Iron Bridge, Buildwas Abbey, Shrewsbury Library and Shrewsbury Castle

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August 18th 2018
Published: August 23rd 2018
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Well, today we went to see the world famous Iron Bridge near Telford in Shropshire. We knew that we would not be able to see much because Bernie stumbled across this information on the English Heritage website a couple of nights ago:

Please note that we’re carrying out vital conservation work on the bridge. This means we’ve had to put much of it under cover. But we’ve built a walkway alongside the bridge to give you an opportunity to see the work as it happens and enjoy a rare perspective of this landmark monument. The walkway is free to access and open from 10am-4pm (last entry 3.30pm).

The website also advised that entry to the bridge is free from April to September 2018. I suppose it wouldn’t be very good public relations to charge people to see the bridge at the moment ... since you can’t actually see the bridge at the moment. Not that it made any difference to us - it would still have been free for us because the bridge is administered by English Heritage!

The significance of the Iron Bridge is that it was the first bridge to be built from a material other than stone or timber. The building of the bridge came about through a combination of innovation, inspiration and necessity.

The innovation was Abraham Darby’s. In 1709, in Coalbrookdale Shropshire he discovered a new, more efficient technique for smelting iron using coke rather than charcoal-fuelled smelters. As industry in the area grew, a new strong and durable bridge across the Severn Gorge was needed to transport goods across one of the busiest rivers in the country. Ferrying goods across the river was unreliable due to low water levels in summer and too strong a current in the winter. In 1773, Thomas Farnolls Pritchard, an architect from Shrewsbury, was inspired to propose an iron bridge combining engineering expertise and the new iron-casting techniques.

Construction of the radical new structure commenced in 1777 and it opened on New Year’s Day 1781. The structure used a total of 378 tons of iron at a cost of around £6,000 - nearly twice the £3,200 first estimated! The structure inspired the future of bridge design and engineering resulting in other notable iron/steel bridges like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Sydney Harbour Bridge to name but a couple.

On the way back to Shrewsbury we stopped briefly at Buildwas Abbey - yet another English Heritage site. This time we did actually save ourselves £4.50 each for a quick look at the impressive ruins of the Cistercian abbey. The site boasts an unusually unaltered 12th century church and a beautiful vaulted chapter house with an amazingly intact tiled-floored. There were a couple of artists sketching the ruins and I suspect they were probably appalled at us galloping around the site snapping photos willy nilly. It did look very relaxing sitting sketching the atmospheric ruins, but we had neither the time ... nor the talent!!

As we came back into Shrewsbury we stopped at the ASDA supermarket to collect a few things for lunch and dinner tonight. We bought some packaged sandwiches for lunch and a curry meal pack for dinner. Well, actually we bought a meal pack for two people and then a few add ons so that we would have enough for the four of us. Back at the apartment we downed our sangas and then headed out to visit Shrewsbury Library and Shrewsbury Castle.

On our way up the hill we stopped in to a couple of shops looking for some new playing cards. Since the debacle of the missing King and Queen of hearts we have been playing with two sets of well used Singapore Airlines cards. We’ve all been complaining about the fact that they seem slightly sticky and a bit burred around the edges making them difficult to play with. We looked in Waterstones the other afternoon but, unfortunately, they only had a single pack of good quality playing cards. Today our search was successful, in only the second shop we looked in we sourced two new packs of cards.

The area near the library and the castle is gorgeous. Of course the library and the castle are both beautiful old buildings in themselves. We were also very taken with the large number of half-timbered buildings that this area of the town boasts.

We ventured into Shrewsbury Castle the red sandstone castle that stands on a hill in the neck of the meander of the River Severn on which the town originally developed. The castle was built by Roger de Montgomery in around 1070 as a defensive fortification for the town, which was otherwise protected by the river. There is no charge to wander around the castle gardens, but the Shropshire Regimental Museum is housed in the castle itself and there is a charge to visit the museum. We were happy to just wander around the lovely gardens and take photos of the outside of the castle and walk up to Laura’s Tower for a panoramic view over Shrewsbury.

From the castle we crossed the road to the library only to find that it had just closed. We weren’t able to take a look inside the library, but we photographed the statue of Charles Darwin and learnt that the library was originally the school at which a young Charles Darwin was educated. The school was relocated in 1882 and the buildings were handed over to the town. A free library and museum were opened by The Corporation of Shrewsbury on the site in 1885.

I was busting for the loo and, since the library had closed, there was no chance of using the facilities there. According to the map, the next closest public conveniences could be found down at the Shrewsbury bus station. We wandered down to the bus station and with great trepidation, I made my way down a dingy corridor to the loos. Eeeeuuuuwwww! the ammoniac stench emanating from the men’s was DISGUSTING. If I hadn’t needed to go so badly I would have turned around then. Fortunately it wasn’t quite so revolting in the lady’s. It weren’t particularly nice either, but at least it wasn’t as smelly. It wasn’t the worst public toilet I’ve ever been to, but it was close! I should not have had a cup of tea with my lunch.

From the ugly, concrete bunker styled architecture of the bus station we made our way to the glamorous old Shrewsbury Railway Station. Hmmn, I wonder if their WCs might have been a better option??! The railway station was built in 1848 and it was designated as a grade II listed building in 1969. We took the footbridge across the railway lines and found ourselves at the HM Prison Shrewsbury. Built in 1877, it operated as a prison until March 2013.

Wandering back to the apartment we stopped in at WH Smith. We hadn’t yet been into a WH Smith to check for greeting cards featuring Golden Retrievers so had to have a quick look. There are so many gorgeous greeting cards in the UK and really lovely quality cards that are significantly cheaper than they are in Oz. I reckon I’m on my way to having a kilo or so of greeting cards to take home! While I was perusing the greeting cards, Bernie was browsing around more generally and found some Waddingtons playing cards. These are proper linen finish playing cards so we HAD to buy more playing cards. These were a bargain though - £2.99 for the first pack and half price for the second pack.

After we cleaned up our curry dinner I cleaned up at cards winning both Jo and 31s! Maybe the new cards have changed my fortunes? I did tell Kath and Albert that we took the cards into the mystic shop along the High Street for them to put a spell on them that would make them lucky for the Australians!

Steps: 14,319 (10.75kms)

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