Shrewsbury ( or ) is the county town of Shropshire, in the West Midlands region of England. Lying on the River Severn, it is home to some 64,000 inhabitants, and is the primary settlement and headquarters of Shropshire Council. It is the second largest town in the ceremonial county of Shropshire, after Telford.
Shrewsbury is a historic market town with the town centre having a largely unaltered medieval street plan. The town features over 660 historic listed buildings, including several examples of timber framing from the 15th and 16th century. Shrewsbury Castle, a red sandstone castle fortification, and Shrewsbury Abbey, a former Benedictine monastery, were founded in 1074 and 1083 respectively, by the Norman Earl of Shrewsbury, Roger de Montgomery. The town hosts one of the oldest and largest horticultural events in the country, Shrewsbury Flower Show, and is known for its floral displays, having won various awards since the turn of the 21st century, including Britain in Bloom in 2006.
Today, lying east of the Welsh border, Shrewsbury serves as a cultural and commercial centre for the ceremonial county and a large area of mid-Wales, with retail output alone worth over £299 million per year. There are some light industry and distribution centres, such as Battlefield Enterprise Park, located mainly on the outskirts. The A5 and A49 trunk roads cross near to the town, as do five railway lines at Shrewsbury railway station.
The town was possibly the site of the capital of Powys, known to the ancient Britons as Pengwern, signifying "the alder hill"; and to the Anglo-Saxons as Scrobbesburh (dative Scrobbesbyrig), which has several meanings; "fort in the scrub-land region", "Scrobb's fort", "shrubstown" or "the town of the bushes". This name was gradually corrupted in three directions, into 'Sciropscire' which became Shropshire, into 'Sloppesberie', which became Salop/Salopia (an alternative name for both the town and its county), and into 'Schrosberie' which eventually became the name of the county town, Shrewsbury. Its Welsh name Amwythig means "fortified place".
It is believed that Anglo-Saxon Shrewsbury was most probably a settlement fortified through the use of earthworks compromising a ditch and rampart, which were then shored up with a wooden stockade.
Located nearby is the village of Wroxeter, to the south-west, where the now ruined Roman city of Viroconium Cornoviorum lies. Viroconium was the fourth largest civitas capital in Roman Britain. As Caer Guricon it may have served as the early Dark Age capital of the kingdom of Powys. The Shrewsbury area's regional importance during the Roman period was recently underlined with the discovery of the Shrewsbury Hoard in 2011.
There is evidence to show that by the onset of the 10th century, Shrewsbury was home to a mint.
Shrewsbury is known as a town with significant medieval heritage, having been founded ca. 800 AD. It was during the late Middle Ages (14th/15th Centuries) when the town was at its height of commercial importance. This was mainly due to the wool trade, a major industry at the time, with the rest of Britain and Europe, especially with the River Severn and Watling Street as trading routes.
Over the ages, the geographically important town has been the site of many conflicts, particularly between the English and Welsh. Shrewsbury was the seat of the Princes of Powis for many years; however, the Angles, under King Offa of Mercia, took possession of it in 778. The Welsh again besieged it in 1069, but were repelled by William the Conqueror. Roger de Montgomery was given the town as a gift from William, and built Shrewsbury Castle in 1074, taking the title of Earl. The 3rd Earl, Robert of Bellême was deposed in 1102, in consequence of taking part in the rebellion against Henry I. In 1403, the Battle of Shrewsbury took place a few miles north of the town centre, at Battlefield; it was fought between King Henry IV and Henry Hotspur Percy, with the King emerging victorious, an event celebrated in William Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1, Act 5.
Shrewsbury's monastic gathering was disbanded along with the Dissolution of the Monasteries and as such the Abbey was closed in 1540. However, it is believed that Henry VIII thereafter intended to make Shrewsbury a cathedral city after the formation of the Church of England, but the citizens of the town declined the offer. Despite this, Shrewsbury thrived throughout the 16th and 17th centuries; largely due to the town's fortuitous location, which allowed it to control the Welsh wool trade. Resultantly a number of grand edifices, including the 1575 Ireland's Mansion and 1658 Draper's Hall, were constructed. It was also during this period that Edward VI gave permission for the foundation of a free school, which was later to become Shrewsbury School. During the English Civil War, the town was a royalist stronghold and only fell to Parliament forces after they were let in by a traitor at the St Mary's Water Gate (now also known as Traitor's Gate). By the 18th century Shrewsbury had become an important market town and stop off for stagecoaches travelling between London and Holyhead on their way to Ireland; this led to the establishment of a number of coaching inns, many of which, like the Lion Hotel, are extant to this day.
In the period directly after Napoleon's capture at Waterloo the town's own 53rd (Shropshire) Regiment of Foot was sent to guard him whilst in exile on St Helena. A locket containing a lock of the emperor's hair (presented to an officer of the 53rd) remains, to this day, in the collections of the Shropshire Regimental Museum at Shrewsbury Castle.
Shrewsbury has also played a part in Western intellectual history, by being the town in which the naturalist Charles Darwin was born and raised. The town is also home to the Ditherington Flax Mill, the world's first iron-framed building, which is commonly regarded as "the grandfather of the skyscraper". Its importance was officially recognised in the 1950s, resulting in it becoming a Grade I listed building. Shrewsbury in the Industrial Revolution was also located on the Shrewsbury Canal which linked it to the Shropshire Canal and wider canal network of Great Britain. Despite this, Shrewsbury escaped much of the industrialisation taking place in 19th century Britain due to its isolation from other large manufacturing towns and ports.
Shrewsbury won the West Midlands Capital of Enterprise award in 2004. The town has two expanding business parks, the Shrewsbury Business Park and the Battlefield Enterprise Park. There are many residential developments currently under construction in the town to cater for the increasing numbers of people wishing to live in the town and commute to Telford, Wolverhampton and Birmingham. There is also the Greenhills EnterprIse Park which is a 15 acre commercial development site approximately 5 miles north of the town centre. In 2000 and again in 2002, Shrewsbury unsuccessfully applied for city status.
In 2009 Shrewsbury Town Council was formed and the town's traditional coat of arms was returned to everyday use.