Shropshire

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Shropshire, alternatively known as Salop or abbreviated Shrops, is a county in the West Midlands region of England. It borders Wales to the west. Shropshire is one of England's most rural and sparsely populated counties, with the population of the non-metropolitan/shire county 289,100 - making it the least populated two-tier governed area in the United Kingdom. The shire county and its districts will be replaced with a unitary authority on 1st April 2009. The borough of Telford and Wrekin, included in Shropshire for ceremonial purposes, has been a unitary authority since 1998.

The county town is Shrewsbury, which is culturally and historically important, although Telford, which was constructed around a number of older towns, most notably Wellington, Dawley and Madeley, is today the most populous. Other notable towns are Oswestry in the north-west, Bridgnorth in the south-east and Ludlow to the south. The Ironbridge Gorge area has become known as the 'Birthplace of Industry' but this is disputed by some, since industrial activity was present in other areas before industry existed in the Ironbridge area. The term was coined as an advertisement in an attempt to enhance the status of the town. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which covers Ironbridge, Coalbrookdale and a part of Madeley. There are additionally other notable historic industrial sites located around the county such as Broseley, Snailbeach and Highley as well as the Shropshire Union Canal.

The Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covers about a quarter of the county, mainly in the south. The Wrekin is one of the most famous natural landmarks in the county, though the highest hills are the Clee Hills, Stiperstones and the Long Mynd. Wenlock Edge is another significant geographical and geological landmark, and the River Severn, Great Britain's longest river, runs through the county. Shropshire is landlocked, and with an area of 1,346 mi², is England's largest inland county.

The area now considered Shropshire was annexed to Mercia by King Offa in the eighth century, at which time he built two significant dykes there to defend his territory against the Welsh or at least demarcate it. In subsequent centuries, the area suffered repeated Danish invasion, and fortresses were built at Bridgnorth and Chirbury.

After the Norman Conquest in 1066, major estates in Shropshire were granted to Normans, including Roger de Montgomerie, who ordered significant constructions, particularly in Shrewsbury, the town of which he was Earl. Many defensive castles were built at this time across the county to defend against the Welsh and enable effective control of the region, including Ludlow Castle and Shrewsbury Castle. Also in this period, a number of religious foundations were formed, the county largely falling at this time under the diocese of Hereford and that of Coventry and Lichfield. Some areas in later times fell under the diocese of St. Asaph until it ceased to exist in 1920.

The county was a central part of the Welsh Marches during the medieval period and was often embroiled in the power struggles between powerful Marcher Lords, the Earls of March and successive monarchs.

The county also contains a number of historically significant towns, including Shrewsbury, Ludlow and Oswestry. Additionally, the area around Coalbrookdale in the county is seen as highly significant, as it is regarded as one of the birthplaces of the Industrial Revolution. The village of Edgmond, near Newport, is the location of the lowest recorded temperature (in terms of weather) in England and Wales.

Shropshire has no cities, but 22 towns, of which 2 can be considered major. Telford is the largest town in the county with a population of 138,241 (which is approximately 30% of the total Salopian populace); whereas the county town of Shrewsbury has a lower, but still sizeable population of 70,560 (15%). The other sizeable towns are Oswestry, Bridgnorth, Newport and Ludlow. The historic town of Wellington now forms part of the Telford conurbation. The majority of the other settlements can be classed as villages or small towns. The larger settlements are primarily concentrated in a central belt that roughly follows the A5/M54 roadway. Other settlements are concentrated on rivers, e.g. Ironbridge on the Severn, as these waterways were historically vital to trade.

Shropshire has been depicted and mentioned in a number of works of literature. The poet A. E. Housman used Shropshire as the setting for many of the poems in his first book, A Shropshire Lad, and many of Malcolm Saville's children's books are set in Shropshire. Additionally, D. H. Lawrence's novella, St. Mawr, is partially set in the Longmynd area of South Shropshire.

In Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Jonathan Strange is from the county, and some parts of the book are set there. Another fictional character from Shropshire is Mr Grindley, from Charles Dickens' Bleak House. P. G. Wodehouse's fictional Blandings Castle, the ancestral home of Clarence, the ninth Earl of Emsworth, is located in Shropshire. In The Importance of Being Earnest, Jack pretends to live in rural Shropshire, to mask his double life.

The county has also appeared in film: the 1984 film version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was filmed in Shrewsbury. Appearances in television have included the county being used as a setting in both Coronation Street, the ITV1 soap; and also in the BBC's The Fast Show, for a Ted and Ralph special. The 1985 television programme Blott on the Landscape was filmed mainly in South Shropshire, notably in Ludlow. The 2005 sit-com The Green Green Grass is set in Shropshire and is filmed near Bridgnorth. A character from the Bugs Bunny Show episode "Prison to Prison" is named "Shropshire Slasher".

In music, the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote 'On Wenlock Edge' in 1907.

Wording courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org/

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