What lies beneath the streets of Shrewsbury......

If you’re wondering why the pavement is fenced off at the top of St John’s Hill, here’s the reason….

There’s a cellar underneath it with a fascinating local historic value!

The cellar origins

In the 14th century the Town Wall had an inner lane running along side it towards the top of St John’s Hill; it was appropriately called Wall Lane.

The cellar is constructed, I assume, using the remains of the Town Wall and handmade Georgian bricks. These make the arch over what was Wall Lane and join the footings of the house at the top end of St John’s Hill.

Consisting of two chambers, at the end of the cellar under the corner of St John's Hill looking towards St Chads, you can clearly see what I think are medieval blocks.

Built from what appears to be a similar stone and style as the heritage grade II listed Watch Tower on Town Walls, I’m hazarding a guess, this was one of the main gateways into town from the 14th century onwards, possibly the remnant of Wheeler's Gate or Quarry Gate.

The dividing wall is constructed from what appears to be medieval stone and Georgian bricks. The second chamber is made of the red bricks and at the far end there is a curved staircase; this is now blocked at the top by the pavement.

Once you are in the cellar standing on its cobbled floor, you can easily imagine people going about their business on the inside the walls - who knows what an archaeological examination might reveal of their activity!

The owner of the house when it was first built in 1766 was Thomas Berrington, one of Shrewsbury's well-known Georgians, with a long line of ancestry back to Edward 1st and beyond to William the Conqueror.

The Berringtons

A bit of local history, the Barrington/Berrington name derives from those supporters of William of Normandy who came to England from Barentin in Normandy for or shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066. The early records accordingly preface the name with the French 'de', i.e. 'de Barentin' translated 'of Barentin'. William rewarded his Norman supporters, including the de Barentins, with various manors across England.

Berrington village was named after this family and St Alkmund's Square in Shrewsbury was called Berrington Square. The Berringtons were staunch Catholics and the focus of Catholic life took place at Berrington House, with its own designated chapel, in Berrington Square.

Doctor William Berington died aged 56 in 1766, the year that Thomas Berington VI, his son, built the house on St Johns Hill, possibly using his inheritance in order to do so.

Held in the Shropshire Archives, there is a painted sketch of Town Walls dating from this time, and Mr Berington's house is marked on it next to Wall Lane.

Thomas Berrington sold his properties on 23 June 1777 to William Harries. They included premises in Pulley and Meole Brace, land in Hanwood and Hookagate, Berrington House in Berrington Square, the house and premises on St Johns Hill, two houses on Mardol, a house in Dogpole, a house in Rodington and a house on Wyle Cop. All of this for the princely sum of £3800!

The cellar’s fate

The house has Grade II heritage listing, so as the cellar is within curtilage of the house and possibly includes the remains of Wheeler Gateway, one would assume by default, it is Grade II listed too.

During the town improvement works in that area last year, from what I understand, the cellar roof was damaged in October 2018 and it’s been fenced off ever since whilst its fate is decided.

There has been talk of filling it in with concrete, but another alternative would be to remove some of the roof and have a reinforced glass pavement installed, similar to those used in aerial walkways.

This would not only preserve this little piece of our town’s heritage, but make it a quirky feature for the local history tours making their way from Wheeler's Tower, past the Town Wall remnants in the cellar and onwards to St Chad's Church.


Annie Waddington-Feather Annie Waddington-Feather
Journalist, copywriter and marketeer with a wry sense of humour, good dose of common sense (and a few diverse interests to boot).

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