Begin your trail at Oswestry TIC, SY11 1JR. Printed copies of the trail are available here or we can post one to you. Open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday during the summer season.Other days – check on our Facebook page.
Go straight ahead to 1. Castle Bank. This is the highest point in town with a fine view over the town and across to the hillfort. ,
The castle was almost certainly fortified before the Norman Conquest and is named in the Domesday Book as castle L’Uvre. The last significant border conflict was around 1400 when the Welsh, led by Owain Glyndŵr, captured Oswestry, but the English quashed the rebellion. Peace returned until 1644 and the outbreak of the Civil War. The site was acquired by the Town Council and opened in 1890 as a public park commemorating Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.
As you leave Castle Mound take 2nd left to Bailey Head.
This was the outer courtyard of the castle, and was where complaints were heard, and judgements made. Punishments were meted out every Wednesday and the town stocks, a pillory and whipping post were sited outside the Red Lion pub. It was also the marketplace, where traders could sell their wares under the protection of the castle garrison. A market is still held on the square every Wednesday and Saturday, although the punishments have ceased!
The Guildhall, built in 1893, is in the French style. On the left of the ornate façade is a carving of the town seal and shows King Oswald holding a sword and a branch. Go inside and look to the left of the stairs at images of old pub signs. These are just some of the 100+ pubs that were in the town. Visit the Town Museum on the second floor (Open Wed, Fri and Sat, lift available) to see more of Oswestry’s story. Head away from the market and turn left down Albion Hill.
Look above the door to “We’re in No Hurry” Sculpture by Jas Davidson. Watch out for lots more of his sculptures on the trail. Turn left into Beatrice Street, which was once lined with 140 barns mainly storing grain.
The gabled Old Fighting Cocks, once a coaching inn, dates to the 14th century and is one of the oldest buildings in the town. Further along near The Plough, a plaque shows the site of Beatrice Gate. Cross the road and just beyond the petrol station, turn down Orchard Street. Imagine many terraced houses crammed into the area, families sharing toilets and facilities. Disease was rife. These poor-quality houses were built quickly to house the influx of families arriving to find work with the railways.
Turn left at the end and left again onto Oswald Road towards the Old Station and Cambrian Heritage Railway and Museum. Oswestry was the HQ of the Cambrian Railway, and the carriage works were a major employer in the town. The station yard is now home to the museum (check their website for opening hours). The WW1 poet, Wilfred Owen’s father, Tom worked here for a time. The old station is open most weekends from Easter to September and run rides along the track which is gradually being restored and lengthened. Turn right past the coach park and walk ahead towards Cambrian Railway Works.
Walk ahead towards the tall chimney and the Cambrian Railway Engineering Works, were erected in 1865. It closed 100 years later and now houses an Antiques Emporium. The railways were the main employer in Oswestry providing work for up to 1,000 people. This resulted in a rapid growth of the town in the late 1800s. In 1861 the population of Oswestry was a mere 5,500, but had risen to 10,000 40 years later.
Turn right and cross the railway tracks turning right into Wilfred Owen Green. This area is dedicated to the memory of Wilfred Owen. There is a stunning wildflower meadow and a 40 metre grass labyrinth, one of the largest in the world. Climb Shelf Bank for views over town. On the top of the bank is an impressive house with a tower. It was built by John Thomas, a successful maltster who was elected mayor of Oswestry four times. At the outbreak of the First World War his widow allowed the house to be used as a hospital for wounded soldiers.
Follow the path through the park turning right across the railway and cross the road at Sainsbury’s, then go straight on to Salop Road. On your right, next to ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ was the site of The Black Gate (marked with a plaque). The gate was removed in 1766. Opposite and to the left is an old timber-framed farmhouse dating from the 16th century. At the mini roundabout, is the old Bear Hotel with its unusual tower.
Turn right towards the traffic lights and turn left into Cross Street. Note the fine Victorian façade above the shops on the right. On the right at the junction with Bailey Street is Llwyd Mansion, built in 1604 as a town house for John Lloyd of Llanforda, a local dignitary and merchant.
Slightly further on is The Cross which was once a market and a gathering place for townsfolk. The original cross was replaced, first by a pump, and later by road signs. It has now been reinstated albeit in a different position. In 1842 the market was moved indoors; the remaining white fronted building was one entrance. It continued in use until it was taken over for the storage of munitions in WW2. The Latin inscription above the door translates as‘Time and Money, Space and Weight. By One Fixed Standard Calculate.
Continue along Church Street and take the alleyway through the arch (just before Boots). (Outside shop opening times you may have to miss this part of the trail). There are many alleyways or Shuts, some behind locked doors. At the end of the alley, you are in English Walls with the Central Car Park ahead. This was the town cattle market from 1849 to 1969 when it moved to the outskirts of the town. Livestock Markets are held there every Wednesday. In the distance can be seen the spire of Holy Trinity Church. Turn right and then turn right into another Shut, Old Chapel Court.
At the end of the alleyway turn left and reach The Fox Inn. This old timber building once had a gable projecting over the street. However, it was removed after a passer-by damaged their silk top hat on it! Next door was another pub called the White Horse whose sign in relief remains. During street fighting at the General Election, following the Reform Act of 1832, the horse’s leg was broken off and hurled through a window. Nearby is a pillar marking the location of another town gate – New Gate, showing the coat of arms of the Earl of Powys.
A little further on is The Borderland Farmer Statue by Ivor Roberts-Jones. It stands in Festival Square (locally known as Red Square). This was the beast market until 1849 and was where livestock was bought and sold.
Continue along Church Street and reach The Wynnstay Hotel with its grand entrance porch. The hotel was a popular coaching inn. To its rear, the old stables and coach houses can still be seen. Church Street contains many buildings of historical and architectural merit with examples of timber-framed, Georgian, and Victorian shops and houses.
Cross the road and continue to the traffic lights and the black and white building on the corner.The Coach and Dogs was constructed in 1660 by Edward Lloyd of Llanforda for stabling the dog cart that he used to attend church. On the opposite corner is another timber-framed house. which was a pub called the Raven and Bellman. This part of the town was once called Pentrepoeth or the ‘burnt end’. Maybe referring to the fire of 1567, one of the many fires that have gutted the town.
Turn right at the traffic lights and walk past the entrance to the churchyard. Take the second right into Oswald’s Well Lane and after a few minutes, arrive at Oswald’s Well on the left. This spring is reputedly to be where King Oswald’s arm was dropped by a bird (an eagle or a raven). A sculpture of a great bird stands over this tranquil spot.
Return the way you came and 50m before the traffic lights take the alleyway into the churchyard. The lych gate was erected in 1631 and the local name Griddle Gate may be derived from a ‘grille’ in the doors long since vanished. To your left is The Old School House, the second oldest grammar school in the country. Dating from 1407, it once housed Oswestry Grammar School and was founded by David Holbache. The school moved to new premises in 1776, the building becoming a workhouse. Between 1792 and the 1950s, it was used as dwellings.
St. Oswald’s Church has a long history and a previous name for the town of Blanc Minster suggests earlier churches on the site. The church featured prominently during the Civil War as an observation point and strategic position during the siege of the town by the Parliamentarians. It consequently suffered extensive damage. The medieval church was remodelled and extended several times, notably in the 19th century. The tower is the earliest part remaining, dating to around 1200. Inside is a font presented by Colonel Lloyd of Llanforda in the 17th century as thanksgiving for the restoration of the monarchy. There is also a war memorial designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, as well as a memorial to Hugh Yale whose family founded Yale University in America.
Leave through the carpark and follow the path round the back of the church and turn right down The Broadwalk. This avenue, bordered by trees, passes through a set of fine iron gates on to Church Street. The gates, which cost £32 in 1738, were made by John and Robert Davies, who also constructed the gates to Chirk Castle. Take a moment to read the plaque remembering Wilfrid Owen, the war poet who was born in Oswestry in 1893.
Turn left onto Church Street and pass through the war memorial gates into Cae Glas Park. The roll of honour lists men from Oswestry who died in the two World Wars. To the left is a bronze angel, a memorial to fallen railway workers. which was transferred to the park when the station closed in the mid 60’s. The award-winning park has exceptional floral displays throughout the year.
Ahead is The Wilfred Owen Sculpture. Installed in 2018 as a remembrance of his death shortly before Armistice day in 1918 at Ors, France. The cast-iron bandstand hosts free Sunday concerts throughout the summer. The park was the gardens of Cae Glas Mansion, long since demolished, and was bought in 1908 by the Town Council. A proviso of the sale was that the park be used for recreation, and that continues. There are tennis courts, bowling green, children’s play area, crazy golf as well as the open park landscape. Follow the path to the right passing the play area and then the ‘sensory garden’. The town walls followed a route close to the gardens running parallel to the path.
Exit via the gates into Welsh Walls, past the giraffe statue, turning right and then right into Willow Street. At the corner, a plaque marks the site of the old Willow Gate. The town walls, which were over a mile long, were constructed around 1220, and demolished around 1660. This is the oldest part of the town, clustered around the bailey on Castle Bank for security. It was in this part of the town that the merchants and traders had their businesses.
Number 55 was the birthplace of Sir Walford Davies, Master of the King’s Music (1934-1941). 72 Willow Street is where novelist Barbara Crampton Pym was born in 1913. She has been described as the 20th century’s most underrated novelist. Opposite are the offices of Crampton, Pym and Lewis, her father was one of the founding partners of the law firm.
Cross the road and continue past the half-timbered Butchers Arms. This is one of the oldest inns in the town. In 1672 a Royal Licence allowed the use of a room in the pub for worship by members of the dissenting Independent Church of Sweeney. In 1750 they erected the first non-conformist chapel in Oswestry, next door.
Opposite the Post Office turn left into New Street. The Train Mural celebrates Oswestry’s rich railway history. Don’t miss the second mural in the alleyway opposite. At the end of New Street turn left onto Bailey Street and continue up the slope. As you pass the black & white building on your left, have a quick explore of another alleyway under the arch. Back on Bailey Head, take the left turning with Christ Church and the TIC ahead.
Christ Church, situated at the corner of Arthur Street and Chapel Street, was built in 1871-2. The building, designed to seat 350 people with a school room in the basement, cost £2,500 and was designed by Oswestry architect Mr W. H. Spaull. It is built in the Gothic style, constructed from Cefn stone. The spire is 120 feet high. There is a Plaque on the exterior of the Church dedicated to Sir Henry Walford Davies, Master of the King’s Music 1934-1941. He was born in Oswestry in 1869 in Willow Street (Blue Plaque at 55 Willow Street) and was chorister at the Church where his father was organist.
You have now completed the tour but there is still lots more of Oswestry to discover. Why not explore Old Oswestry, the Iron Age Hillfort.
3000 years old, it is one of the best-preserved hill forts in Britain and is only a 25 min walk or 5 min drive away, entrance from Llwyn Road. Offering great views of the town and area, it is a place of legend, said to have been the birthplace of King Arthur’s Guinevere. Now the fort is a haven for wildlife and flora. After the hill fort was abandoned it was incorporated into Wat’s Dyke which pre-dates the nearby Offa’s Dyke. In WW1 the fort was used as a military training area. Oswestry born poet Wilfred Owen completed his army training here.