Wem

Street Map

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Wem is a small market town in Shropshire, England. It is the administrative centre for the northern area committee of Shropshire Council, which has its headquarters at Edinburgh House in the centre of Wem. Wem railway station is on the Shrewsbury to Crewe railway line. Nine miles south of the town is the county town of Shropshire, Shrewsbury.

The civil parish which constitutes the town is Wem Urban.

The area now known as Wem is believed to have been settled prior to the Roman Conquest of Britain, by the Cornovii, Celtic Iron Age settlers. The town is recorded in the Domesday Book as consisting of four manors. In 1202, Wem became a market town.

The town supported the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War, and was subject to an attack by Lord Capel, in which the town held off the attackers. In 1677, a fire destroyed many of the wooden buildings in the town.

Within the town the sweet pea was first commercially cultivated, under the variety named Eckford Sweet Pea, after its inventor, nursery-man Henry Eckford. He first introduced a variety of the sweet pea in 1882, and set up in Wem in 1888, developing and producing many more varieties. There is a road to signify the Eckford name, called Eckford Park (within Wem). Each year, the Eckford Sweet Pea Society of Wem hold a sweet pea festival. In Victorian times, the town was known as “Wem, where the sweet peas grow”.

The name of the town is derived from the Saxon “Wamm”, meaning a marsh, as marshy land exists in the area of the town. Over time, this was corrupted to form “Wem”.

Wem is twinned with the town Fismes (/ˈfiːmz/), in France, which also has its own road in Wem, called Fismes Way.

The River Roden flows to the south of the town. The Shropshire Way long distance waymarked path passes through Wem.

Wem was the fiefdom of Judge Jeffreys (the “hanging judge”), infamous for his willingness to impose capital punishment. George Jeffreys was born at Acton Hall in Wrexham in 1648, the son of John Jeffreys and Margaret Ireland. His grandfather was a judge in Wales and George eventually decided on a career in law much to his parents’ disapproval. Educated at Shrewsbury and St Paul’s Westminster and Cambridge. He began his studies in the Inner Temple in 1663 and was acting as an advocate before he was officially called to the bar. He entered Gray’s Inn. He was appointed Solicitor General to the Duke of York later James II and was knighted in 1677. He became recorder of London in 1678. At the age of 33 he became Lord Chief Justice of England and a privy counsellor and two years later Lord Chancellor. In 1683 he was created Baron Jeffreys of Wem. He is known as Hanging Judge Jeffreys because of the punishment he handed out at the trials of the supporters of the Duke of Monmouth. In 1688 when James II fled the country, Jeffreys was placed in the Tower of London for his own safety. He died there the following year aged 44 of kidney disease.

Within the town there are four main churches. The best known of these churches is the main Anglican Church of St Peter and St Paul. Each year Wem holds a traditional town carnival on the first Saturday of September, as well as the Sweet Pea Festival. Hawkstone Park is nearby.

Wem is now widely known amongst the oratory storytellers as the ‘home of the regeneration of modern young storytelling’ mainly due to the youth storytelling group Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin Young Tellers (STWYTellers) being based in the Mythstories Museum of Myth & Fable in the town centre. The group is currently chaired by Joe White and its board is composed of young people including Jen Ward, vice chair, and Daragh Quinn, secretary. The group runs quarterly charity fundraising performances called Telling Tuesdays which are open to all to attend and free on the door with collections afterwards.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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