Thursday, 20 August 2015

The view from the library

One of Shrewsbury's biggest activities for tourists is the legendary Charles Darwin drinking game. You see, Charles Darwin was born here, and newcomers to the town are expected to take a shot every time they're reminded of this fact during their stay in Shrewsbury. For many that seems to be the towns only selling point, but some will argue that the teat is overmilked at the expense of many other things that Shrewsbury can be proud of. While the Darwin Shopping Centre is the most prominent, we also have a place called "Darwins Sandwich Evolution" and "DarWIN Solicitors" who accentuate the part of their name that suggests victory. Or rather, the part of Darwins name that suggests victory.

Outside the town library is our holy shrine to Our Lord and Master, Charlie D. During the production of the "Christmas in Shrewsbury" video I had the wonderful task of climbing this shrine to wipe bird excrement off His Holinesses noggin, and wrap him in a nice little scarf. I also got to operate the snow machine.

And it is the library that I want to focus on today, but how better to introduce this than by mocking a man who's done nothing to me, and has made a name for himself by completely revolutionising humanities perception of its origin? I'm just jealous really. I want my own statue, dammit. That's all I want!

The library happens to be where Charlie D allegedly went to school. Today it's a massive chunk of architectural eye candy. But one thing that baffles me is the presence of the two sundials at right angles to each other, as they make mighty inadequate time keeping devices. The cinema on stilts in the square has one too.

The library dates back to 1550 and was a school right up until 1882. It was originally a timber framed building, some of which can still be seen around the back, but stone extensions were added in the early 1600s, which also included a chapel, and additional classrooms. Upstairs is a sea of vintage vandalism from the former students.

I know, that's what I thought it said too, for a moment.

In 1885, it opened as a library and remained as such until 1976 when it had a very widespread restoration. It reopened in 1983 and has been open as a library ever since.

And for a long time I wanted to see the view from the tower. Back in the day, in my early years as an explorer, I was part of a four person posse of rooftoppers, and together we conquered the majority of Shrewsburys rooftops and saw the town from every angle imaginable, but the library among others such as the castle, were held to very high regard as places we'd never get to but it would be so cool if we could. And as the writer of Shrewsbury From Where You Are Not, this websites growth in notoriety has awarded me the right connections to get up there. This is a proud moment. Each and every one of my readers is awesome. Thank you for helping me get this far. This blog is as much yours as it is mine now. Especially since a load of you paid for my camera!

Who is laughing now, Charles???

My only regret is that my old posse couldn't join me, on this or any recent adventure. One lives in Newcastle now, and another is on a bike ride around Europe. The last one actually lives across the road from me, but he's settled down with the girl of his dreams. I'd do that too, but Margaret Thatchers granddaughter still doesn't know I exist.

The library tower interior is also of photogenic value, including a sexy clock mechanism, old doors, and mysterious passages into the interior of the rest of the roof.

The upper floor appeared to be a dumping ground for any relics left over from the restorations of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Anything they couldn't restore, or couldn't find a purpose for, was left up here. And what could be a better relic to find in the attic than a collection of disembodied heads and a mysterious wheel?

This bearded statue has been quite literally defaced. *cue tumbleweed*

Onto the view itself, I was very fortunate that the weather was great, and I could see for miles, and also take in the complete mish-mash of architectural styles that Shrewsbury is, while also marveling at all my previous explorative conquests. For navigation purposes, the photos are arranged in a counter-clockwise order.

Seriously, click a picture to see it big! 

 That thing covered in scaffolding I explored in the mobile phone days, and so didn't get nearly as good an article as I could.

The white blob on the horizon is the water tower at Severn Trent. The rather ugly, yet fun to climb Theatre Severn is in shot.

The white pillar on the horizon is Shrewsbury hospital. 

 Here you can just see St Chads church popping up over the modern aesthetic monstrosity that is the super-fun Rat Run. And barely visible is also the Market Clocktower.

The closest church spire is St Mary's church. The one beyond that is St Alkmunds. Just to the right is Barclays. And on the very edge of the left hand side of the shot is a house I explored when it was under restoration.

These buildings are gorgeous. Far in the distance you can see the Abbey and the Lord Hill Column

And here's the castle, flying the Union Jack, as is the smaller but still architecturally interesting train station. The castle doesn't fly the flag from the middle of the tower, due to the fact that the building is so old that the flag blowing in the middle was actually causing the walls of the tower to slowly spread apart. And so they fly it from the side of the tower instead.

As well as having an amazing view, the architecture of the library itself is still impressive, all the way up here, with massive spires on every corner. 

But much to my delight, there was ancient graffiti even up here.

The interior of the library that is publically accessible is still really photogenic, although I've been told that this is all a copy of the original ceiling, that was made in the restoration when the original was far too damaged to maintain. The head sculpts certainly shed some light on the heads in the tower!

In another inaccessible part of the library is this awesome patterned wood, which is apparently present in other parts of the library too, and possibly even other parts of Shrewsbury. But it is here, in a portion of the library nobody can get to that the architect left his own sculpted self portrait.

Check him out. He looks like a Disney villain!
And it just goes to show, in historic towns with buildings that date back to the times when architects had imagination and gave a shit about their work, one must always remember to look up!

Thank you for reading. If you have any information, memories or stories about any of the places I explore and feature on this blog, feel free to contact me via social media. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and add me on Facebook. In the meantime, if there's any part of Shropshire thats secret, forgotten, or abandoned that I have no desire to see, it's only because I already have.


  1. I had to look twice...

    Those faces are seriously creepy...

    I saw Shrewsbury from a whole new perspective, it looks wonderful from where you've shot it from tho I'm biased because I really like this place.

    I can see having a camera has become you and rightly so - hurah!

    1. Thank you for giving me the idea to set up a donation button. I actually went through a period where I didn't explore as much as I wanted because I couldn't take pictures. But I love Shrewsbury. I started exploring the rooftops long before I started with abandoned buildings and underground. There are barely any places in Shrewsbury I haven't been on top of and now I have the chance to show the world from my perspective.