Shrewsbury is situated on an area of land that is easily defendable due to its being almost totally surrounded by a river (the river Severn). It is because of this natural defence that Shrewsbsury was born.

The first written evidence that refers to Shrewsbury dates back to 901, but there had been an earlier British settlement called Pengwern which was destroyed by the Saxons in the 6th century. In the 7th century an area that included Shrewsbury was claimed by Penda of Mercia but the area known as Mercia was separated from the rest of that area in 829 by Edward the Elder, ruler of Wessex. Later in that century, the Danes ( Vikings ) briefly conquered the area but Edward the Elder took it back in around 880.


The 901 reference called Shrewsbury ‘Scrobbesbyrig’ which indicates that it was then a fortified settlement with ‘Scrobbes’ most likely referring to a scrub covered hill, and ‘bryig’ suggesting the presence of fortifications (the German word for ‘castle’ is ‘Burg’). When Edward the Elder (King Alfred the Great’s son) re-took the area which incorporated Scrobbesbyrig, it was ‘upgraded’ to the status of ‘burh’.

A network of ‘burhs’ was set up around England to make it more secure from invaders such as the Vikings. In the early 10th century, when tribal divisions of the West Midlands were being done away with, a new system of ‘shires’ was implemented. Among the new ‘shires’ was ‘Shropshire’ which was named after its leading town ‘Shrewsbury’.
With religion playing an important role in the lives of those living in Anglo- Saxon times, Shrewsbury (which was prosperous enough to be able to afford it) had five churches:
1.St.Chad’s ( late 8th century)
2.St.Alkmund’s ( 900s )
3.St.Mary’s( 960-ish )
5.St.Peter’s (built on the site of what is now the Abbey)

Roger de Montgomery

By 1066 (the same year as the Battle of Hastings) Shrewsbury had 252 houses and a population of almost 1,000. It is thought that there were certainly houses in the area of what would be the castle and down the area of Castle Street (known back then as ‘High Pavement’). Housing then spread to around the town’s churches.

Houses and Inns were also to be found as one approached Shrewsbury from the English bridge ( then called Stone Bridge ) & Welsh bridge, with Frankwell dating back to the 11th century.
Doomsday BookAfter the Norman conquest, Mercia (which included Shrewsbury) was controlled by the English Earl Edwin, but he joined a revolt against the Normans and he was dispossessed, but the revolt lead some townsfolk, English rebels and Welshmen to attack the castle but they failed to take it and after the Normans had devastated the country, Shrewsbury was ‘given’ to Roger de Montgomery who was created Earl of Shrewsbury.
Henry II. 
Shrewsbury had a number of Norman Earls but when this ended, Shrewsbury was placed under a royal steward and received its first charter under Henry 1st who visited the town in 1126 and gave it to his second wife, Adeliza who then appointed William FitzAlan as her deputy. Henry 2nd also visited Shrewsbury in 1158 and halved the taxation level imposed by Roger de Montgomery. Then in 1189, in the reign of Richard 1st, Shrewsbury received its oldest surviving charter ( see below )in which the burgesses held the town in return for paying the king 40 marks of silver each year.


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