Black Bear Inn at the junction of Church St. and High St.
Whitchurch shown within Shropshire
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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. There are several other towns named Whitchurch in Britain. 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 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 1.5km 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.
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.
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. His remains are buried under the porch of St Alkmund's church. Talbot is a major character in Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part I. The local secondary school Sir John Talbot's is named after him.
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 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 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.
The World War II Polish army general Roman Górecki (1889–1946), is buried in Whitchurch cemetery in a plot among other Polish graves from the former Polish military hospital at Iscoyd Park (over the border in 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 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)