History of Shropshire

History of Shropshire

This article relates the history of the county of Shropshire in England.

Shropshire was established during the division of Saxon Mercia into shires in the 10th century and after the Norman Conquest experienced significant development, after the principal estates of the county were given to eminent Normans.

The Coalbrookdale area of the county is designated "the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution", due to significant technological developments that happened there.


The origin of the name "Shropshire" is the Old English "Scrobbesbyrigscīr" (literally "Shrewsburyshire"), perhaps taking its name from Richard Scrob (or FitzScrob or Scrope), the builder of Richard's Castle near what is now the town of Ludlow. However, the Normans who ruled England after 1066 found both "Scrobbesbyrig" and "Scrobbesbyrigscir" difficult to pronounce so they softened them to "Salopesberia" and "Salopescira". Salop is the abbreviation of these.

When a council for the county was set up in 1888, it was called "Salop County Council". The name was never popular, with local MP Jasper More raising an amendment to the 1972 Local Government Bill to rename the county "Shropshire" [cite hansard|house=House of Commons|date=6 July 1972|column_start=958|column_end=963] - at the time the council itself opposed the change, although later, in 1980, would exercise its power to legally change the name of the county.

"The Times" noted in a February 19, 1980 article about the name change that "there was no record of why the name Salop County Council was adopted". The decision to make the change was taken on March 1, 1980, at a special meeting of the council, with 48 votes in favour versus five against. It came into effect on April 1. [Salop likely to be Shropshire from April 1. The Times. February 19, 1980] [A Shropshire lad wins campaign to drop 'Salop'. The Times. March 3, 1980]

The term "Salopian", derived from "Salop", is still used to mean "from Shropshire". Salop can also mean the county town, Shrewsbury, and in historical records Shropshire is described as "the county of Salop" and Shrewsbury as "the town of Salop". There is a reference in the encyclopaedia Britannica (1948) to Shropshire being called Sloppesbury, and this name being shortened to Salop.

The Latin motto of "Floreat Salopia" (may Shropshire flourish) was originally used by the borough of Shrewsbury, and was adopted in 1896 by Salop (or Shropshire) County Council when they received a grant of a coat of arms. The motto is now used in a number of other emblems associated with the county.

Another reason why Salop was unfavourable was the fact that if you add the letter 'E' and make it Salope, this is a French word and means 'Bitch or Loose Woman'.

County extent

The border with Wales was defined in the 16th century - the hundreds of Oswestry (including Oswestry) and Pimhill (including Wem), and part of Chirbury had prior to the Laws in Wales Act formed various Lordships in the Welsh Marches.

The present day ceremonial county boundary is almost the same as the historic county's. Notably there has been the removal of several exclaves and enclaves. The largest of the exclaves was Halesowen, which became part of Worcestershire in 1844 (now part of the West Midlands county), and the largest of the enclaves was Herefordshire's Farlow in South Shropshire, also transferred in 1844, to Shropshire. Alterations have been made on Shropshire's border with all neighbouring English counties over the centuries. Gains have been made to the south of Ludlow (from Herefordshire), to the north of Shifnal (from Staffordshire) and to the north (from Cheshire) and south (from Staffordshire) of Market Drayton. The county has lost land in two places - to Staffordshire and Worcestershire. [ [http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/bound_map_page.jsp?first=true&u_id=10210367&c_id=10001043 Vision of Britain] - Ancient county boundaries] [ [http://www.abcounties.co.uk/ABC_PR_Shropshire_Nov07.pdf Association of British Counties] - Shropshire's historic and modern boundaries]

Before the Norman Conquest of 1066

The Saxon Kingdom of Mercia

The district which is now Shropshire was annexed to the Saxon Kingdom of Mercia by King Offa, who in 765 constructed Watt's Dyke to defend his territory against the Welsh, and in 779, having pushed across the River Severn, drove the Welsh King of Powys from Shrewsbury, then known as Pengwerne, and secured his conquests by a second defensive earthwork known as Offa's Dyke, which, entering Shropshire at Knighton, traverses moor and mountain by Llanymynech and Oswestry, in many places forming the boundary line of the county, and finally leaves it at Bron y Garth and enters Denbighshire.

Danish invasions

In the 9th and 10th centuries the district was frequently overrun by the Danes, who in 874 destroyed the famous priory of Wenlock, said to have been founded by St Milburga, granddaughter of King Penda of Mercia, and in 896 wintered at Quatford. In 912 Ethelfleda, the Lady of Mercia, erected a fortress at Bridgnorth against the Danish invaders, and in the following year she erected another at Chirbury.

The establishment of Shropshire

Mercia was mapped out into shires in the 10th century after its recovery from the Danes by Edward the Elder. The first mention of 'Shropshire' in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle occurs under 1006, when the King crossed the Thames and wintered there. In 1016 Edmund Atheling plundered Shrewsbury and the neighbourhood.

1066 to the late Middle Ages

The Norman Conquest

After the Norman Conquest of 1066 the principal estates in Shropshire were all bestowed on Norman proprietors, pre-eminent among whom is Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, whose son Robert de Bellesme forfeited his possessions for rebelling against Henry I, when the latter bestowed the Earldom on his Queen for life.


At this period a very large portion of Shropshire was covered by forests, the largest of which, Worf Forest, at its origin extended at least 8 miles in length and 6 miles in width, and became a favorite hunting-ground of the English Kings. The forest of Wrekin, or 'Mount Gilbert' as it was then called, covered the whole of that hill and extended eastward as far as Sheriffhales. Other forests were Stiperstones, the jurisdiction of which was from time immemorial annexed to the barony of Caus, Wyre, Shirlot, Clee, Long Forest and Brewood.


The constant necessity of defending their territories against the Welsh prompted the Norman lords of Shropshire to such activity in castle-building that out of 186 castles in England no less than 32 are in this county. Shropshire became a key area within the Welsh Marches. Of the castles built in this period the most famous are Ludlow, founded by Roger de Montgomery; Bishop's Castle, which belonged to the Bishops of Hereford; Clun Castle, built by the FitzAlans; Cleobury Castle, built by Hugh de Mortimer; Caus Castle, once the Barony of Peter Corbett, from whom it came to the Barons Strafford; Rowton Castle, also a seat of the Corbetts; Red Castle, a seat of the Audleys. Other castles were Bridgnorth, Corfham, Holgate, Pulverbatch, Quatford, Shrewsbury and Wem.

Battle of Shrewsbury

In 1403, Shrewsbury was the site of a battle between the Lancastrian King Henry IV, and Henry Percy ('Harry Hotspur') of Northumberland. The Battle of Shrewsbury, was fought on July 21, 1403, at what is now Battlefield , just to the north of present day Shrewsbury town. The battle resulted in the death of Henry Percy, and a victory to King Henry IV, who established a chapel at the site to commemorate the fallen.

Religious foundations

Among the Norman religious foundations were:

*the Cluniac priory at Much Wenlock, re-established on the Saxon foundation by Roger Montgomery in 1080
*the Augustinian Haughmond Abbey founded by William Fitz-Alan
*the Cistercian Buildwas Abbey, now a magnificent ruin, founded in 1135 by Roger de Clinton, Bishop of Chester
*Shrewsbury Abbey, founded in 1083 by Roger de Montgomerie
*the Augustinian abbey of Lilleshall, founded in the reign of Stephen
*the Augustinian priory of Wombridge, founded before the reign of King Henry I
*the Benedictine priory of Alberbury founded by Fulk FitzWarin in the 13th century
*and Chirbury Priory founded in the 13th century.


The fifteen Shropshire hundreds mentioned in the Domesday Survey were entirely rearranged in the reign of King Henry I, and only Overs and Condover retained their original names. The Domesday hundred of Ruesset was replaced by Ford, and the hundred court transferred from Alberbury to Ford. Hodnet was the meeting-place of the Domesday hundred of Odenet, which was combined with Recordin, the largest of the Domesday hundreds, to form the modern hundred of Bradford, the latter also including part of the Domesday hundred of Pinholle in Staffordshire. The hundred of Baschurch had its meeting-place at Baschurch in the time of Edward the Confessor; in the reign of Henry I. it was represented mainly by the hundred of Pimhill, the meeting-place of which was at Pimhill. Oswestry represents the Domesday hundred of Mercete, the hundred court of which was transferred from Maesbury to Oswestry. Munslow hundred was formed in the reign of, but in the reign of Richard I a large portion was taken out of it to form a new liberty for the priory of Wenlock, the limits of which correspond very nearly with the modern franchise of Wenlock. The Domesday hundred of Alnodestreu, abolished in the reign of King Henry I, had its meeting-place at Membrefeld (Morville).


Shropshire was administered by a sheriff, at least from the time of the Norman Conquest, the first Norman sheriff being Warin the Bald, whose successor was Rainald, and in 1156 the office was held by William Fitzalan, whose account of the fee farm of the county is entered in the pipe roll for that year. The shire court was held at Shrewsbury. A considerable portion of Shropshire was included in the Welsh Marches, the court for the administration of which was held at Ludlow. In 1397 the castle of Oswestry with the hundred and eleven towns pertaining thereto, the castle of Isabel with the lordship pertaining thereto, and the castle of Dalaley, were annexed to the principality of Chester. By the statute of 1535 for the abolition of the Welsh Marches, the lordships of Oswestry, Whittington, Masbroke and Knockin were formed into the hundred of Oswestry; the lordship of Ellesmere was joined to the hundred of Pimhill; and the lordship of Down to the hundred of Chirbury. The boundaries of Shropshire have otherwise varied little since the Domesday Survey. Richard's Castle, Ludford, and Ludlow, however, were then included in the Herefordshire hundred of Cutestornes, while several manors now in Herefordshire were assessed under Shropshire. The Shropshire manors of Kings Nordley, Alveley, Claverley and Worfield were assessed in the Domesday hundred of Saisdon in Staffordshire; and Quatt, Romsley, Rudge and Shipley in the Warwickshire hundred of Stanlei. By statute 34 and 35 Henry VIII, the town and hundred of Aberton, till then part of Merionethshire, were annexed to this county.

Ecclesiastical organisation

Shropshire in the 13th century was situated almost entirely in the diocese of Hereford and diocese of Coventry and Lichfield; and formed an archdeaconry called the archdeaconry of Salop. That portion of the archdeaconry in the Hereford diocese included the deaneries of Burford, Stottesdon, Ludlow, Pontesbury, Clun and Wenlock; and that portion in the Coventry and Lichfield diocese the deaneries of Salop and Newport.

In 1535 the Hereford portion included the additional deanery of Bridgnorth; it now forms the archdeaconry of Ludlow, with the additional deaneries of Montgomery, Bishops Castle, Condover, and Church Stretton. The archdeaconry of Salop, now entirely in the Lichfield diocese, includes the deaneries of Edgmond, Ellesmere, Hodnet, Shifnal, Shrewsbury, Wem, Whitchurch and Wrockwardine. Part of Welsh Shropshire was included in the diocese of St Asaph until the disestablishment of the Church in Wales (1920), comprising the deanery of Oswestry in the archdeaconry of Montgomery, and two parishes in the deanery of Llangollen and the archdeaconry of Wrexham. Certain parishes in Montgomeryshire chose to remain in the diocese of Hereford.

The Industrial Revolution

Coalbrookdale, a small area of Shropshire has become designated the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, because good coking coal was found there in the eighteenth century which gave the Darby foundries the edge over rivals in the smelting of iron ore - its product at first being much purer than that smelted in other areas, where iron production was also taking place. The reason good coking coal was found in the area, however, is mainly due to Shropshire's diverse geology. And shallow drift mines made it easy to extract.

Shropshire is the "geological capital" of the UK, as just about every rock type in Northern Europe is found within its borders, as are coal, lead, copper and iron ore deposits. In addition to this, the River Severn flows through the county and has been used for the transportation of goods and services for centuries. A result of this was that the Ironbridge Gorge became a focal point of new industrial energies in the 18th Century.

The towns of Broseley and Madeley were centres of innovation during the late 18th Century. In Broseley, John Wilkinson pioneered precision engineering by constructing Boulton and Watt's original steam engines, and by boring cannons with greater accuracy and range. He also constructed the first iron boat. It was in nearby locations where key events of the Industrial Revolution took place. Coalbrookdale is where modern iron smelting techniques were developed, Ironbridge is where the world's first iron bridge was constructed, to link Broseley with Madeley and the Black Country, and Ditherington is where the world's first iron framed building was built, the Ditherington Flaxmill. Other places notable for early industry are Jackfield and Coalport.

Later, Broseley and Madeley became notable for their continuation of trade in the field of bricks and tiles, which became a stable to the booming building trade, and millions of Broseley clay pipes were exported across the British Empire.



External links

* [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/catalogue.asp?type=false&gid=28 Victoria County History for Shropshire] : full-text versions of several volumes, on British History Online.

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