The finest town in England' was the proud boast in medieval times. Today Shrewsbury is an even better place to be. It's both settled and quirky. Businesses are 'LGBT friendly', and the town centre on any normal day feels very safe. Several venues even display rainbow stickers as a sign of welcome.
And did you know this? Shrewsbury is the editorial home of Zone magazine, the guide to gay what's on across the Midlands.
It's also the base for Britain's leading male order retailer, Dead Good Undies.
Shrewsbury has several quirky venues used for LGBT-related events, all mobility accessible. The 16th century Old Market Hall in the Square contains an 82-seat cinema and cafe bar upstairs, with an ancient clock. This stone building has several interesting features including this 'anatomically correct' Tudor dragon, and it appears in the Guardians of the Rainbow gay adventure novels of R. S. Freckleton. The OMH hosts the monthly Chill Out Mondays social from 8.15 pm to around 10 pm (first Monday every month), and the annual Rainbow Film Festival weekend of feature films and shorts.
Around the corner in Belmont is The Hive, a multi-role arts space. The Hive hosts the monthly book reading and discussion group Ex Libris (third Thursday each month at 10.30 am), plus films to mark key LGBT commemorations through the year.
The streets around The Hive were modernised in the 18th century with the latest Georgian facades. But look at the corners and you can see it is only skin deep: the Tudor houses had lower roofs and the wooden frames are there behind the brick.
Down Mardol across the concrete pedestrian bridge is the University Centre which hosted the National Festival of LGBT History. On the other side of town, down Wyle Cop and over English Bridge, is Havana (previously called C:21) where Fabulous is held every Monday. Billed as 'the biggest gay Monday night in the Midlands', on the first Monday each month there is also a cabaret artist at around 11 pm. Entry is free.
Everyone knows that Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury. Other inhabitants included Lord Clive infamous for his role in India, prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, and the gay war poet Wilfred Owen whose centenary was in 2018. While Hercules is not exactly local, his statue is: there's a copy in the Quarry park.
Shrewsbury Carnival sets off from here each year in June for a tour of the town centre. In some years it has included a lively, colourful LGBT entry.
Also meeting in the town centre are Border Women, who hold a monthly coffee morning on the first Saturday every month at 11 am. They also organise country walks and other events through Shropshire, Herefordshire and the Welsh borders.
The youth group XYZ hold a get together twice a month, facilitated by a youth worker from Shropshire Youth Association. XYZ meet on the second and fourth Saturday at 2pm. It's for LGBTQ people aged 13 to 18.
Chill Out Xtra organise an easy walk or cycle ride most months on the first Thursday at 10 am, setting off from one of the town's LGBT-friendly cafes such as the Shrewsbury Coffeehouse.
FRESh Fairness Respect Equality Shropshire. Diversity campaign and consultancy group based in Shrewsbury www.freshshropshire.org.uk.
SAND Safe Ageing No Discrimination is a research campaign group for older and old LGBT people. Shrewsbury based lgbtsand.com.
Spring Out LGBT events organisation based in Shrewsbury www.springout.org.uk.
Ludlow The Sitting Room is a small quirky venue where Ludlow's monthly LGBT night is held. Second Thursday of each month from 8pm for a relaxed friendly get together. Website
Oswestry has a XYZ youth group session on the first Saturday of the month at 2pm.
Telford has a new group meeting at The Wakes, Theatre Square, Oakengates. For more info contact Kevin at telfordLGBT@virginmedia.com.
Wrexham There is a lesbian non-attitude group. Details here Prides Ludlow Pride 23 June 2018 in the market square. Other near ones in Chester, Stoke, Walsall, Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Manchester. Sparkle trans festival in Manchester. L Fest takes place in Llandudno. Big Bi Fun Day at Leicester.
This section acknowledges the history of LGBT people who experienced Shrewsbury in earlier years. It also records very recent events which will form part of tomorrow's history.
We hope that the map and guide will help to 'unlock' our history if you weren't there yourself! The tour can be begun at any point on the circular route, and you can do sections or the whole thing depending on the time available. We’re very grateful to people’s reminiscences which have helped make the guide possible. If anyone reading it thinks we’ve got something wrong or would like to add their own recollections, then we certainly welcome that.
Just send an email to email@example.com
The walking guide and map was produced for the 2016 National Festival of LGBT History in Shrewsbury and has been updated for the 2017 festival. Professionally printed copies of this A3 sized map guide may still be available from the Tourist Information Centre in Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery.
If you would like to receive a printer quality pdf send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org
The poems of Wilfred Owen can be found here.
The county of Shropshire also has a few lesbian and gay people of interest:
Agnes Hunt co-founded the Orthopaedic Hospital at Gobowen with Robert Jones. She and her partner Emily Goodford (Goody) are buried together at Baschurch. Her autobiography, ‘This is my Life’, is published by the hospital’s League of Friends.
Joan Lander, the last owner of Sunnycroft in Wellington (now a National Trust property), lived with her partner Valorie Curtis and they are buried together at Atcham.
Eglantyne Jebb, who was the founder of Save the Children, lived at The Lyth, Ellesmere. She and her companion, Margaret Keynes, composed many letters to each other in which they wrote of hoping to live together one day. The social mores of the time led to Margaret marrying, so this was, sadly, not to be. Biography: The Woman Who Saved the Children – Clare Mulley, is published by One World.
Before and during the Second World War Gordon Bowsher wrote hundreds of explicit letters to Gilbert Bradley, a soldier based at Park Hall, Oswestry. The letters were discovered by Mark Hignett, the curator of Oswestry Town Museum, where they are displayed. News story here and family interviews etc. here: https://kilnensemble.org/currently-touring/gilbertgordon/