1902 Encyclopedia > Shropshire


SHROPSHIRE, or SALOP, an inland county of England, on the borders of Wales, lies between 52° 20' and 53° 4' N. lat. and 2° 17' and 3° 14' W. long., and is bounded N. by Cheshire and an interpolated portion of Flint, E. by Stafford, S.E. by Worcester, S. by Hereford, S.W. by Radnor, W. by Montgomery, and N.W. by Denbigh. The total area in 1880 was 844,565 acres, or about 1319 square miles.

Towards the west Shropshire partakes of the hilly scenery of the neighbouring Wales, from which several ranges are continued into it. South of the Severn on the borders of Montgomery the Breidden Hills of Lower Silurian formation rise abruptly in three peaks, of which Cefn-y-Castell, about 1300 feet high, is in Shropshire; and in the south-west there is a broad range of rough rounded hills known as Clun Forest, extending from Badnor. South and west of the Severn there are four other principal chains of hills extending from south-west to north-east—the Long Mynd (1674 feet), to the west of Church Stretton, of Cam-brian formation; the Caradoc Hills, a little to the north, which cross the Severn, terminating in the isolated sugar-loaf peak of the Wrekin (1320 feet); the Wenlock Edge, to the east of Church Stretton, a sharp ridge extend-ing for 20 miles, and in some places rising above 1000 feet; and the Clee Hills, near the south-eastern border (Brown Clee Hill, 1805 feet; Titterstone Clee Hill, 1750 feet). The remainder of the county is for the most part pleasantly undulating, finely cultivated, and watered by numerous rivulets and streams. It may be said to lie in the basin of the Severn, which enters the county near its centre from Montgomery, and flows eastwards to Shrews-bury, after which it turns south-eastwards to Ironbridge, and then continues in a more southerly direction past Bridgnorth, entering Worcester near Bewdley. It is navi-gable to Shrewsbury and has connexion with the Doning-ton, the Shropshire Union, the Shrewsbury, the Birmingham and Liverpool, and the Chester and Ellesmere Canals. Its principal tributaries within the county are—from the right the Meol (which receives the Rea), the Cound, the Mor, and the Borle, and from the left the Vyrnwy (dividing Shropshire from Montgomery), the Perry, the Tern (which receives the Boden), the Bell, and the Worf. The Dee touches the north-western boundary of the county with Denbigh. In the south the Teme, which receives the Clun, the Onny, and the Corve, flows near the borders of Here-ford, which it occasionally touches and intersects. Of the numerous lakes and pools the largest is Ellesmere (116 acres) near the borders of Denbigh. The Severn forms the boundary between the Old and the New Bed Sandstone formations, which constitute the principal strata of the county. The Old Bed Sandstone rocks lying to the south and west of the river are bounded and deeply interpene-trated by Cambrian and Silurian strata. There are five separate coal-fields within the county,—the Forest of Wyre, Coalbrookdale, Shrewsbury, Clee Hills, and Oswestry. The Forest of Wyre field on the borders of Worcester rests directly on the Devonian rocks, and has a great thickness of measures, but comparatively few workable seams. The Coalbrookdale embraces an area of 28 square miles, and is triangular in form, with its base resting on the Severn and its northern apex at Newport. On its western side it is bounded partly by a great fault, which brings in the New Bed Sandstone, and partly by the Silurian strata; on its eastern side it passes beneath the Permian strata; and it is supposed that the productive measures are continued towards South Staffordshire. Its general dip is eastwards, and the strata have a vertical thickness of over 1000 feet. The organic remains include fishes, crustaceans, and molluscs. Mingled with the coal strata are several valuable courses of ironstone. The original quantity of coal in the field is estimated to have been about 43 million tons, of which there are about 12 millions now remain-ing. Neither the Shrewsbury nor the Clee Hills fields are of much value. The Oswestry field is small, but has some workable seams adjoining the extensive field of Denbigh. In 1884 850,000 tons of coal, valued at £286,000, were raised in Shropshire from fifty-five collieries, while 198,700 tons of iron were obtained valued at £109,285. Iron-casting forms one of the most important industries of the county. Lead mining is carried on with some success on the Stiperstones, 3788 tons of lead ore being raised in 1884. The other principal minerals are iron pyrites (500 tons in 1884, valued at £250), barytes (4939 tons, worth £7395), and fire-clay (56,000 tons, worth £8475). There are also a large number of stone and lime quarries.

Manufactures.—With the exception of iron, the manufactures of the county are comparatively unimportant. Bricks and tiles, earthen and china ware, and tobacco pipes are largely made in various districts. At Shrewsbury there are linen, yarn, and thread mills, and in several districts small paper-mills.

Agriculture.—There is much fertile land suitable for all kinds of culture, the richest soil being that in the vicinity of the Severn, including the Vale of Shrewsbury. Much of the hilly ground, including Wenlock Edge and the Clee Hills, admits of tillage ; but a portion of the western mountainous region is of comparatively small value even for the pasturage of sheep. Out of a total area of 844,565 acres there were 716,599 in 1885 under culture, of which 150,085 were under corn crops, 61,101 under green crops, 426,859 under permanent pasture, 71,470 under rotation grasses, and 6978 fallow. The area under woods in 1881 was 45,641 acres, and in 1885 the area under orchards was 4015. Of corn crops the areas under wheat and barley were in 1885 nearly equal, 53,161 and 53,300 acres respectively, while that under oats amounted to 34,445 acres, rye to 848, beans 4648, and pease 3683. Nearly five-sixths of the area under green crops were occupied by turnips and swedes, which covered 47,119 acres, the area under potatoes being 6874, and that under mangold wurzel 4355. Horses in 1885 numbered 32,323, of which 19,377 were used solely for purposes of agriculture ; cattle (chiefly Herefords) 162,932, of which 60,976 were cows and heifers I in milk or in calf and 69,865 animals under two years old ; sheep (mainly Shropshire) 438,664 ; pigs 61,067 ; and poultry 369,890. In the northern districts Cheshire cheese is largely made. Accord-ing to the latest Landowners' Return for England Shropshire was divided among 12,119 owners, possessing 791,941 acres at an annual value of £1,484,833, or an average value of about £1, 16s. 8d. per acre. There were 7281 proprietors or about 60 per cent, who pos-sessed less than 1 acre, and 19,675 acres were common land. The following possessed over 8000 acres each—Earl of Powis, 26,986; Duke of Cleveland, 25,604 ; Earl Brownlow, 20,233 ; Duke of Sutherland, 17,195; Lord Hill, 16,290 ; Lord Forester, 14,891; Lord Windsor, 10,846 ; Earl of Bradford, 10,515 ; Sir V. R. Corbet, 9489 ; W. O. Foster, 8547; W. L. Childe, 8430; Lord Boyne, 8424; I. D. Corbet, 8118.

Administration and Population.—Shropshire comprises 14 hundreds and the municipal boroughs of Bridgnorth (population, 5885 in 1881), Ludlow (5035), Oswestry (7847), Shrewsbury (26,478), and Wenlock (18,442). For parliamentary purposes the county, which was formerly shared between North and South Shropshire, was in 1885 divided into four separate divisions,—Mid (Wellington), North (Newport), South (Ludlow), and West (Oswestry), each returning one member. At the same time the boroughs of Bridg-north, Wenlock, and Ludlow were merged in the county divisions to which they severally belong ; but Shrewsbury continues to return one member. Shropshire contains also the following urban sanitary districts Broseley (population, 4458 in 1881), Dawley (9200), Ellesmere (1875), Madeley (9212), Much Wenlock (2321), Newport (3044), Wellington (6217), and Whitchurch and Dodington (3756). The county has one court of quarter sessions, and is divided into nineteen special sessional divisions. All the boroughs have separate courts of quarter sessions and commissions of the peace. The county contains 252 civil parishes with parts of six others. Ecclesiastically it is in the dioceses of Hereford, Lichfield, and St Asaph. The population (240,959 in 1861) in 1881 was 248,014 (124,157 males and 123,857 females). The number of persons to an acre was 0'29 and of acres to a person 3*41.

History and Antiquities.—The British tribes inhabiting Shropshire at the time of the Romans were named by them the Ordovices and the Cornavii. It was within its boundaries that Caractacus (Caradoc) struggled against Vespasian in 51 A.D. A connected chain of military works was erected by him over the southern and western districts of the county, the most important fortresses being Caer Caradoc (where he is said to have made his last stand), occupying a commanding position in the forest of Clun, and the earthwork of Hen Dinas at Old Oswestry, consisting of four or five concentric circles, still well marked. The Roman Watling Street entered Shropshire near Weston-under-Lizard in Stafford and passed in an oblique line to Leintwardine in Hereford. Various other Roman roads diverged from it in different directions. Wroxeter, a little to the west of the Wrekin, occupies the site of the ancient Roman city Uriconiurn, of which a portion of the wall, originally 3 miles in circumference, still remains. Explorations made on the site of the city have revealed many interesting features of its construction, and have led to the discovery of an immense variety of remains. By some authorities the Roman Mediolanum is placed near Drayton and Rutunium near Wem ; but the evidence in both cases is doubtful. Throughout Shropshire there are many remains of Roman camps. Under the Romans it was included in the province of Flavia Cajsariensis. After their departure it was annexed to the kingdom of the Saxons by Offa, who about 765 caused Watt's dyke to be erected to guard against the incursions of the Welsh, and later erected parallel with it, 2 miles to the west, the entrenchment known as Offa's dyke, which, extending from the Wye near Hereford to the parish of Mold in Flintshire, forms in some places a well-defined boundary between Shropshire and Montgomery. The greater part of the history of Shropshire is included under that of SHREWSBURY (q.v.). There are several important old ecclesiastical ruins, including Wenlock priory, once very wealthy, said to have been founded by St Milburg, grand-daughter of Penda, king of the Mercians, as a college for secular priests, and changed into a priory for Cluniac monks by Roger de Montgomery about 1080 ; Lilleshall abbey, for Augustinian canons, founded in the reign of Stephen ; Shrewsbury abbey, founded in 1083 in honour of St Peter and St Paul; Buildwas abbey, one of the finest ruins in the county, founded in 1135 for Cistercians by Roger de Clinton, bishop of Chester; and Haughmond abbey, for Augustinian canons, founded by William Fitzalan about 1138. Other remains of less consequence are those of the convent of White Ladies or St Leonard's, a Norman struc-ture, said to have been founded in the reign of Richard I. or John ; slight traces of Wombridge priory, for Augustinian canons, founded before the reign of Henry I.; Alberbury priory, for Benedictines, founded by Fulk Fitzwarin between 1220 and 1230 ; and Chirbury priory, founded towards the close of the 12th century. The castles of Bridgnorth (see BRIDGENORTH), Ludlow, and Shrewsbury are referred to in the notices of these towns, and in addition to these may be mentioned Clun Castle, which after a long siege was taken
and burnt by the Welsh prince Rees about 1196, and Boscobel House, near which Charles II. is said to have been sheltered in an oak.

[Further Reading] See Hartsliorne, Salopia Antiqua, 1841 ; Eyton, Antiquities of Shropshire, 12 vols., 1S54-60 ; Anderson, History of Shropshire, 1869 ; Blakeway, Sheriffs of Shropshire; Duke, Antiquities of Shropshire. (T. F. H.)

The above article was written by: T. F. Henderson.

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