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29 October 2014

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You are in: Shropshire > places > Place Feature > Bridgnorth Town Guide

Bridgnorth's Town Hall

Bridgnorth's Town Hall

Bridgnorth Town Guide

Today, Bridgnorth is one of the most beautiful towns in Britain, but in the past, its siting owed more to its strategic location on the Severn than the wonderful views. The town's name still records its importance as an ancient river crossing.

Historians believe that Bridgnorth has been occupied for thousands of years, due to its prime location. One of the earliest historical references we know of relates to the founding of defensive works in the early tenth century by the Saxon lord Ethelfleda, on what is now Castle Hill.

A view of the bridge and the River Severn

A view of the bridge and the River Severn

The town originally flourished thanks to the river Severn and the trade that it brought. At one time, Bridgnorth was the largest inland port in Europe.

Nowadays, the town is one of the area's most popular tourist destinations. It provides excellent access to both the Black Country, and the rest of Shropshire. The world heritage site of Ironbridge is practically on the doorstep.

Yet, there is so much to entertain and occupy visitors within Bridgnorth itself, that you might not have time to venture beyond!

The town's most distinctive feature is its two-tier geography - High Town and Low Town. High Town, towering around 100 feet above the river valley, provides superb views, while Low Town sits alongside the Severn.

The two halves of the town are linked by over 200 steps. However, if you feel a little daunted by the climb, you could always take the cliff railway.

Bridgnorth's funicular railway

Bridgnorth's funicular railway

The electric funicular railway is the only one of its kind in inland England, and one of the steepest in the UK. It was originally established in 1892, and was updated over subsequent years. Even now it has a 1950s look. But above all, this is still a working railway, constantly used by the many locals and visitors who don't want to tackle the famous steps.

One of the Town's other tourist attractions also effectively signalled the end of Bridgnorth as a port town - The Severn Valley Railway.

The standard-gauge steam railway runs a pretty busy 16 mile service between Bridgnorth and Kidderminster. Period steam trains, carriages, stations, platforms and even signal boxes add up to an enjoyable experience. the Severn Valley route also offers some stunning views of the area.

Bridgnorth also boasts an enormous variety of pubs, many of which were originally established when the town was still a major port. Taverns and more disreputable haunts were set up to provide for the many boatmen who used to travel with the cargo-carrying trows.

Views from the Castle and Castle Walk have always been arresting. Charles I once described it as 'The finest view in all my Kingdom.'

During the 17th Century, Bridgnorth was one of the royalists' principal garrisons in the Midlands.

Within Shropshire, only Ludlow held out longer during the civil war.

However, because of its allegiances, Parliamentary forces exacted a terrible revenge on the town. St Mary Magdalene's church was hit by canon fire, while the castle itself was practically destroyed.

Today, only a few ruins survive to look over the Severn Valley. The castle site now houses one most beautiful public gardens in the county.

Just outside of the town, in Eardington, is Daniel's Mill, with the largest corn mill water wheel in the country. The mill has been producing flour in much the same way since the 18th Century, and offers a rare glimpse into our rural past.

If you enjoy getting out and about, The Severn Valley Country Park offers 180 acres of superb scenery and a range of walking trails. The visitor centre also provides good facilities.

Bridgnorth also boast three major festivals. The Haydn Festival in June features the best of classical music, often played on period instruments. Many of the concerts are performed in the wonderfully peaceful surroundings of St Leonard's Church.

Meanwhile, Bridgnorth Folk Festival is a dynamic event, offering the best of music and dance from a range of different cultures. The festival includes elements of folk, rock, blues, jazz and much more.

The latest festival to delight music fans is Bridgnorth Jazz Festival, now held every October.

last updated: 30/04/2008 at 13:39
created: 23/03/2005

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