High Town from the River Severn
Coat of arms of Bridgnorth
Motto: Fidelitas Urbis Salus Regis
In the town’s loyalty lies the King’s safety
Bridgnorth shown within Shropshire
|OS grid reference||SO716927|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||WV15, WV16|
|EU Parliament||West Midlands|
Bridgnorth is a town in Shropshire, England, situated on the Severn Valley. It is split into High Town and Low Town, named on account of their elevations relative to the River Severn, which separates the upper town on the right bank from the lower on the left. The population of the town of Bridgnorth was 11,891, at the 2001 Census rising to 12,079 at the 2011 Census.
Bridgnorth is named after a bridge over the River Severn, that was built further north than an earlier bridge at Quatford. The earliest historical reference to the town is in 895, at which time it is recorded that the Danes created a camp at Cwatbridge, and subsequently in 912, Æthelfleda constructed a mound on the west bank of the River Severn, or possibly on the site of Bridgnorth Castle, as part of an offensive against the Danes. Earliest names for Bridgnorth include Brigge, Brug and Bruges, all referring to its position on the Severn.
After the Norman conquest, William I granted the manor of Bridgnorth to Roger de Montgomerie. The town itself was not created until 1101, when Robert of Bellême, 3rd Earl of Shrewsbury, the son of Roger de Montgomerie, moved from Quatford, constructing a castle and church on the site of the modern-day town. The town became a royal borough on Robert Bellême's attainder in 1102. The castle's purpose was to defend against attacks from Wales. The town was attacked and burnt by Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March during the Despenser War in 1322.
Bridgnorth's town walls were initially constructed in timber between 1216 and 1223; murage grants allowed them to be upgraded to stone between the 13th and 15th centuries. By the 16th century, the antiquarian John Leland reported them in ruins and of the five gates, only one survives today.
It is probable that Henry I granted the burgesses certain privileges, for Henry II confirmed to them all the franchises and customs which they had in the time of Henry I. King John in 1215 granted them freedom from toll throughout England except the city of London, and in 1227 Henry III conferred several new rights and liberties, among which were a gild merchant with a hanse. These early charters were confirmed by several succeeding kings, Henry VI granting in addition Assize of Bread and Ale and other privileges. The burgesses were additionally granted two fairs: a yearly fair on the feast of the Translation of St. Leonard and three following days was granted in 1359, and in 1630, Charles I granted them licence to hold another fair on the Thursday before the first week in Lent and two following days.The burgesses returned two members to parliament in 1295, and continued to do so until 1867, when they were assigned only one member. The town was disfranchised in 1885.
More than 255 men from the Bridgnorth area volunteered in the first months of the First World War. Their names were published in the Bridgnorth Journal on 26 December 1914 and several of those killed in action are remembered on the war memorial situated in the castle grounds.
Until 1961 the Royal Air Force's initial recruit training unit was at RAF Bridgnorth, a station opened in 1939. During the Second World War, two women were killed during a German air raid in August 1940 when bombs hit neighbouring houses in High Town.
In 2005, unverified German papers dating from 1941 were found, outlining new details about Operation Sea Lion, the military plans of Nazi Germany for an invasion of Britain. Two quiet Shropshire towns were mentioned in the documentation—Ludlow and Bridgnorth. Some experts believe that it was Hitler's intention to make Bridgnorth his personal headquarters in Britain, due to its central position in the UK, rural location, rail connections and now-disused airfield.
In 1978, Bridgnorth twinned itself with the French town of Thiers, and later in 1992 it also twinned with the Bavarian town of Schrobenhausen, Germany that had already twinned with Thiers a few years earlier. On 21 August 2003 Bridgnorth was granted Fairtrade Town status.
Bridgnorth is home to a funicular railway that links the high and low towns, the Castle Hill Railway, which is the steepest and only inland railway of its type in the country. Additionally, within the High Town is Bridgnorth railway station on the Severn Valley Railway, which runs southwards to Kidderminster. The ruins of Bridgnorth Castle, built in 1101, are present in the town. Due to damage caused during the English Civil War, the castle is inclined at an angle of 15 degrees.
High Town is dominated by two Church of England churches. St. Mary's Church, a church built in the classic style of the late 18th century, was designed by Thomas Telford; and is still used for worship. St. Leonard's was formerly collegiate, and Bridgnorth was a Royal Peculiar until 1856. It was subsequently largely rebuilt but is no longer used for regular worship. It has many community uses and is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.
Bishop Percy's House on the Cartway was built in 1580 by Richard Forster and has been a Grade 1 listed building since 18 July 1949. It was one of the few properties of its type to survive the great fire of Bridgnorth in April 1646, and was the birthplace of Thomas Percy (Bishop of Dromore), author of ‘Reliques of Ancient English Poetry’.
Other notable buildings in the town are the 17th century Bridgnorth Town Hall, a half-timbered building, and a surviving town gate the Northgate which houses the museum. Daniel's Mill, a well known watermill is situated a short distance along the River Severn from Bridgnorth.
There are a number of Primary Schools in Bridgnorth, including: Castlefields County Primary School, two Church of England schools, St Mary's and St Leonard's; the Roman Catholic St John's school; and, in addition, the Morville and Brown Clee schools.
The town has two Secondary schools: Oldbury Wells School and Bridgnorth Endowed School (previously named Bridgnorth Grammar School). These serve the town and its outlying villages, including Alveley and Highley.
For many year there was a Bridgnorth College, however this was demolished to make way for a new housing estate in the mid-2000s.
There is a theatre, the Theatre on the Steps, and a 1930s cinema (still in use), the Majestic, originally having one screen, but now three. There is a museum, the Northgate Museum, with many artifacts connected with the town and surrounding area and is the first independent museum in Shropshire to be awarded Accreditation by the MLA. The town has a number of bars and restaurants and, beyond these, there are 27 pubs, most of which traditional, which makes the town attractive to many tourists, such as the Railwayman's Arms, Golden Lion, New Inn, King's Head and Stable Bar, Bear, Shakespeare and Bell & Talbot.
Sport and clubs
Bridgnorth Town F.C. was the local football club, based in Bridgnorth. They joined the Worcestershire Combination in 1938 and have twice reached the 5th round of the FA Vase. They won the championship of the West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division in 2008. Also affiliated to the club is the junior section known as accordingly as "Bridgnorth Town Juniors". The teams range from under 8s to under 16s and compete in the Telford Junior League. After folding, the club was effectively replaced by "phoenix club" A.F.C. Bridgnorth.
Bridgnorth Spartans Juniors Football Club is one of the biggest junior football clubs in Shropshire, running a number of junior and adult teams. These teams include boys' teams, ranging from Under-8s to Under-15s, girls' teams and women's teams. Home games are played at Oldbury Wells School on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the season. The home kit features a colour scheme of red & black, arranged in stripes.
Bridgnorth Rowing Club is the oldest sporting organisation in Bridgnorth. The rowing club can trace its roots back to 1865 when it hosted a competition between Shrewsbury School and Cheltenham College. Both of these schools still support its annual regatta to date. It currently occupies 'The Maltings' building on the edge of Severn Park, which was purchased by the club in 1983. Work to convert the malting building into the boat house as it stands today then started 10 years later in 1993. The boathouse now consists of a large ground floor area with racking spaces for singles, doubles, fours and eight man boats. There is also a raised area and mezzanine platform that houses the indoor rowing machines (ergometers) and weights gym. Upstairs there are changing rooms with hot showers and a club room with a bar and a balcony overlooking the River Severn. Bridgnorth Rowing Club regularly competes in events all over the local region and further afield, including attending the annual Head of the River Race on the Thames in London. Bridgnorth Rowing Club hosts an annual regatta itself inviting local clubs, and clubs from all over the country, to come and compete on its stretch of water. It also hosts an annual 'fun regatta' event which is open to members of the local community and businesses to enter and compete; in which all competitors are trained up for a main day of racing. Both of these events are great spectator events for the local townspeople with racing taking part along the length of the Severn Park.
Bridgnorth also has the most successful table tennis club in recent Shropshire history, having four men's and three ladies' county champions in their ranks over the last ten years, The club's "A" team have won the Telford Division One title for the last five consecutive seasons and the league handicap cup twice, Bridgnorth have also represented Shropshire in the ETTA`S Wilmott cup
In 2007, Bridgnorth hosted the UK Downhill Street Race in cycling.
In January 2010, the Kidderminster branch of Stagecoach Theatre Arts expanded to Bridgnorth, providing the town with a part-time performing arts school for people of ages between 6 and 18. Stagecoach Kidderminster pupils have performed in London's West End. The Kidderminster School, now named "Stagecoach Kidderminster & Bridgnorth" remains highly popular and successful.
Bridgnorth also has one of the nation's first co-educational cheerleading teams, established in 2001, the Bridgnorth Tigers Cheerleading Club. The BTCC hold the title of national small senior team champions for 2003. They have also gained numerous regional titles since this time.
Bridgnorth grew initially as a market town at the centre of a system of local radial roads linking it with more rural, smaller settlements. Many of these roads crossed Bridgnorth at the same point on the High Street as where the town hall now stands. It is this High Street which still serves as the town's primary commercial and business district - many of the town's traditional and chain stores are located in this area, and it is typically found to be the busiest part of the town during both the week and, in particular, the weekend. Bridgnorth is connected to Shrewsbury by the A458 road, to Telford by the A442 road and Wolverhampton via the A454 road.
Bridgnorth has a bypass road, construction of which was started in 1982, and which now serves to relieve the town centre of the congestion it was once plagued by. As a result of the bypass' construction, a number of industrial parks were built near the town; this occurred thanks to the development of the local infrastructure and the improvement of road transport links to the rest of the county of Shropshire, West Midlands region and ultimately UK.
Currently the closest towns with active railway stations on the National Rail network are Telford and Wolverhampton. However, Bridgnorth does still have a station on an active heritage line, the Severn Valley Railway. Bridgnorth station was not the northern terminus of this line when built, but the main intermediate station, being 18¼ miles from Hartlebury and 22½ miles from Shrewsbury. The station was opened to the public by the SVR on 1 February 1862, was passed to Great Western Railway (GWR), and then eventually to British Railways in 1948. It closed to passengers after 101 years of service on 8 September 1963, and to freight traffic on 30 November 1963. Although thought by some to have been closed as part of the Beeching axe its planned closure pre-dated his report.
The neo-Jacobean station is the only listed railway station on the Severn Valley Railway. Necessitating that any future plans to enhance visitor facilities will need to be carefully designed to be in keeping with the railway station's architecture and historic character.
The line now ends just north of the modern-day station, where the line formerly bridged Hollybush Road and passed through Bridgnorth Tunnel and on to the next station on the line, Linley. There exists an ongoing debate whether the railway should extend beyond its current limits north of Bridgnorth.
The Bridgnorth Cliff Railway (also known as the Bridgnorth Funicular Railway or Castle Hill Railway), is a funicular railway which has operated in Bridgnorth for over 100 years. The line links the lower part of High Town to the upper part. The bottom entrance is adjacent to the River Severn while the top is adjacent to the ruins of Bridgnorth Castle.
Opened on 7 July 1892 to great fanfare and the proclamation of a public holiday, the line is one of four funicular railways in the UK built to the same basic design (the others were the Clifton Rocks Railway in Bristol; the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway in Devon; and the Constitution Hill Railway in Aberystwyth, Wales). It is one of the steepest railways in the country, and at least one source (the information panel outside the top station) claims it is both the steepest and shortest. It is the only functional inland funicular railway in England (there are about 15 more at English seaside towns). Originally the railway was powered by a simple system using water and gravity, but were converted in 1943-44 to run on electricity. Then in 1955 new cars were installed on the railway; able to carry 18 passengers each, these cars are still in use today. As of 2015; a return ticket is offered at £1.20. Single tickets are not offered for purchase.
The railway allows people to easily get between the two parts of High Town as the only other way down is down ~200 steps or by using roads which drastically increase the journey. The terminals at the upper and lower part of the railway are currently used as tea-rooms and guest houses.
Walking and cycling
Bridgnorth is on National Route 45 of the Sustrans National Cycle Network, which is named the Mercian Way.
There is a great deal of good walking country around Bridgnorth, which is located close to the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding National Beauty.
A number of notable people have been born in or lived in Bridgnorth, including Francis Moore (1657–1715), the originator of Old Moore's Almanack. Richard Baxter (12 November 1615 – 8 December 1691) the English Puritan church leader, divine scholar and controversialist, called by Dean Stanley "the chief of English Protestant Schoolmen" lived in Bridgnorth town centre, in 1640. David Preece (28 May 1963 – 20 July 2007), an English professional footballer who played in midfield, who played three times for the England B team, was another person born in Bridgnorth.
Notable people who received their secondary education at Bridgnorth Grammar School (now renamed Bridgnorth Endowed School) include Dr Thomas Beddoes, the physician and scientific writer, Professor Peter Bullock, the Nobel Prize winning soil scientist, Rev. Robert William Eyton, the author of The Antiquities of Shropshire, Bishop James Fraser, the reforming Bishop of Manchester, Rev. Osborne Gordon, the influential Oxford don, Sir John Josiah Guest, engineer, entrepreneur, and Member of Parliament, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, the Hollywood character actor, Ralph Lingen, 1st Baron Lingen, an influential Victorian civil servant; Dr William Macmichael, physician to Kings George IV and William IV and author of The Gold-Headed Cane, Bishop Thomas Percy (Bishop of Dromore) and author of Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, Henry John Roby, the classical scholar, writer on Roman law, and Member of Parliament, Bishop Francis Henry Thicknesse, inaugural Suffragan Bishop of Leicester, General Sir Charles Warren, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police during the period of the Jack the Ripper Murders and a General in the Second Boer War, and Cyril Washbrook, the cricketer who played for Lancashire and England. Guitarist Max Rafferty, and singer Ross Antony, are also former students of the Endowed School.
Bridgnorth is twinned with:
Closest cities, towns and villages
||Much Wenlock, Shrewsbury||Broseley, Telford, Newport||Albrighton, Wolverhampton|
|Church Stretton, Bishop's Castle||Bobbington, Wombourne, Dudley, Birmingham|
|Ludlow, Craven Arms||Oldbury, Highley, Chelmarsh Alveley, Cleobury Mortimer||Enville, Kinver, Stourbridge, Bewdley, Kidderminster|
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