On the last Saturday in June each year the centre of Shifnal is completely transformed. A fair is held in the main street and a carnival with many decorated floats passes through and round the town and this attracts visitors on this day from a very wide area, so that this quiet little town becomes a scene of gaiety and is packed with people.
The origin of this event is what is known as Old Club Day which took place in Shifnal well over a century ago. These Old Club Days were more like the “Whit Wakes” which still take place in some northern towns. In the middle of the 19th century it was customary for members of the town’s clubs, such as the Oddfellows and the Foresters, to march in procession through the streets of the town on the Saturday following Midsummer Day. The procession was headed by some local worthy carrying a staff bearing a brass dove, the symbol of the Dove Club, and this staff is still in being.
The Carnival, after a lapse, was restarted in 1968 by an enthusiastic group of Shifnal residents.
Money raised on Carnival Day goes to benefit local charities.
The Shifnal Carnival Committee meets on the first Monday of most months at the Youth Club at 8pm. New members of the committee are needed since some members have retired. Back to Top
The Christmas Lights are erected each year by a team of volunteers and are acknowledged to be the best display in the area. They are supported by the Town Council, local businesses and other organisations. The lights “Switch-On” takes place in the last week of November.
The Shifnal Lights Committee works throughout the year to raise money for the lights. Back to Top
Shifnal Twinning Association
The Association was formed in 1987 following a public meeting in the Village Hall. An inaugural visit by a party of 29 members saw the signing of the Twinning Charter with Machecoul in France in 1988. The twinning of the two towns was completed with a return visit to Shifnal in 1989 by a party of French people. The charter is on display in St Andrews Parish Church. The main objective of the association is to provide a forum for Francophiles and anyone interested in meeting and forming new friendships both in Shifnal and Machecoul.
Machecoul is situated in the Loire Atlantique region of France to the west of the city of Nantes, approx 200 miles south of the Channel coastline. The main industry is agriculture but there are factories manufacturing Gitane cycles and Seguin brandy.
The association is not funded by the local authority and all monies needed are raised by a series of fund raising and social events. This provides an opportunity for adults and children in Shifnal to meet on a regular basis throughout the year. Each year there is an organised exchange visit between the two towns consisting of approximately 50 people, one year to Shifnal and the alternate year to Machecoul. The benefits over the last ten years are stronger cultural, sporting, educational and business links between the two communities. In addition many personal friendships have been made between individuals and families. Currently our membership is about 140 drawn from all sections of the community.
In 1998 we celebrated our 10th anniversary of the twinning between Shifnal and Machecoul and we expect the ties between our two towns to go from strength to strength into the new Millennium.
Shifnal Village Hall
The Village Hall was completed in November 1975, the cost being met by grants from the Department of Education and Science, the Shropshire County Council and Shifnal Town Council, and the remainder by local voluntary effort, some £10,000 having been raised locally. Assistance in providing the site in Aston Street was given by the District Council.
The facilities comprise a main hall capable of seating 200 persons with a smaller meeting room, kitchen and bar. A further room is used by Shifnal Town Council. Back to Top
Half a mile south of Shifnal, on a promontory extending into the valley of the Wesley Brook, lie the remains of Shifnal Manor. Probably built at the end of the 14th Century, it was repaired and improved in the 1590s by the Earl of Shrewsbury, George Talbot, best known for his guardianship of Mary Queen of Scots. In the dining room, he installed a great window considered by his steward to be “the stateliest window of timber I ever did see”. A series of walled and terraced gardens were created on the ground below the house and shown on a map of 1635. Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, became lord of the Manor through his wife who was the Earl of Shrewsbury’s daughter. Howard’s mother, Lady Ann Dacre, spent her last years there. Since then, the manor house seems never to have been used as a manorial home. The house and land still belong to the descendants of Talbots and Howards, Lord Stafford, although they are presently for sale. Little remains of the house now, which was partially destroyed by fire but the gazebo or summer house can still be seen, set in the garden wall overlooking the elaborate patterns of the formal garden below which have long been overgrown. Back to Top
The Shifnal Chalice
John Randall, the local historian, in his book “Shifnal” written about 1878, says of St.Andrew’s Church:
There is a beautiful and ancient silver chalice in this church which must have been in use prior to the Reformation, which was presented by Lord Shifnal, who met with it under somewhat curious circumstances in Yorkshire a few years ago. Singularly enough on turning it up he found engraved beneath the foot the following words, “Restore mee to Sheaffnall in Shropshire”
His Lordship was so struck with the unexpected request that he at once literally complied with it; for although it was not given to the church from which it was no doubt taken, it was restored to Shifnal.
Randall was not entirely accurate. The silver gilt chalice and patten is not in St.Andrew’s but in the Catholic Church of St.Mary’s, Shifnal. It has been dated by experts to around 1630, nearly 100 years after the Reformation, but made in a much older style. The chalice was obtained by the 9th Lord Stafford from Lord Herries of Everingham between York and Beverley in Yorkshire and given shortly before the time of Randall’s 1878 account to St.Mary’s, the church Lord Stafford had built in 1860. How the chalice came to travel to Yorkshire is not known, nor who inscribed it with the instruction to restore it to Shifnal. We may never know the full story, but it is pleasing to know that the beautiful Shifnal chalice is still used on special occasions for the purpose for which it was made. Back to Top
The Shifnal street scene is dominated by the massive railway viaduct which divides the town. Built in 1848 it is a considerable engineering achievement, crossing the marshy valley of the Wesley Brook on foundations laid on coarse twigs and vast quantities of sheep fleeces. When the railways were being built, there was much trouble with drunkenness and fighting in Shifnal and a curfew was imposed with able-bodied men, three at a time, patrolling nightly to keep the curfew. This lasted until 1908. The original cast iron bridge over the Market Place was replaced in 1953 by a more functional but less attractive steel bridge. The 150th anniversary of the opening of the railway was celebrated in August 1999 when many townspeople gathered with a band to watch special trains pass. Back to Top
Haughton Hall on the outskirts of Shifnal is an elegant early 18th century building with 19th century wings standing in a large park. The history of the estate can be traced back much further than the present building, and there must have been several different houses on the site at various times in the past. The earliest known written reference to Haughton dates from the late 12th century when Walter de Dunstanville, then lord of the manor, gave Haughton to his harpist, Oliver, for the rent of one sparrowhawk a year. Oliver’s descendants took the name de Haughton from the name of the place.
From the early 14th century when the Charlton family of Apley Castle, Wellington acquired Haughton, the families that have owned Haughton can trace a continuous line, though the names of the families have changed several times when there were no male heirs. In the 16th century the Moretons owned Haughton, then at the end of the 16th century it passed to the Brigges whose monuments are in St. Andrews Church. The Brigges then held Haughton until the middle of the 18th century and considerably extended the estate. In the middle of the 18th century the male line of the Brigges died out, and Haughton passed through the female line to the Brooke family who then lived there until after World War I. All through the 19th century the Brooke family and particularly Rev. John Brooke were considerable benefactors of the local community. Rev. John Brooke was, for example, very interested in the church and gave generously to its restoration in the 1870s.
After the death of William John Brooke at the end of World War I, Haughton Hall passed to a branch of the family who were not interested in living there. Since then it has at times been leased as a private house and at other times as a private school. During World War 2 it was a Dr. Barnado’s Home and in the 1960s a county council boarding school.
Little remains of the conservatories, vines and the heated wall to produce early fruit, but there are some traces of the time when Haughton Hall was a wealthy gentry home, There is still a special store for hanging game and the remains of an icehouse outside the hall and extensive cellars for storing wine and hanging bacon inside
The Hall is now used as a restaurant for private and corporate entertaining. Back to Top
A fine house in the William and Mary style built in 1699 by John Revell, Gent. Shifnal Grammar School occupied the house for some years from the 1850s. From the 1880s till the 1950s it was the home of successive Shifnal doctors. It has now been incorporated into the Park House Hotel. Back to Top
The first cottage hospital was on Park Street where the new Dyas Bank development now is. It was opened in 1898 by Col. Kenyon Slaney and Dr. Keogh who was the town’s doctor and lived at Idsall House. It was a very small hospital with only 15 beds. During the Second World War it was a Land Army hostel. The hospital was entirely supported by the community. In June there was Hospital Saturday held on the same day as Shifnal Club Day to help to raise funds. A 3 day tennis tournament was held on the cricket field every year also to raise funds for the cottage hospital.
A new cottage hospital was opened in 1938 on land given by Bertram Hough of Lodge Hill Farm and paid for entirely by voluntary contributions. The foundation stone was laid by the Countess of Bradford on 28 July 1938 and on 27 July 1939 it was dedicated by the Bishop of Lichfield and opened by the Earl and Countess of Bradford, On the corridor wall there is a brass tablet saying “This tablet is placed here in affectionate memory of T.C. Smith who worked for the good of the hospital for many years. He was on the committee for 43 years, and for the last 17 he acted as Hon. Sec. He endeared himself to everyone by his courtesy, kindness and generosity.” The hospital later expanded to include the former workhouse and later still contracted again finally closing in 1990 though part remains as a private nursing home for the elderly. Back to Top
The Shifnal Union Workhouse was nicknamed ‘the Spike’. It was built in 1817 and extended in 1840 to serve an area of 67 square miles, including Albrighton, Tong and Sheriffhales as well as Shifnal. it could accommodate 150, though there were usually about 60 inmates. The interior arrangements were said to be “well contrived for the comfort, convenience and cleanliness of the inmates.” When a new dietary regime was introduced in 1901 the Board of Guardians who ran the workhouse were afraid that people on outdoor relief would want to live in. Back to Top
Shifnal had been an important postal town since coaching days. The Post Office on the corner of Victoria Road and Cheapside was built before 1880. Shifnal Post Office served a large rural district. Mr. George Smith, a postman in 1916, would begin his round at 6am. starting at the Manor Drive, Farm and Manor House and cottages, past the Sewerage Bed to the Paper Mills Cottages and Sunnyside, through King Charles Wood to Kemberton Mill, Hinnington Grange and on to Springfield Brewery where he had a drink, then on to Grindle Forge, house and cottages, Ryton and on to Beckbury Post Office to pick up the letters. He would call at the Wharf for a ½ cwt coal and carry it on his back to Hickford Mill, where he had a small hut. He would light a fire and dry his clothes if they were wet and have a nap – the time would be about 12 noon. He would then start back, collecting letters on the way back, blowing a whistle and the people would bring out their letters to give to him. He would arrive back in Shifnal at about 6 p.m. and he walked 22 miles each day for 25 years. Back to Top
Shifnal’s water supply and sewerage system were one of the most controversial topics for several years at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. In March 1899 a Rural District proposal for a drainage scheme was opposed by the parish council on and the major property owners – Rev. W. Garnett Botfield of Deckerhill Hall, Col. Kenyon Slaney of Hatton Grange, Lord Stafford and the trustees of the Brooke estate at Haughton. – on the grounds of cost. It was acknowledged that the sanitary condition of the town was very bad; 47 drains led directly into the brook and many children suffered from anaemia; there was no piped water supply and in many cases no water at all. In December 1900 the medical officer for the county told the R.D.C. that many of the wells in Shifnal were polluted by farmyard refuse, that the Kemberton wells were among the worst in the area, though a deputation from Kemberton protested that the proposed water supply scheme was unnecessary. The construction of the sewage works at the Hem ran into many serious and expensive problems, and it was 1903 before the sewage system and the water supply system were fully operational. Back to Top
Mills on the Wesley Brook
The Wesley Brook, one of the main tributaries of the River Worfe, runs through Shifnal. The brook rises in the Snedshill/Priorslee area, passing Priorslee Hall then via the Priorslee balancing lake to Haughton where a watermill existed as long ago as the 13th century. Flour was ground there until 1913 when the mill was destroyed by fire. After Haughton, the brook runs south through Shifnal, but there was no watermill in Shifnal itself. Leaving Shifnal, the brook was diverted to form Manor Pool, the mill pool for the Manor Mill. The pool was known as the Furnace Pool because it was the site of a very early blast furnace which operated from 1564 till the early part of the 17th century. Later, a corn mill replaced the furnace, operating well into the 20th century. The mill pool was popular with fishermen and skaters until the 1960s when it was drained.
Below the Manor, the Wesley Brook is joined by the Hem Brook and runs below Lodge Hill where another water mill stood. This was called Shifnal Paper Mill or Patcher’s Mill which made paper until 1840. Half a mile further downstream is Evelith where there has been a mill for hundreds of years. It was here that King Charles II passed when he attempted to escape across the Severn at Madeley, walking by night from Boscobel. The miller heard him and Charles hid until it was safe to carry on. Evelith Mill was still grinding corn in 1930. A further half mile is Kemberton Mill where another blast furnace was built around 1650. When ironmaking ceased about 100 years later, the mill became a paper mill and then a corn mill.
Continuing down the valley, at Grindle, there was a forge and slitting mill built around 1680. The forge refined the iron and the slitting mill rolled it and slit it into useful sized bars. Finally, where the Wesley Brook joins the Worfe at Ryton, there was yet another slitting mill.
The valley from Shifnal to Ryton, where the brook supplied power to so many industries, has now reverted to quiet rural beauty and is popular with walkers from Shifnal and further afield. Back to Top