Coat of arms of Oswestry
Motto: Floreat Oswestria
(May Oswestry flourish)
Oswestry shown within Shropshire
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||SY10, SY11|
|EU Parliament||West Midlands|
|UK Parliament||North Shropshire|
Oswestry (//; Welsh: Croesoswallt), one of the UK's oldest border settlements, is the largest market town and civil parish in Shropshire, England, close to the Welsh border. It is at the junction of the A5, A483, and A495 roads.
The town was the administrative headquarters of the Borough of Oswestry until that was abolished under local government reorganisation with effect from 1 April 2009. Oswestry is the third largest town in Shropshire, following Telford and Shrewsbury. The 2001 Census recorded the population of the civil parish as 15,613, and the urban area as 16,660. In 2008 the latter figure was estimated to have increased to 17,116. The town is five miles (8 km) from the Anglo-Welsh border, and has a mixed Welsh and English heritage. It is the home of the Shropshire libraries' Welsh Collection.
Oswestry's story began with the 3000-year-old settlement of Old Oswestry, one of the most spectacular and best preserved Iron Age hill forts in Britain, with evidence of construction and occupation between 800 BC and AD 43.
The site is also named Caer Ogyrfan or The City of Gogyrfan, the father of Guinevere in legend.
The Battle of Maserfield is thought to have been fought here in 642, between the Anglo-Saxon kings Penda of Mercia and Oswald of Northumbria. Oswald was killed in this battle and was dismembered; according to legend, one of his arms was carried to an ash tree by a raven, and miracles were subsequently attributed to the tree (as Oswald was considered a saint). Thus it is believed that the name of the site is derived from a reference to "Oswald's Tree". The spring Oswald's Well is supposed to have originated where the bird dropped the arm from the tree. Offa's Dyke runs nearby to the west.
Alan FitzFlaad (died c.1114), a Breton knight, was granted the feudal barony of Oswestry by King Henry I who, soon after his accession, invited Alan to England with other Breton friends, and gave him forfeited lands in Norfolk and Shropshire, including some which had previously belonged to Ernoulf de Hesdin (killed at Antioch while on crusade) and Robert de Belleme.
Alan's duties to the Crown included supervision of the Welsh border. He also founded Sporle Priory in Norfolk. He married Ada or Adeline, daughter of Ernoulf de Hesdin. Their eldest son William FitzAlan was made High Sheriff of Shropshire by King Stephen in 1137. He married a niece of Robert of Gloucester. But two of their younger sons, Walter and Simon, travelled to Scotland in the train of King David I, Walter becoming the first hereditary High Steward of Scotland and ancestor of the Stewart Royal family.
The town has many Welsh language street and place names and the town's name in Welsh is Croesoswallt, meaning Oswald's Cross. Domesday Book records a castle being built by Rainald, a Norman Sheriff of Shropshire: L'oeuvre ("the work" in French), and this was reduced to a pile of rocks during the English Civil War. The town changed hands between the English and the Welsh a number of times during the Middle Ages. In 1149 the castle was captured by Madog ap Maredudd, and remained in Welsh hands until 1157. Occasionally in the 13th century it is referred to in official records as 'Blancmuster'(1233) or 'Blancmostre'(1272), meaning "white minster". Later, Oswestry was attacked by the forces of Welsh rebel leader Owain Glyndŵr during the early years of his rebellion against the English King Henry IV in 1400; it became known as Pentrepoeth or 'hot village' as it was burned and nearly totally destroyed by the Welsh. It eventually became known as Oswald's Tree in English, from which its current name is derived.
In 1190 the town was granted the right to hold a market each Wednesday. With the weekly influx of Welsh farmers the townsfolk were often bilingual. The town built walls for protection, but these were torn down by the Parliamentarians after they took the town after a brief siege on 22 June 1644, leaving only the Newgate Pillar visible today.
After the foot and mouth outbreak in the late 1960s the animal market was moved out of the town centre. In the 1990s, a statue of a shepherd and sheep was installed in the market square as a memorial to the history of the market site.
Park Hall, a mile east of the town, was one of the most impressive Tudor buildings in the country. It was taken over by the Army in 1915 and used as a training camp. On 26 December 1918 it burnt to the ground following an electrical fault. The ruined hall and camp remained derelict between the wars. Following World War II, Oswestry was a prominent military centre for Canadian troops, then for the British Royal Artillery, and finally a training centre for 15- to 17-year-old Infantry Junior Leaders. The military connection ended in the mid 1970s, shortly after some local licensed wildfowlers were shot by the young military guard one winter's night, mistaken for an attacking IRA force, as the locals discharged their shotguns at some passing ducks. The area previously occupied by the Park Hall military camp is now mainly residential and agricultural land, with a small number of light industrial units.
Old Oswestry, situated on the northern edge of the town, dominates the northern and Eastern approaches. The 3000-year-old settlement of Old Oswestry, is one of the most spectacular and best preserved Iron Age hill forts in Britain, with evidence of construction and occupation between 800 BC and AD 43.
The site is also named Caer Ogyrfan or The City of Gogyrfan, the father of Guinevere in legend.
Other attractions in and around Oswestry include: Whittington Castle (in nearby Whittington), Shelf Bank and the Cambrian Railway Museum located near the former railway station. The town is famous for its high number of public houses per head of population; there are around 30 in the town today, many of which offer real ale. A story incorporating the names of all of the pubs once open in Oswestry can be found hanging on the walls of the Oak on Church Street. Brogyntyn Hall belonged until recently to the Lords Harlech.
Oswestry has had a mixed Welsh- and English-speaking population for centuries. The parish church conducted services in Welsh until 1814. English is the dominant language today, but there are still some Welsh speakers. Oswestry has one of the few Welsh-language bookshops outside Wales.
There are a number of places of worship in Oswestry. There are two Church of England churches, which are part of the Diocese of Lichfield: St. Oswald's Parish Church and the Holy Trinity Parish Church. St Oswald's Church was first mentioned in the 1085 Domesday book and a tithe document in Shrewsbury the same year. St Oswald's Church has a Norman tower dating from 1085. There is a new window in the East nave, designed by stained glass artist Jane Grey in 2004.
There are two Methodist churches: the Horeb Church on Victoria Road and the Oswestry Methodist Church. Cornerstone Baptist church is on the corner of Lower Brook Street and Roft Street in a modern 1970s building. Other Nonconformist churches include the Albert Road Evangelical Church; the Carreg Llwyd Church ("Grey Rock"), founded in 1964, and Cabin Lane Church - a plant[clarification needed] from Carreg Llywd Church in 1980, to the eastern expansion of Oswestry.
Another church in the town is Christ Church, now United Reformed Church, but was formerly Congregationalist. There is a Welsh-speaking church (the Seion Church), and the Holy Anglican Church, a Western Rite Anglican establishment. Coney Green has a Jehovah's Witness' Kingdom Hall. The Religious Society of Friends also holds meetings in Oswestry.
There are several primary schools such as Our Lady's Primary School, St. Oswald's Catholic Primary School and Woodside Primary School, which became an academy on 1 May 2013. Secondary education is covered by two independent schools, Moreton Hall School (for girls) and Oswestry School (co-educational), and a comprehensive secondary school, The Marches School, which is also an academy. Further education is provided by Walford and North Shropshire College which is situated in the town and near Baschurch.
Bus services are operated by Arriva Midlands and local independents Tanat Valley Coaches and Bryn Melyn. The town has regular bus routes that link nearby villages and towns including Wrexham and Shrewsbury.
The railway station, once on the main line of the Cambrian Railways, was closed as a consequence of the 1960s' Beeching Report on British Railways. Opened in 1840, the section from Whitchurch to Welshpool (Buttington Junction), via Ellesmere, Whittington, Oswestry and Llanymynech, closed on 18 January 1965 in favour of the more viable alternative route via Shrewsbury, leaving only a short branch line of the former Great Western Railway from Gobowen to continue to serve Oswestry - but only until 7 November 1966. The GWR branch had once run into a separate GWR Oswestry terminus, but this has long since disappeared and the land redeveloped as a bus terminus and supermarket. Trains were switched to the main Cambrian station from 7 July 1924.
The main building of the Cambrian station is still a prominent landmark in the town centre: it once housed the headquarters of the Cambrian Railways company. After restoration, this building was reopened as the Cambrian Visitor Centre in June 2006 but closed on 11 January 2008. It later reopened, and has since evolved into the headquarters of the Cambrian Heritage Railways (CHR) and a small catering establishment known as "Buffers"; other parts of the building have been converted into retail and office units in order to contribute to the upkeep of the building.
A single railway track still running through the station, once overgrown and rusting, has been cleared and repaired and is the subject of an ambitious plan to reopen the line as a steam heritage railway between Oswestry and Llanyblodwel and Pant (to link with the restored Montgomery Canal - see above), and as a sustainable community transport rail link from Oswestry to the UK network main-line railway station at Gobowen.
Already (2013), the main "up" platform at Oswestry station has been reconstructed and new semaphore signalling is being installed. The track-bed from Gobowen to Llanyblodwel is now owned by Shropshire Council, who lease the land to Cambrian Heritage Railways (CHR), a registered charity. Work is advancing in securing the transfer of the existing Transport & Works Act Order (TWAO) from UK Network Rail to the CHR. The aim is for this transfer to be completed by 2014, and for the railway line between Gobowen and Oswestry to be fully re-instated and operational by 2017.
Immediately to the south is the Cambrian Railways Museum; while a short distance to the north are the "listed" Works Bridge and the former Cambrian railways works, which are now occupied by a variety of local commerce concerns and Oswestry's Community Health Centre and ambulance facility.
The former local football club, Oswestry Town F.C., was one of the few English teams to compete in the League of Wales. It also won the Welsh Cup in 1884, 1901 and 1907. The club folded due to financial difficulties in 2003 and merged with Total Network Solutions F.C. of Llansantffraid, a village eight miles (13 km) away on the Welsh side of the border. Following the takeover of the club's sponsor in 2006, the club was renamed as the New Saints. They moved to the redeveloped Park Hall Stadium on the outskirts of the town in September 2007. Oswestry Lions F.C. of the Shropshire County League also play at the ground.
Oswestry Cricket Club compete in the Birmingham and District Premier League which is the oldest cricket league in the country. The club, whose former player Andy Lloyd went on to captain Warwickshire and also to play for England, play at their Morda Road ground to the south of the town.
Recreation & Leisure
From the 1700s to 1848, there was a popular racecourse outside the town. Known as Cyrn-y-Bwch, the site was chosen on this 1000-foot (above sea-level) hilltop because of its location between the Kingdom of England and the Principality of Wales, and the aim was to bring together the local landowners and gentry of Wales and England. Remnants of the old grandstand and figure-of-eight racetrack can still be seen.
Nowadays, Oswestry Race Course is common land, registered under the Commons Act 1899 and the CROW Act 2000, with a number of Rights of Way on the South Common including Offa's Dyke Path and Bridleway. Also designated as a publicly accessible open space and a Wildlife Site in the 1999 Local Plan, it is an area reserved for:
· quiet, informal leisure activities and recreation;
· the biological diversity of the matrix of heathland, sparse woodland, ponds and ditches; and
· the sustainable management and conservation of nature and wildlife.
The site provides extensive views across the surrounding landscape of England & Wales.
For Art and Crafts visit The Willow Gallery - www.willowartgallery.co.uk - 56 willow Street, Oswestry
- Kieran Egan, footballer
- Jesse Armstrong, TV comedy writer
- Frank Bough, British television presenter
- Thomas Bray, theologian
- Shirley Brooks, journalist and novelist, lived there when training as a solicitor 1832–38.
- Brigadier-General John Vaughan Campbell, World War I Victoria Cross winner, at a house called Broom Hall prior to 1939.
- Sir Henry Walford Davies, composer
- Justin Dodsworth, Bad Manners organist. A relative of Sir Henry Walford Davies. Grammy award winning keyboardist on Jamaican E.T. by Lee Scratch Perry
- Paul Evans, footballer
- Carl Griffiths, footballer
- Sir Francis Humphrys, first British Ambassador in Baghdad, born at Beatrice Street when his father was a master at Oswestry School.
- Ian Hunter, musician - Mott the Hoople, etc.
- Di Jones, Welsh international footballer
- Glen Jones, trampolinist
- Mark Laff, drummer of the rock band Generation X
- Per Lindstrand, balloonist
- Philip Llewellin, journalist and writer
- Andy Lloyd, England test cricketer and captain of Warwickshire CCC
- Alexander Macmillan, 2nd Earl of Stockton, Chairman of Macmillan Publishing Ltd
- Boaz Myhill, footballer
- Charlie Morris, Welsh international footballer
- Wilfred Owen, World War I soldier and poet
- Roger Palmer, 1st Earl of Castlemaine, diplomat and courtier, died at Oswestry 1705.
- Barbara Pym, author
- Trevor Rees-Jones, bodyguard and survivor of the accident in which Diana, Princess of Wales died
- Herbie Roberts, footballer
- Mark Robinson, former cricketer; now pub singer
- William Archibald Spooner, originator of the Spoonerism
- William Henry Griffith Thomas, clergyman and scholar
- Robert Ussher, Bishop of Kildare - buried at Doddleston Chapel, near Oswestry
- Richard Waites, actor and writer
- Edward Weston, chemist
- Harold Whitfield, World War I Victoria Cross-winning soldier - born in the town, buried Oswestry Cemetery
- George Williams, Michigan state senator
- Ian Woosnam, golfer
- George Wynn, Welsh international footballer
- The Elijah, ambient hardcore band
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- Oswestry Hospital - OsCell
- Oswestry Town Council
- Oswestry Borough Council
- 107.1 FM | The Severn
- Oswestry & Border Counties Advertizer Newspaper
- Oswestry Landmarks and Tourism
- Guide to Oswestry History and Archaeology
- Annual Oswestry Agricultural Show
- The Oswestry Food Festival
- The Oswestry Festival of the Word