The history of Attingham's Town Walls Tower

The view of Town Walls Tower, looking east along Town Walls

Town Walls Tower has royal roots, being commissioned by King Henry III. Take a look at its long history and defensive place in Shrewsbury.

Why was the Tower built?

Town Walls Tower is evidence of Shrewsbury's history as a strategically important settlement close to the border with Wales. It formed a key part of the defensive walls that once surrounded the town and is now the last surviving example of those defences.

The need for defences

The building of Shrewsbury’s perimeter walls is dated to 1220 and 1242. Henry III issued a royal mandate urging the men of Salop to fortify the town, and grants for building walls were made during his reign.

The king visited Shrewsbury on several occasions, pursuing his campaign against the Welsh. By the 14th century the walls had fallen derelict, and Henry IV commissioned further rebuilding. Town Walls Tower was probably added during this time, when the town was at risk from attack.

A map of 1575 shows the town almost fully encircled by walls featuring several similar towers. They were a means to observe land around the town and river.

Later uses

Once it ceased to have a defensive purpose, Town Walls Tower was leased out to local townsmen. Little is known about the use of the Tower in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Tower tales

  •     In an 1809 engraving, Town Walls Tower appears to be derelict
  •     It was the workshop of a watch-maker, John Massey, in 1816
  •     It was converted into a coachman's dwelling in the 1860s
  •     We acquired it in 1930
  •     Town Walls Tower was last occupied in the 1980s

Shrewsbury before its walls

The first reference to Shrewsbury is in a Charter of Wenlock Abbey, dated 901. It refers to ‘Scrobbesbyrig’. By 1086, the town consisted of 252 houses - with the castle and River Severn providing adequate defence.