Category Archives: David Harley

Castle Gates House

[As Eve subsequently sent me a better scan of the drawing, I’ve substituted that for the slightly cropped version that was here before.]

Another drawing by my uncle, Eddy Parker, this time scanned by my cousin Eve (and used here by permission, of course!) in whose possession it is now. According to the British Listed Buildings site, the house was originally built on Dogpole and moved in 1702 or thereabouts by the Earl of Bradford to its present site. At one time it was the residence of the Reverend Edmund Dana (1739-1823), Vicar of Wroxeter, Eaton Constantine, Harley and Aston Botterell, after whom the Dana was named. (Much more information about this interesting individual can be found at that link.) Something I hadn’t known is that Dana as in the Shrewsbury walkway should be pronounced as if it were spelt Danner, not like the Irish singer. He was, in fact, born in Massachusetts: I don’t know if he was related to Richard Henry Dana, best known as the author of Two Years Before The Mast.

castle gates house

And here’s Eve’s photo of the house as it looks today (or at least very recently). Sadly, it could really do with a bit of a facelift. The house, not Eve’s photo. She’s actually a rather accomplished photographer. 🙂

castlegates by eve

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World


Shrewsbury, Etymology and Mob Rule

[Updated 6th July 2015]

Rant coming up…

Quite a few English towns aren’t (locally) pronounced the way they’re spelt: Bicester, Wednesbury and Leominster spring to mind. I’ve never lived in any of those towns, but I have to wonder whether they give rise to the same acrimony as the evergreen controversy over the ‘correct’ pronunciation of Shrewsbury. The one in Shropshre, that is: I suspect that the residents of the other Shrewsburys to be found elsewhere on the globe have better things to worry about.

In my (by no means authoritative) opinion, it’s not really a matter of what is correct. In fact, I consider it offensive when people insist that the only ‘correct’ way is the way they say it, whichever pronunciation they favour. It’s a matter of common (but by no means universal) contemporary usage versus traditional/historical usage versus etymological probability. Anglo-Saxon speakers might, I suppose, have pronounced Scrobbesbyrig (not the only possible spelling in the 11th century, of course) with a long O (Oh) or short O as in ‘cobble’ – since the language was West Germanic (i.e. closely related to modern Standard German), I’m extrapolating from words like ‘Dom’ (long O) and ‘Sonntag’* (short O): a long U sound as in ‘Flug’ (or ‘rune’) seems less likely. But historical linguistics isn’t my area of expertise, and (apparently unlike some people in certain Facebook groups) I’m not old enough to remember how Shrewsbury folk (or Salopians) spoke in the 19th century, let alone the 11th.


Darwin is keeping his own counsel on the topic.

Probably more people say ‘Shroosbree’ or ‘Shoesbree’ now than was the case when I was young and I don’t have a problem with that, even though I’m going to stick with the long O and ‘…bury’ rather than ‘bree’ myself. I have a soft spot for the traditional, and not only in music.  But words and names change over time, and it isn’t necessarily a ‘posh versus common’ thing, either. It’s just the way that language evolves over time. I notice that the BBC** doesn’t seem to insist on the ‘O’ pronunciation any more (for what that’s worth), and sometimes presenters use both ‘Shrosebury’ and ‘Shroosbury’ (or a close variant) in the same programme. (I also notice that railway announcers have also pretty much abandoned the long ‘o’, but I’m sympathetic to anyone English who has to cope with some of the Welsh placenames on the Heart of Wales line.)

However, the question as to which is ‘correct’ is a common thread in Shrewsbury-related Facebook groups. Sadly, it usually degenerates into name-calling. Despite my observation in the second paragraph, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone insist that the use of the long ‘o’ is the only ‘correct’ pronunciation since the 1960s I’m not sure if the BBC Pronunciation Unit still has a ruling on it, but the old Rowley’s House Museum did have an exhibit explaining the origins of the traditional pronunciation without, to the best of my recollection, insisting that it should be used. However, there are always people who insist that the only way is Essex – sorry, Shroosbury (or even Shoosbree) – and that anyone who disagrees is:

  • From Off (as a Phil Rickman character might say – that is, not local): I’ve been told in all seriousness that the fact that I spent the first 19 years of my life in Shrewsbury didn’t mean I was entitled to an opinion, because I was born in a maternity hospital four miles or so outside the town. In any case, having spent most of my working life in the South (where the jobs were!), I am automatically disqualified. Besides, look at my name: the village of Harley is nearly ten miles outside Shrewsbury, so my roots are obviously foreign.
  • Stupid, because it’s spelt ‘ew’, so it ought to be pronounced like ‘shrew’, even though its etymology has nothing to do with those little creatures with no heads. At least, they didn’t have any heads when our cats used to leave their little cadavers on the decking. (Eeeeewwwwwww!!!!!) Mind you, they (the cats) originally came from Yorkshire: was that behaviour they learned in Shrewsbury? Perhaps there aren’t any shrews living oop in t’North.
  • Illiterate (2). It should be pronounced like it’s spelt. Like Bicester, Beaminster, Derby and Leominster, not to mention Kirkcudbright. Oh, wait a minute…
  • A toff or snob, because only the toffs pronounce it Shrowsbury. In fact, I was brought up on a council estate, but I pronounced it the older way, apparently, because I wanted to be a toff. Well, I guess no Labour leader is ever going to make me a life peer then. It never fails to fascinate me how much people who’ve never met me know about my psychological make-up. Or even my physical attributes: I remember with affection someone who commented on one of my blogs that the string of letters after my name – related to my now lapsed membership of several professional organizations – was probably meant to compensate for undeveloped genitalia. Well, you’ll never get the chance to check, sweetie.
  • A history teacher. Owwww!!!!! That really hurts!!! Not only a (yuk!) teacher but a history teacher. No, you can’t cause me much grief that way, folks. I work in the anti-virus industry, an occupation which seems to rank in status in the security industry as inferior to traffic wardens, tax collectors and politicians. I’ve been married to a teacher and a social worker. (Not at the same time.) I’ve been insulted by professionals…
  • Wrong, because no-one calls Dewsbury ‘Dozebury’. Well, I don’t suppose they do, but Dewsbury has a completely different etymological evolution. I haven’t heard anyone call Newbury ‘Nobury’ or Crewe ‘Crow’, either, but I’m not convinced of the relevance of that point, either.
  • Wrong, because if you really want to be archaic and traditionalist, you should call it Pengwern. Well, Giraldus Cambriensis does cite a tradition that associates Pengwern – as in the early seat of the Kings of Powys, though they later moved further westward – with Shrewsbury, but there’s no conclusive evidence that I’m aware of. In any case, I don’t think there’s a local preference for calling York Eboracum or Canterbury Durou̯ernon (or even Durovernum) either.
  • My favourite: wrong, because Americans pronounce it Shroosbury. With all due respect to my many American friends – who no doubt regard this idiocy with amused bewilderment, if it crosses their radar at all – I have to wonder if the UK inhabitants of Derby and Birmingham (not to mention the French inhabitants of Orléans) are now using the pronunciations Durby, Birmingham with the stress on ‘-ham’, and Awlins (as in Noo Awlins). I’m particularly doubtful of the last one, in the homeland of the Académie française.
  • Because there’s a meme around showing Homer Simpson saying ‘It’s Shrewsbury, not Shrowsbury’ (or something like that). Well, why didn’t you say so? If a fictional character unable to hold down a job and noted for his borderline alcoholism and addiction to doughnuts has spoken, who am I to disagree?
  • Because I say so. Because you are. Because it is. End of.

So which is ‘correct’? I don’t think the word applies, though I think it’s probable that the older pronunciation will continue to decline and perhaps be forgotten in a few years. And there’s no real reason why it shouldn’t. It seems a pity, though, that the process should be accelerated and by the sort of petty bullying that sometimes afflicts perfectly nice, respectable people when they start using social media, replacing not only simple courtesy and mutual respect, but logic.  The class war is alive and well and living in Shrewsbury. Which is why even though I’m not ashamed to have come from Shrowesbury (a legitimate older spelling, by the way, but then the standardized spelling is a fairly recent development), I’m sometimes glad that I don’t have to live there now.

I should also point out that I have many friends in Shrewsbury who may use either pronunciation (or even ‘Salop’ (an alternative name with a long and honourable tradition behind it) but wouldn’t dream of ‘correcting’ people who bat for the other team. And that Shrewsbury holds no monopoly on parochialism or reverse snobbery. (Some of the most parochial people I’ve ever met have been Londoners…)

I have considered skirting the whole issue by using the Welsh name Amwythig, but I suppose that would inspire general bewilderment and draw even more abuse down upon my head for mispronunciation. I admit to having lived for a while in Wales in the early 70s, but can’t claim to have mastered the language.

*Clearly any claim I had to have mastered – to the limited extent that A-level can be described as ‘mastering’ – the German language in the 1960s has long since expired. Well, even though I have visited Germany and Austria a few times in the last couple of decades for conferences, I’ve had very little need to exercise my extraordinarily rusty linguistic skills. Thanks to Geoff Maddocks, who pointed out that Montag is pronounced with a long ‘o’ and suggested that Sonntag was a better example.

**The BBC did recently (July 2015) report an attempt to ‘settle‘ the debate. Of course, it did no such thing, though a majority of respondents (58%) did vote for ‘Shroosbury’ (it’s not clear whether or how the ballot distinguished between Shroosbury and Shoosbury – 7% of respondents did vote ‘other’). That’s hardly surprising: those are the ways in which most people pronounce it nowadays. I don’t see people who prefer ‘Shrozebury’ being swayed by mob rule, though.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

Oakengates Folk ‘n’ Ale Day

Hat tip to Sally Stamford for pointing this out: mini Folk Music Festival at the Crown Inn, Market Street, Oakengates, TF2 6EA, on Saturday 20th September 2014.

I note that there is a weekly acoustic session at the Crown, and another at the Old Fighting Cocks across the road, both on a Wednesday. Sorry, it’s a bit far out from here to go and check them out.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World


Shropshire-ish Musical Events in August

HT to Sigrid Haynes for a reminder of the first three events:

  • Wednesday 20th August 2014: Session at the CROWN, CLUNTON 8.30 – 9 pm start. (Richard 01588 660226) This is a monthly event (third Wednesday).
  • Thursday 21st August 2014: Folk Down the Track takes its regular trip (every couple of months) down to the Castle Inn, Knucklas (on the Heart of Wales line). (Tel: Siggy 01547 528223 or the Castle Inn 01547 528150). Siggy points out that:

“If you are driving PLEASE NOTE THE ROAD BETWEEN KNIGHTON AND KNUCKLAS IS OPEN IN THE EVENINGS, PLEASE IGNORE THE ROAD CLOSED SIGNS!!!!!!! )  Everyone is welcome to play or sing – so bring instruments, tunes, songs and good voices!  We have an excellent band in the function room and there will also be a tune session in the main bar and singing too! The Castle serves great food and beer so do come and join us for a good night! It all kicks off at 7PM when the train comes in! [N.B. if you’re on the train from Shrewsbury/Craven Arms, you need to get the train back at just after 9pm – DH]

More information about Folk Down the Track at Slow Travel in the Marches, which lists a couple of other events. One is a festival at the Greyhound Inn Llangynllo (or Llangunllo), also on the Heart of Wales line (albeit a mile’s walk from the station): it runs from 4pm on Friday 22nd and then every day from noon till the 25th. 01547 550400. The other event is the beer festival at the Sun, Leintwardine, which also includes quite a lot of music.

  • Also from Siggy:Sunday 24th August – GREEN FESTIVAL IN LUDLOW. There is live music all day from 10:00 – 4:00, including a ceilidh in the Square from 3:00 – 4:00. In the evening, there is a ‘Party at the Brewery’ next to the railway station, with Rhythm Thieves (a local folk/rock band) supported by Jess Prentice, a young and talented upcoming performer. I’m attaching a flyer detailing all the events. For more details contact Alison Brooks: or Nina Walmsley:

 [if that address doesn’t work, try DH]

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

The Shrewsbury Guilds, Thomas Anderson, and the Flower Show

Further to the 1973 article by Ron Nurse – on the Shrewsbury guilds and the execution of Thomas Anderson in the aftermath of the Jacobite rebellion – that I transcribed here, a thread on the ‘You know you’re from Shrewsbury when…’ Facebook page drew my attention to Pauline Fisk’s fascinating My Tonight From Shrewsbury blog and in particular this article on the abolishing of The Old Shrewsbury Show. This grew out of the show organized by the Shrewsbury trade guilds in the Middle Ages, referenced in Ron’s article and in our song Thomas Anderson. However, the show was abolished around the time that the Shrewsbury Flower Show began. I have an idea that the end of the old show was mentioned in ‘Fairfield Folk‘ by Frances Brown, but I don’t have a copy of that book to hand.

The Shropshire Guilds page at Shropshire History also included some interesting information on the show, and photographs of guildhalls that still survive in Shrewsbury and elsewhere in Shropshire, even though (to the best of my knowledge) the only surviving physical trace of the feast halls on Kingsland is the Shoemakers’ Arbour, transplanted to the Dingle by the newly-established Horticultural Cultural society around 1875. However, the Shropshire History domain now seems to have been taken over by something quite irrelevant to Shropshire history.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

Ludlow sunset

A couple of sunset shots taken in Ludlow. (The reference to Keswick is explained by the previous article on that blog, which shows some sunset views of Derwent Water.)

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

David Harley Photos

Taken this evening. Sorry, we don’t have a lake in Ludlow like the one in Keswick.

Taken from the side of the castle that overlooks the Teme facing across to Whitcliff, but in this instance I turned almost due West for obvious reasons. I really like the natural frame provided by the leaves, though it’s probably a gambit I use too often.

ludlow sunset

And here’s Mortimer’s Tower, on the same side of the castle, catching the last of the sun.

Mortimer's Tower

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

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Up the creche without a puddle

Spotted outside The Bridge in Ludlow. However, Jude didn’t take the hint and insisted on walking me home via The Linney. Admittedly, there aren’t many shops open in Ludlow on a Sunday evening. On the other hand, the last stretch via the castle was rather pollen-rich for my tastes on a warm, dry summer’s evening.



David Harley
Small Blue-Green World


May musical events: Unicorns, Trackies, and Grey Wolves

This isn’t really an events tracking page: I don’t want to offer anything like that until I have the time to keep it updated properly. However, I can’t ignore these and may well be at all three. I hope that doesn’t put you off.

There’s an excellent folk session on the first Friday of every month at the Unicorn, in Corve Street Ludlow. The next one is on the 2nd May, 2014.

On Saturday May 10th 2014, Folk Down The Track (a gathering of folkies who mostly seem to find their way over from Shrewsbury to Knucklas, though I sometimes wander over there myself) and Folk Up The Track (apparently based in Llanelli, though I can’t find a web site for it*) will be meeting at the Llanerch Inn, opposite  Llandrindod Wells Railway Station, for ‘a FREE fun day of acoustic music from mid- day’. Travel arrangements as detailed on the flyer I have:

Northbound train departs Llanelli at 09.34, arriving in Llandrindod at 11.35. Last train to Lla- nelli/Swansea departs at 19.35, arriving in Llanelli at 21.40.
Southbound train departs Shrewsbury at 09.00, arriv- ing in Llandrindod at 10.29. Last train back to Shrewsbury departs at 20.40, arriving at 22.08.
Special rates on accommodation are available for those who wish to stay overnight at the Llanerch Inn, call 01597 822234 for more information.

*For more info, contact Roger Price 0780155 1747

Here’s an event right in my backyard, as it were. The Parkway, just off Corve Street in Ludlow, frequently puts on blues/folk events with the likes of Will Killeen (a frequent guest when I used to run folk clubs in London), and on Sunday the 11th of May is putting on a special event with buskers jamming from midday on (yes, I may be there, though busking isn’t really my thing) and with the very excellent Grey Wolf (accomplished purveyors of Americana) playing a set in the evening.

Here are a couple of pages that offer a wider spread of information for events in this area and beyond:

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World


On the surface, it’s very deep…

…but deep down it’s shallow.

On a Sunday afternoon wander around Carding Mill Valley, Church Stretton, my wife was a little taken aback to see the sign pictured here at the Top Car Park.

carding mill valley

The stream that runs by the other side of the car park is definitely not that deep, and the New Pool Hollow track that runs up to the reservoir is definitely rather steeper than that.

However, having spent the first 19 years of my life in Shrewsbury and having visited the Strettons many times during that period, I had a sudden Proust moment and remembered that where the car park is there used to be a swimming pool. And a little research confirmed that the site of the car park was indeed a former millpond and swimming pool. It was filled in at some point during the 1960s.

Here’s a view of the car park from the Pool Hollow Track, with a bit of Bodbury Hill immediately behind and Haddon Hill further back. Well, some car parks are quite photogenic. 🙂

top car park2

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World