Whitchurch, Shropshire

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For other places with the same name, see Whitchurch.
Whitchurch
Black Bear Inn, Whitchurch, Shropshire.jpg
Black Bear Inn,
at the junction of Church St and High St
Whitchurch is located in Shropshire
Whitchurch
Whitchurch
 Whitchurch shown within Shropshire
Population 9,781 (2011)
OS grid reference SJ541415
Civil parish Whitchurch Urban
Unitary authority Shropshire
Ceremonial county Shropshire
Region West Midlands
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Whitchurch
Postcode district SY13
Dialling code 01948
Police West Mercia
Fire Shropshire
Ambulance West Midlands
EU Parliament West Midlands
UK Parliament North Shropshire
List of places
UK
England
Shropshire

Coordinates: 52°58′08″N 2°40′55″W / 52.969°N 2.682°W / 52.969; -2.682

Whitchurch is a market town in Shropshire, England, 2 miles (3 km) east of the Welsh border on the North Shropshire Plain in the Welsh Marches, close to the Cheshire border. It is the oldest continuously inhabited town in Shropshire.[1] 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.

At the 2011 Census, the population of the town was 9,781.[2] Its twin town is Neufchâtel-en-Bray, France.

History[edit]

Further information: Mediolanum (Whitchurch)

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.[3] It was listed on the Antonine Itinerary but is not the Mediolanum of Ptolemy's Geography, which was in central Wales.

Whitchurch was in the hundred of Hodnet in 1086.[4] The current name is from the Middle English for "White Church", in reference to a church constructed from white stone during the Norman period. During the reign of Henry I in the 12th century, Whitchurch was within the North Division of Bradford Hundred which by the 1820s was referred to as North Bradford Hundred.[5] These days the town's most prominent place of worship is St Alkmund's Anglican parish church. 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 Cemetery includes 91 Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) burials. 24 are from the First World War, in scattered plots. 67 are from the Second World War, most of them grouped in a CWGC section. 52 of the latter are Polish or Czechoslovak, as No. 4 Polish General Hospital was at Iscoyd Park just over the border in Wales.[6]

Transport[edit]

Whitchurch has roads to Wrexham, Nantwich, Chester and Shrewsbury; the A41/A49 bypass opened in 1992.

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 and the town centre can be reached by a walk of approximately 1.5 km along the Whitchurch Waterways Country Park, the last stage of the Sandstone Trail. The Whitchurch Arm is managed by a charity group of local volunteers.[7]

Economy[edit]

The economy of the town rests mainly on providing services for the surrounding countryside of the North Shropshire Plain. Most of the retail stores are concentrated in the High St and Green End. There is a Tesco supermarket in the town centre (White Lion Meadow) and a larger Sainsbury's supermarket in London Road.

The railway service brings Whitchurch within commuting distance of Manchester (about one hour north) and Shrewsbury (30 minutes south).

Notable people[edit]

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 here is Sir John Talbot, a warrior commander who in 1429 fought French armies inspired by Joan of Arc. He was born at Black Mere Castle; the site is now a scheduled monument named Blakemere Moat[8] northeast of Whitchurch along Black Park Road. His remains are buried under the porch of St Alkmund's church.[9] Talbot is a major character in Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part I. The local secondary school, Sir John Talbot's, is named after him.

Nicholas Bernard, (c. 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.

Whitchurch was the home of the JB Joyce tower clocks company, established in 1690, the oldest tower clock-making company in the world,[10] 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 left and an auction house has moved into its building.

The illustrator Randolph Caldecott (1846–1886) lived in the town for several years. Many of the town's buildings feature in his work.

The composer Sir Edward German (1862–1936) was born in the town[11] in what is now a pub: the Old Town Hall Vaults. He is buried in the local cemetery and commemorated in a local street. There is a periodic televised festival – the Sir Edward German Music Festival – is hosted by St Alkmund's and St John's churches, also using Sir John Talbot's Technology College as a venue. The first festival was held in 2006 and the second in April 2009. Participants include local choirs and participants from primary schools, including Prees, Lower Heath and White House, and internationally known musicians and orchestras.

War graves in Whitchurch Cemetery include the former Polish Army general, politician, lawyer and banker Roman Górecki, who died in the Polish hospital at Iscoyd Park on 27 August 1946.[12]

The literary critic Lorna Sage (1943–2000) was born in Whitchurch and attended the girls' high school.[13]

Owen Paterson, former environment secretary and the current MP for North Shropshire, representing the Conservative Party, was born in 1956 in Whitchurch, within his present constituency.

The novelist Kate Long, author of The Bad Mother's Handbook, moved to Whitchurch in 1990.[14]

Sport[edit]

Whitchurch Rugby Club[15] 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.[16] 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.[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Whitchurch town guide". BBC. 14 April 2005. Retrieved 13 July 2006. 
  2. ^ "Area: Whitchurch Urban (Parish). Key Figures for 2011 Census: Key Statistics". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 29 November 2015. 
  3. ^ "Whitchurch Heritage Centre". Shropshire Tourism. Retrieved 13 July 2006. 
  4. ^ Open Domesday: Hodnet
  5. ^ Vision of Britain: Whitchurch (Shropshire)
  6. ^ "Whitchurch Cemetery". CWGC. Retrieved 10 July 2016. 
  7. ^ The Whitchurch Waterway Trust charity. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
  8. ^ Blakemere Moat
  9. ^ "Town Guides – Whitchurch". Shropshire Star. 4 May 2004. Archived from the original on 23 August 2006. Retrieved 13 July 2006. 
  10. ^ "Warriors and Worthies". North Shropshire Tourism. Retrieved 13 July 2006. 
  11. ^ "Edward German (1862–1936)". Retrieved 12 April 2008. 
  12. ^ "Górecki, Roman". CWGC. 
  13. ^ ODNB entry by Maureen Duffy. Retrieved 22 January 2013. Pay-walled.
  14. ^ "Novelists heading to town". Shropshire Star. 27 May 2006. Archived from the original on 29 August 2006. Retrieved 13 July 2006. 
  15. ^ Whitchurch Rugby Club
  16. ^ Francis, Peter (2013). Shropshire War Memorials, Sites of Remembrance. YouCaxton Publications. p. 150. ISBN 978-1-909644-11-3. 
  17. ^ Whitchurch Alport FC Club Statement (1 August 2012)