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Phil Gillam: Can you shine a light on mystery of this old lamppost?

Phil Gillam | Published:

Okay. My photograph this week might not be the most inspiring image you’ve ever seen.

Mystery - the remains of an old lamp post and a fragment of brick wall

And I doubt it would make it into the Tate Modern.

Although, on the other hand …

Have you been to the Tate Modern recently?

Anyway, it’s a scene that many who live in Monkmoor or in Castlefields will recognise instantly as this is on a well-trodden route connecting the two old Shrewsbury suburbs.

Yes, it’s the remains of an old lamp post and a fragment of brick wall.

But, for many years now, it’s been a bit of a mystery to me.

You’ll find this curiosity – to be more geographically precise – at the top end (the Monkmoor end) of Castle Walk - the pedestrian and cycle way that connects, as I say, Monkmoor to Castlefields.

But why is it there?

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One solitary, cast-iron, bottom bit of a lamp post. I don’t mean why is the fragment there: it was obviously forgotten about a long time ago, after the upper bit was taken away. But why was this lamp there at all, along with what looks like a little bridge.

I asked the question on the excellent Facebook page, For the Love of Shrewsbury.

Fans of our town who exchange reminiscences here will often come up with an answer to the most obscure mystery.

But even here I didn’t get a definitive answer.

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A pal of mine, David Giddens, came up with the fullest explanation: “No idea when the cast iron lamp came down but it was there when I was a teenager. The area either side was landfill in the early 1960s and I remember we were pestered by rats as we lived nearby. So we had a black cat called Tommy to try and keep the rats at bay.”

David clearly has a strong attachment to this area.

The Castle Walk and Castle Bridge loom large in my personal history too.

For seven straight years in a row, from when I was aged 12 until I was 18, I walked this path twice a day – for five years to secondary school and back, and then two years to ‘Tech’ (Shrewsbury College as it is called today) on London Road and back.

I have to say, as a quiet, shy child who was not in with the in-crowd, I disliked school most of the time, and so those five years at secondary school in the early 1970s were not the happiest of my life. Nevertheless, I have extremely fond memories of walking this route (particularly on the homeward journey!).

As you might imagine, I especially liked walking home after the school had broken up for the long summer holidays.

Walking home for Christmas was also fantastic.

When I made the switch to ‘Tech” I was a whole lot happier – studying subjects in which I was genuinely interested, making new friends, having fun, feeling inspired – and with this new mind-set I began to see the Castle Walk and Castle Bridge in a different light.

For one thing, I started to appreciate the footbridge in terms of history and engineering. (Spanning the River Severn just up from the weir, this was the first prestressed concrete bridge in Shropshire, completed in November 1951).

But there was something much more important than that, from a personal point of view. No longer did I have butterflies in my tummy when I set off in the morning with my shoulder bag full of books.

The Castle Bridge was no longer a portal between my happy home life and a place where I felt inadequate and intimidated and uncomfortable.

It became instead a link between home and (now, thanks to ‘Tech’) a place where learning was enjoyable and where exciting possibilities were unveiled.

And with every day I walked that route, I found I loved that journey more.

But even now, I’m still not sure of the history of that short stretch of brick wall and bottom half of a lamp post!

Answers on an email please! – philoncloudbase@gmail.com

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