Oswestry Welsh: Croesoswallt
Oswestry shown within Shropshire
OS grid reference Unitary authority Shropshire Ceremonial county Shropshire Region West Midlands Country England Sovereign state United Kingdom Post town OSWESTRY Postcode district SY10, SY11 Dialling code 01691 Police West Mercia Fire Shropshire Ambulance West Midlands EU Parliament West Midlands UK Parliament North Shropshire List of places: UK • England • Shropshire
The town was the administrative headquarters of the Borough of Oswestry until it was abolished on 1 April 2009 and is the third largest town in Shropshire, following Telford and Shrewsbury. The 2001 Census recorded the population of the civil parish as 15,613, the urban area as 16,660, and a 2008 estimate suggested that the latter figure had grown to 17,116. The town, located just five miles from the Anglo-Welsh border, is known for its mixed Welsh and English heritage, and is the home of the Shropshire libraries' Welsh Collection.
The Battle of Maserfield is thought to have been fought here in 642, between the Anglo-Saxon kings Penda and Oswald. Oswald was killed in this battle and was dismembered; according to a legend, one of his arms was carried to an ash tree by a bird, an eagle, and miracles were subsequently attributed to the tree (as Oswald was considered a saint). Thus it is believed that the name of the site derived from a reference to "Oswald's Tree". The spring Oswald's Well is supposed to have originated where the bird dropped the arm from the tree. Offa's Dyke runs nearby to the west.
Alan FitzFlaad (d. c1114), a Breton knight, was granted the feudal barony of Oswestry by King Henry I who, soon after his accession, invited Alan to England with other Breton friends, and gave him forfeited lands in Norfolk and Shropshire, including some which had previously belonged to Ernoulf de Hesdin (killed at Antioch while on crusade) and Robert de Belleme.
Alan's duties to the Crown included supervision of the Welsh border. He also founded Sporle Priory in Norfolk. He married Ada or Adeline, daughter of Ernoulf de Hesdin. Their eldest son William was made High Sheriff of Shropshire by King Stephen in 1137. He married a niece of Robert of Gloucester. But two of their younger sons, Walter and Simon, travelled to Scotland in the train of King David I, Walter becoming the first hereditary High Steward of Scotland and ancestor of the Stewart Royal Family.
The town, being very close to Wales, has many Welsh street and Welsh placenames and the town's name in Welsh is Croesoswallt, meaning Oswald's Cross. The Domesday Book records a castle being built by Rainald, a Norman Sheriff of Shropshire: L'oeuvre (meaning "the work" in French) (which was reduced to a pile of rocks during the English Civil War), and the town changed hands between English and Welsh a number of times during the Middle Ages. In 1149 the castle was captured by Madog ap Maredudd, and remained in Welsh hands until 1157. Later, Oswestry was attacked by the forces of Welsh rebel leader Owain Glyndŵr during the early years of his rebellion against the English King Henry IV in 1400; it became known as Pentrepoeth or 'hot town' as it was burned and nearly totally destroyed by the Welsh. It eventually became known as Oswald's Tree in English, from which its current name is derived.
In 1190 the town was granted the right to hold a market each Wednesday. After the foot and mouth outbreak in the late 1960s the animal market was moved out of the town centre. In the 1990s, a statue of a shepherd and sheep was installed in the market square as a memorial to the history of the market site. With the weekly influx of Welsh farmers the town folk were often bilingual. The town built walls for protection, but these were torn down by the Parliamentarians after they took the town after a brief siege on 22 June 1644, leaving only the Newgate Pillar visible today.
Park Hall, a mile east of the town was one of the most impressive Tudor buildings in the country. It was taken over by the Army in 1915 and used as a training camp. On 26 December 1918 it burnt to the ground following an electrical fault. The ruined hall and camp remained derelict between the wars. For decades following World War 2, Oswestry was a prominent military centre for Canadian troops, later British Royal Artillery and latterly, a very successful training centre for 16-18 year old Infantry Junior Leaders. This long and proud military connection came to an ignominious end in the mid-1970s, shortly after some local licensed wildfowlers were shot by the young military guard one winter's night, mistaken for an attacking IRA force, as the locals discharged their shotguns at some passing ducks. The area previously occupied by the Park Hall military camp is now mainly residential and agricultural land, with a small number of light industrial units.
Attractions in and around Oswestry include: Whittington Castle (in nearby Whittington), Shelf Bank and the Cambrian Railway Museum located near the former railway station. The town is famous for its high number of public houses per head of population; there are around 30 in the town today, many of which offer real ale. A story incorporating the names of all of the pubs once open in Oswestry can be found hanging on the walls of the Oak on Church Street. Brogyntyn Hall belonged until recently to the lords Harlech.
Oswestry is located at the junction of the A5 with the A483 and A495. The A5 continues from Shrewsbury to the north, passing the town, before turning west near Chirk and entering Wales. Running near the town is a navigable section of the partially restored Montgomery Canal, which runs from Frankton Junction to Newtown.
Oswestry no longer has an active railway, but it was once on the main line of the Cambrian Railways. However, the section from Whitchurch to Welshpool (Buttington Junction), via Ellesmere, Whittington, Oswestry and Llanymynech, closed on 18 January 1965 in favour of the more viable alternative route via Shrewsbury, leaving only a short branch line of the former Great Western Railway from Gobowen to continue to serve Oswestry until 7 November 1966 (this branch had once run into a separate GWR Oswestry terminus, now long since disappeared: trains were switched to the main Cambrian station as early as 7 July 1924).
The main building of the Cambrian station is still a prominent landmark within the town centre, a large handsome edifice that had once housed the headquarters of the Cambrian Railways company. After restoration, this building was reopened as the Cambrian Visitor Centre in June 2006 but on 11 January 2008 closed due to the terms of the lease not being settled (it later reopened but has since closed again). A single railway track, overgrown and rusting, still runs through the station, and is the subject of an ambitious plan to reopen the line between Oswestry and Llanyblodwel, and eventually Oswestry to Gobowen. Already the main platform at Oswestry station is being reconstructed.
Immediately to the south is the Cambrian Railway Museum, while a short distance to the north are former Cambrian Railways workshops, now occupied by a variety of industrial concerns. However, the nearest currently active station is at Gobowen. Local railway preservation societies have plans to reinstate the line from Gobowen station (where it meets the mainline), through Oswestry and into Wales.
Oswestry has had a mixed Welsh- and English-speaking population for centuries. The parish church conducted services in Welsh until 1814. English is the dominant language today, but there is still a substantial number of Welsh-speakers. Oswestry has one of the few Welsh-language bookshops outside Wales.
As well as numerous primary schools, such as Our Lady's and St Oswald's Catholic Primary School in or just outside Oswestry, there are two independent schools, Oswestry School and Moreton Hall, and an academy, The Marches School. In addition, post-16 education is provided by Walford and North Shropshire College.
There are a number of places of worship in Oswestry. There are two Church of England churches, which are part of the Diocese of Lichfield - St. Oswald's Parish Church (a church since 640AD) (www.stoswaldsoswestry.org.uk) and the Holy Trinity Parish Church, located on the corner of Roft Street, where it meets the Salop Road. St Oswald's Churchhas a Norman tower dating from 1085. There is a new window in the East nave designed by prestigious stained glass artist Jane Grey in 2004.
The town of Oswestry and surrounding villages fall into the parish of Our Lady Help of Christians and St Oswald, in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Shrewsbury.
There are two Methodist churches: the Horeb Church on Victoria Road and the Oswestry Methodist Church. Cornerstone Baptist, a Baptist church is on the corner of Lower Brook Street and Roft Street in a modern 1970s building. Other Nonconformist churches include the Albert Road Evangelical Church; the Carreg Llwyd Church, which was founded in 1964 and Cabin Lane Church - a plant from Carreg Llywd Church in 1980, to the eastern expansion of Oswestry.
Another church in the town is Christ Church, now United Reformed Church, but was formerly Congregationalist. Additionally, there is a Welsh-speaking church the Seion Church, and the Holy Anglican Church a Western Rite Anglican establishment. Coney Green is a Jehovah's Witness' church. The Religious Society of Friends also holds meetings in Oswestry.
The former local football club, Oswestry Town F.C., was one of the few English teams to compete in the League of Wales. Oswestry Town folded due to financial difficulties in 2003 and merged with Total Network Solutions F.C. of Llansantffraid, a village eight miles (13 km) away on the Welsh side of the border. Following the takeover of the club's sponsor in 2006, the club renamed itself as The New Saints They moved to the redeveloped Park Hall Stadium on the outskirts of the town in September 2007.
Oswestry Cricket Club compete in the Birmingham and District Premier League which is the oldest cricket league in the country. The club, whose former player Andy Lloyd went on to Captain Warwickshire CCC and also play for England, play at their Morda Road ground to the south of the Town.
- Jesse Armstrong, TV comedy writer
- Alan Ball Jr., footballer for England (1966 World Cup)
- Frank Bough, British television presenter
- Thomas Bray, theologian
- Henry Walford Davies, composer
- Paul Evans, footballer
- Carl Griffiths, footballer
- Ian Hunter, musician - Mott the Hoople, etc.
- Per Lindstrand, balloonist
- Philip Llewellin, journalist and writer
- Andy Lloyd, England test cricketer & captain of Warwickshire CCC
- Alexander Macmillan, 2nd Earl of Stockton, Chairman of Macmillan Publishing Ltd
- Boaz Myhill, footballer
- Wilfred Owen, WWI soldier and poet
- Barbara Pym, author
- Trevor Rees-Jones, bodyguard and survivor of the accident in which Diana, Princess of Wales died
- Mark Robinson, cricketer
- William Archibald Spooner, originator of the Spoonerism
- William Henry Griffith Thomas, clergyman and scholar
- Robert Ussher, Bishop of Kildare - buried at Doddleston Chapel, near Oswestry
- Richard Waites, actor and writer
- Edward Weston, chemist
- George Williams, Michigan state senator
- Ian Woosnam, golfer
- ^ "Oswestry". World Gazetteer. http://www.world-gazetteer.com/wg.php?x=&men=gpro&lng=en&dat=32&geo=-81&srt=pnan&col=aohdq&pt=c&va=x&geo=514277697. Retrieved 2008-05-14.
- ^ Shropshire Tourism. "Oswestry & the Welsh Borders". http://www.shropshiretourism.info/oswestry/. Retrieved 2009-03-03.
- ^ Shropshire Council. "Welsh Collection at Oswestry Library". http://www.shropshire.gov.uk/shropshire/library.nsf/open/D55470EF515E450B80256CD300486C60. Retrieved 2009-03-03.
- ^ Burke, Messrs., John and John Bernard, The Royal Families of England, Scotland, and Wales, and Their Descendants &c., volume 2, London, 1851, p. xl.
- ^ Ritchie, R. L. Graeme, The Normans in Scotland, Edinburgh University Press, 1954, p.280-1
- ^ Round, J. H., Studies in Peerage, p.123
- ^ Ritchie (1954) p.98n and 280-1
- ^ Ritchie (1954) p.281
- ^ "Oswestry Market". Shropshire Tourism. http://www.shropshiretourism.info/attractiondetail.cfm?EstID=2842.
- ^ Shropshire Routes to Roots. "Introduction to Park Hall". Shropshire County Library Service. http://www3.shropshire-cc.gov.uk/roots/packages/war/war_h01.htm.
- ^ Brogyntyn article and image
- ^ Lewery, Tony. "The Montgomery Canal". Canal Junction. http://www.canaljunction.com/canal/montgomery.htm. Retrieved 2008-01-18.
- ^ "Popeth Yn Gymraeg website (Welsh)". http://www.s4c.co.uk/popethyngymraeg/c_diary3.shtml.
- ^ "Siop Cwlwm Website". http://www.siopcwlwm.co.uk/.
- ^ "History of Oswestry Orthopedic Hospital". NHS. http://www.rjah.nhs.uk/AboutUs/OurHistory/tabid/65/Default.aspx.
- ^ "Christ Church - Picture and Notes". http://www.users.waitrose.com/~coxfamily/osxchnew.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
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