Shropshire 9 -Shrewsbury - Digging up the drive/Alarms ringing/ Banged up to rights/ The Dana/Brother Cadfael and the Abbey

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December 19th 2017
Published: December 19th 2017
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Day 2 Confucius he says "They must change often who would be constant in happiness" Well, Confucius was quite right. For us we have had change over the last few weeks. Gabby wouldn't go on the drive - naughty girl!!!! We had to leave her on a neighbours drive whilst we looked at options to get her parked up. First we looked at the pavement - no chance of persuading the council to relay it. If we did the water would have run off into the garden. Then we would have the problem of making the drive level. Not an easy job - it would require a whole shedload of wood to shutter up the drive, tons of hardcore and rather a large load of concrete. OK we could have done it but what would happen - well the drive is at least four feet lower than the road - the new drive would be higher than the garage door rendering the garage impossible to use. So on to Plan B. How about going up the road where it was less steep. That would need taking some laurel trees out. Not a problem. Take the roots out - more of an issue. Then a foot drop into the garden. More shuttering , more hardcore and more concrete . Finally we chose outside our kitchen window. It would make the kitchen dark but it was less steep. It still required a weeks worth of digging, two skips filled, more hardcore and 20 slabs to be laid . Still thought Gabby would not arrive at our door. We needed another skip, another few bags of hardcare and a further 20 slabs. Eventually she arrived and we were able to fill her with water, plug her in and try the fridge. Everytime we went in the alarm went off . We never heard anything but each time the phone rang or we got an e-mail or a text from the tracker company who told us we had a problem. Gabby was on the move. Oh no she is not - we are looking at her. In the end she had to go back and rewired. Since then 13 satelittes track us and she seems to be working OK.

So for a change we are on day 2 of Shrewsbury trip. As we say quietly in Gabby we planned our spring holiday or at least we tried to think where we might like to go. How about Greece again? Nice idea but perhaps on a long learning curve we need a shorter trip just in case something goes wrong. We have ordered Glenns international driving licence, we have made lists of things we need to do. A new Crit Aire sticker for France, a new Umwelt sticker for Germany and Belgium are starting a Green Scheme in 2018. You wont be able to see through our windscreen before long. We have decided on France instead. Fougeres, Vannes, the elephant at Nantes before we head for the sun. The books were out, the ACSI book has arrived. We are counting the time down.

Our first stop of the day was the abbey. It sits on an island in the middle of Abbey Foregate. The Abbey was founded in 1083 as a Benedictine monastery by the Norman Earl of Shrewsbury one Robert de Montgomery. It grew to be one of the most important and influencial abbeys in England. It was an important centre of pilgrimage. Inside we saw the remains of St Winifreds shrine which had been taken from Wales when the saint died. Much of the abbey was destroyed by Henry VIII in the 16th century but parts of the abbey are still original. The nave, the double Norman arches all hark back to an earlier period of its history.The church was full of medieval funerary monuments and we spent most of our time there looking at them. Elizabethan notaries, a speaker of the house of Commons in London. A font made up of a roman column from Wroxeter. Stained glass windows modern and ancient. The abbey is a quiet place and we had it to ourselves. The abbey is also the setting for the Cadfael mysteries. Stories by Ellis Peters about the fictional Brother Cadfael who was embroiled in a series of historical murder mysteries. Cadfael was a welsh Benedictine monk who lived in the abbey in the first half of the twelfth century.

Outside we saw the clock . Now this is a clock with a difference. It is not large. It is not ornate. It tells the time quietly. If you look up though you see something odd. The numbers 11 and 12 usually are made in iron and you see them as the roman numerals XI and XII. Not here. The artisan who produced them decided to do something different. Go on look up and you see f1 and f11. Why he did it is unknown. Was he illiterate? Did he just have some spare f's? Had he never seen roman numerals? Who knows - the mystery died with him.

Leaving the abbey we headed off for something different. To the Dana the old Shrewsbury prison now closed. A large red brick building behind whose walls the prisoners spent years paying back society for the wrongs they had done. The current buildings are Victorian built in 1868 although there has been a prison on the site since 1793. The area around the prison and the prison itself is known as the Dana after the Rev. Edmund Dana who was vicar of Wroxeter. HMP Shrewsbury was closed in 2013 and is now open for what they say is the Worlds most interactive prison tour run by Jailhouse Tours. We paid our £13 each to go on our own self guided tour. The prison was constructed by the architect and bridge builder Thomas Telford. Inside the first thing you see is the governers room with its iron gates separating it from the prison. Not a comfortable room just functional. Sadly very little furniture remains and the rooms feel strangely bare. Perhaps the ghost nights or the spiritualist events bring the place to life but today for us it felt incredibly empty.

We walked around the prison, from the reception rooms where the prisoners were given their first taste of prison life. Cold empty rooms, single cells with just a wash basin and a toilet in them. These were the rooms you saw as you left the prison for freedom. The entrance and exit to prison life. It was interesting to compare this old prison with the young offenders unit I worked in many years ago. It was a different experience. The prisoners were strip searched. Prisoners were held in normal cells or special ones for the prisoners who were likely to be attacked by other prisoners. Once processed they were sent to their cells. Their identity was checked at least five times a day.

We walked to A wing where we saw the constant watch cell which was kept for prisoners who were thought to be capable of a serious attempt at suicide. Other rooms were used for mandatory drug tests . Along the corridors were recesses and showers were the prisoners slopped out . It was only in 1995 that the toilets were installed in the cells. Prisoners ate their meals in their cells and only came out of them to collect their meals from the server. The wing was bitterly cold and damp. Cell 2 was the strip cell where the violent prisoners were held. Healthcare opened at 7.30 every day and prisoners would collect their medications from there. Cell 42 palliative care was provided for the prisoners who were close to death.

Prisoners could work in the kitchen. This was recognised for providing the best prison food in the country. It cost 70p to provide food for the prisoners and they were paid £14 to work in the kitchens. C Wing originally housed female prisoners but went on to support the prisoners most likely to be attacked by other prisoners.

Visits took place in the afternoon and prisoners could have three to four visits a month depending on their behaviour. All visitors were searched and a Drug Dog was used to check for drugs.

Outside was a wing yard where exercise took place at 7.30pm for one hour. Finally we entered the hanging room. Executions took place at 8 am and up to 1868 they were conducted at the main gate in front of a crowd of spectators. Apparently prisoners hung for an hour before they were brought down. The Dana can hold 350 prisoners but at one point held 450. The bust over the main gate is of John Howard the prison reformer who visited the site in 1788. We read more and more information - the last person hung was George Riley in 1961, Behind the prison were the graves of the hanged prisoners. It was an interesting visit and made a different type of day out than we normally have.

We finished off the trip in our last night in Gabby for a while anyway. It was an enjoyable few days away. We loved Shrewsbury. We loved everything about Gabby and look forward to trying her out in Europe .


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