Shropshire Routes to Roots
|Routes | Changes in people and landscape | A tale of two towns|
6. The two towns
How have Shrewsbury and Oswestry changed over the last century?
The pace of change
One of the overriding themes which comes from looking at 'before' and 'after' photographs is the speed of the changes in the twentieth century. Particularly in the 1960s, radical work took place in which planners considered certain buildings dating from the later nineteen-hundreds as being unworthy of preservation.
Of course, planners must have had a difficult task. The increasing use of the motor car not only put pressure on old town centres, it also changed the way we use services. Big public buildings like council offices or police stations no longer needed (or could afford) to be located in the middle of towns. Retail parks are established out of town and when we do shop in towns we expect everything to be under one roof in large stores and malls.
In Shrewsbury, the corporation market was built in 1869 and had been knocked down and replaced by 1963; in the Square, the old Shire Hall became a new bank; the insurance fire station was knocked down, re-built and was knocked down again to be replaced by a new out of town station, all in under 100 years; what must have seemed like a cutting-edge municipal baths when built in 1894 was deemed obsolete by 1970, when the new swimming pool was built.
Likewise in Oswestry, the market hall in the Cross was demolished and replaced by Woolworth's and the Corn Exchange in Bailey Head was replaced by a new market. However, as a much smaller town significantly less development has gone on over the past century. The most dramatic change stands as an example of how big industries are tightly linked to local areas. When the Cambrian works and railway closed, the impact was immediate. Whole swathes of railway land became derelict, and big buildings are still searching for a new use today.
For both towns the early years of the millennium promise new developments and re-generation. In Shrewsbury, there are thoughts of a theatre complex, riverside developments, new sports and leisure facilities and even a second station. In relation to Oswestry's culture, examples of changes planned include the redevelopment of the library and the enhancement of the railways as a heritage attraction.
The major difference between now and the 1960s is the greater sensitivity with which the buildings of the past are treated. The emphasis is on building in harmony with the existing historical landscape and architecture, rather than on replacing it. The age of the bulldozer may be over. Is the age of the conservator finally here?
ContinueFind out where to get more images and sources which can be used to study changes in other parts of Shropshire: Next
Page created 2003 and last updated 30 July 2007