Whitchurch, Shropshire

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Black Bear Inn, Whitchurch, Shropshire.jpg
Black Bear Inn,
at the junction of Church Street and High Street
Whitchurch is located in Shropshire
Whitchurch shown within Shropshire
Population 9,781 (2011)
OS grid reference SJ541415
Civil parish
  • Whitchurch Urban
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
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
List of places
52°58′08″N 2°40′55″W / 52.969°N 2.682°W / 52.969; -2.682Coordinates: 52°58′08″N 2°40′55″W / 52.969°N 2.682°W / 52.969; -2.682

Whitchurch is a market town in northern Shropshire, England. Whitchurch is 2 miles (3 km) east of the Welsh border, 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.[1] It is the oldest continuously inhabited town in Shropshire.[2] Whitchurch is twinned with Neufchâtel-en-Bray, France.


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.

In 1066, Whitchurch was called Weston, likely named for its location on the western edge of Shropshire, bordering the north Welsh Marches. By the time Whitchurch was recorded in the Doomsday Book, a 1086 survey of England, Whitchurch was held by William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey,[4] and of Roger de Montgomery.[5] At that time, it was part of the hundred of Hodnet, Shropshire in 1086.[6] The Doomsday Book estimates that the property was worth £10 annually (in 1086) and that it was worth £8 during the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042-1066). The name of Whitchurch is from the Middle English for "White Church", in reference to a church constructed from white stone during the Norman period. The area was also known as Album Monasterium and Blancminster,[4] and the Warennes of Whitchurch were often known by de Albo Monasterio in contemporary writings.[7] It is supposed that the church was built by the 1st Earl of Surrey.[8] Before the conquest of England by William the Conqueror, the area was held by Harold Godwinson. After the conquest, Whitchurch's location on the marches would require the Lords of Whitchurch to keep a military activity.[4] There was a castle at Whitchurch, possibly build by the same, William de Warren, 1st Earl of Surrey,[9] which would predate the birth of Ralph.

Lords of Whitchurch[edit]

William fitz Ranulf is the first individual of the Warenne family recorded as the Lord of Whitchurch, Shropshire, first appearing in the Shropshire Pipe Roll of 1176.[4] In 1859, Robert Eyton considered it likely that Ralph, son of William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey, was the father of William and that he first held that title.[10] In 1923, William Farrer agreed. However, 26 years later in a book written by Farrer and Charles Travis Clay, it is pointed out that chronologically, there may be room for other individuals between Ralph son of the 2nd Earl and William fitz Ranulf, Lord of Whitchurch, and perhaps Ralph de Warenne had a son named William, who had a son name Ranulf who is the father of William fitz Ranulf.[11]

Later history[edit]

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.[12] 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.[13]


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 goods services, this line was a useful short cut for goods 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 mile 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.[14]


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 Street 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[15] northeast of Whitchurch along Black Park Road. His remains are buried under the porch of St Alkmund's Church.[16] 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 J. B. Joyce tower clocks company, established in 1690, the oldest tower clock-making company in the world,[17] 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[18] 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 – 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 have included 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.[19]

The literary critic Lorna Sage (1943–2000) was born in Whitchurch and attended the girls' high school.[20]

Professional footballer Stuart Mason (1946-2008), who began his playing with Whitchurch Alport, was born in Whitchurch.

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.[21]


Whitchurch Rugby Club[22] 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 2002/03 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 the Second World War.[23] They were founder members of the Cheshire Football League and played in that league until 2012, before a spell in the Mercian Regional Football League. Since 2015, Whitchurch Alport has played in the North West Counties Football League First Division.[24]


  1. ^ "Area: Whitchurch Urban (Parish). Key Figures for 2011 Census: Key Statistics". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 29 November 2015. 
  2. ^ "Whitchurch town guide". BBC. 14 April 2005. Retrieved 13 July 2006. 
  3. ^ "Whitchurch Heritage Centre". Shropshire Tourism. Retrieved 13 July 2006. 
  4. ^ a b c d Anderson, John Corbet. Shropshire, Its Early History and Antiquities. by John Corbet Anderson. Willis and Sotheran, 1864. p402-404
  5. ^ William Farrer, Charles Travis Clay. Early Yorkshire Charters: Volume 8, The Honour of Warenne. Cambridge University Press, Mar 21, 2013 (originally from 1949), p37
  6. ^ Open Domesday: Hodnet
  7. ^ Farrer and Clay 2013, p36
  8. ^ Auden, Thomas, ed. Memorials of Old Shropshire. Vol. 1. Bemrose & sons, limited, 1906. p43
  9. ^ Botfield, Beriah. Collectanea Archæologica: Shropshire Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts, 1862 p45-46
  10. ^ Eyton, R. W. (1859). Antiquities of Shropshire. Volume X. London: John Russell Smith. pp. 15–16. William de Warren, better known as William fitz Ranulf. His relation to the elder line has never been ascertained nor, as far as I know, surmised. My notion on the subject is quite conjectural. William, second Earl Warren, he who died 1135, is stated, on the best authority, to have three sons: William, Reginald, and Ralph. William is well known as his father's successor and the last of the elder male line. Reginald became notorious as Lord of Wirmgay by marriage with its heiress. Of Ralph little has been recorded except his era. It is consistent with both to suppose him to have been father of William fitz Ranulf of whom we are now speaking. If so, Ralph himself may have been in his own time, Lord of Whitchurch. 
  11. ^ Farrer and Clay 2013, p37-38
  12. ^ Vision of Britain: Whitchurch (Shropshire)
  13. ^ "Whitchurch Cemetery". CWGC. Retrieved 10 July 2016. 
  14. ^ The Whitchurch Waterway Trust charity. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
  15. ^ Blakemere Moat
  16. ^ "Town Guides – Whitchurch". Shropshire Star. 4 May 2004. Archived from the original on 23 August 2006. Retrieved 13 July 2006. 
  17. ^ "Warriors and Worthies". North Shropshire Tourism. Retrieved 13 July 2006. 
  18. ^ "Edward German (1862–1936)". Retrieved 12 April 2008. 
  19. ^ "Górecki, Roman". CWGC. 
  20. ^ ODNB entry by Maureen Duffy. Retrieved 22 January 2013. Pay-walled.
  21. ^ "Novelists heading to town". Shropshire Star. 27 May 2006. Archived from the original on 29 August 2006. Retrieved 13 July 2006. 
  22. ^ Whitchurch Rugby Club
  23. ^ Francis, Peter (2013). Shropshire War Memorials, Sites of Remembrance. YouCaxton Publications. p. 150. ISBN 978-1-909644-11-3. 
  24. ^ Whitchurch Alport FC Club Statement (1 August 2012)