Page last updated at 14:12 GMT, Monday, 26 July 2010 15:12 UK
Shrewsbury Norman history trail

BBC Midlands Today's Bob Hockenhull took a step back in time in Shrewsbury

The BBC Hands on History project is bringing the past alive - our first stop is the Norman period (1066-1154).

Historian and Blue Badge Guide Ian Jelf has put together a special walk to offer a glimpse of medieval Shrewsbury.

Surprisingly, there is still plenty of evidence of the Normans - even almost 1,000 years on.

The route is about two miles long, starting and finishing at Shrewsbury Abbey, and we believe it should take you less than two hours.

To find out more about our Norman walk, see our interactive map.

Wheelchair users and those with pushchairs should be aware that the journey involves some reasonably steep hills.

There is a pay and display car park opposite the abbey, while the Meole Brace Park & Ride bus service also offers a nearby stop.

1066 and beyond

Roger of Montgomery's tomb
Roger of Montgomery's tomb can still be seen inside Shrewsbury Abbey

The story of Norman Shrewsbury isn't just about buildings, it is also about one man in particular - Roger of Montgomery, a powerful landowner and Marcher Lord.

Roger of Montgomery was not involved at the Battle of Hastings. Instead, as one of William's closest advisors, he was entrusted with looking after the Duchy of Normandy. However, after the conquest, he soon followed and was rewarded by being given the title of first Earl of Shrewsbury.

This had its advantages, as well as its problems. He had considerable local autonomy and the right to take (and keep) land from the Welsh. But this was also vulnerable, frontier country that was difficult and expensive to defend.

He consolidated his territory on two fronts - spiritual and military. Our walk appropriately starts in front of Shrewsbury Abbey - built by Roger of Montgomery soon after he constructed the town's defences, including the castle.

Shrewsbury Castle and Abbey

BBC Hands on History Norman graphic
More about Hands on History and free Norman material on the website

Much of what remains today of both the castle and the abbey have been heavily influenced by another Shropshire figure.

In the 18th Century, the Scottish-born engineer Thomas Telford was made Surveyor of Public Works for Shropshire. Among the numerous bridges, aqueducts and roads Telford constructed in the county, he rebuilt much of Shrewsbury Castle - in a romanticised, Victorian interpretation of medieval architecture.

His impact on Shrewsbury Abbey was less sensitive.

The A5 road which links London to Holyhead on Anglesey was built in a very no-nonsense manner. It carves straight through the imposing Snowdonia mountain range in Wales.

As the A5 passed through Shrewsbury the abbey stood in his way. Rather than diverting the road around it, Telford went straight through.

Before the A5 and damage done centuries earlier by the dissolution of the monsteries, Shrewsbury Abbey was once twice its current size. One of the abbey's pulpits can still be seen in the car park opposite.

Norman Walks
02 Jul 10 |  History



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