Oswestry combines the charm of an old market town with the cheerful bustle of a modern and progressively growing town.
The situation on the Shropshire side of the Welsh border gives its life a flavour found in few other towns, for it echoes of both English and Welsh.
Oswestry is only a stone's throw from beautiful and historic countryside. Situated at an average altitude of 400ft above sea level on a slope that gently rises from the Shropshire Plain towards the spur of the Berwyn Mountains. The town has many vantage points for which glorious and wide views are obtained.
Being on the English/Welsh border Oswestry has been witness to many stirring events. Today that has changed, the plain and the mountains are at peace and the peoples of England and Wales live together in unity.
This adds to the charm of the town for the lively Welsh and the more staid English are combined in their love for the ancient town, and they are all proud to call themselves Oswestrians.
The fabric of the Castle has been much changed over the hundreds of years since it was built, one of those changes being the 16th century Elizabethan dwelling attached to the northern outer bailey gate-house tower.
The tower keep is 12th century, but has been later modified, the outer gatehouse is no doubt the work of Sir Fulk Fitzwarine of the early 13th century and above the archway can be seen his coat of arms.
Looking at the remains of this once extensive Marches Castle one wonders why this particular site was chosen. In most cases castles had natural defensive features to prevent easy access for attacking forces, such as a river, steep cliffs or deep moat. The highest land in the village, Pen-y-bryn, would have given excellent views towards Offa's Dyke, over which the Welsh raiders frequently invaded English territory. It was protection provided by the treacherous marshlands surrounding the site which was the decisive factor in its choice for the first earthworks and wooden Castle.
William Peverel built the Norman Motte and Bailey castle after the demolition of the previous stronghold built at the time of King Offa, probably of wood with a stockade of sharp posts.
William Peverel had no male heir so his eldest daughter Mellet inherited the castle. The victor of a tournament for her hand in marriage was Warin de Metz of Lorraine who founded a long line of Fitzwarines. They held the castle until 1420.
Much of the remains of the keep date from a rebuilding in 1222. The outer gatehouse with two towers had a 42 foot long drawbridge leading to the drier land to the east.
During the civil war it was loyal to the Royalists until Oliver Cromwell's Roundheads took it by force in 1643. At the time of Queen Mary II ownership of the castle was granted to Fitz-Alan, Earl of Arundel. Later it was sold to Francis William Albany Esq, a London merchant whose Manor and Estate was Fernhill. When his granddaughter Sarah married Thomas Lloyd Esq of Aston the two estates were united.
So to the last joint owners Mrs A Hamilton-Hill and the Lady Newborough of the Lloyd lineage. The Castle is now owned and run by the local community.
The Castle has an interesting history potentially spanning approx 3000 years.
Whittington Castle Myths and Legends
There are a number of myths and legends connected with Whittington and the Castle. In fact it is thought rather uncanny for one small village in England to be associated with so much of our Nations folklore.
Obviously!!! I expect that all Whittington's in the UK would claim Richard Whittington, Mayor of London, as their most famous son. However similarities between Dick Whittington's coat of arms to those of Fulk Fitzwarine (who was largely responsible for the building of Whittington Castle) may not be pure coincidence and the cottage where he reputedly lived is not far from the Castle. With the A5 (Roman Road) passing right in front of the Castle gates its seems entirely reasonable that Dick set out along this ancient route to London to seek his fortune.
There are many similarities between the lives of Fulk Fitzwarine and Robin Hood which suggest that the two characters may have similar origins within our oral tradition. They were both outlawed by King John for instance. But that is not where the similarities end. http://www.boldoutlaw.com/realrob/ or here http://www.mythstories.com/robinA.html
The Holy Grail
In his book "The search for the Grail" Graham Phillips links the grail legends to Fulk Fitzwarine and Whittington Castle. http://www.britannia.com/history/arthur/marian.html
Fulk Fitzwarine III
Read a translation of the medieval manuscript "The history of Fulk Fitzwarine" which resides in the British Museum and which explains the link to Robin Hood. You can find the text here. http://www.yorku.ca/inpar/fulk_kemp.pdf
"Mad" Jack Mytton
Jack Mytton lived close to the Castle at Halston.
Babes in the Wood
The hamlet of Babbinswood (Babies-in-the- wood) lies 1 mile south of the Castle.
The Cursed Chest
Little is known about this impressive object and its connection with the Castle and the Owners. It is approx 5'x3'x3' and weighs about 10cwt. There is much rumour and innuendo about it but that's probably not surprising considering there is a curse on it. The key is apparently in the moat! The chest was recently moved from the Castle for safe-keeping.
If you want to find out more about the myths and legends of Shropshire visit Mysthstories Museum.
You can found more details here http://www.mythstories.com/
St Oswald's Parish Church
The Parish Church is dedicated to King Oswald and is one of the largest churches in England. It occupies a site on which many centuries ago stood a Monastery.
From the colour of the building the town was known for a time as ‘Whiteminster.’
The tower of the present church dates back to the thirteenth century.
In 1223 in the reign if King Henry III the town was plundered and destroyed much of the church was demolished. In the 1664 civil war the church and tower again suffered
extensive destruction but was again restored.
The register dates from 1558. A very fine memorial is that in the south aisle in memory of those in the parish who fell in the 1914-18 war. Following the Second World War the memorial was completed as an alter.
The whole was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. Nearby, and forming one the entrances to the churchyard, is the interesting Griddle gate, erected in 1631.On occasions of burials from the south side of town, the coffin of the deceased was placed on a shelf in the porch of the Griddle Gate, then taken to the church yard.
The elm trees in the church yard were planted between the years 1707 and 1713.
St Oswald's Parish Church
Historic Cambrian Railways
In December 1848 the Shrewsbury and Chester railways’ branch line from Gobowen to Oswestry was opened. Over the next two decades Oswestry and Newtown railway, Oswestry, Ellesmere and Whitchurch railways merged to form Cambrian railways in the 1860’s.
In 1862 the Cambrian railways buildings were constructed following this Oswestry began to thrive when the Cambrian railways decided to move their headquarters and engineering works to Oswestry.
This resulted in the population doubling in thirty years from approximately 4,000 to 9,600 by 1901, this was due to the workers involved not only in railway engineering but many other trades relating to the Cambrian Railways. From being an important railway centre the
Cambrian Railways, unfortunately last train ran in 1967 and since it has been home to various businesses and ventures over the years.
The region is lovely: mountains, moorlands, farms, wooded river valleys, small villages, half-timbered buildings and castles exist side by side. In fact, according to Rowley (1986), the Welsh Marches (as the borders are known) contain the densest concentration of motte-and-bailey castles in Wales and England - not a great surprise, for this was an area of frequent conflict. As early as the Iron Age, disputes occurred on both sides of the borderland. The Romans established forts at Chester, Gloucester and Caerleon along the Marches in an attempt to restrain the rebellious Welsh. And the Anglo-Saxons under the leadership of King Offa of Mercia, built the first barricade along the borders at the end of the 8th century: Offa's Dyke. (It still divides England and Wales.) Yet, it was only with the arrival of the Normans that the Marches were consolidated into a separate entity.
The term "March" is derived from the Anglo-Saxon "mearc," which means "boundary." However, the Marches are much more than a mere boundary between two lands. Although a few Normans had settled in the region prior to the conquest, building castles at such places as Ewyas Harold, Richard's Castle and Hereford, it was only after 1066 that William the Conqueror sought to formally subdue the borderlands. The Welsh in particular did not gracefully submit to Norman control and resisted for well over 100 years. In order to quell the Welsh uprisings, King William created the Marcher Lordships, granting virtual independence and what amounted to petty kingdoms to over 150 of his most valued supporters.
The territories were collectively known as the Welsh Marches (Marchia Wallia), while the native Welsh lands to the west were considered Wales Proper (pura Wallia). Marcher lords ruled their lands as they saw fit, unlike their counterparts in England who were directly accountable to the king. Marcher lords could build castles, administer laws, wage wars, establish towns, and "possessed all of the royal perquisites - salvage, treasure-trove, plunder and royal fish (Rowley)". People living in the Marches were subject to "the customs of the March," while those in pura Wallia still adhered to "the laws of Hywel Dda" (indigenous Welsh law).