HISTORY 2

A BRIEF HISTORY OF FRANKWELL AND ST GEORGE'S CHURCH

St George's is one of several Anglican parishes that serve the town of Shrewsbury.  The church is built on high ​ground in Frankwell, at the junction of Drinkwater Street and St George’s Street.

Frankwell, is to the northwest of the town centre, and separated from it by the River Severn.

The Welsh Bridge [pictured below] provides the main river crossing [to and from Frankwell] giving access to and from Thomas Telford's road, which runs through the parish out towards the Welsh border and on to Holyhead.

The area within the parish boundary is largely residential but also contains the former Copthorne Barracks [once the home of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry and pictured below] and Mount House, [now the District Valuer's Office] which was the childhood home of Charles Darwin.  

Because of the risk of flooding in winter, the riverside meadows, where young Charles started his early natural history studies, remain undeveloped.  The picture below, taken from the church tower, shows the riverside meadows.  

The picture above shows the serious flooding in Frankwell in the 1960's and the need for a temporary, elevated walkway for people to get to and from the Welsh Bridge.  Subsequent flood defence measures have much improved the situation although Frankwell Car Park and the riverside meadows are still prone to flooding.

Above - flooding of the meadows and Frankwell Car Park in December 2015

The Frankwell area is one of Shrewsbury’s oldest suburbs.  With its location by the river, and on the road to Wales, it grew up as a port and a trading location.  Originally constructed across the river [and outside of the walled Borough of Shrewsbury] it was therefore beyond the town’s jurisdiction.

The name Frankwell is possibly derived from Frankville – which means a town of free trade.  As Frankwell was originally independent from Shrewsbury it was nicknamed, locally, as the Little Borough – a title that is still used today.  For example - the fish and chip shop bears the name 'The Little Boro'.

The river crossing to Shrewsbury was by means of a ford in the early middle ages.  This was replaced, in the mid twelfth century by a bridge – St George’s Bridge – which subsequently became known as the Welsh[man’s] Bridge and was located at the bottom of Mardol.  This was demolished in 1790 and a new bridge – Welsh Bridge – built a short distance [70 metres] downstream.  A plaque - pictured below - marks the location of the original town side of the bridge.

Here are two pictures of the bridge - the second [right hand image] shows, in the background, the new Welsh Bridge being constructed.  Remnants of the original bridge were uncovered during the construction of Theatre Severn.  Both images are copyright to DSH [Discovering Shropshire's Heritage] and are used under the Creative Commons Deed. There is much more information and collections of images if you would like to visit their site.  Visit DSH.

Frankwell was highly prosperous during the 16th to the 18th centuries and several buildings from the period have survived [see pictures below]. Until the construction of St George’s Church, in 1832, the area of Frankwell was contained within the parish of St. Chad.

This [below] is Frankwell, from the air, in 1946.  Massive changes since include the demolotion of the Cattle Market, construction of Frankwell Car Park, The New Guildhall - now part of Shrewsbury University and Theatre Severn. Image reproduced by permission of Britain from Above - their website shown at the bottom of the picture has many more pictures of Shrewsbury from the same time.

The history of the church is linked with a family named Drinkwater.  The Drinkwater’s were wealthy wool merchants, originally from Cheshire, who moved to Shropshire in the 1800’s.  Richard Drinkwater [1755 to 1825] subsequently moved to Frankwell, and owned a large amount of property in the area.  His son Richard Drinkwater [1785 – 1853] was Mayor of Shrewsbury in 1834/5.

St Chad’s Church was, in the early 1800’s, a very busy church.  There was, therefore, support for the building of a new church in Frankwell.   Richard Drinkwater promptly donated the land, and within a few days of the initial meeting in July 1827 records show that over £540 had been donated towards the building fund.

Sadly, there was soon significant opposition to the proposed new church.  This seems to have been mainly for financial reasons – St Chad’s church building had not been paid for and operating costs and interest charges on the construction cost were high.  To add to this at this particular time, Shropshire and Shrewsbury were in economic depression.  The objectors queried that if the new church was intended for the poor people of Frankwell, how were they to pay a large percentage of their annual income on pew rents?  The opponents of the new church, were led by  William Hazeldine and William Clement. 

Hazeldine was born in Shropshire and was, by profession, a millwright.  He had his own foundry in Coleham [the buildings still survive as shown in the picture below] and professionally he was highly regarded.  His company produced all the castings for the Ditherington Flaxmill and supplied the ironwork for the Menai and Conwy suspension bridges.

Clement was a Medical Practitioner/Surgeon, born and educated in Shrewsbury.  He was a gifted surgeon and pioneered surgical techniques [which were at that time without anaesthetic] but was known for his radical, and outspoken politics.

The church building committee, in an open letter [slightly insensitive maybe] to the objectors, stated that legally they could do whatever they liked!  In January 1828 there was a turbulent meeting the upshot of which was to allow a parish vote. This vote showed a majority in favour of the new church and subsequently the Church Commissioners donated £2000 towards the new church.

When St George’s Church was consecrated in January 1832, provision was made for 460 people in the ‘free seats’.  Construction cost was £4,000.

This map [below] - again copyright DSH - shows part of Old Frankwell.  The green area is the site of the long gone St George's Bridge.  The location of St George's Hospital and Chapel is also marked. The red outline is the current boundary of the Theatre Severn Building.

 

A subsequent record about St George’s commented … built in 1832 as a chapel of ease to St Chad's, St George's became an independent parish in 1857.  The architecture is 'Debased Early English' in style and has richly glowing stained glass.  The church is located close to Darwin's birthplace.

The architectural term 'debased', whilst sounding like an insult, simply means that it is a development of a previous style.  The debased English style can be traced back to 1540 and has been described as 'stylistically more simple and inauspicious and inferior to previous styles' and features 'clear vertical and horizontal lines and angularities'.

On the 1st June 2002 the name of the parish was changed to Shrewsbury St George with Greenfields and the new boundary includes the areas of Greenfields, Coton Hill and Herongate on the other [northern] side of the river.  

These parts of Shrewsbury are extremely difficult to represent in pictures beacuse of the density of housing.  

 

The picture above - copyright Britain from Above - www.britainfromabove.org.uk - shows the newly built Coton Hill Estate in the centre.  In the foreground is the site of what is now the Showground.

Above the Coton Hill Estate, and separted from it by the Shrewsbury to Chester railway line, is the Greenfields Estate.  Much development has taken place since the picture was taken.

The history of the Greenfields area is very much interwoven with the life of one Thomas Pace.  His forbears were Italian immigrants who settled in London in 1380.  In the 1600’s the family came to Shropshire and started farming.

Thomas was born in Brierley Hill in Staffordshire in 1856 and he was one of eight children.  He started working on a farm at the age of nine years for a wage of two shillings a week!  It is known that he subsequently moved to Madeley before taking up an apprenticeship as a bricklayer, in Crewe.

He came to Shrewsbury in 1874 and worked for a local building firm named ‘Treasure’s’. He soon advanced to foreman with that firm but left in 1888 to set up his own business in Greenfield Street. 

The majority of the houses that comprise Greenfields today were constructed in the late 1800’s.  Initially many of the building lots failed to sell.  Streets, some named after characters involved with the Battle of Shrewsbury, continued to be laid out but houses were only sold, and occupied, very slowly.

Pace built many of the houses.  By 1891 there were 38 houses in Greenfields Street, 38 in Hotspur Street, and 10 in Falstaff Street.  Ten years later there were another 210 houses in the area.  Houses were constructed of bricks made on site whilst the yellow decorative stringer bricks were made elsewhere.  The original house owners were predominantly those employed by the railway companies.

A temporary Methodist Church was subsequently built in Greenfields Street in 1890 and was known as the 'Tin Tabernacle' [pictured below] and later replaced in 1908 with a brick built structure.  The Anglican church 'responded' by building a Mission Room almost opposite and this came under the wing of the now redundant St Julian's Church.  

Greenfields Methodist Church

Drinkwater Street, Frankwell

Drinkwater Street, named after the Drinkwater family, was not constructed until 1882.  It runs from what is now the Frankwell traffic island past St George’s Church, and finishes near the banks of the River Severn. Its construction necessitated the demolition of half the house at number 92 Frankwell.  The surviving half can still be seen and shows part of the cruck frame construction – now on the outside.

The Reverend Charles Drinkwater, [1831 – 1923] who was Richard Drinkwater’s fifth son, was appointed Vicar of St George’s in 1872.  He retained this position until his death.

A Directory of 1928 has the following description of St George's Church:

St George's is an ecclesiastical parish, created a separate parish in 1857 out of the original parish of St Chad and consists of the township of Frankwell.  The church in Frankwell stands on an eminence and chapel.  It has a tower with four pinnacles at the west end containing one bell and a peal of 8 tubular bells hung in commemoration of the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria.  

The stained east window was presented in 1832 by the Rev'd Richard Scott BD., those in the transepts by the maker, Dr David Evans.  The interior was re-arranged in 1869 and there are now (1829) 800 sittings.  The Register dates from 1837.  In 1928 the living, a vicarage + £400, was the gift of the Vicar of St Chad.

A WEDDING AT ST GEORGE'S IN 1953 - SHOWING THE INTERIOR OF THE BUILDING AT THAT TIME

 

 

REPAIRS TO THE CHURCH 2011 ONWARDS

In November 2011 work commenced to repair loose stone work on the tower parapet and to renew the base of the flagpole.

 

 

The photographs show some of the work done, including replacing iron pins with steel ones to hold the stonework together.

A survey, undertaken in 2012 revealed that £105,000 was urgently needed to make St George’s Church ‘Structurally Sound, Watertight and Damp-proof’ for future generations.

The urgent work identified was to replace the tower roof, stabilise high level masonry and repair/replace the gutters and the drainage system.  The photographs show the extent of the damage and speak for themselves.

 

Water ingress into the church interior, due to the failure of the guttering and drainage, was found to have caused damage to the plasterwork and decoration.

Three phases were/are necessary to resolve all outstanding problems.  The most urgent repairs relate as above to waterproofing the church.

Arrol & Snell were appointed architects for the project and they carried out a detailed investigation of the church and determined the specification of the tender for the work needed.

The congregation and friends of the church embarked on extensive fund raising activities and this has raised in excess of £20,000.  In parallel with these activities applications were submitted for grants.

This resulted in grants totalling £72,250 being awarded [including one of £60,000 from English Heritage]. 

Works were completed in November 2014 at a cost of  £97,767.  The works were carried out by Phillips & Curry Ltd under the supervision of our architect, Andrew Arrol, and cost £97,767.  This was funded by grants, local fund raising and a VAT refund.

St George’s acknowledge with sincere thanks the following organisations for their financial support:

English Heritage  £56,500, Shropshire Historic Churches Trust  £7,500,

Leverhume Trust £3,000,   Allchurches Trust £1,750

There are many images of the repair work in albums here.

BAPTISTRY FLOOR NORTH TRANCEPT

This is the second phase of repairs identified and below the floor needs repair/replacing to make it safe and useable once more.

The planning of this work is currently under way and it is hoped to complete this phase of the project in 2016.  Fund raising will commence when an accurate cost is available.

PHASE 3

This is a longer term objective and has to await both the drying out of the walls of the church and the raising of the money to fund repairs to plasterwork and redecoration.   It is hoped that the work can be carried out in 2017/18.

Autumn 2015

In Autumn 2015 serious water damage was found to the eastern end of the main roof beam [across the south transept] which necessitated the fabrication of a metal reinforcing plate to make the beam sufficiently strong to bear the loads placed on it.

Pictures show the scaffolding necessary to access the beam and [below left] shows the damage to the beam.

Below are two pictures shown the metal reinforcement to both sides of the damaged beam and below that pictures of the 'former' to create the curved profile and re-plastering of the affected areas.

 

 The scaffolding did offer a unique opportunity to photograph the chancel from above. 

During the first week of December 2015 re plastering was commenced.  Below are pictures of the replasterng progress and the 'former' needed to recreate part of the profile for underneath the beam.

 

 

NEW FONT

 

The new font was dedicated on Sunday the 20th December at the 10.30am service.

Below are some pictures of the glass bowl being blown at the Ruskin Glass Centre at Stourbridge and in the carpentry shop.

 

 

 

Service of Dedication for the new font on Sunday 20th December 2015.  Pictured here are [left to right] Cabinet Maker Jamie Hubbard, The Archdeacon of Salop,  Ven Paul Thomas, Martin Andrews, glass artist, and The Reverend Murray McBride, Vicar of St George's Church, Frankwell. 

Group photograph from the service of Dedication for the New Font on Sunday 20th December 2015.  Picture above and below by Catherine Buckley and used with permission.

 

FIRST BAPTISMS USING THE NEW FONT

 

In April 2016 we said goodbye to  the Rev Murray McBride as he moved to Sweden with his wife Karin.

 

In November 2017 we welcomed the Rev Tim Vasby-Burnie and his family to St George's.