A History Lesson from Shrewsbury's Town Crier

First in a series of interesting stories of the history of places we all know, love and use on a daily basis right here in Shrewsbury for its very own Town Crier Martin Wood.

"Leading away from the square are two major shutts, Gullet Passage and Grope Lane. First of all a question, Whats the difference between a shutt and a passage? answer? nothing, before the victorian times these small lanes were known as shutts but because of the thinking of our great victorians this name was deemed to be to distasteful, so they renamed them Passages.
During the middle ages a stream led from the pond in the square down to the river and the name for such a stream was `Golate` but at the site near to were it connects with Mardol Head used to stand the Gullet Inn so did the pub take it`s name from the shutt or the shutt take it`s name from the pub, you decide.
The Gullet Inn is now known as The Hole in the Wall but The Gullet was here in 1528 and over the next couple of hundred years was the headquarters of numerous travelling players groups, and also the Mayor and councillors met there at times. In the 1600`s they even had a tennis court! In the mid 1700`s a serious fire destroyed many buildings in the area of Mardol head, and the Gullet was one of the buildings severely damaged, it was sold some 6 years later and then began it`s many changes until we come to todays owners.
Leading in the opposite direction from the Square is Grope lane, Why is it called Grope Lane? Yep, you`ve guessed!!
Loads of towns in the Country had a Grope Lane but most of them have changed the name to Green Lane or Grape Lane but we in Shrewsbury retain our original name, Hooray!! All the Grope Lanes mentioned were used mainly for one trade, prostitution and it was big business in the medieval days of course.
At the bottom of the Lane we now have the Costa coffee shop but in the 1780`s the building was known as The Globe public house before changing it`s name to The Cross Keys around 1820 and then entering into many name changes from around 1910. Next time you walk up Grope Lane just pause for a while and look at the builders marks on the timbers of the old Cross Keys, all the timber houses built in town were originaly put together in the forest where the timber was felled to make sure it all fit, once the carpenter was happy he would mark each timber to tell his workers where each one had to go. Most of the time these mark are on the inside but as this was an inn do you think the carpenter was paid in ale on a `drink as you go` basis?
It`s a bit confusing because there was another Cross Keys Inn directly opposite, where Starbucks now stands, and this was here between 1780 and 1820 strange or what?
Halfway up Grope Lane, where the rubbish bin now stands, used to be St. Martins chapel and it is believed that under this chapel was one of the three Plague pits that we had in the town, around 2,000 of the 9,500 Shrewsbury folk who succumbed to the black death are thought to be buried in the pit but sadly all traces of the chapel are long gone.
There are some lovely individual shops in Grope Lane that are well worth a visit but take heart, none are trading in you know what!!"


Martin Wood Martin Wood
The Shrewsbury Town Crier.

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