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Castles and Historic Buildings


Ironbridge
Ironbridge

Wonders of Shropshire

A new BBC TV series is looking for the seven man made wonders of the West Midlands - The structures and designs which have become an indellible part of our cultural heritage and modern landscape.


From bustling town centres to the most rural parts of a rural county, Shropshire is bristling with some of the finest human achievements in the UK.

Seven Wonders website >
Email the Seven Wonders team with your nomination for The Midlands' favourite man made wonder email: sevenwonders@bbc.co.uk

With a series of prehistoric monuments and more than 50 hillforts crowning the county's peaks, people have forcefully made their mark on Shropshire for more than 4,000 years.

Offa's Dyke at Llanfair Hill (Photo: CPAT 1133.02)
Offa's Dyke at Llanfair Hill

After the county's Bronze and Iron Age residents came the Celts, then the Romans, who constructed Wroxeter (Viroconium), at one time the fourth largest city in Britain. Anglo Saxons would move Shropshire's capital from Wroxeter to Wrockwardine and Wellington.

In the 8th Century AD, Britain's Saxon superpower was Mercia, with its king, Offa, arguably the first king of England. At Mercia's extreme west was Shropshire and the border with Wales was to prove the limit of Offa's rule. Marking the boundary, Offa built a dyke, 130 km of defensive earthworks, which still largely mark the border today.

Ludlow Castle
Ludlow Castle

Norman invaders would later build Ludlow (practically from scratch), with its imposing castle, and develop many others towns in the area, constructing fortifications along the same dangerous border with Wales. Ludlow became an important centre for Norman Britain. Not only was Ludlow the base of the Lord President of Wales, for a while it even became effectively the capital of Wales - and the seat of power was inevitably its huge castle.

Shropshire is also covered with examples of Tudor and Elizabethan architecture, not least Shrewsbury's stunning Old Market Hall, now a vibrant digital-media centre and cinema, and at the heart of 21st Century Shrewsbury's cultural life.

Detail from Wenlock Priory by Lawson Clout
Detail from Wenlock Priory

In the 18th Century, Shropshire became the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. Iron was first smelted with coke, the first iron rails were laid, the first metal-hulled boat was floated - all in or near Coalbrookdale. Yet today, despite these great achievements, the name of Coalbrookdale is ecclipsed by that of Ironbridge... such was the significance of the construction of Abraham Darby III's iron bridge.

Around the same time, in nearby Shrewsbury, Charles Bage designed the Ditherington Flax Mill. This was to be the first iron framed building and the ancestor of the world's skyscrapers, every one of which can be traced back to this down-at-heel structure.

Other key figures would also leave us something to remember them by in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Despite being born in Scotland, engineer Thomas Telford achieved much of his best work in Shropshire after being appointed the county's Surveyor of Public Works.

Shrewsbury's Old Market Hall
Shrewsbury's Old Market Hall

Telford's achievements include building the Dana prison, as well as a string of bridges, aqueducts and viaducts in Shropshire, the most stunning of which are the majestic Chirk and Pontcysyllte aqueducts (Pontcysyllte celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2005). Yet, in its day, Telford's most important work was the building of the A5 road, which runs through Shropshire East to West and on to Hollyhead.

last updated: 07/09/05
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