The five things Shropshire gave the world

If you’re from Shropshire, then you’ll already know what a wonderful place it is.

Salopians think it, those who flock to its rolling green hills and pretty market towns on holiday do and, in some cases, the wider world does also.

You see, Shropshire has undeniably given the whole world some astounding firsts.

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It’s the birthplace of some world-changing ideas. Here, we’re taking a look at some of them:

1) Charles Darwin

Naturalist Charles Darwin is responsible for the now widely-accepted theory that all beings came from common ancestors.

Natural selection? That’s a Darwin discovery. And Charles’ written works are still lauded today.

Charles’ impressive mind changed the world, but it all began in Shrewsbury, where Charles was born in 1809.

Charles went to the Shrewsbury School as a boarder and in 1825, he worked with his doctor father to help treat the poor of Shropshire, before leaving to study medicine in Edinburgh.

He later studied at Cambridge before embarking on a journey of discovery aboard the now famous HMS Beagle.

Charles Darwin was from Shrewsbury

2) The modern Olympic Games

In ancient times, the Greeks were responsible for founding the Olympic Games. But the event as we know it now wouldn’t be the same without the Shropshire town of Much Wenlock.

There in 1850, Dr William Penny Brookes founded the first annual games, pitting Salopians against each other in athletics, football and cricket.

There was also hurdles and cycling on penny farthings, as well as ‘fun’ events like a wheelbarrow race and an ‘old women’s race’!

It’s widely accepted that this is the forerunner to the games as we know them today.

That’s why one of the mascots for the 2012 games was called Wenlock!

3) Skyscrapers

The Ditherington Flax Mill in Shrewsbury is sometimes referred to as the ‘grandfather of skyscrapers’ as it was the first iron-framed building in the world.

It is only five storeys high but it’s celebrated for being a precursor to the world’s tallest buildings.

The 220-year-old building still stands today and it’s under the care of Historic England due to its significance.

On their site, they say they hope the building will be ‘a place that everyone can be proud to live, work and play in’.

The five things Shropshire gave the world
Huge, iron skyscrapers? They were Shropshire’s idea

4) Sweet peas

In the small town on Wem in 1882, nursery-man Henry Eckford first commercially cultivated the pretty plant sweet pea.

By 1888, he was developing and producing many more varieties.

Though Henry was born near Edinburgh, he moved to Shropshire in his 50s and remained in Wem until he died aged 82 in 1905.

He is buried at the Whitchurch Road Cemetery.

The five things Shropshire gave the world
The Iron Bridge in springtime

5) Iron bridges

The world’s first iron bridge is the aptly named Iron Bridge that spans the River Severn in… you guessed it… Ironbridge.

It was erected in 1777 and was the first of its kind.

The Ironbridge Gorge is in the Coalbrookdale Coalfield, where minerals, coal, iron ore, limestone, sand and clays could be found.

By 1700, several furnaces and forges operated in the area, and potters, salt boilers, glassmakers, blacksmiths, rope makers, basket makers and more called the area home.

The Iron Bridge was the brainchild of Shrewsbury architect Thomas Farnolls Pritchard. He didn’t live to see the 30m bridge open in 1781 – he died four years earlier.

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