I FIND it quite mind boggling at times when thinking about how the towns and villages in this country came into being in the first place.

Obviously, it would be easy to establish early settlements on flat and level ground. Where defensive strongholds and castles were built on a hill in many cases, towns etc would be created around them, as with the case at Shrewsbury, which also enjoyed the advantage of a prominent river. In my opinion, a river always enhances a town or village.

So how did Oswestry come into existence? There was a somewhat small castle situated here. It was built as part of a line from Ellesmere running on with other certain strongholds at Knockin, Bishop’s Castle and further south to Clun.

So, I would assume the town of Oswestry although in a fledgling state, began in a more recognised manor with the creation of the castle. These small fortresses were required to resist raiding parties from Wales. For example, the village of Ford was attacked in 1260 in a Welsh incursion. Two settlements were razed to the ground, 18 men killed and 10 were taken prisoner with 397 livestock being stolen.

These border raids were commonplace for many years. One of the last of these incursions took place in 1519 upon Oswestry by Meredith ap Howell. Although the Welsh attackers enjoyed some success it would have been far worse for the English border counties if these small castles had not been built in order to assist the larger castles such as the ones in Shrewsbury and Ludlow etc.

Referring to a list of Oswestry’s beginnings:

1262 - John Fitzalan, Lord of Arundel granted certain liberties to the Burgesses of Oswestry

1324 - Edmund, Earl of Arundel permitted the establishment of two shops in Legge Street

1398 - King Richard II to the Vill of Oswaldstre, Charter of liberties, the first Royal Charter

1407 -Thomas, Earl of Arundel and Surrey, to the Ville of Oswaldstre, Charter of Liberties

1582- Philip, Earl of Arundel to the Bailiffs of Oswestry – Book of Constitutions, Decrees and Articles

In 1617 the Royal Charter of James I was instigated and in 1673 was the Royal Charter of Charles II for the town. There seemed to be a lot of Royal Charters and liberties for Oswestry at that time!

I am curious about the name of Oswestry being changed to Oswaldstre then back to its current name again.

However, in 1190 there seems to be a mention of the town being named as “Blancminster”.

Being a border town, Oswestry was not formally acknowledged as being in England until 1535. It seems before then it was under the jurisdiction of the Welsh lords.

Original routes in the area followed small tracks over the local hilly area. An early road began near old Oswestry by way of Pant Glas which ascended to the beautiful countryside of Lechrydau and the Berwyns.

There is a theory that the opening in Offas Dyke on Selattyn Hill was an original gap.

These old trails were apparently ancient trade routes. There is speculation of an old track from the coast which routed away from the hills at Oswestry to a crossing place at Montford Bridge.

According to the Domesday account it does not seem to give the impression of Oswestry originally being the central focus of its local area. Maybe places such as the Maesbury area had a larger population in those days. However, it is difficult to say with historical conviction.

The earliest mention of Oswestry (ref Domesday Book) is that it was established by the Normans. (Maybe if King Harold had won the Battle of Hastings in 1066, Oswestry may never have come into being). It started as a Vill to which a church was built. These being erected on the old manor of Maesbury which had earlier been named Oswald’s treou.

In order to defend the town in Norman times the Norman lord in charge of that area would have originally organised the building of a castle consisting of a motte and bailey structure. The castle at that time did not seem to be that advanced in the formidable design and there is mention of the castle at Whittington being of greater significance.

Nevertheless, Oswestry and its castle was probably an important stop for English expeditionary armies etc when on punitive and retaliatory incursions into Wales.

On another note, walls were apparently built around the town about one mile in circumference during the reign of Edward I. Although there is mention of the walls in 1257 another source says work commenced on the building of them during 1277.

There is mention of a moat created surrounding the walls of the town, obviously to enhance its defence from raiding parties. Much of the supervision of this building work etc was undertaken by the king’s architect Henry de Elreton, who was also responsible for the construction of the castles at Caernarvon and Conway in Wales.

It is interesting to know where the wall commenced at the New Gate in Church Street. (This location is commemorated on a stone pillar standing between the shops of Messrs, Hartnell and Radford).

Following on from there to the English Walls and onto the Black Gate (above the Bear Hotel) on the left-hand side of the street, it then continued down Coney Green as far as the Prestbyterian Church on Oswald Road. When reaching the top of King Street, it would come to where the Beatrice Gate was positioned.

This defensive wall of Oswestry continued up Plough Bank. After that it re-commenced at other side of the castle reaching Castle Street eventually joining Willow Street at Willow Gate (just below Willow Tree Hotel).

There was a continuation along Welsh Walls opposite Holbache House (Old Cottage Hospital) across what was later Cae Glas Park then onto the New Gate. (I have purposefully researched this story of the route of the “Walls” from a 1960s account so to mention old local businesses etc and the hospital. Yet more bygones!).

Unfortunately, the wall was ruthlessly damaged in a siege in 1644. According to historical records, the “Roundheads”, forces commanded by Oliver Cromwell captured Oswestry in the June of 1644. A week or so later in July, the town was besieged by opposing Royalists. The wall around the town would obviously have suffered due to constant bombardment etc.

It was left in poor condition and eventually it seems suffered the rigours of demolition. Such a shame! There is some speculation that some remains of the wall were used for the then future building of the town.

However, this is not absolutely certain. In the early part of the 1900s a fragment of the wall was discovered in a garden in Welsh Walls. Also, in 1895 was another reminder of the wall unearthed close the old Post Office (Church Street).

Where there is a wall around a town there has to be an entrance! The wall that encircled Oswestry had no fewer than four gates. These were as previously mentioned, Beatrice Gate, Black Gate, New Gate and Willow Gate.

The mention of Beatrice Gate was in the Corporation Accounts of 1559.

It appeared as an arched entrance with a guard house either side of it. Displayed over it were the arms of the Fitz Alans (A lion rampant).