Itinerary Category: general
From Writers to Inventors the beautiful Shropshire landscape has been home to many famous and influential people. This itinerary will help you visit the places most associated with them and perhaps draw inspiration from the countryside they would have seen and enjoyed. It is suggested you build your own itinerary from these suggestions, based on your location.
Suggested by: Catherine Evans of Broome Park Farm B&B
Abraham Darby III – 2hrs
For five generations the Darby Family managed the Coalbrookdale Ironworks. Business links with other Quaker families were cemented by marriage, with members of the Ford and Reynolds family marrying into the Darby dynasty. The most influential member was probably Abraham Darby III. He was born in Dale House in 1750 and is best remembered for his involvement with building the Iron Bridge. In 1785 the Society of Arts’ awarded him its Gold medal, ‘sensible of the magnitude and importance of this bridge’. Through the work of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust it is possible to experience the everyday life of Coalbrookdale’s Quaker ironmasters in the former homes of the Darby family – Rosehill House and Dale House.
Captain Matthew Webb – 1hrs
Captain Webb was the first person to swim the English Channel on August 24th 1875. Smeared in porpoise oil, Webb dived into the water near Dover ‘s Admiralty Pier. Twenty-one hours and 45 minutes later he waded ashore at Calais. There are still a number of sites in Dawley and the nearby area that are connected with Captain Webb including a memorial in Dawley High Street which has the short inscription: “Nothing great is easy.” In nearby Coalbrookdale stands Holy Trinity Church in which the Webb family attended services every Sunday and where Webb’s parents are buried in the graveyard. Inside the church, there is also a commemorative plaque celebrating his achievement.
William Penny Brookes – 2hrs
Shropshire’s man of the moment is William Penny Brookes, father of the modern Olympic Movement, who was born in Much Wenlock in 1809 where his father was one of the local doctors. The family house is situated in Wilmore Street opposite the Parish Church. He left Much Wenlock to study Medicine at Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospitals in London. Later he travelled to Italy with his brother John to study at Padua, a renowned school of medicine attached to the University. The medieval botanical gardens at Padua could also have been an attraction to the young medical student. Pick up a leaflet from the Museum in the Market Square and follow the Olympic Trail, visiting all the places of interest associated with Penny Brookes and his Olympics.
Malcolm Saville, Children’s Author – 2hrs
Malcolm Saville is best known as an author of children’s fiction. He first came to Shropshire in 1936, arriving at Church Stretton by train and then continuing by car through Little Stretton, across the level crossing at Marshbrook to the church at Cwm Head and then turning off down winding lanes to a house called Prior’s Holt beneath the Longmynd. It was this house together with the valley and hills behind that provided him with the setting for that first story Mystery at Witchend. Other stories followed as he discovered the secret places of the Longmynd with successive visits until he widened his settings to include the Stiperstones range further west. These wilder, bleaker hills, scarred by mining waste and broken on the western slopes by deep valleys gave him a different setting.
Charles Darwin – 2hrs
Charles Darwin is Shrewsbury’s most famous son and recently voted as one of the greatest Britons. Born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire on the 12th February 1809 at Mount House, he was the son of Robert, a well respected doctor, and Susannah a member of the Wedgwood family. Darwin lived in Shrewsbury until he was 27. Darwin attended school at 13 Claremont and was then privileged to go to Shrewsbury School. Although, as his headmaster Dr Butler revealed, he had little hope of filling his head with Latin or Greek. As early as nine the young Darwin had started observing and recording things he found in the natural world that surrounded him. The glacial meres and scars that shaped the Shropshire landscape and deposits they left convinced Darwin that the world is much older than thought at the time.
Thomas Telford – 1hrs
Although not born in Shropshire Thomas Telford has had a lasting impression on the County. In 1787 he became Surveyor of Public Works in Shropshire and as an architect he became involved with the renovation of Shrewsbury Castle, Shrewsbury Prison, St. Mary Magdalene Church in Bridgnorth and St. Michael’s Church in Madeley, all places that can still be visited today. As you travel around the County you will travel along miles of roads surveyed by Telford and over bridges built under his supervision. He then became involved with the creation of the canal network, building several waterways features in the County. The Ironbridge Gorge Museums holds a collection of Telford’s books and original documents.
John Osborne, Playwright – 1hrs
Born on 12 December 1929, in London, John Osborne changed the face of British Theatre. His play “Look Back in Anger” was the turning point in postwar British theatre. He was an ‘angry young man’ who spent his happiest years in Shropshire. He lived at The Hurst in Clunton, which is now owned by the Arvon Foundation, running writing courses from the house. When Osborne owned The Hurst, he declared that he had the ‘best view in England’, over A E Housman’s Blue Remembered Hills. John Osborne and his wife Helen are buried in the churchyard at nearby Clun.
Mary Webb, Author – 1hrs
Mary Webb was born at Leighton, Shropshire, on 25th March 1881. Mary loved to wander in Shropshire fields, woods and lanes, studying the natural wonders of her environment. She developed an extraordinary perception of minute detail in nature, reflected throughout her poetry and prose. In 1912 she married Henry Webb, a nephew to Matthew Webb, and eventually came to live in Pontesbury, where Mary wrote her second novel, Gone to earth (pub 1917), a rural story set in the south Shropshire hills, but reflecting in its mood and tragedy her response to those dark years. Most of the towns and villages mentioned in Mary Webb’s novels under fictitious names are easily identifiable. For example ‘Silverton’ is Shrewsbury, ‘Mallard’s Keep’ is Bishop’s Castle, and ‘Slepe’ is Ratlinghope.
Wilfred Owen, War Poet – 1hrs
Wilfred Owen (1893-1918), born in Oswestry, is widely recognised as one of the greatest voices of the First World War. His self-appointed task was to speak for the men in his care, to show the ‘Pity of War’. Owen’s enduring and influential poetry is evidence of his bleak realism, his energy and indignation, his compassion and his great technical skill. The Wilfred Owen Association was formed in 1989 to commemorate Wilfred Owen’s life and work. There is a simple stone bench against a wall alongside St Oswalds Church, Oswestry where Tom and Susan Owen were married and Wilfred christened. Above the bench engraved on steel you can read his poems Anthem for Doomed Youth and Futility. In the grounds of Shrewsbury Abbey a granite sculpture, Symmetry, by Paul de Monchaux ia another memorial.