After passing under the Welsh Bridge, a relatively shallow part of the river, to our left was The Waterfront, The Armoury, and the Riverbank restaurant. Go back to the 19th Century and this area was known as as the Muckhole or Mudhole.
Archaeologist Nigel Baker had taken us the town’s old waste disposal site where all sorts of ‘organic waste’ used to be dumped. Basically human and animal excrement, and urine flowed, and was dumped from the area that used to be used for tanning.
In recent years The Tannery was part of the Sixth Form College but has now been demolished.
It was the most disgusting place in Shrewsbury and newspaper reports from the time illustrate tell how bad the area was. People used to live there too.
In one instance a poor man fell in and drowned in the filth (this report I will follow up on a separate post).
Paddling on to the Quarry took us paddling to an earlier period in the town’s history. It should technically be known as The Quarries, according to Nigel, as once upon a time the whole area would have been a busy place with a number of quarries on both sides of the river. The area was quarried for sandstone, lots of which was used to build the town walls. But to the current day onlooker the only visible evidence is the Dingle, which was the wet quarry, and the Quarry Swimming Pool. On the site where the swimming pool is today there used to be a large dry quarry during the early medieval period.
The work carved the area into a large bowl shape. In Elizabethan times this proved the perfect place to stage plays as it made a great amphitheater. If Shakespeare came to Shrewsbury, although there’s no evidence he did, this is where he would have staged one of his productions.
We paddle past The Boathouse which was another significant marker in the loop. It also provided a significant link The the lead trade in Shropshire.
If you look at the map it is the closest part of the River to Minsterley and the road to Snailbeach where lead mining took place. It’s during the Industrial Revolution in the 1850s that the mining operation was it its peak. The lead that was mined was brought to The Boathouse where it was loaded into river barges for transportation and trade. As a result the area became massively toxic – a fact which wasn’t lost on the authorities and there were numerous calls for it to be cleaned up.
Next stop is the Shrewsbury School Boat Club.
It’s in these fields around here and before you get to Coleham Bridge that the Female Prize fight took place which made national news in the 1860s (see Prize Fighting Women of Shrewsbury )
People would pay a penny to cross the river here on a ferry which was pulled either end along a rope.
Coleham is the main marker for when the Industrial Revolution hit Shrewsbury. The first sign from the river being the former brewery on the right hand side. This was built in 1805 and became Trouncer & Co in 1845. Coleham was heavily industrialised with metal works a and a woolen mill during the Victorian Period – as a result it was also very dirty.
Next stop – Coleham Bridge/Julian Friars.
Find out, in third and final part of the Paddle into the Past special, where in the town there are currently countless skeletons right under your feet.
And have you ever noticed the chains that loop all along the river bank? (see below)
There’s a very good reason for them – but how useful they are is another matter…Paddle into the Past part 3
If you haven’t read part 1 click on this link Paddle into the Past Special – part 1