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Post-conference tour: The Darwin Walk, Shrewsbury

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Shrewsbury, on the banks of the River Severn, is the birthplace of Charles Darwin. Walk in the footsteps of the young naturalist in the company of Jon King, the founder of the Shrewsbury Darwin Festival and director of the 2009 bicentennial celebrations in Shropshire.

Darwin lived in Shrewsbury until the age of 27 and only left after he returned from his voyage on The Beagle. If, as Wordsworth wrote, ‘the child is the father of the man’, then Shrewsbury is where the man was made.

The cobbled streets and historic architecture have changed little since Darwin’s day and the walk takes in many buildings associated with his educational and philosophical development.

The walk culminates in a visit to the family home, Mount House, where Darwin’s fascination with the natural world was first kindled and where, in 1842, on a visit home he first sketched out his thoughts on the descent by modification. 

The tour takes almost 2 hours and for logistical reasons, tour groups will be limited to 20 people so it is likely we will split into two groups, the second group visiting other places of interest in Shrewsbury, such as the museum or the castle, or shopping along Shrewsbury’s medieval streets, before swopping with the first group at lunchtime for the Darwin Walk.

Shrewsbury is a historic town which was known to the Celts as Pengwern, while the Romans established one of their most important regional capitals at nearby Viroconium (modern Wroxeter) 8 km SE. The Anglo-Saxons and the Normans also left their marks on the town with Shrewsbury Castle dating from 1074, only eight years after the Norman Conquest of Britain.

In 1138 fortified Shrewsbury was besieged by King Stephen during a period known as The Anarchy, when he battled Empress Maud for the English crown. It was during this period that the Brother Cadfael historical murder mysteries by Ellis Peters (real name Edith Pargeter) are set, using Shrewsbury Abbey as the backdrop. 

In 1403, during the Wars of the Roses, the Battle of Shrewsbury took place between King Henry IV and Henry “Hotspur” Percy, with much of the fighting taking place at Battlefield 8 km N of Shrewsbury town. The battle was included in Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1.

During the English Civil War (effectively the 3rd civil war in England after The Anarchy and the Wars of the Roses) Shrewsbury was a Royalist town defended by supporters of King Charles I, but it fell to the Parliamentary Roundhead forces of Oliver Cromwell in 1645.

The tour group will depart Springfield Campus at 09:00 and aim to return around 17:00. Jon King will have copies of his recent book for sale: Charles Darwin in Shrewsbury: The making of a marvellous mind.

When: 9 September 2023

Price: £35 per person (first come first serve)

Bookings can be made when registering for the conference.

Download the map of the Darwin Walk here

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Mount House, Shrewsbury – the Birthplace of Charles Darwin

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