Central Shropshire


The parish of Boscobel lies on the Staffordshire border some five miles east of Shifnal. And if the name rings a bell, it is probably because it was here that King Charles II hid in an oak tree. IT was in September, 1651, that Charles found himself fleeing his enemies after loosing the Battle of Worcester. He and his loyal companions were forced to flee northwards, and one of the party, Charles Gifford, a relative of the owner of Boscobel, suggested it as a place to hide. Although Boscobel House had hiding places built into it, it was decided that the King would be better hidden somewhere else, and the place chosen was an oak tree. He stayed in the tree for fourteen hours, and some accounts even maintain that Roundhead troops searched directly beneath the tree, where the King heard them discussing what they should do with him, and the one thousand pounds reward, if they found him. That night the King hid in a small hole beneath an upstairs floor which can still be seen today. The following day he left Boscobel and Shropshire to continue his escape which ultimately led to France. Boscobel House is now in the hands of English heritage as is nearby White Ladies Priory. (See Legends & People)

Buildwas can be found a little upstream from the Ironbridge Gorge. Its most prominent feature is the ruined Abbey. It was founded in 1135, but little is known of its early years except that perhaps it existed more in name than in any other way. However, the fortunes of the Abbey began to change under the second Abbot, Ranulf, between 1155 and 1187. Buildwas Abbey began to amass lands which eventually included property in Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Flintshire and Ireland as well as their lands within the county. This land was given to them for a variety of reasons, sometimes even in return for the promise of sanctuary should it ever be needed, some land was purchased outright and some rented. The abbey became in effect, the head of a co-operative, purchasing products and reselling them through its own marketing channels. By 1264 the Abbey had its own barges on the Severn carrying wool from its lands to Bristol from where it was exported to France, and a few years later they expanded their market to include Italy. All this trade without the EC or Maastricht Treaty!

The parish of Condover, despite the busy A49 and its close proximity to Shrewsbury, is still a very rural parish, and mercifully the village of Condover is far enough away from the main road to remain a beautiful and comparative quite spot. It is said that Richard Tarlton came from here and tended pigs before heading for London, where he subsequently became a jester to Queen Elizabeth I. He is generally believed to have been immortalised in the line, "Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy." which many will recognise as being from Shakespeare's Hamlet.
The two prominent features of the village are the church of St. Andrew and St. Mary, a magnificent structure which many a town could be envious of, and Condover Hall which has been described as the "grandest Elizabethan house in Shropshire."

Cressage is to be found on the A458 Shrewsbury to Much Wenlock road. It gets its name from Christ's Oak, a tree a meeting was held between local priests and the Pope's envoy in 597AD.
(See Shropshire's Secrets) Amazingly, the site of this tree can still be seen standing alone in a field just outside the village towards Shrewsbury. The present oak tree grows from within the trunk of an earlier oak. Nearby Cressage bridge is a pleasant spot and, standing there, one can easily imagine what the scene was like when the River Severn was the County's main trade link when boats working their way down the river to Bristol, or up as far as Welshpool. With a little concentration it is possible to stand there today and imagine the effect the sight of those boats must have had one the minds of the village children, and what adventure they thought must lie around the next bend.