Salop is an old abbreviation for Shropshire, sometimes used on envelopes or telegrams, and comes from the Anglo-French “Salopesberia”. Shropshire residents are still referred to as “Salopians”.
Historically, the area was once part of the lands of the Cornovii, which consisted of the modern day counties of Cheshire, Shropshire, north Staffordshire, north Herefordshire and the eastern parts of Powys.
Ptolemy’s 2nd century Geography names one of their towns as being Viroconium Cornoviorum (Wroxeter), which became their capital under Roman rule and one of the largest settlements in Britain.
It was annexed to the Angle kingdom of Mercia by King Offa in the eighth century, at which time he built two significant dykes to defend his territory against the Welsh. In subsequent centuries, the area suffered repeated Danish invasion, and fortresses were built at Bridgnorth and Chirbury.
After the Norman Conquest in 1066, major estates in Shropshire were granted to the Norman invaders. As with other post invasion regions many defensive castles were built across the county to defend against the Welsh and enable effective control of the region, including Ludlow and Shrewsbury Castles.
The western frontier with Wales was not finally determined until the 14th century. Also in this period, a number of religious foundations were formed, the county largely falling at this time under the diocese of Hereford and that of Coventry and Lichfield.
Some parishes in the north-west of the county in later times fell under the diocese of St. Asaph until the dis-establishment of the Church in Wales in 1920, when they were ceded to the Lichfield diocese. During the medieval period the region was often embroiled in the power struggles between powerful Marcher Lords, the Earls of March and successive monarchs.
Shropshire borders Wales to the west, Cheshire to the north, Staffordshire to the east, Worcestershire to the south-east and Herefordshire to the south. The county’s population and economy is centred on five towns: the county town of Shrewsbury, (above) which is culturally and historically important and is located in the centre of the county.
Telford, a new town in the east which was constructed around a number of older towns, most notably Wellington, Dawley and Madeley, which is today the most populous and Oswestry in the north-west, Bridgnorth ironically just to the south of Telford, and Ludlow in the south.
The county has many further market towns, including Whitchurch in the north, Newport just to the north-east of Telford, and Market Drayton in the north-east of the county.
The Ironbridge Gorge (above) area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, covering Ironbridge, Coalbrookdale and a part of Madeley.
There are, additionally, other notable historic industrial sites located around the county, such as at Shrewsbury, Broseley and Highley as well as the Shropshire Union Canal.
The Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covers about a quarter of the county, mainly in the south. Shropshire is one of England’s most rural and sparsely populated counties. The Wrekin is one of the most famous natural landmarks in the county, though the highest hills are the Clee Hills, Stiperstones and the Long Mynd.
The River Severn, Britain’s longest river, runs through the county, exiting into Worcestershire via the Severn Valley. Shropshire is landlocked and is England’s largest inland county. It also contains a number of historically significant areas around Coalbrookdale and Ironbridge which are seen as highly significant insofar as they are regarded as one of the birthplaces of the Industrial Revolution.
The county flower is the drosera-rotundifolia or round-leaved sundew. (above left)