Market Square History Lesson

It`s difficult to believe when you stand in the Square surrounded by so many lovely shops that a little over 800 years ago the area was just a very deep pond!

It`s official geographical name was known as a "Kettle-Hole" but it was known at sometime as "Bishop Davids Pond", so named because, as the folk tale goes, David, the 3rd Bishop of Wales popped across the border for a few jars of communion wine and fell into the pond as was drowned!

It was here that they used the Gumbolstol, or ducking stool, as a form of punishment originaly for bakers selling underweight bread, which is why you have 13 in a bakers dozen, and wine merchants for selling stale wine or beer, but these two trades were run by men and it was deemed embarrasing to see the chaps being ducked so they moved over and left the stool for........nagging women!!.

We all know that ladies dont nag, much, but in the medieval days if a women nagged her hubby he could stand in front of a judge and make his complaint, surprisingly the judge was a man and the lady was always found gulty!

If it was her first offence she would spend the day wearing a "brank", a metal helmet a little like an American football players helmet, but if it was her second sentencing then she was in hot water almost literaly,

By the 16th Century, Shrewsbury was the base for the woolen trade and the Drapers needed a market place so the pond was filled in, to a depth of about 25ft, and the Old Market Hall was erected.

The top floor, now the cafe and cinema, would have been used by the drapers and the ground floor would have been the site of the corn market, complete with the original counting frame on the wall, the statue over the front arch is supposed to be The Grand old Duke of York of childrens nursery rhyme fame and it once stood on the old St Georges bridge at the end of mardol and was moved in the 1700`s.

At the other end of the Square, where Clives statue now stands, would have been another market place that was called the Apple Market or Green Market and it was here the fruit and veg was sold.

Sadly, the Old Plough pub has long gone and also the old Shirehall has been replaced by Princess House but the Square still retains a character all of it`s own so next time your walking across the square spare a thought for the women being ducked and think... bring back the good old days!!


Pete White Pete White

Love Shrewsbury editor and chief developer at The Web Orchard, find out more on

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