The medieval market town of Shrewsbury could almost be an island, stuffed snugly into a loop of the River Severn. Shoppers and history buffs flock to this town to explore its cobbled ‘shuts’ (backstreets), specialist shops beneath timber eaves, and towering churches. But it’s the ghost hunters that truly reap the benefits in what is said to be one of the most haunted towns in Britain. Here’s our guide to its spookiest spots…
10am Shrewsbury Castle
Arrive in style at Shrewsbury train station – a Victorian-Gothic affair adorned with grotesques (like gargoyles but without the water spout) gurning at you as you make your way up Castle Street to Shrewsbury Castle. The sandstone castle is slotted in the neck between the two meanders of the Severn, defending the only land entrance into Shrewsbury. It is said to be haunted by Blaudy Jack, a serial murderer who lived in a shack on the grounds before the castle was built. He kept the fingers and toes of his victims as mementos, and was eventually caught, hung drawn and quartered at the top of Wyle Cop. Climb up to Laura’s Tower, and enjoy views over the Shropshire Hills and the humped back of the Wrekin hill rising above the Shropshire Plain.
12pm Fish Street
You might recognise this quaint street as the setting for scenes in the 1984 film A Christmas Carol, the most famous ghost story ever told. This historic centre barely had to be changed for filming – it is pure Dickensian with its quirkily named back streets, such as Gullet Passage and Grope Lane. A member of the film crew stayed at the Prince Rupert Hotel and claimed he saw someone walk towards him dressed in a nightshirt and holding a candle. He said hello to the stranger, thinking he was an extra, but the man vanished through a wall.
Raise your gaze to the steeple of St Alkmund’s Church and you might see the steeplejack ghost, an apparition of a man who dared to try a bit of acrobatics on the steeple after a liquid lunch, but fell to his death in front of his drunken chums. You may also notice claw marks, the mark of the Devil who climbs the steeple around Hallowe’en to cast his eye toward the Devil’s Chair on the Stiperstones, a striking hill 14 miles away.
Pop into Love Champagne on Fish Street and pick up a few bottles of local real ale to take home, or have a sneak-peak at the lingerie shop on Butchers Row, said to be haunted by a monk who lived there when it was the abbot’s lodgings. The monk used to stare at sides of pigs hanging in the window when it was a butcher’s shop, now he gawps at revolving mannequins wearing lacy smalls.
2pm Old St Chad’s Church
When the bells tolls two, look up on Princess Street to see the hovering man in a cowl who shuffles in mid air above the street from Old St Chad’s Church to The Golden Cross pub. Locals say a bridge used to connect the two buildings when the pub was used as lodgings for the church. St Julian’s Church nearby is now a private house, but you can still see the churchyard where it’s rumoured a man was buried alive in the 19th century. Despite his screams, the error wasn’t discovered until three days later when terrified locals opened his coffin and found scratch marks on the coffin lid, his fingers worn to the bone.
4pm The Quarry Park
Take solace (and a flask of tea) to Quarry Park, 29 acres of sunken gardens, weeping willows and bubbling water features. The social elite used to promenade in their finery before swanning over to balls at the Lion Hotel. Look out for the ghost of a Victorian gent casting a haughty glare at the nude statue of Hercules.
6pm Ghost Cruise on the Severn
In summer, the Sabrina boat runs ghost tours every Thursday, taking you along the loop of the Severn and imparting tales of burning witches, coracles loaded with plague corpses and unfortunates drowned in the river. Before heading over to Victoria Quay to catch the boat, stop by St Chad’s Church (not to be confused with Old St Chad’s) to see the tombstone of Ebenezer Scrooge (left), left behind after filming
How to get there
Shrewsbury connects to the M6 via the M54. There are park and ride services at Harlescott, Meole Brace and Oxon. The town has direct rail links to Birmingham
New Street, Manchester
and Crewe, and is 2 hours 40 minutes from London.
Find out more
The visitor information centre runs guided ghost tours in October and November.
The Sabrina boat runs evening ghost cruises every Thursday at 6pm, Apr-Oct.
Sip tea in a nook-and-cranny garden filled with teddy bears, Buddha statues and pear trees, overlooking the River Severn.
10 St Mary’s Place, Shrewsbury SY1 1DZ
Boutique hotel in the town centre, which has one of the best restaurants in Shropshire and a gorgeous wood-panelled dining room.