East Shropshire’s Historic Capital
Queen of the local moorlands and historic capital of east Shropshire, Wellington is the second largest market town in the county. Although cattle from the Weald Moors pastures no longer pass through its medieval streets on their way to auction, the centuries old tradition of serving the local community is still alive and well in this ancient place…
Wellington: A Potted History
With a lineage stretching back to at least the Seventh Century, Wellington can justifiably lay claim to being one of Shropshire’s oldest towns. Until medieval times, however, it was little more than a village scattered around the Green outside All Saints parish church. In 1244, the pace of life began to quicken when the settlement received its first Market Charter, ushering in an era of unparalleled expansion as a new town centre was laid out around Market Square — which has been the beating heart of Wellington ever since. Over the centuries, a host of notable figures have traversed its narrow, characterful streets, not least of all King Charles I, whose ‘Wellington Declaration’ effectively heralded the beginning of the English Civil War in 1642. A number of skirmishes took place around the town during that conflict but the next major upheaval arrived in the mid 1800s, when the railway cut a swathe through the centre of town. The transformatory affect of the iron horse proved to be just as imperative to Wellington’s fortunes as the granting of its first market charter, and the town quickly developed into a major regional commercial and industrial centre.
For a town of its size, Wellington has an extraordinary range of literary connections that would be the envy of far larger localities. It was the birthplace of the best-selling international Victorian novelist and social reformer Hesba Stretton, played a starring role in the foundation of the Bronte dynasty (father Patrick was a curate here), and was the location where the travel writer Bruce Chatwin, author of the evocative Marches-based opus On the Black Hill, was educated. Philip Larkin, one of the Twentieth Century’s great literary figures, also began his professional career as a librarian here, in which time his only two novels and first collection of poetry, The North Ship, were published. Doctor William Withering, one of the town’s most celebrated sons, was born here in 1741. He was responsible for publishing the first contemporary scientific account of British plantlife but is probably better known for his exhaustive studies into the properties of Digitalis, which helped establish a template for modern cardiac treatment.
Coming AttractionsWith a full complement of pubs, restaurants, cafes, independent businesses and commercial services, Wellington is an ideal location to begin or end a Weald Moors expedition. However, no trip would be complete without sampling its general market, which is widely acknowledged as one of the Midlands finest. A well-timed visit may also allow you to take in one of the town’s many annual events, chief of which is the long running free arts festival, which occurs every October. In March, Wellington celebrates its Charter Day, while the hugely popular June Midsummer Fayre is also inspired by the town’s historic past. If heritage is your thing, you may also want to check out Sunnycroft, the town’s sole National Trust Property. Located half way between the centre and The Wrekin, it makes a convenient stopping off point on the way to the famous Shropshire landmark, which — like the Weald Moors — is bang on Wellington’s doorstep.
Unless your travelling by canal boat, visiting Wellington, which is Iocated right in the centre of Shropshire, is something of a breeze. Both Route 81 of the National Cycle Network and the long distance Shropshire Way pass through the area. Indeed, Wellington is a Walkers Are Welcome town, and more details about rights of way in the area can be found by visiting the local group’s website. The main rail line between Mid Wales and the West Midlands runs through the centre of town, with regularly hourly services to Shrewsbury and Birmingham, and a twice-daily train to London. Conveniently, Wellington’s bus and rail stations are situated side by side, and a full list of local services can be found by visiting the Arriva website. If you’ve decided to visit the Weald Moors by car, you can take advantage of free parking liberally sprinkled around the town centre, which is just a few minutes drive from junctions 6 and 7 of the M54.
To view the pictures as a slideshow, just click on any of the images.
All photographs ©Wellington LA21 Group/Gordon Dickins