to St Julian’s Detached Churchyard, which I was curious about and would be a favourite spot for me to sneak to on a lunch break if I worked in the area.

“This was founded in the early 1800s when John Oakley, a local grocer, sold part of his garden to St Julian’s Church as an extra burial ground. There was a great shortage of burial space in town centre graveyards at this time. He and his wife were buried here; the last burial, in 1881, was of his daughter at age 81. A century later, the Town Council took over the care of this graveyard and it has become a quiet secluded pocket park minutes from the bustle of Wyle Cop. The tombstones seem to form a paved area…”

I occasionally see signs like these in England, making it easier to navigate towns with no street pattern.

Next stop was Old St Chad’s Churchyard, where I spent so much time on the tour of the Shuts that I did not go back in as I did not learn anything new.

The leaflet did make me notice this building across from the chapel. This house “illustrates a fashion that was common in the town in the 18th century. At this time, houses were sometimes modernised by brick skins and plaster to cover the ‘old-fashioned’ Tudor timberwork.”

It was then quite a long stroll to my next destination, about a block from the abbey. On the way there, I discovered that the route to my next destination was blocked.

The reason why became apparent very quickly. I didn’t realise it had rained so much in the last few days!

The tow path is fully immersed.

I crossed English Bridge and immediately turned left into the Abbey Gardens.

“These once belonged to the builder John Carline. He and his business partner John Tilley were responsible for building the Welsh Bridge. Carline and his family had a house at the side of the plot away from the river. In his riverside yard, he kept materials, pieces of fallen masonry, and his models of the lions for the base of Lord Hill’s Column; they are still here. At one time, this park was also known as Mr Palin’s Pleasure Gardens; residents came here to walk and admire abandoned pieces of sculpture, which were on display. Many of them are still here. The park is now known for its rhododendrons and azaleas in the spring. From this park, there are excellent views of the 18th century English Bridge, the river itself with its old towing path, and above it a silhouette of the town centre, including the old Royal Salop Infirmary, founded in the 18th century and now converted into flats and shops.”

I love that detailing on the stone columns. Can you see how twisted they are?

I couldn’t get over how lush and bright green everything was!


A crocus, in early March!

A large part of the garden was under water!

I had to make my own way to my next stop, easily done as I now know my way around the downtown core. I followed the route along the water on the medieval tour, so I didn’t miss anything.

I thought this building had a rather lovely curve.

I was feeling peckish and decided to get a snack to tide me over to lunch. Café on the Cop looked inviting and had a cream tea for just £4 (for which you could have tea or a pot of coffee!). That was exactly what I wanted. I came in and took a seat and was immediately taken in by the unusual slate place mats.

The very sweet proprietor came over right away for my order. I decided on tea rather than coffee as the latter just didn’t feel right with this snack.  I was not offered a choice for the type of tea and whatever it was that came was very lovely. But now, check out my scone!

It was huge! It was equivalent to two scones anywhere else I’ve had a cream team. Needless to say, this became an early lunch! The preserves weren’t the best I’ve had (a jelly rather than a jam), but the scone was the best ever and the clotted cream hit the spot. I did not have the butter. This was definitely my favourite cream tea of the four I’ve enjoyed since discovering this treat at the British Museum.

My next stop was the castle! En route, I got very close to the yellow house we saw on the Tudor tour.

I got a good view of the library across the way.

What an impressive flower arrangement! Can you see the Union Jack?

The castle is now the Regimental Museum, for which you have to pay. But it’s free to walk around the grounds.

“This pocket park is part of the Norman castle built in the narrow neck of the meander by Roger of Montgomery, a relative of William the Conqueror.”  The castle was once connected to the town walls by a sandstone wall.

“Edward I added to the castle, building the great hall in the 1280s, when it was a link in the chain of castles guarding the Welsh border. … In the 18th century, the castle was remodelled by Thomas Telford for Sir William Pulteney, the wealthy owner. He also built, on the old motte, a summerhouse-folly named after Laura, Sir William’s daughter.”

That was my next stop, Laura’s Tower. Up I went!

I love how that stone has been worn from so many centuries of folks treading on it.

Laura’s Tower.

Unfortunately, you can’t go in, but you do get an incredible view of Shrewsbury.

The abbey.

I headed back down to walk the grounds a little.

More daffodils!

The next stop was the library garden and I wasn’t going to bother since there was no new information, but then I saw an interesting tidbit. So off I went to look at the turnable, “which was installed in 1983 to rotate library vans.”

I did pop into the garden to admire the flowers that were blooming. The garden was “planted to give all-year-round foliage colour with minimum maintenance.”

It was another long way to my next park, which we’d been to on my first day out and about in town. Spoiler: both were closed. 🙁 I would have been better off coming straight to the last one from the Abbey Gardens and finishing at the castle. But anyway… I love this shot of Castle Street. It just looks so… old!

Shrewsbury bus station.

St Chad Church in the background.

Welsh Bridge.

I came to find a locked gate the Quantum/Mardol Quay Garden. But I could at least see things from the street.

“This pocket park is located on the site of the Mardol Quay, built in 1607. Some of the original cobbles can be seen and here river boats loaded and unloaded — old accounts show that ‘for every barge load of wood or coal 12d; for a ton of other goods — from a burgess 2d and from a foreigner 4d.” Later, the warehouses were converted into a car repair shop, which eventually was cleared for road widening in 1958/60. A public garden was established on the riverside, which was redesigned in 2009 for the bicentenary of the birth, in Shrewsbury, of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of the The Origin of Species.”

Remember this odd thing?

“A sculpture, designed by Pearce and Lal and called Quantum Leap, has been likened to a shell, human vertebrae, DNA, and many other things and is locally known as The Slinky because of its similarity to the coiled-wire toy. The garden celebrates Shropshire’s geological history….”

I passed the Rowley House yet again on my way to my last stop, capturing it from a new angle.

Narrow driveway entrance.

Getting closer!

St Chad’s Church “with its adjoining graveyard was built in 1792 to replace the one that fell down. From the churchyard, you can see the unusual circular shape of the church, the largest of its kind in England. In the middle of the 19th century, as a result of the crowded and very unsanitary conditions in town centre graveyards, a Burial Act was passed closing urban burial grounds. As a result, in 1856, the General Cemetery was opened on the outskirts of the town with cooperation from all six parishes. The churchyard is now maintained, as a semi-natural woodland. In the centre, look for Scrooge’s gravestone, placed here for the filming of Dickens’ Christmas Carol in 1984.”

Well, the churchyard was closed. 🙁 A very kind worker came over and said to me, “Sorry, lovie, they’re doing works inside.” Lovie? I love British endearments!

So this is all I saw of the churchyard.

The church itself is large and impressive.

Its vicar is well-named.

Main entrance.

Across the street, balustrade paid for by the Horticultural Society.

Across the street is the unassuming final stop, The Dingle.

I really love this church!

Another vantage point of the hospital.

I headed home after, going all the way back up Pride Hill and down Castle Gates, which I’d done twice before already today. In desperate need of a haircut, I popped into a salon with a sign that said walk-ins welcome. I found that £15 was very expensive for the little work they had to do (I just shear the hair very short), but needs must and I felt much lighter when I got out.

I took the route by the train station to go home from there and it was after I did the turn at Morrison’s Lubricants that I noticed this door for the first time. Very curious.

Well, thus ends my lovely stay in Shrewsbury! I adored this town! Hebden Bridge was cute, not somewhere I would have wanted to be for long. I could certainly see myself in Shrewsbury.

The puppy sitting was restrictive, but it was a blessing in a way in that it forced me to stick close and really get to know the centre of town. There is so much of Shrewsbury that I did not see as I did not venture much on the other side of the river, but I definitely covered the touristy part of town and then some!

I’d consider the puppy minding part of the exercise a success. I know I did a very good job of it and I’m very proud that. It was very challenging, exhausting, and sometimes tedious, but it was also immeasurably rewarding and I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much with such joy on a daily basis.

So I’m heading out tomorrow at about 1PM and as long as I make my super tight connections (not counting on it), I’ll be in Brighton by 6PM. If I do make my connections, I’ll be pulling out of London Bridge in exactly 24 hours and 10 minutes for the final leg of my journey across this country.

My route ahead isn’t nearly this directly, but is well represented here.

The Victorians in Shrewsbury, a Self-Guided Walking Tour

Having completed the Tudor tour of Shrewsbury, I headed back to the Music Hall to commence the Victorians in Shrewsbury self-guided walking tour.

“Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901. These were years of peace, prosperity, population growth, invention, and expansion. Shrewsbury was not one of the boom towns and, although some working class estates and substantial middle class villas were erected in the suburbs,” the tour was limited to the town centre and its then new public and commercial buildings. “Many were built of high quality materials and were very varied in style because, of course, architectural styles did not change with the new monarch. Queen Victoria’s reign was also a time of greater regulation, moral certainty, growth of religious non-conformity, and considerable philanthropy.”

So the first stop was the Music Hall itself, where we finally get some information about it. It was “built in 1838-40. It looks classical and Greek and was known at first as Shrewsbury Public Rooms. It was built around a shut that led to a yard where engines of the Salop Fire Office were kept; this is now the entrance to the museum. The Music hall, with a choir and orchestra gallery, was to the left. The hall could seat nearly 800 and was also used for balls, banquets, lectures, meetings, and bazaars. … To the right of the shut, now the Visitor Information Centre, was the rebuilt Salop Fire Office; while a News Room occupied the elegant room on the first floor overlooking The Square, and a billiard room the floor above.”

It was this tour that finally gave me information on the unmarked statute at the front of The Square. Sorry for the wonky angle; there was a display in front of it.

So that’s Clive of India. “The Victorians decided to commemorate him, although his influence had been 100 years earlier in Georgian times. The sum of 2,000 guineas was raised by public subscription and Carlo Marochetti sculpted the figure, copying the likeness from a painting by Nathaniel Dance. In addition to his exploits in India, Clive was mayor in 1762 and M.P. for Shrewsbury three times. The statue dates from 1860.”

Across from Clive is a building in what I’ve learned is the Flemish style and which was built in 1892 from high quality materials for the Alliance Assurance Company, which is now the Halifax Building Society. “The carvings commemorate the companies that were incorporated into the Alliance at its creation.”

Next stop was the Victorian post box in front of Gullet Passage. It is late Victorian, hexagonal, and made of cast iron. It is called a Penfold box, after the designer. It would have originally been green since the boxes were only painted red starting in 1874. “Pre-charged mail, based on weight, was introduced at the very beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign and the volume grew dramatically from 76 million letters in 1839 to 350 million in 1850!”

On the way to the next stop, I was told to look at Claremont News, which has a typical Victorian small shop façade.

Next up is the Baptist Church, “which has recently been repaired and cleaned.” It “is very classical and less ornate than was usual for its date. The hard red bricks came from Ruabon in North Wales and were very popular at this time. … Here, they are paired with Grinshill stone, a local grey sandstone, to pick out the round-headed windows and Corinthian pilasters. This church cost £2,500 to build in 1878.

There is a lot of walking between stops on this store, so I had time to notice other things.

I have one of those…

These steps look very precarious.

Next up was The Quarry and the entrance to Wonderland…

AKA The Dingle.

St Chad’s Church

Entrance to Wonderland/the Dingle. As you can imagine, my expectations were low.

First glimpses of this faery tale world before the bla bla bla.

Looking back to the entrance from which I came.

“This is the Dingle, created from a quarry, which produced building stone for the early town. Long abandoned, a pool had formed in the lowest part and was used for watering cattle; one old photo shows children skating here during a cold spell. The quarry was landscaped in 1879, with a path and shrubs around the lake and a more formal area of flower beds that are replanted seasonally.”

The Dingle is the last stop on my next tour, so here is more information from that guide: “Although the rest of the Quarry was laid out as a park with an avenue of lime trees by the Corporation in 1719, an early photograph shows the Dingle as a ‘wild’ area, with a natural-looking pool; Charles Darwin is said to have fished there for newts. … The fountain in the centre of the formal flower beds was given to the town in 1889 by the Independent Order of Oddfellows. The gardens are a Percy Thrower legacy … He was park superintendent from 1946 to 1974 and became known nationally as the TV gardener. The Dingle is the jewel in the crown of the Parks Department, … each year it is brought to perfection for the Flower Show in August. Trees in the Dingle include Maidenhair Tree, Sweet Gum, Ginko, Tulip Tree, Swamp Cyprus, and an enormous mature Beech.”

Back to the Victorian guide, “At the far end of the lake is the statue of Sabrina, Goddess of the River Severn, now reclining in her own grotto…. The Earl of Bradford presented her to the town in 1879.”

I had fun watching the ducks for a bit.

Interesting artwork in a tree.

What an amazing spot, like a miniature Buchart Gardens.

I reluctantly left The Dingle and found the cast iron bandstand that dates from 1879 and which in recent years has been revived every odd Sunday afternoon

Across the river is the Pengwern Boathouse, with its typical Victorian architectural style.

“The Boat Club was founded in 1871 when rowing was very popular and it had racing boats as well as a number of pleasure boats. It moved to these premises in 1881 and still flourishes, holding a popular regatta in May.”

Very near the stop where I took the boathouse pictures, I came across this stout post just before the Kingsland Bridge, which you can see in blue in this picture. “This is an old ferry post, the windlass can be seen set back above some steps on the other bank. There were several of these pedestrian ferries in central Shrewsbury, which saved people a long walk to either the Welsh or English Bridge. This one was superseded by the Kingsland Bridge in 1882, which gave access to the fine Victorian suburb of Kingsland and the new Shrewsbury School. … The bridge, known locally as The Penny Bridge, as it charges tolls, has always been privately owned and operated. The ferry remained for some years and the boys from Shrewsbury School used it to avoid paying the toll to cross the river.

I now had a very long stroll ahead along the water, so I took the time to enjoy the surroundings.

Back of a structure we will see from the front…

Kingsland Bridge.

Looking to the centre of town. Notice the cathedral. That’s my second to next stop!

The Greyfriars pedestrian bridge, where I turned left to begin a surprisingly gentle climb back to town.

But first, this obelisk, “in memory of Dr W J Clement, a skilled and innovative surgeon, philanthropist, a long-serving local councillor, mayor, and for a while M.P. for Shrewsbury. He demanded reform of rotten boroughs, thus antagonising the Tories who dominated the Corporation. In return, they refused him a post at the hospital. … The memorial was erected in 1873 and was originally outside the railway station, but has been moved several times.”

Off I want to the cathedral, marvelling that I was all the way down there just moments before.

“The steep-gabled, neo-Gothic church is, in fact, the Roman Catholic Cathedral. It was started in 1853, only 20 years after the Catholic Emancipation Act and soon after the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in Britain. … The limitations of the site led to some alterations to the original plan; the tall spire was replaced by a bell-cote and the chancel is very shallow.”

Looking back along Town Walls. If you keep going, you can turn left to take Wyle Cop to go back to the centre.

Looking ahead. I found it interesting how the sidewalk was so far up the road as to need a railing.

This is a water pump. There are several in Shrewsbury and they are all listed by English heritage. “They day from 1870 and the inscription encourages the careful use of water; the basin at the base catches any waste, which can be used for animals.”

Door to the watchtower. There is no information about this building on this tour, just its name.

The watchtower.

Looking towards my next two stops.

First is the girls’ high school.

Can you read the sign?

The high school was built in 1897-98. “This independent school is part of the Girls’ Day School Trust set up in 1864 following a National Enquiry, which concluded that there was ‘a general deficiency’ in the provision of secondary education for girls. The aim was to provide a high standard of academic, moral, and religious education for all social classes.”

Next is the magnificent neo-Gothic building we saw the back of down by the river, the former Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital, opened in 1881, and now converted into flats.” I know where I’m moving to… 😀

“Its construction was a great example of Victorian philanthropy, ‘upwards of £12,,000 being raised largely through public subscriptions. … The cantilevered operating theatre windows on the second floor were originally glazed with single sheets of plate glass to provide maximum northern light for operations.”

I then turned up Swan Hill to get to my last destination.

This wasn’t on the tour, but was pretty.

The final stop is the Italianate former Police Station/Weights and Measures Office, built in 1893 “to house two important new services that were to be carried out by the local authority. The provision of a police service was made compulsory in 1856, though Shrewsbury was ahead of the game, having appointed 13 constables 20 years earlier.”

“In relation to the weights and measures, there were many attempts throughout the Victorian period to standardise weights and improve the standards of retail transactions. Between 1878 and 1893, new mechanisms for inspection and enforcement were established.

Thus ended the delightful Victorian tour. I think this was my favourite!

Heading home up Pride Hill, I was shocked to find that the McDonald’s had closed permanently. Am I glad I was able to visit its basement before that happened! I hope that Shrewsbury will not permanently lose that important landmark.

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!


As I suspected, puppy sitting is going to be quite the wonderful challenge! It will definitely get easier once we settle into a routine, just as happened with the dogs in Bulgaria. My charge is so cute, smart, and cuddly and I’m absolutely smitten. 🙂

I actually had quite a lovely first evening with my charge. I was told to expect that she has moments where she’s practically bouncing off the walls and moments where she’s quiet. I took a quiet time to heat up the lasagna my hosts left for me and enjoyed that immensely with a glass of white wine and some olives. I felt rather spoiled! By the time I’d cleaned the kitchen, the puppy was ready for some play, so I tossed her a ball for a while and let her chase it. She’s definitely got the concept down that she needs to give me back the ball for me to toss it again!

I got her to bed around 11PM and then promptly went to sleep myself as I was knackered.

It was not the puppy but a weird rattling that woke me up around four. Gah. I figured that since I was up I might as well take her out for a pee so that I could go back to sleep after. She wasn’t too keen on being rousted out of her warm bed, but she finally went out. I went back to bed and after almost two hours managed to doze off again (I could not find the source of the rattle, augh). I finally got up at nine.

The morning routine is going to be similar to Bulgaria, where I need to exhaust the puppy before being able to settle down with coffee, breakfast, and work.

When the most pressing of the day’s work was done, I headed out, around 11:30, to find the Barclay’s and get my first real taste of Shrewsbury.

I walked along the shores of the River Severn to downtown (about one mile away).

I passed this interesting sculpture.

The downtown core was a warren of tiny streets, some pedestrian only, lined with mostly Tudor-style buildings. It’ll be fun to come back and explore properly.

I enjoyed listening to an accordion player and danced with him for a bit before leaving him a few coins.

This particularly crooked house reminded me of Amsterdam.

I found the Barclay’s easily enough. I like being back in a country, like Spain, where I get free withdrawals because I don’t need to take out as much at one time to reduce the number of $5 foreign ATM withdrawal charges I rack up. It makes it easier to budget and, of course, it’s less risky.

This wasn’t a morning for dawdling since I had a large difficult file left to do, plus it was cold and spitting rain. I popped into a Greggs for a coffee to warm my hands for the long walk home. This was a much bigger one, where you could eat in and there was a stand for folks to add their own milk and sugar. I accepted a coffee card, although I don’t know if I’ll manage to buy 10 to get my free one by the time I get home. It could happen, though, if I end up spending a few days in London before heading back to Canada since Greggs has the best price I’ve seen so far for coffee and it’s really good!

I enjoyed going down this narrow alleyway.

I stopped in at this pub because my hosts told me they do an inexpensive “Sunday lunch.” It sounds like a good deal at £6.95 so I might do that one week. I didn’t realise that you need reservations, so it wasn’t an option for today.

This pretty church is near my house.

I came in and put together a Tesco order. My hosts did a great job directing me to the various supermarkets around here, but I found that I really liked doing the Tesco thing in Hebden for the convenience and how much money I saved versus going out and doing my shopping nearly daily. I had to pay a £3.50 delivery charge this time since my free trial has expired, but that’s worth it to me. It’ll come tomorrow afternoon as will another order that I’ll blog about tomorrow. So tomorrow will be a stay in day.

Then, I managed to get my work done. The puppy is way too interested in the foot pedal cord and my earbuds, so I have to keep them away from her. If I’m at the table with just my computer, she’s happy to lie at my feet and go to sleep, but when I’m transcribing, the cords are too tempting for her and she can’t leave them alone. I go through this with the new cats in my life, so I’m sure she’ll get used to it. Thankfully, there is a very strong possibly that a large non-transcription project is coming down the pipeline at the most perfect timing imaginable.

It’s been a really good first day of puppy sitting. My biggest worry was getting enough sleep (a huge issue in Bulgaria) and if the first night was any indication, that will be fine. I love playing and cuddling with her and watching her sleep after a particularly exhausting play session. Did I mention how cute she is and that I’m smitten? 🙂

Free Manchester Walking Tour

Here are a couple of random bonus Amsterdam pics I forgot I took for my last Amsterdam post…

These cute cars are all over the city.

They can only go very slowly. I think they sound like a greater alternative to a scooter.

A sign outside Salsa Shop:

And part of Salsa Shop’s wall of deliciousness. There were probably 10 times as many bottles in the shop.

Okay, so on to Manchester.

The bed here is terrible so I’m shocked that I slept a solid six hours to 5AM. I then tried to go back to sleep for a few hours, but kept getting woken up by the other people in the building talking loudly as they went about their morning routine. Nothing I can fault anyone on; it’s what I expected. I was offered an air mattress to sleep on instead and I will try that tonight. I don’t have to be up tomorrow, so if should be able to get a little caught up on my sleep. I did have to be up today since I had booked a walking tour for 11.

So I got up around 8:30 and took my time with breakfast and coffee. That was pleasant, I have to say, and I’m glad I didn’t rush out the door. I was also glad that it wasn’t freezing in here at all, which I’d expected based on reviews. I did use two duvets, but slept under them in just a tee shirt and was comfortable. So, really, in the light of having had some sleep my dump was much homier than expected and I continue to have no regrets for having picked it.

Besides the price, the reason I picked this less than one-star accommodation was the proximity to public transport and ease of getting into Manchester. It was a straight shot on the train and short walk from the airport and a bus into Manchester can be taken about three blocks away. With the buses running every few minutes and the 5KM ride estimated to take 20 to 30 minutes, I left around 9:45. I had done my research ahead of time and learned that instead of buying a single fare for £2.90, I should buy a day pass for £4. In other cities I’ve visited, buying such a pass requires making at least three trips to be worth the purchase, but for Manchester, it’s a good deal on just a return trip!

Conveniently, the final stop on my route was about two blocks from where the Free Manchester Walking Tour started, at Sackville Gardens by the Alan Turing statue.

Manchester didn’t make much of an impression after I got off the bus, despite being full of these wonderful red brick buildings that I would learn were once warehouses for textiles.

I found Alan Turing‘s statue without any problems. If you do not know who Alan is, I am very sad. Please stop reading this blog and go watch the recent film The Imitation Game. It’s okay. I’ll wait. Can’t be bothered? 🙁 He was a brilliant mathematician who is pretty much the father of modern computing. He helped crack the Nazi Enigma code, which surely brought about an earlier end to WWII, saving thousands of lives. He was also gay at a time when being gay in the UK was illegal, was chemically castrated for his crime, and died young, presumably from suicide. He was a great man who deserved so much better. I wasn’t crazy about The Imitation Game (was a bit too familiar with the story to be wholly satisfied), but it revived interest in Alan and his work.


Why is Alan wearing a scarf? It’s a homeless initiative. Have an extra scarf? Drape it around Alan. Need a scarf? Alan should have one for you.

By the way, that statue is a disgrace and looks nothing like him!

These mosaics bring attention to import LGBT sites around Manchester.

I was super early early, so I found a café with Barcelona coffee prices (that’s a good thing after Amsterdam) and had a macchiato with cinnamon. Mmm.

When I got back to Alan’s statue, a crowd had start to gather and our host, Josh, soon showed up. Introductions were made and the tour started around 11:10. I’m just going to say here that Josh’s tour is one of the best I’ve been on and he was very interesting and funny, but my brain is so fried that I can barely remember anything he told us. 🙁

He started with a brief history of Manchester, separated into four epochs, from the Romans in AD 79, through the Middle Ages, during the Industrial Revolution, and then modern Manchester. His tour focuses on the latter two periods of Manchester’s history, but the intro helped to set the city into its historical context. I remember that “chester” means that there was a Roman fort in the environs and that the original name of the city was the Latin equivalent of the name of a mountain range in Wyoming for the exact same reason: Mamcium — Teton — breasts-shaped mountains.

He also told us a bunch of grandiose quotes about Manchester that betrayed how full of itself the city can be. There is quite a rivalry with Liverpool and to a lesser extent London. Much later in the tour, I asked if it’s true that Manchester is becoming a more affordable answer to London and Josh said that’s right and that one of the results is that he’s been priced out of downtown. He’s quite concerned about a new train link that will put London an hour away as that’s commuting distance.

One of our first stops was UMIST, University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. I wish I could remember more than that because I know there was more, but my brain really is mush tonight.

We then learned a bit about Alan and the legend that the Apple logo originated with him (not true). There was also a plaque in the area saying that we were standing by an apple tree grown from a seed from one of Sir Isaac Newton’s apples, but there was not an apple tree to be seen.

Next, we went to the monument to Vimto, a drink I’d never heard of that was invented by a Quaker (I think) as an alternative to alcohol. It is apparently hugely popular in the Arab world.

Josh gave us a sample of the fizzy version of the drink, which was apparently a travesty. It smelled and tasted like cough syrup. Some Mancunians (residents of Manchester) on the tour said that the non-fizzy drink is nice diluted with hot water, but I don’t think it’d be to my taste.

We moved on to Orient house, which is the building with the scaffolding.

Josh told us how his friend Ben lived in this building in quite a grotty apartment that was very Manchester with its view to train arches and other things, but Ben was evicted with four weeks’ notice so that the building could be renovated and turned into luxury housing. I asked if Ben is homeless now. Nope. The story has a happy ending. Ben is living in a lovely new place that’s a bit more expensive. Why am I telling you this? Josh said Ben would get a kick out of seeing his story in my blog. 🙂

We moved on to the shores of the mighty Medlock River…

This is right by the building where Noel Gallagher of Oasis wrote the songs for “Definitely, Maybe.” Oh, that reminds me of something!

So Manchester was the first industrialised city in possibly the whole world, or at least in the UK. Its industry was textiles, primarily cotton. But the city went into decline in the early 20th century and industry pretty much ended after the 1940 Blitz. The city rather reinvented itself as an alternative music scene and was the home of that techno punk type music, with lots of raves and a  club scene. Totally not my thing, but it was interesting to see the contrast of this very classical looking city with its rather liberal attitudes. There’s quite a large gay scene here as well.

We walked along a canal that reminded me of Amsterdam.

To the heart of Manchester’s gay village. Josh told us how gay men would hang out at the Union Hotel and there were frequent raids while prostitutes hung out a few blocks away and were also frequently raided. They finally had the bright idea to hang out together and pretend to be a legitimate hetero couple when the police came knocking. It worked. LOL! But the owner was finally told that he couldn’t keep running his business that way and that something had to change. So he appended the word “New” to his establishment…

Manchester’s animal is the worker bee, which symbolises all that Manchester wants to be.

I love the pub names and Josh found it funny that we North Americans are so enchanted by this.

I am really distressed by how little I’m remembering. Sorry for the worst travel post ever. Josh’s tour deserves better!

This was a neat building in that every floor is in a different architectural style.

We went into Chinatown. The ratio of Chinese to non-Chinese here is the highest in the UK.

This was a neat building. It leads down to… a nuclear bunker. It was built during the Cold War for a whopping £4 million to house only 40 people. It was a classified and very top secret building that, really, was useless. There are tunnels leading out of it and British Telecom ran phone lines through them. A homeless person caused a fire down there that not only took out phone service in the area, but also the internet in part of Sweden. Josh is not sure how that happened but swore it’s true!

The city library.

The Midland Hotel. Hitler loved it and wanted it for Nazi headquarters after Germany won the war.

We took a break here as we’d been going for two whole hours that would have flown by had it not been so bloody cold and wet out. We stopped for a hot drink at a Cafe Nerro where I also splurged on a giant oatmeal raisin biscuit since I hadn’t realised the tour was so long and wasn’t going to make it to lunch. This is where I discovered my useless phone had dropped from 70% battery life to 9% despite having no apps open and being on Airplane Mode. I’m going to miss Siri, but I’m going to a better phone next… I had a Lightning cable on me, but no way to plug the phone in. Josh saved the day by offering me a wall charger! We were in the café just long enough to get my phone up to 52%, which got me home.

We continued on to Manchester Central, which is a convention centre, not a train station, and the site of the Peterloo Massacre. Please go read up on it, but the short of it was that a bunch of unarmed protesters for the reform of parliamentary representation were slaughtered in 1819.

This Hilton hotel is the tallest building in the area and howls when the wind blows.

We moved on to the Free Trade Hall, site of an important moment in the history of the suffragettes. It’s the only hall named after an idea rather than a person. Manchester was a bit late in getting parliamentary representation, so it was poorly supervised and taxed, allowing free trade and commerce to flourish.

Next door is the Royale Theatre, the oldest in the city.

Now, Manchester City Hall, which rather looks like Canada’s Parliament Buildings.

This is Albert Square and that’s Albert’s monument. Albert as in the consort of Queen Victoria, who did not attend the opening of the building. Her statue is somewhere else in the city and she apparently looks like Jabba the Hutt… which reminds me that except for that statue, there are no statues of women in Manchester! Within a few years, there will be one of a suffragette, though.

I correctly guess that the decoration at the top of the tower is a cotton ball.

Next we moved to Lincoln Square. What a good likeness of Abraham Lincoln this is! This statue represents Manchester’s link with the US during the US Civil War. Manchester was a procurer of slave cotton, but ultimately put an embargo on it and instead moved to non-slave, inferior cotton from the Middle East. This contributed to speeding up the collapse of the Confederate economy. This is in no way to say that Manchester brought about the end of the Civil War, but its actions did speak loudly.

We then went into the wonderfully warm Royal Exchange, which is now a theatre and café.

This board is where the stock prices were advertised. The numbers shown are from the last day of trading, which I believe was 1969.

I forgot to ask how the numbers got changed considering how high up this thing is, but I now see the railing, so I imagine there’s a catwalk behind it.

Right in the middle of the space is a theatre in the round for 755 people, with none of the seats being more than eight feet from the stage.

We finished our tour here, where we learned about the June 15th, 1996 IRA bombing. I learned that authorities got about a 90-minute warning that the bomb was going to go off and they found it, but it could not be diffused in time so they decided to let it explode. They evacuated about 75,000 to 80,000 people, which is an amazing feat. There were injuries and heaps of property damage and economic consequences, but no one was killed. This would be a watershed moment for a city in decline as the rebuilding efforts brought a new vitality to the city.

This is the corn exchange building.

The bomb detonated just about here.

I remember that bombing so clearly. It was the month that I graduated from high school and just weeks ahead of my last trip to Quebec City.

Thus ends Josh’s tour. One last time, do not judge it based on this post. 🙂

It was probably the weather, but Manchester didn’t make a huge impression on me. Museums are free, but I’m really museumed out and glad I have an excuse to stay home tomorrow.

After the tour, I headed back towards the Royal Exchange as I’d spotted a Barclay’s, where I was able to take out some more cash. You may wonder why I didn’t simply make a larger withdrawal yesterday and the short answer is it’s what I had in that account and I had to move money around to get more. 🙂

By this point, I was very wet, very cold, very tired, and getting grumpy, so it was time to find food and get home. I was disgusted by how many streets downtown did not have signage so my map was all but useless, plus it was disintegrating in the damp.

My original plan for the day, when I thought the tour was two hours long, was to have a cream tea after and then get a takeaway later for dinner. But the tour had run way over and it was three by the time we were done (four hours!). So it was time for a proper meal. I decided to splurge and get a full tea even if I knew that would be around £20. I’d done my research for the cream tea and wanted to try the Richmond Tea Rooms, which were conveniently right by Sackville Gardens and on the way to my bus.

I passed this mural on the way, which had a much better likeness of Alan.

I found the Richmond Tea Rooms without any trouble. They have an Alice-in-Wonderland over the top theme. Very cute! As expected, a full tea was over £20, but they had a “Hatter’s” tea for just £10.50 with sandwiches, a scone, and a pot of tea! I knew that would be plenty.

Service was super slow and I rather regretted going when I was tired, grumpy, and starting to get a headache, but I’m glad I stuck it out. The server asked if I had any dietary restrictions and offered to sub tomato and cheese for egg salad when I told her. This is what they brought me:

I had three small sandwiches with a bruschetta-type thing and also an onion and bell pepper tart that I was told had no egg in it, just cheese. SO good! The sandwiches were chicken, ham and butter, and tomato and cheese. Dessert was a huge raisin scone with clotted cream and jam. For tea, I picked their house blend. This was definitely plenty. It’s now four hours later and I’m only just starting to get peckish.

The Richmond Tea Rooms really put on a nice tea. The food was at least as good as at the Wolseley in London, but, of course, I didn’t have the same level of service.

It was past four and pitch dark when I got out of there. I went back to the area where I got off my bus only to see one with my number at a bus stop on the correct side of the way to head home. I didn’t bother rushing to it since I knew another would come along quickly. Sure enough, by the time I’d made my way to the bus stop at a leisurely pace that respected the traffic signals, another one was pulling up. It was very full, so I went upstairs, my first time riding in the top level of a double decker since Edinburgh!

Unlike in most other cities with bus services, Manchester’s buses don’t announce the stops, so I had to keep an eye out to make sure I didn’t get taken for a ride. I ended up missing my stop, but the next one wasn’t much further and I would have ended up walking the same amount anyway. I popped into Tesco to get something light for dinner, settling on some Pot Noodles that would just need water from the kettle and a huge salad.

Weather aside, it was a good day in Manchester. I’m glad I picked the walking tour as my only activity here as it gave me a good idea of what the city is all about.