Richard, Duke of York, was killed at Wakefield, his son was living in
Shrewsbury and he marched from here to Mortimer's Cross, south of
Ludlow, to the decisive battle which resulted in him being crowned
When it was discovered that the Princes had been murdered there were a number of nobles who thought they must become involved in replacing Richard with a more rightful heir. The obvious choice was Henry Tudor who was, at that time, living in exile in France. Once again Shrewsbury found itself involved in national events
Henry Tudor landed at Milford Haven and marched straight to Shrewsbury, gathering an army as he marched. On his arrival, he found the town firmly closed and when he demanded entry, the Sheriff of Shropshire, Thomas Mytton refused and stated that 'only over my body will you enter."
By morning, he had changed his mind, perhaps persuaded by the townsfolk and perhaps by the size of Henry's army. But Thomas Mytton was a man of principle and so as not to loose face he lay on the bridge, belly up, so that Henry had to step over his body to enter.
Tudor stayed in a house on Wyle Cop which still stands and still
proudly bears his name.
VII brought peace to Shrewsbury, and even the Welsh ceased to be the
troublesome neighbours they had been in the past. The new King was a
frequent visitor to the town, first in 1488 when he brought the Queen
and the young Prince Arthur.
The reign of Henry VIII is known to even the most amateur historian. His continual changes in wife and his split with Rome had repercussions throughout the country and Shrewsbury was not alone in finding many of its churches going through enforced changes. But the Dissolution of the Monasteries had side effects, not least that it meant the closure of the schools which the church had set up, and the selling of church property to the highest bidder.
The loss of schooling for the sons of burgesses was such that they petitioned the King for a school of their own, and through this Shrewsbury School was created.
February, 1552, the necessary charter was granted to create a school
which, through the centuries, has become one of the country's greatest.
Shrewsbury School now stands across the river from the town centre, but
earlier it was housed in buildings just across the road from the
castle. Today, part of those earlier school buildings house the town's
library. It is a beautiful building and a visit to it is well worth-
while as, upstairs in what is now the music library, can be seen the
initials of countless former pupils carved in the ancient timbers.
Throughout this it seems the clergy of Shrewsbury kept their personal views to themselves and consequently kept their positions. But even greater changes occurred when Elizabeth came to the throne in 1559.
the upheaval in religious matters over the previous decade or so, there
had been subtle changes in Shrewsbury's industries. Wool was replacing
leather as the important trade commodity. The Welsh wool industry was a
scattered one and they had no central market until Shrewsbury became
its trade centre. The River Severn, which for centuries had provided
the town with primary defence, now provided it with a primary trade
route to Bristol and to Europe.
With this increased wealth came changes in the Guilds. Although they were still involved in charitable work, their commercial interests started to take precedence. It was a time for expansion, improvement, and wealth.
There are some who make comparison between the Elizabethan era and the twentieth century. Bizarre though that may sound, there are similarities. Inflation was rife there was a fuel crisis and it was a period of technical innovation. Timber supplies were dwindling and peat was being dug in the north of the county to fuel the bakers' ovens in Shrewsbury. There were also new illnesses to cope with and this brought rapid changes in Shrewsbury's water supply and sewage disposal. There was even a form of quarantine for those returning from London!
Agriculture was also suffering after a series of bad harvests and produce prices fluctuated wildly. Grain was imported to Shrewsbury from the continent and even sold at a loss to encourage local farmers not to hoard their crops. (Shades of grain mountains!)
It was around this time that the new Market hall was built. The ground floor was used for storing grain and the upper for selling wool. This building still stands in The Square and is a fitting centre to the town today. The Rowley family illustrate how rapid growth was in Shrewsbury at this time.
Rowley came to Shrewsbury some time before the turn of the century and
was made a burgess in 1594. He was a draper, brewer and malster and his
business premises were the timber-framed buildings which still bears
his name. By 1618 he had made sufficient fortune to build an adjoining
magnificent brick mansion. But there was political upheaval on the
horizon which was to affect not only Shrewsbury but the whole country.
Unlike an international war, when one's loyalties are dictated by birth, a civil war was more personal, depending on one's position and circumstances within society. One can almost equate it to a general election where, instead of voting, the electorate fought for their cause.
and Shrewsbury were, predominantly pro-Royalist. Of the twelve
Shropshire Members of Parliament, only four sided with Parliament.
Everyone realised it was a time of preparation and during 1641 the town
walls were repaired and reinforced, the gates repaired, arms were
purchased and night-watchmen recruited. At night-time the town was