Black Bear Inn at the junction of Church St. and High St.
Whitchurch shown within Shropshire
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|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
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|UK Parliament||North Shropshire|
Whitchurch is a market town in Shropshire, England, 2 miles (3 km) east of the Welsh border. Located on the North Shropshire Plain in the Welsh Marches and close to the Cheshire border, it is the oldest continuously inhabited town in Shropshire. The town is 20 miles (30 km) north of the county town of Shrewsbury, 20 miles (30 km) south of Chester, and 15 miles (24 km) east of Wrexham.
According to the 2001 Census, the population of the town is 8,673, with a more recent estimate putting the population of the town at 8,934. The town is located in the Whitchurch Urban civil parish, and is twinned with the French town of Neufchâtel-en-Bray.
Originally a settlement founded by the Romans around AD 52 or 70, it was called Mediolanum (lit. "Midfield" or "Middle of the Plain"). The settlement was located on a major Roman road between Chester and Wroxeter and Roman artefacts can be seen at the Whitchurch Heritage Centre. It was listed on the Antonine Itinerary but is not the Mediolanum of Ptolemy's Geography, which was in central Wales.
The current name is from the Middle English for "White Church", in reference to a church constructed from white stone during the Norman period. As might be expected, there are several other towns named Whitchurch in Britain. Presently, the town's main church is St Alkmund's Anglican parish church. Dispensing with the colour tradition, it was built in 1712 of red sandstone, and stands on the site of the earlier Norman church. It is protected as a Grade I Listed building.
Whitchurch railway station is on the former London and North Western (later part of the LMS) line from Crewe down the English side of the Welsh border (the Welsh Marches Line) toward Cardiff. However, Whitchurch was once the junction for the main line of the Cambrian Railways, but 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.
Whitchurch was also junction for the Whitchurch and Tattenhall Railway or Chester to Whitchurch branch line, another part of the London and North Western, and running via Malpas. As well as its own passenger and freight services, this line was a useful short cut for freight traffic to and from Chester and North Wales avoiding Crewe, and some long-distance passenger services were occasionally diverted this way. Although the line closed to regular services on 16 September 1957, the diverted passenger trains continued until 8 December 1963.
Whitchurch has its own short arm of the Llangollen Canal but is not a key stopping place for boaters as the arm ends about a mile (1.5 km) from the town centre.
The economy of the town is largely dominated by the surrounding countryside of the North Shropshire Plain.
Most retail stores are concentrated on the High St or Green End, whilst there is a Tesco supermarket in the town centre (White Lion Meadow), and a larger Sainsbury's supermarket located at London Road, which opened in December 2012.
Whitchurch was the home of the JB Joyce tower clocks company, established in 1690, the oldest tower clock making company in the world, earning Whitchurch the reputation as the Home of tower clocks. Joyce's timepieces can be found as far afield as Singapore and Kabul; and helped to build Big Ben in London. However, JB Joyce have now moved and an auction house has moved into its building.
Famous past residents of the town include composer Sir Edward German, who was born in the town in what is now a pub (the Old Town Hall Vaults). He is buried in the local cemetery and is commemorated in the naming of a local street. Locally a televised festival - the Sir Edward German Music Festival - is hosted by St. Alkmund's and St. John's churches and is held additionally at Sir John Talbot's Technology College. The first festival was held in 2006 and the second was held in April 2009. Participants include local choirs alongside participants from local primary schools including Prees, Lower Heath and White House, as well as internationally acclaimed musicians and orchestras. Victorian illustrator Randolph Caldecott lived in the town for several years and many of the town buildings feature in his work. Best-selling author Kate Long moved to Whitchurch in 1990. The literary critic Lorna Sage (1943–2000) was born in Whitchurch and attended the girls' high school there.
Sir Henry Percy (Sir Harry Hotspur) was killed in 1403 at the Battle of Shrewsbury and buried in Whitchurch; only for his body to be later exhumed and quartered. Also buried in Whitchurch is another medieval warrior Sir John Talbot, a military commander who in 1429 fought French armies inspired by Joan of Arc. His remains are buried under the porch of St Alkmund's church. Talbot is a major character in William Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part I, and the local secondary school " Sir John Talbot's" is named after him.
Nicholas Bernard, (circa 1600-1661), pamphleteer, former Dean of Ardagh in Ireland and chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, was appointed Rector of the parish in 1660 and buried at St Alkmund's Parish Church.
Owen Paterson, former Environment Secretary and current Member of Parliament (MP) for North Shropshire under the Conservative Party, was born in Whitchurch, within his present parliamentary constituency.
Roman Górecki, (1889-1946), a World War II Polish Army general, is buried at Whitchurch cemetery in a war graves plot containing mainly burials from the then Polish military hospital at nearby Iscoyd Park (within Wales) where he died.
Whitchurch Rugby Club currently competes in the Midlands 1 West league, the sixth tier of English rugby. Founded in 1936, Whitchurch RUFC plays at Edgeley Park and has a full complement of mini rugby and junior teams as well as under-19s (Colts), a ladies team and four senior teams. In 1998/99, Whitchurch RUFC were promoted to National Division Three North, a position which was maintained until the 2002/3 season.
The local football club, Whitchurch Alport F.C., was founded in 1946, being named after Alport Farm in Alport Road which was home of local footballer Coley Maddocks who was killed serving in World War II. Affectionally known as the Allbran Allstars, it was one of the founder members of the Cheshire Football League and played in that league until 2012. Whitchurch Alport now play in the Mercian Regional Football League.
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- "Whitchurch". World Gazetteer. Archived from the original on 11 Jan 2013.
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- "Warriors and Worthies". North Shropshire Tourism. Retrieved 2006-07-13.
- "Edward German (1862-1936)". Retrieved 2008-04-12.
- "Novelists heading to town". Shropshire Star. 27 May 2006. Archived from the original on 2006-08-29. Retrieved 2006-07-13.
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- Whitchurch Rugby Club
- Francis, Peter (2013). Shropshire War Memorials, Sites of Remembrance. YouCaxton Publications. p. 150. ISBN 978-1-909644-11-3.
- Whitchurch Alport FC Club Statement (1 August 2012)