January 2020: Blood, Faith and iron: a dynasty of Catholic Industrialists in 16th- and 17th-century England
Our first talk of 2020 was given by Paul Belford, Director of the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust. The Brooke family acquired land in the Ironbridge Gorge at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, invested in coal mining and iron production, and introduced a radical new method of steel-making which transformed that industry 200 years before the Iron Bridge was built. In this talk Dr Belford told their story and looked at how the Brookes’ Catholicism was reflected in the way they created a new industrial landscape.
Winter Social Meeting, December 2019
Our 2019 Winter Social Event was held at Shrewsbury Castle. In 2019 the castle was the focus of much attention with excavations led by Nigel Baker, who presented some of the results at this well-attended meeting.
Castle Studies Trust blog: Exploring Shrewsbury Castle
November 2019: Tradition, influence and impact – St Milburga of Wenlock and her monks in a regional setting.
John Hunt of the University of Birmingham gave our November talk, which focused on the origins and early development of the Saxon and Norman abbeys at Much Wenlock. (We are grateful to The Gateway Centre, Shrewsbury, for accommodating us at short notice.)
October 2019: Amazing Space: a cultural approach to John Nash’s Picture Gallery and Staircase at Attingham Park
Our October talk was given by Ian Purchase, a volunteer with the National Trust at Attingham Park. In his talk, Ian outlined some of the background to the work the National Trust has recently undertaken to restore John Nash’s picture gallery and staircase at Attingham Park. For more details of the project, please follow this link: Through the Roof project
Annual Lecture, September 2019
The Society’s Annual Lecture this year, was given by Heather Sebire, of the English Heritage Trust, who talked on ‘The restoration of the Iron Bridge’. In autumn 2017, English Heritage embarked on the largest conservation project in its history, preserving for the future the Iron Bridge, Coalbrookdale. After surrounding the bridge with scaffolding and protective covering, a team of experts began their conservation work. The cast iron elements were repaired, the masonry conserved, the deck resurfaced, and the entire structure was cleaned and repainted in its original red-brown colour. Heather Sebire, Property Curator at English Heritage, related to us the fascinating story of this important restoration project.
July 2019: CBA West Midlands AGM & Summer Field Day
For our July meeting this year we joined the CBA West Midlands for their AGM and Summer Field Day which was held at the Ditherington Flaxmill Maltings, Shrewsbury. The day included a range of talks about some of the latest work and research around the Shrewsbury area. Among the speakers were Roger White (University of Birmingham) on “Dating the dark ages, or how 30 years really makes a difference”, Giles Carey (Shropshire Council HER Officer) “Capturing the Castle: recent survey work at Caus Castle and Castle Pulverbatch”, Tim Jenkins (University of Chester at Shrewsbury) “The rediscovery of Vaughan’s Mansion”, Paul Belford (CEO Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust) “The Brooke family: Catholic iron masters”, and Richard Benjamin (Friends of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings) “The restoration of Ditherington Flaxmill Maltings”. In the afternoon there were tours of the Flaxmill Maltings site and Shrewsbury’s Castlefields suburb. The meeting was well attended and was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting day.
June 2019: Stokesay
Following English Heritage’s recent improvements to the interpretation and catering facilities at their Stokesay Castle site, David Pannett led our June field meeting at Stokesay. David helped us explore all around the castle site, and explained the many features there, including the river channels, mills, bridges, building stones etc.
May 2019: Castle Pulverbatch
Our May 2019 field meeting took place at Castle Pulverbatch, recognised as one of the finest examples of a motte and bailey castle in the county. In 2017 Giles Carey, Shropshire Council’s Historic Environment Records Officer led a programme of geophysical survey and UAV survey at Castle Pulverbatch, taking advantage of recent scrub clearance by the Friends of Castle Pulverbatch. Giles explored the castle with us, explaining the results of the recent survey work.
For a fuller account of these surveys please follow this link: Recent survey work at Caus Castle and Castle Pulverbatch
April 2019: ‘An Anglo-Saxon hall at Atcham: excavations and explorations in 2017’
Cropmarks of two or three timber buildings were revealed by photography in 1975 on a gravel ridge near Atcham, Shropshire. This site is unique in the West Midlands and probably represents the centre of power of an important Saxon overlord. Following a geophysical survey of the site by ArchaeoPhysica (now TigerGeo) in 2011, Dr Roger White of Birmingham University and Janine Young of the National Trust carried out trial excavations on the site in June 2017. For our April talk, Roger gave us an account of these excavations which not only provided confirmation of the dating of the timber halls, but also provided evidence for prehistoric and Roman activity on the site.
March 2019: ‘Thomas Telford and the Holyhead Road in East Shropshire’
In March Neil Clarke gave us a talk about the section of the Holyhead Road between Shrewsbury and the county boundary at the Summer House, covering Telford’s proposals and the finance and construction of the thirteen major civil engineering works on this section.
February 2019: A Review of Recent Archaeological Investigations in Shropshire
Our talk in February this year was given by Dr Andy Wigley, Historic & Natural Environment Manager, Shropshire Council. Dr Wigley provided us with a brief overview of how archaeology is dealt with in the planning process before giving a summary of recent interesting findings from developer-funded archaeological fieldwork around the county.
January 2019: Shropshire Seals and Seal matrices from the 12th to the 18th centuries
In January 2019 John Cherry gave us a talk on Shropshire Seals and Seal matrices from the 12th to the 18th centuries. Shropshire Museums have recently acquired a silver seal found by a metal detectorist at Wrockwardine, which may have belonged to the 13th century prior of a local abbey. Shropshire Museums were very generously aided by the Art Fund towards purchasing the seal. In his talk, John Cherry looked at a number of seals and seal matrices associated with or originating in Shropshire from the 12th century onwards.
More information and images of the seal (picture used with permission of British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme) can be found here: https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/757251
December 2018 Social Event at Adcote School
Our winter social event in 2018 was held at Adcote School on Friday 7th December. The medieval settlement of Addecote has a written history going back to the Norman Conquest. The present house dates to 1876 and was designed by Norman Shaw RA to a Tudor design and stands in 27 acres of landscaped gardens. The house was owned by the Darby family until being converted to a school in the early 20th century.
November 2018: Shrewsbury’s Town Walls
Our November 2018 talk was on Shrewsbury’s Town Walls, by Hugh Hannaford. Shrewsbury’s town walls date back to the 1220s. They were maintained and repaired for the next 500 years, but since the middle of the 18th century they have been overwhelmed in places by neglect and development. This talk took the form of a virtual tour of the town walls, looking at what survives, and at some recent work to enhance and conserve the town’s medieval defences.
2018 AGM and Annual Lecture: The Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings Project
The Society’s Annual General Meeting, was held on Saturday 22nd September 2018 at The Shirehall, Shrewsbury and was well attended. It was followed by the Annual Lecture which this year was on “The Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings Project” and was given by Nick Hill of Historic England.
Built in 1797, Shrewsbury’s Flax Mill is renowned as the earliest iron-framed building in the world. Abandoned since 1987 when the Maltings closed, and derelict for many years, the site is now undergoing a major transformation. The Main Mill and the Kiln are the focus of a £25m programme of repair and regeneration, one of the largest HLF-funded projects in the country. Nick Hill, Historic England’s project manager, outlined the latest developments on the project, including the intricate repairs to the Main Mill and recent archaeological discoveries.
More Castle visit, July 2018
More Castle is one of many motte and bailey castles built in this area by the Normans following the Conquest in 1066. The Normans quickly formed a network of timber castles across this landscape, to assert their authority on the locals and to keep a watchful eye for Welsh raids from the west. On our short walk from Lydham to More and back we visited the earthwork remains of the castle. We looked at St Peter’s Church, with it’s Roman mosaics and More family chapel, and made a quick tour around the village.
February 2018: “Samuel More – Hero or Villain?”
This talk by Nick Marshall looked at one of the characters of the Civil War in Shropshire. Samuel More was a member of Shropshire’s landed gentry whose father, Richard, was Master of the Linley estate and MP for Bishop’s Castle from 1640. Samuel is best known for his staunch defence of Hopton Castle for the Parliamentary cause in 1644, a siege which came to an horrific end… but there is another story attached to him, one which remained a mystery until 1959 when a chance discovery in the archives of Linley Hall brought it to light.
January 2018: “William Hazledine and John Simpson – Telford’s right hand men”
This talk by Andrew Pattison explored the contribution of ironmaster William Hazledine and builder and architect John Simpson who were so instrumental in realising Telford’s, and others’ plans and designs.