Shrewsbury Matters: Beaming about a Peach of a building

My wild mushroom and spinach risotto was delicious, and the company of my family, as always, a joy, but none of that stopped me admiring the extraordinary curved beams in the wall of this restaurant writes Phil Gillam.

The Peach Tree – undoubtedly one of Shrewsbury’s architectural gems.
The Peach Tree – undoubtedly one of Shrewsbury’s architectural gems.

We were in The Peach Tree in Abbey Foregate the other night, celebrating the birthday of our middle son (a funny phrase – ‘middle son’ – I know, but how else do you describe the son who is not the eldest and not the youngest?) and we were having a good laugh, discussing a New Zealand-based comedy duo called Flight of the Conchords.

We were giggling like children as we recalled a video we’d seen of the Conchords being asked to compose and record a charity record for Comic Relief, but, as I say, these beams had caught my eye.

You can, I have discovered, laugh heartily and view architectural gems at the same time. Is this multi-tasking?

Anyway . . .

Not everyone who visits The Peach Tree (part of the C21 nightclub complex) will appreciate that they are in fact sitting in one of Shrewsbury’s oldest buildings.

Take a closer look at this range of structures and it turns out that numbers 18-21 Abbey Foregate are, in truth, two cruck-framed houses that have been dated by dendrochronological evidence to the first half of the fifteenth century.

Numbers 18-19 date from 1408 (just five years after the Battle of Shrewsbury) and numbers 20-21 from 1430.

Almost unbelievably (I say ‘almost’ because in actual fact I remember this very clearly myself) this range of buildings was used as a garage from the 1920s up until the 1980s. Yes – a garage!

Far better, I think, that it is now a superb restaurant and successful nightspot, allowing us to enjoy some of its architectural grandeur in warmth and comfort and (if the fancy takes you) with a wild mushroom and spinach risotto to help you forget about the chilly winter night outside.

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There are huge and ambitious plans in the pipeline to build around 900 new homes off Oteley Road, Shrewsbury.

The Sutton Grange development is one of the first residential phases of the Shrewsbury South Sustainable Urban Extension Masterplan which was approved by Shropshire Council’s ruling cabinet last October.

It’s funny how things turn out.

Remember (not so very long ago) the fuss that was made by some residents in the run-up to Shrewsbury Town Football Club’s new stadium being built off Oteley Road. Well, the new stadium went ahead.

Then came plans for a new Waitrose supermarket and revamped Percy Thrower’s Garden Centre along that stretch, and now the (deep breath please) Shrewsbury South Sustainable Urban Extension Masterplan.

Make no mistake . . .

This edge of the town is about to be changed forever.

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I note with great interest that exactly 40 years ago a plum shopping spot in Shrewsbury town centre was snapped up by what was then one of Britain’s fastest-growing companies, the John Menzies group.

They had signed a 26-year lease to take over the Morris’s SaveRite shop in Pride Hill.

They were to redevelop the site into a large superstore selling newspapers, magazines, books, greetings cards, toys, records and stationery. I expect WS Smith was a little concerned about this at the time. However, in 1998 the John Menzies retail operation was sold to WH Smith and the Menzies name disappeared from the high street.

I have to say I have very fond memories of John Menzies in Shrewsbury and bought many a record from there: Crime of the Century by Supertramp, Country Life by Roxy Music, Bad Company by Bad Company, Walls and Bridges by John Lennon, Venus and Mars by Wings, oh yes.

Does anyone else out there remember gramophone records?

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If the air is still on a Saturday afternoon, you can hear quite clearly (from where we live) the roars of excitement (few and far between) from Shrewsbury Town’s stadium just down the road.

At the weekend, a colleague tweeted (yes, folks, I’m on Twitter now – there’s no stopping me!) a mini-commentary of the match. He made the game sound deadly dull (which, by all accounts, it was).

But, moments later, I could have sworn I heard a cheer go up from the ground.

I asked my colleague about this on Monday morning and he said: “If there was a cheer it was probably because they’d heard the final whistle and they were relieved it was all over!”

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The Nags Head Inn in Newtown

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