Cadfael Country, Shropshire


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Cadfael Country, Shropshire

Cadfael or Pargeter country is the county of Shropshire and the neighbouring Welsh marches . It takes in the two contrasting aspects of the county: Shrewsbury , an important settlement even before the Saxons arrived, and what is now Telford , a sizeable new town that is formed from villages and small towns where the industrial revolution began.
Edith Mary Pargeter was born in the little village of Horsehay, just a stroll away from Ironbridge , symbol of the birth of the Industrial Age. This whole area is now teeming with living museums and monuments to that epoch, but it can also be stunningly beautiful: the steep-sided Severn Gorge cutting through the landscape, the ancient woodlands that border it so often, and the hills that manage to make every turn of the road a discovery. Horsehay itself is home to the Telford Steam Railway .
Edith Pargeter was schooled in Dawley and then at Coalbrookdale High School for Girls. Her family moved early in her life to Dawley, a place mentioned in the Domesday Book , but which became a mining and iron-working area. In spite of this industrial development Dawley remains a rural setting, with good walking in the environs for those who don‚t mind hills. It was in Dawley that Pargeter worked for several years in Pharmacists, gaining experience of huge value in her later detective writing ˆ both for the Brother Cadfael books and her earlier George Felse works.
The novelist never married, and for many years she and her unmarried brother lived in a comfortable little bungalow in Madeley, on the east side of Ironbridge , reached by tiny back roads from there, probably as easy to negotiate on foot as by car.
Edith Pargeter wrote many novels other than the Cadfael series, but it is for these that she will undoubtedly be best remembered. Set, with the exception of a few excursions, in and around the ancient city of Shrewsbury , they paint a vivid world of England in turmoil as Steven and Matilda fought for control of the kingdom. Shrewsbury today retains more of its Tudor period than Medieval Times, but parts of its Norman Abbey ˆ properly The Abbey of St Peter and St Paul ˆ still remain. It was in this abbey that Cadfael, a soldier returning from the crusades, made his home as a rather independent monk.
Part of the Abbey church can be seen, still in use for worship, and over the road from this the refectory pulpit can be found, inviting visitors to close their eyes and transport themselves back to Cadfael‚s day. Lovers of Pargeter‚s work will want to go inside the abbey to see the memorial there to the writer. Though outside the Foregate so often mentioned in the novels is still there in name, it is a far different place today!
Shrewsbury Castle is another ancient site that can still be visited, like the abbey built in the local red sand stone. Town Walls Tower is a further recommended stop, and other small sections of the old town walls can be found here too.
Just before beginning the Cadfael series Pargeter wrote a novel based around the Battle of Shrewsbury , a conflict whose site can still be visited in the fittingly named Battlefield village three miles north of Shrewsbury.

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