Council ultimatum in Shrewsbury historic cellar row
An ultimatum has been issued in the row over who should pay to preserve an historic cellar discovered by accident in Shrewsbury town centre.
Shropshire Council wants to pour concrete into the cellar, which contains a medieval gate through the town's defensive walls – and has told the owner of the adjoining house that the only way to stop this happening is if he foots the bill for it to be preserved.
The cellar lies under the corner of Murivance and St John’s Hill, next to the home of Alan Fox, and was accidentally rediscovered by road workers in October 2018.
Investigations by leading archaeologist and historian Dr Nigel Baker supported the theory that the rear wall of the cellar was part of a medieval gateway though the town's walls, leading to calls from Shrewsbury Town Centre Residents' Association and Shrewsbury Civic Society for it to be preserved.
The council said the issue was "not straightforward" but confirmed the preferred option remained to fill the cellar with concrete.
"The cellar is located below the pavement and road, and the vault was exposed immediately below the York stone pavement when it was lifted during the recent pavement replacement work," said a council spokesperson.
"Prior to this it was an inaccessible void under the footway and carriageway – it appears to have been inaccessible for in excess of 100 years – and Shropshire Council as the local highways authority has no knowledge of it."
The council said it had a "wider duty to maintain a safe and stable highway".
It added: "Extensive discussions have been held between Shropshire Council’s historic environment officers and highway structures engineers about a finding a solution which would minimise the impact on the cellar.
"However, because of the particular characteristics of the cellar as outlined above, the acceptable and readily affordable engineering options are limited.
"Shropshire Council’s preferred option is therefore to fill the cellar after it has been fully archaeologically recorded. The former wall of the gate tower could be shuttered out to preserve it.
"Alternatively, the option remains open to Mr Fox to accept ownership of the cellar, in which case it will be a matter for him to find an acceptable engineering solution. Under the provisions of the Highways Act he will, however, be liable for the costs of any works."