VCH Shropshire makes good progress

6 April, 2017 - 10:30

On the 29th October 2016 approximately 120 people attended the inaugural AGM and annual lecture of VCH Shropshire. The latter was given by Gareth Williams, Curator and Head of Learning at Weston Park, who spoke on ‘Capability’ Brown – Britain’s Greatest Landscape Gardener and his Shropshire Connections. Whilst Shropshire has no immense estate like Chatsworth or Burghley, he demonstrated how Brown had strong links with several influential Shropshire families. His lecture was illustrated by a number of properties within the county where either works or proposals for works were made, including Oakly Park, Rectory Wood at Church Stretton, Tong Castle and Weston Park. He outlined how at each location, Brown’s dealings with his clients offered a key insight into how he operated. His activities in Shropshire can be seen to be influential with regards his landscaping work elsewhere in England.

The grant funding from the Jean Jackson Charitable Trust and the Walker Trust together with smaller awards from the County History Trust, the Pagett Fund of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society and Wem Town Council allowed us to proceed to the appointment of two research staff in May 2016. Our efforts have been concentrated on Wem which will be the subject of a VCH Short (paperback history). Whilst we advertised nationally, we considered ourselves fortunate to make two excellent appointments of experienced historians living in or near Shrewsbury. Dr. Judith Everard, a medievalist who held a college fellowship in Cambridge was appointed as the Contributing Editor and Ms. Wendy Horton, a buildings archaeologist has researched and written the architectural history of the town. Work is progressing well on the Wem short publication and we hope that it will be published by early 2018. Dr. Everard has come up with a definitive answer to the vexed question of the Wem market charter although it may not be that Wem people want to believe! Volunteers have been working either singly or in groups and have taken responsibility for either gathering material – we have a strong group in Wem that have worked on the trade directories for the town – for future use or who have undertaken to contribute sections of the Wem short. Wendy Horton also convened a group interested in Wem buildings and has led parties measuring frontages in the town. The data collected has been analysed by Dr. James Bowen using a Geographical Information System (GIS) to reconstruct the urban morphology of the town. Meanwhile Professor Richard Hoyle has been exploring Wem materials in The National Archives. There he has found what is in effect the estate archive of the Earls of Bradford for that part of their estate which was in the hands of John Newport, the fourth earl’s illegitimate son and heir. And the National Archives have finally located the National Farm Survey (1941-2) for Wem Rural, marked in their catalogue as missing, although  there is something rather daunting about it.

We have also been actively planning work on two red books namely the part-complete Shrewsbury, part two and Newport and the Weald Moors, for which extensive VCH research notes exist. In February 2017 boxes of notes for Shrewsbury part 2 were transferred by VCH Central Office, London to Shropshire Archives. All draft text and notes are now at the disposal of the county committee, so work on this volume can resume. We would encourage anyone interested in working in a voluntary capacity on the history of Shrewsbury to contact the project.

VCH Shropshire’s application for charitable status was submitted in the autumn of 2016. The Charity Commission have recently agreed that Victoria County History (Shropshire) Limited is established for charitable purposes only for the public benefit. It has been entered onto the register of charities and we hope charitable status will enable the project to develop further . Plans for 2017 include the launch of a new website (, a second Wem History Day on Sunday 18th June and the annual lecture to be given by Dr. Richard Hayman on the history of the River Severn. It will be held on Saturday 28th October at Shrewsbury Baptist Church. The project has roles for many more supporters as volunteers, researchers and fundraisers. For more information about the project please contact: VCH Shropshire c/o Shropshire Archives, Castle Gates, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY1 2AQ.


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