Bridgnorth in 1836
BRIDGNORTH, a borough and market-town in the south-east part of Shropshire, on the river Severn, 19 miles south-east by east from Shrewsbury, and 139 miles north-west from London. The town lies on both sides of the Severn, which are connected by a bridge ; but the larger portion is on the west bank, built on a hill which rises 60 yards from the bed of the river. The borough and town were co-equal, consisting of the parishes of St. Leonard and St. Mary Magdalen, but certain liberties were also under the jurisdiction of the borough magistrates. The parliamentary borough was extended by the Reform Bill, and now includes the parishes of Quatford, Oldbury, Tasley, and Astley-Abbots. In 1831 the population comprehended within the extended boundary was 6171, that of the old borough 5298.
Bridgnorth, anciently Bruges, is stated to be of Saxon origin. The first known charter is one of the 16th John, confirmed by subsequent grants, by which special privileges were secured to the inhabitants. By the Municipal Reform Act the town council consists of 4 alderman and 12 councillors, but the town is not divided into wards. The borough returns two members to parliament.
In the parish of St. Leonard are four daily schools, one of which is an endowed grammar-school, and two boarding-schools : in St. Mary Magdalen’s there are four daily schools and three Sunday schools, and there is a daily school in Quatford parish. The appointment of the master to the grammar-school was vested in the corporation. The town contains a considerable number of charities. It possesses also two or three manufactories, and a large portion of the labouring classes find employment in the navigation of the Severn ; but the market and the retail trade with the neighbourhood afford the principal source of profit to the inhabitants. The market day is Saturday. There are four annual fairs, on the Thursday before Shrove Tuesday, 20th June, August 2nd, October 29th (which latter lasts three days), for cattle, sheep, butter, cheese, bacon, etc.
The situation of Bridgnorth renders it airy and healthful. Charles I is supposed to have considered it the most pleasant place in his dominions. The prospect from the top of the hill is delightful. There is a curious walk made from the high part of the town to the bridge, being hewn to the depth of 20 feet through the rock ; the descent is great, but is made easy by steps and rails. Until 1797 the corporation maintained the bridge out of the proceeds of certain estates and tolls. In that year, the bridge having fallen into decay, an act was obtained by which commissioners were appointed with authority to borrow money to rebuild it, and to manage the trust. A new gaol was built in 1823. In Leland’s time, the castle, on the south side of the town, was o considerable extent ; but when Grose visited the place, there was nothing left but what seemed part of a tower, which by undermining was made to incline considerably from the perpendicular. It is uncertain when or by whom the castle was built.
In 1102 Robert, or Roger de Belesme, Earl of Shrewsbury, strengthened Bridgnorth and defended it against Henry I. In 1156-7 Henry II besieged it in person, when his life is stated to have been saved by a knight, who stepped forward and received in his own person an arrow aimed at the king. The inhabitants sided with Charles I during the civil war ; and Bridgnorth endured a siege of nearly a month from the parliamentary troops.
The inhabitants to the east of Bridgnorth are very little connected with it. They are separated from the town by a tract of hilly and thinly-peopled country, and their chief market is Wolverhampton.