Shropshire SY1 1JL
Despite its unattractive name this open space within easy walking distance of the centre of Shrewsbury, is a delightful place to spend some time. It is full of interesting features as well as always having interesting floral displays at any time of year.
The entrance gate is opposite St Chad’s Church and the park sweeps down the hill to the River Severn which can be crossed by the Porthill Suspension Footbridge. The centrepiece of the park is ‘The Dingle’, a former stone and clay quarry, but now a lovingly landscaped sunken garden.
Two tree-lined avenues provide traffic-free access across the park and down to the riverside walk. Other attractions include a bandstand, the civic War Memorial, memorial benches, water features and sculpture.
The Quarry is the town’s main recreational space and throughout the year the park is home to many local events such as the Shrewsbury Flower Show and the Darwin Festival. The river is a focus for the Shrewsbury Regatta and Dragon Boat Races in May and June.
Although the Quarry is sloping, low-lying parts are part of the natural overflow area for the River Severn in times of high flows. As a relatively low intensity land use, the Quarry is allowed to flood preferentially to protect other more built-up areas of the town.
The boat launching jetty by Porthill Bridge is under water many times during a typical winter, with Victoria Avenue and the children's playground flooded perhaps once a year. Every few years, river flows are such that flood water almost reaches the Bandstand. A causeway of higher ground has been constructed to allow people to walk from Porthill Bridge towards St Chad's Church during most flood events.
Many UK residents of the 60s, 70s and 80s remember the name of this famous broadcaster. He was the gardening guru but before his career in the media he was Superintendent of Shrewsbury Parks for 28 years, and partially responsible for creating The Quarry’s ‘Dingle’.
Shrewsbury’s 29 acre (11.7 ha) park was established in 1719. The quarry was prone to flooding so in the 19th century the Shropshire Horticultural Society paid to clear out the Dingle and plant it.
The new ornamental gardens opened in 1879, featuring many flower beds and borders, with ponds and fountains.
Sites of interest
As mentioned above, the Dingle was created as the centrepiece of The Quarry Park. In 1879 the Earl of Bradford donated a fountain featuring a statue of Sabrina, the mythical goddess of the River Severn.
The inscription on the statue is based on a poem by John Milton (1608–1674) about a nymph who drowned in the River Severn. The Dingle is a beautiful sunken garden landscaped with alpine borders, colourful bedding plants, shrubbery and water features. There are seasonal floral displays all year round, (which in no small part have helped to secure Shrewsbury’s Britain in Bloom status).
The Shoemakers' Arbour
Another feature to look out for in the Dingle is the Shoemakers' Arbour. Associated with the pre-Victorian town festival, and originally sited in Kingsland, it was moved to the Dingle in 1879.
This stone gateway dates from 1679 and includes statues of Crispin and Crispinian, the patron saints of shoemakers. The gateway bears the date of 1679 and the initials, H. P. and E. A.; the wardens of the Shoemakers' guild at that time.
According to local legend, the Dingle is haunted by the ghost of Mrs Foxall, a local woman who was burnt at the stake nearby in the 16th century as punishment for witchcraft and murder.
On a less fantastical note, there are numerous memorial benches and plaques within the Dingle. Of special interest is a sculpted bust of Percy Thrower.
Shrewsbury's main civic war memorial, the focus for Remembrance Sunday, is situated within Quarry park, near St Chad's Terrace. The Portland stone memorial was built in 1922-3 to a design by George Hubbard and Son.
It consists of a bronze winged and armoured statue of St. Michael beneath a circular domed canopy supported by six Ionic columns. Reminiscent of a classical Greek temple, it bears the inscription ‘Remember the gallant men and women of Shropshire who gave their lives for God, King and country 1914-18 and 1939–45'
The richly embellished floor shows the County, King's Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI) Regimental arms and French Croix de Guerre on a gold mosaic background. The seals/arms of the six boroughs of the County are embossed on the inside frieze. The bronze figure of Saint Michael beneath the canopy is by Allan G Wyon and was cast at the foundry of A.B. Burton of Thames Ditton.
The choice of St. Michael the Archangel to represent a soldier is probably because he was viewed as the field commander of the Army of God. In late medieval Christianity, Michael, together with Saint George, became the patron saints of chivalry. Michael is also considered in many Christian circles as the patron saint of the warrior.
Standing just below the entrance to the park is an 1879 bandstand. It was donated to the park by the Shropshire Horticultural Society. The bandstand is used by military bands during Shrewsbury Flower Show.
It also serves as an excellent dry shelter for people practising fire arts, and other activities which require shelter from the rain!
Before the 18th century when the open space was acquired for the park, the land was used for grazing animals. Livestock would be tied to a stone by a leash of no more than 16 yards in length. These 'circular' allotments once made use of the entire herbage ensuring that the grass was kept short through the entire year.
The Harley Stone marks the boundary of the last surviving grazing allotment which was owned by the Harley family of Rossall near Bicton. The family refused to sell their piece of land to the corporation when the rest of the Quarry was being acquired and this small boulder is said to be the anchor stone of their grazing allotment.
The broad traffic-free avenue that runs along the River Severn is called 'Victoria Avenue' and the largest avenue that runs downhill from the town centre to the Victoria Avenue is 'Gloucester Avenue'. The latter was known as Central Avenue, but in 1974 Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester came to the Shrewsbury Flower Show and the avenue was dedicated to her. A special feature of Victoria Avenue is the row of lime trees on each side.
These are actually the second generation of trees to be planted. Thomas Wright first planted avenues of hybrid limes in the Quarry in 1719. They had reached heights of over 130 feet (40 metres) by the early 1950s when they were felled on the orders of Percy Thrower. A falling branch had killed a young girl and so the trees were considered unsafe. It was felt that the trees had originally been planted too close together.
The felled trees were found to contain bee and wasp nests, large amounts of mistletoe and much dead wood. They were replaced with hybrid limes at much wider spacing which are now reaching maturity. The clone that was planted produces a large number of epicormic sprouts which have to be pruned off annually.
Opposite the School Boathouse is the remains of a wooden post used by a ferry crossing the river. In 1900, there were two ferry boats working on the River Severn in the Quarry, with the other operating across the river where Porthill Suspension Bridge has been sited since 1922.
Quarry Park is a popular venue for holding local events and there is always something going on. Charles Darwin’s birthday (12th February) is celebrated annually with the Darwin Festival.
The river is a focus for the Shrewsbury Regatta and Dragon Boat Races in May and June, and the annual Shrewsbury Flower Show is held in mid-August over two days (Friday & Saturday).
The park is closed for general recreation when Live Music events are held. Be aware that tickets are required to attend these commercial concerts.
Contact & Further Information
Google Map - Quarry Park