Bridgnorth

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Bridgnorth is a town in Shropshire, England, along the Severn Valley. It is split into Low Town and High Town, named on account of their elevations relative to the River Severn, which separates the upper town on the right bank from the lower on the left. The population of the town of Bridgnorth was 11,891 at the 2001 Census and a 2008 estimate puts it at 12,216.

Bridgnorth is named after a bridge over the River Severn, that was built further north than an earlier bridge at Quatford. The earliest historical reference to the town is in 895, at which time it is recorded that the Danes created a camp at Cwatbridge, and subsequently in 912, Æthelfleda constructed a mound on the west bank of the River Severn, or possibly on the site of Bridgnorth Castle, as part of an offensive against the Danes.

After the Norman Conquest, William the Conqueror granted the manor of Bridgnorth to Roger de Montgomerie. The town itself was not created until 1101, when Robert de Belesme, the son of Roger de Montgomerie, moved from Quatford, constructing a castle and church on the site of the modern-day town. The castle’s purpose was to defend against attacks from Wales. On Robert’s attainder, in 1102 the town became a royal borough. Bridgnorth’s town walls were initially constructed in timber between 1216 and 1223; murage grants allowed them to be upgraded to stone between the 13th and 15th centuries. By the 16th century, the antiquarian John Leland reported them in ruins and of the five gates, only one survives today.

Inscription on Bridgnorth Museum, commemorating the deliberate destruction of the town by royalist forces, commanded by Sir Thomas Wolryche of Dudmaston Hall.

It is probable that Henry I granted the burgesses certain privileges, for Henry II confirmed to them all the franchises and customs which they had in the time of Henry I. King John in 1215 granted them freedom from toll throughout England except the city of London, and in 1227 Henry III conferred several new rights and liberties, among which were a gild merchant with a hanse. These early charters were confirmed by several succeeding kings, Henry VI granting in addition Assize of Bread and Ale and other privileges. The burgesses returned two members to parliament in 1295, and continued to do so until 1867, when they were assigned only one member. The burgesses were additionally granted two fairs: a yearly fair on the feast of the Translation of St. Leonardand three following days was granted in 1359, and in 1630, Charles I granted them licence to hold another fair on the Thursday before the first week in Lent and two following days. The town was disfranchised in 1885.

In 1961 the RAF initial recruit training unit was at Bridgnorth.

In 1978, Bridgnorth twinned itself with the French town of Thiers, and later in 1992 it also twinned with the Bavarian town of Schrobenhausen, Germany that had already twinned with Thiers a few years earlier. On August 21, 2003, Bridgnorth was granted Fairtrade Town status.

In 2005, unverified German papers dating from 1941 were found, outlining new details about Operation Sea Lion, the military plans of Nazi Germany for an invasion of Britain. Two quiet Shropshire towns were mentioned in the documentation—Ludlow and Bridgnorth. Some experts believe that it was Hitler’s intention to make Bridgnorth the German headquarters in Britain, due to its central position in the UK, rural location, rail connections and now-disused airfield.

Bridgnorth is home to a funicular railway that links the high and low towns, the Castle Hill Railway, which is the steepest and only inland railway of its type in the country. Additionally, within the Low Town is Bridgnorth railway station on the Severn Valley Railway, which runs southwards to Kidderminster. The ruins of Bridgnorth Castle, built in 1101, are present in the town. Due to damage caused during the English Civil War, the castle is inclined at an angle of 15 degrees.

High Town is dominated by two Church of England churches. St. Mary’s Church, a church built in the classic style of the late 18th century, was designed by Thomas Telford; and is still used for worship. St. Leonard’s was formerly collegiate, and Bridgnorth was a Royal Peculiar until 1856. It was subsequently largely rebuilt but is no longer used for regular worship. It has many community uses and is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.

Bishop Percys House on the Cartway was built in 1580 by Richard Forster and has been a Grade 1 listed building since 18 July 1949. It was one of the few properties of its type to survive the great fire of Bridgnorth in April 1646, and was the birth place of Thomas Percy, the Bishop of Dromore and author of ‘Reliques of Ancient English Poetry’.

Other notable buildings in the town are the seventeenth century Bridgnorth Town Hall, a half-timbered building, and a surviving town gate the Northgate which houses the Museum. Daniel’s Mill, a well known watermill is situated a short distance along the River Severn from Bridgnorth.

There are a number of Primary Schools in Bridgnorth, including: Castlefields County Primary School, two Church of England schools, St Mary’s and St Leonard’s; the Roman Catholic St John’s school; and, in addition, the Morville and Brown Clee schools.[16]

The town has two Secondary schools: Oldbury Wells School and Bridgnorth Endowed School (previously named Bridgnorth Grammar School). These serve the town and its outlying villages, including Alveley and Highley.

For many year there was a Bridgnorth College, however this was demolished to make way for a new housing estate in the mid 2000’s.

There is a theatre, the Theatre On The Steps, and a 1930s cinema (still in use), the Majestic, originally having one screen, but now three. There is a museum, the Northgate Museum, with many artifacts connected with the town and surrounding area and is the first independent museum in Shropshire to be awarded Accreditation by the MLA . The town has a number of bars and restaurants and, beyond these, there are 27 pubs, most of which traditional, which makes the town attractive to many tourists, such as the Railwayman’s Arms, Golden Lion, New Inn, King’s Head and Stable Bar, Bear, Shakespeare and Bell & Talbot.

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