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When Henry VIII died in 1547, he was succeeded by Edward VI. But he was just a boy of nine, and those who managed his affairs stripped the churches of their remaining wealth as a simple means of raising money. Then came Queen Mary who tried to return the country to Catholicism.
Throughout this it seems the clergy of Shrewsbury kept their personal views to themselves and consequently kept their positions. But even greater changes occurred when Elizabeth came to the throne in 1559.
During the upheaval in religious matters over the previous decade or so, there had been subtle changes in Shrewsbury's industries. Wool was replacing leather as the important trade commodity. The Welsh wool industry was a scattered one and they had no central market until Shrewsbury became its trade centre. The River Severn, which for centuries had provided the town with primary defence, now provided it with a primary trade route to Bristol and to Europe.
Today the Severn is a quiet spot, barely even used for pleasure purposes, but on both sides of the river, near where the Welsh Bridge stands today, were quays and warehouses, where boats weighing up to thirty tons loaded and unloaded as they plied the river from Welshpool to the sea.
With this increased wealth came changes in the Guilds. Although they were still involved in charitable work, their commercial interests started to take precedence. It was a time for expansion, improvement, and wealth.
There are some who make comparison between the Elizabethan era and the twentieth century. Bizarre though that may sound, there are similarities. Inflation was rife there was a fuel crisis and it was a period of technical innovation. Timber supplies were dwindling and peat was being dug in the north of the county to fuel the bakers' ovens in Shrewsbury. There were also new illnesses to cope with and this brought rapid changes in Shrewsbury's water supply and sewage disposal. There was even a form of quarantine for those returning from London!
Agriculture was also suffering after a series of bad harvests and produce prices fluctuated wildly. Grain was imported to Shrewsbury from the continent and even sold at a loss to encourage local farmers not to hoard their crops. (Shades of grain mountains!)
It was around this time that the new Market hall was built. The ground floor was used for storing grain and the upper for selling wool. This building still stands in The Square and is a fitting centre to the town today. The Rowley family illustrate how rapid growth was in Shrewsbury at this time.
William Rowley came to Shrewsbury some time before the turn of the century and was made a burgess in 1594. He was a draper, brewer and malster and his business premises were the timber-framed buildings which still bears his name. By 1618 he had made sufficient fortune to build an adjoining magnificent brick mansion. But there was political upheaval on the horizon which was to affect not only Shrewsbury but the whole country.
Charles I came to the throne in 1625 and his clashes with Parliament soon started. At that time Shrewsbury had replaced Ludlow as the headquarters of the Council of the Marches. It was a town of political and commercial importance.
Unlike an international war, when one's loyalties are dictated by birth, a civil war was more personal, depending on one's position and circumstances within society. One can almost equate it to a general election where, instead of voting, the electorate fought for their cause.
Shropshire and Shrewsbury were, predominantly pro-Royalist. Of the twelve Shropshire Members of Parliament, only four sided with Parliament. Everyone realised it was a time of preparation and during 1641 the town walls were repaired and reinforced, the gates repaired, arms were purchased and night-watchmen recruited. At night-time the town was sealed.