Thursday, 2 February 2017

Bridgnorth and the birthplace of the modern Olympics

With most National Trust, English Heritage and Historic Houses properties closed until the season starts around Easter time, we are spending the time exploring small towns and interesting places nearby instead.

Last Friday, 27th, we chose a flying visit to Shropshire, to the towns of Bridgnorth and Much Wenlock.

We have visited both places before, but this time OH wanted to explore the many charity shops of Bridgnorth, and I wasn't going to dissuade him!

High street with town hall

The high street is home to a delightful hotch potch of half timbered and brick buildings spanning many centuries, all leaning on each other for support.

I like Bridgnorth, despite the fact that I think the charity shops are on the expensive side for their stock, which I think is rather tatty overall.  Consequently, I bought nothing, not even toiletries.  Neither did OH, who was specifically looking for a leather jacket. We found plenty, but none in his size.

Half timbered town hall dates from the 17th century

The Kings Head, a grade II listed 16th century coaching inn

No matter, I love looking around the town, and the fact it is so medieval, with strange shaped roads and interesting passageways. It is also on two levels, the main shops sit atop a rocky hill, the high town, and more shops are found in the low town next to the river Severn

Just look at this building, a footpath going gently uphill to the right...

complete with half timbered wonky house...

and to the left, the Stoneway Steps, 137 irregular shallow steps down to the low town, once used by horses, hence the iron edging and hardwearing blue brick surface.

Private courtyard access to houses

I love all these back alleys, although I'm not sure I'd like them at night!  

There is such a plethora of architectural styles in Bridgnorth, I found this building particularly interesting

It is the old market hall, and I'm sure with all that fancy brickwork it was quite stunning when it was built.

Bridgnorth has another interesting feature, a funicular railway. It is the only functional inland funicular railway in England, all the others are at seaside locations.  It also claims to be both the steepest and shortest.

Both terminal buildings are tea rooms, this is the high town terminal

 Lovely livery!

Fantastic view from the high town down to the Severn and the low town.

You can't see from my photo but the track is cut through rock, and many houses cut into the cliff face, albeit poorly constructed, were destroyed to build it.

Our mooch around the charity shops of Bridgnorth complete, off we went to the medieval town of Much Wenlock, just a few miles west.

The church and Bull Ring cottage

Our previous visits to Much Wenlock were just to visit the Priory, we hadn't realised there was a small town. Not just any town though, a town where a man had a dream. 

Dr William Penny Brookes was a social reformer. Son of the local doctor, and successor to his father's medical practice, he spent his life trying to educate the working classes both by setting up free libraries and campaigning to get physical education as part of the national curriculum. He wanted these things to be freely available to what he called "every grade of man".

 Birthplace of Dr W P Brookes and the modern Olympic movement

It is so hard to believe that this sleepy little town was the beginnings of what we now know as a grand sporting extravaganza.  Here in this house, Dr Brookes hosted Baron Pierre de Coubertin for several days in 1890 and explained his ideas, which culminated in a meeting of the Wenlock Olympian Games, an annual sports meet set up by Dr Brookes in 1850 and modelled on the original Greek sporting events.

Baron Coubertin was so enthralled he took Dr Brookes' idea and ran with it, so much so, that in just a few years the modern Olympic movement was formed.

What a shame that Dr Brookes' contribution has been pretty much ignored by the history books, when Baron Coubertin said in 1891 "...if the Olympic Games that modern Greece has not yet been able to revive still survive today, it is due not to a Greek but to Dr W P Brookes. It is he who inaugurated them 40 years ago and it is still he, now 82 years old but still alert and vigorous, who continues to organise and inspire them".

Even head of the Olympic Committee, Juan-Antonio Samaranch, who visited the grave of Dr Brookes in Much Wenlock, credited him with being the founding father of the modern Olympic Movement  "I have come to pay tribute and homage to Dr Brookes, who really was the founder of the Olympic Games."

The Wenlock Olympian Games continue to this day, see here for more info.

Anyway, I digress.  Much Wenlock is pretty much locked in a time capsule, everything appears to move slowly.  Little back alleys with funny names abound

The word shut here is actually short for short cut, and refers to the alley just wide enough to access on foot to gain a short cut through to another street.

This one is next to the George and Dragon pub, most of these alleyways were next to public houses, and named after them.

The guildhall, a striking black and white building which houses the local market on the ground floor, was built in 1540, during the reign of Henry VIII

I understand the upstairs is open to the public from April to October so we will have to return to see what it is like.

This old building intrigued me

Another beautiful timber framed medieval house.  This one, I understand, is a private residence called Raynalds Mansion, and was sold in 2014.  I found the estate agent details here.  The house again dates back to the 1530's in its present form.

On the other side of the street I found the one and only charity shop!

  It was a bitterly cold day and thankfully I chose to wear a couple of recent finds, 

The black quilted hat I bought for 95p and the knitted poncho I found in the Cotswolds for £1.75.  Along with my £1 jeans and £10 John Partridge jacket, I was well insulated against the elements!

A few recent bargains for you as well.

Found these socks in a local chazza for just 95p. As OH is in need of long welly socks I bought them, a bit of research confirms they are highland dress socks to wear with a kilt.

Guess who has the smartest welly socks around!

Another bargain, this Champneys shower mousse, mine came without a lid but was unused, and I paid just 95p.  Smells divine!

Lastly, a few more shower creams, and a Jimi Hendrix biog, the shower creams are 300ml and were 50p each, the book was 99p.

Finally, as I have both a hat and something a little more noticeable, I thought I would link up with Judith's Hat Attack and Patti's Visible Monday


  1. Thank you for taking us on your tour of Bridgnorth & Much Wenlock, what interesting towns. I had no idea that the Olympics were revived by a British person, I'm so glad that the Baron gave him the credit for them. I'd like to read that Hendrix book, I've been known to scream the title after a few pints, at pub gigs.

  2. I really enjoyed reading about these two picturesque Shropshire towns. I have been to Ludlow while we were staying in Hereford, but never made it higher up. I love all the little alleyways and higgledy piggledy half-timbered houses. The funicular railway is interesting. I'd no idea it was the only inland one. I've been on two of them in the UK so far, both of course in seaside towns. I'd read about Much Wenlock's Olympian connection, but completely forgot about it until I read your post. Shame about the chazza's not being up to scratch, but those towns were well worth visiting. xxx

    1. Yes, sometimes you just have to push the chazzas aside and enjoy the culture! xxx

  3. We've spent whole summer holidays based in Ludlow (even though we only live in Worcester) and absolutely love these quirky little market towns. The inside of the Guildhall in Much Wenlock is worth a visit!! Jx

    1. Thanks for that, Jan, will try and get into the Guildhall next time xxx

  4. This was charming, I used to love to visit Bridgnorth when I was growing up in the W.Mids. I'd love to go back sometime.

  5. My your quilted hat looks smart! Your outfit looks just right for keeping warm while exploring on a cold gray day. Thank you for sharing your style, your photos, and the history of such a beautiful town with Hat Attack!


Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. I'd love it if you left a comment too!