Whitchurch, Shropshire

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Whitchurch is a market town in Shropshire, England on the Wales-England border. It is the oldest continuously inhabited town in Shropshire. According to the 2001 Census, the population of the town is 8,673, with a more recent estimate putting the population of the town at 8,934. The town is located in the Whitchurch Urban civil parish, and is twinned with the French town of Neufchâtel-en-Bray.

Originally a settlement founded by the Romans around AD 52 or 70, it was called Mediolanum, meaning The place in the middle of the plain. The settlement was located on a major Roman road between Chester and Wroxeter and Roman artefacts can be seen at the Whitchurch Heritage Centre.

The current name comes from ‘White Church’ which refers to a church from Norman period made from white stone. As might be expected, there are several other towns named Whitchurch in England. The current impressive church is the church of St. Alkmund, a Church of England (Anglican). Dispensing with the colour tradition it was built in 1712 of red sandstone and stands on the site of the earlier Norman architecture church. It is an important Grade I Listed building..

Whitchurch is a crossroads for roads from Nantwich, Chester and Shrewsbury with the A41/A49 bypass opening in 1992.

Whitchurch railway station is on the former London and North Western (later part of the LMS) line from Crewe down the English side of the Welsh border (the Welsh Marches Line) toward Cardiff. However, Whitchurch was once the junction for the main line of the Cambrian Railways, but 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.

Whitchurch was also junction for the Whitchurch and Tattenhall Railway or Chester to Whitchurch branch line, another part of the London and North Western, and running via Malpas. As well as its own passenger and freight services, this line was a useful short cut for freight traffic to and from Chester and North Wales avoiding Crewe, and some long-distance passenger services were occasionally diverted this way. Although the line closed to regular services on 16 September 1957, the diverted passenger trains continued until 8 December 1963.

Whitchurch has its own short arm of the Llangollen Canal but is not a key stopping place for boaters as the arm ends about a mile from the town centre.

Whitchurch is the home of the JB Joyce tower clocks company, established in 1690, the oldest clock tower making company in the world, earning Whitchurch the reputation as the Home of tower clocks. Joyce’s timepieces can be found as far afield as Singapore and Kabul; and helped to build Big Ben in London.

Sir Henry Percy (Sir Harry Hotspur) was killed in 1403 at the Battle of Shrewsbury and buried in Whitchurch; only for his body to be later exhumed and quartered. Also buried in Whitchurch is another medieval warrior Sir John Talbot, a military commander who in 1429 fought French armies inspired by Joan of Arc. His remains are buried under the porch of St Alkmund’s church. Talbot is a major character in William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part I, and the local secondary school ” Sir John Talbot’s” is named after him.

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