County of western England on the Welsh border, which has contained the unitary authority of Telford and Wrekin since April 1998. Shropshire was officially known as Salop from 1974 to 1980.
Area 3,490 sq km/1,347 sq mi
TownsShrewsbury (administrative headquarters), Ludlow, Oswestry; these, and the market towns of Bridgnorth, Ellesmere, Whitchurch, Wellington, and Bishop's Castle, serve as centres for the agricultural districts
Physical Shropshire is bisected, on the Welsh border, northwest–southeast by the River Severn; River Teme; Ellesmere (47 ha/116 acres), the largest of several lakes; the Clee Hills rise to about 610 m/1,800 ft (Brown Clee) in the southwest
Features Ironbridge Gorge open-air museum of industrial archaeology, with the Iron Bridge (1779), the world's first cast-iron bridge; Market Drayton is famous for its gingerbread, and Wem for its sweet peas
Agriculture cereals (barley, oats, wheat), sugar beet, mangolds (a root vegetable used for cattle feed), vegetables (potatoes, turnips, swedes), sheep and cattle; dairy farming; forestry
Industries brick-making; engineering; limestone; manufacturing: machine tools, agricultural implements, radio receivers (Bridgnorth), clocks (Whitchurch)
Population (2001) 283,200
Famous people Charles Darwin (naturalist), A E Housman (poet), Wilfred Owen (poet), Gordon Richards (jockey)
Topography Shropshire is bounded on the north by Cheshire; on the south by Herefordshire and Worcestershire; on the east by Staffordshire; and on the west by Powys. In the south and west the county is hilly, the chief features other than the Clee Hills being the Stiperstones (527 m/1,729 ft), the Long Mynd plateau (517 m/1,696 ft), the Caradoc range, and Wenlock Edge. Geologically the county displays a greater variety of rocks than any other county in England; this diversity gives rise to great variety of landscape and scenery.
History On the evidence of its numerous hill-top forts, Shropshire had a considerable population in the early Iron Age. It was settled by the Romans, who established at Wroxeter the third-largest city of Roman Britain, and was subsequently added to the Saxon kingdom of Mercia by Offa in the 8th century. There are several sections of Offa's Dyke, marking the boundary between Mercia and Wales, in the west of the county. During the Middle Ages, it was part of the Welsh Marches and saw much conflict between the lords of the Marches and the Welsh. Near Shrewsbury was fought the battle between Henry IV and the Percys (1403) at which Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy was killed; the place is now marked by the church and village of Battlefield.
Chuches and manor houses The county contains many beautiful ruins, such as the 13th-century abbeys at Haughmond, Buildwas, and Lilleshall, and the 12th-century Much Wenlock Priory. There are many castles, of which only fragments generally remain; Ludlow (Norman) is the finest. Stokesay House is perhaps the best example in the country of a fortified manor house of the 13th century. There are many other manor houses of the 16th–18th centuries, and many examples of the traditional timber-framed architecture characteristic of the area. Shropshire's churches display a range of architectural styles: Heath Chapel, Edstaston, and Holgate are Norman; Acton Burnell is a perfect example of 13th-century Early English; and the church at Tong is in the Perpendicular style, rebuilt in 1409.
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