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Bridgnorth in Shropshire, England is a town with a population of just over 12,000.
It is composed of a Low town spanning the banks of the River Severn, (Englands longest) and the High town situated on the top of a hundred foot high sandstone hill.
At the southern end of the hill are the remains of a castle built by a Norman earl.
The Castle Keep defied the efforts of Cromwell's Roundheads to totally destroy it after the English Civil War in 1656 but its history dates before that when in 912 the Lady Æthelfleda, Queen of Mercia, eldest daughter of Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, built a defensive mound on the site.
After the Norman invasion of 1066, Bill the Conk gave the manor of Bridgnorth to Roger de Montgomerie whose son, Robert of Bellême, 3rd Earl of Shrewsbury, built a stone castle on the site. After Cromwell's attempts to knock it down, the castle Keep was left leaning at a crazy angle and defies gravity to this day surrounded by the lovely town garden which overlooks the Severn Valley to the South and the railway to the West. We now live next to the castle so it seemed a good place to begin a web page about Bridgnorth.
The town was named after a new bridge was build north of one built further south. The present one was built in 1823 designed by Thomas Telford, a Scottish stonemason who became a famous civil engineer and a one time resident of Bridgnorth.
If you would like to learn more about Thomas Telford click on the link below:
The castle used to extend from Northgate right around the high town but on 31st March 1656 the Parliamentary army captured Bridgnorth and on April 1st a fire started by the Royalist defenders destroyed all but a few houses leaving 300 people homeless and destitute. Most of the older buildings you see today in the town date from after this event and are largely half timbered.
In what is left of the castle you can clearly see where cannon balls hit, fired across the valley to the north from Panpudding Hill.
Looking west from the castle garden a pedestrian bridge crosses the valley to the Bridgnorth station of the Severn Valley Steam Railway. The line runs 16 miles following the River Severn through picturesque countryside to Kidderminster, a town as unattractive as Bridgnorth is attractive.
One can spend a pleasant sunny evening sitting on the station platform with a pint of Bathams (I even had a pint of Otter there one afternoon!) from the Railwayman's Arms pub, also on the platform, watching the beautiful old steam trains come and go. Regular services are run to Kiddleyminster during the summer stopping at every little station on the way where you can break your journey to explore before catching the next train.
In the winter time they run only at the weekend but there are lots of special trips around Christmas and some where they serve meals. The line opened in 1862 and originally ran from Hartlebury near Stourport in Worcestershire to Shrewsbury passing through a tunnel under Bridgnorth town. It was said that every time a train passed through the tunnel, everything rattled on the tables of the Swan Inn in the High Street!
After the railway opened to Bridgnorth it became a popular tourist destination and still is today. Castle Hill Cliff Railway opened in 1892 and carried 50,000 people in its first year of operation. It is the shortest (201 feet long) and steepest (33 degrees) cliff railway in England. The Castle Gardens were opened in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. You can imagine those Victorian tourists crossing the footbridge from the station, walking up to the gardens and promenading around castle walk, admiring the views then descending the cliff railway to paddle in the river! We're still doing much the same!
Now what sort of nutter takes photos of a rugby pitch I hear you say. Well it doesn't have the backdrop of the lovely city of Bath like the Rec but you have to admit the local pitch looks pretty nice. There are three more pitches a few yards upstream as this thriving club has four senior teams, three ladies, six junior, and seven mini's the youngest being under fives!! The 1st team plays in black so are known as the "All Blacks" and had won every game this season in the Autumn of 2013 when this was written!! There are ongoing reports of Bridgnorth RUFC in my regular pages.
If you would like to know more about the Rugby Union league system and Bridgnorth RUFC's position in it, please click on the link below:
| CLICK HERE TO LEARN HOW THE ENGLISH RUGBY UNION IS ORGANISED|
Up until 1786 the only road into the high town was Cartway which runs steeply up from the Bridge to the High Street. Other than that it was by one of the eight flights of shallow steps, so built for Donkeys (and pedestrians) to carry goods up and down to the river quays and other parts of the town. The river was the busiest in England in the 18th century with over 70 "trows"; shallow draft barges, employed carrying cargo down to Stourport where it was transferred to bigger vessels for onward voyage up the canal system or downstream to Bristol and beyond.
From the town bridge you look up to St Mary's Church. Our house is just behind the church and the line of houses you can see running down the hill from the church is St Mary's Steps and is our quickest way down to the low town.
The photo below looks upstream, the other way from the bridge with St Leonard's Church at the northern end of the high town at the top of the hill. Rebuilt of local red sandstone in 1860, it is no longer used for regular worship. The black and white four storey timber framed house you can see behind the willow tree on the right of the photo is one of the few that survived the fire of 1656 and was later owned by Bishop Percy (1729 - 1811). It is situated at the bottom of Cartway. On the end of the house on the left of the photo is advertised S.E & A Ridley Ltd, the oldest firm of seedsmen in Britain established in 1616! They are still going strong today.
Richard Trevithick (1771 - 1833), the Cornish engineer who pioneered the high pressure steam engine, built the first passenger rail locomotive in 1808 at John Hazeldine's foundry which used to be just upstream of the bridge. The locomotive was named "Catch me who can" and a plaque commemorating the event can be seen on the clock tower by the bridge. In fact Trevithick's first locomotive was built in Camborne in Cornwall in 1801 which he called "Puffing Billy". It was a road locomotive which went up Camborne Hill with six people on board and there is some dispute as to if it actually went up Camborne Hill. His first rail locomotive was built in nearby Coalbrookdale in 1802 which was built to haul coal.
If you would like to listen and see the words and score of the Camborne Hill song, click the link below:
| CLICK HERE FOR THE CAMBORNE HILL SONG|