Shropshire History




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The period of history from 1714-1837 was ruled by the Hanoverian kings and this is called the Georgian Period because four kings in succession were named George.



Following the Act of Settlement 1701, no Roman Catholic could inherit the throne of Britain.  However, when Queen Anne died childless in 1714, the only close relatives were all Roman Catholic.  The nearest Protestant in the line of succession was George, the Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg who was living in Hanover.  Thus, although he could not even speak English, he was made king. James Cressett, of Upton Cressett Hall in Shropshire, was Envoy Extraordinary to the Court of Hanover and played an active part in the preparations for the Hanoverian Succession.


1714 – George I becomes king.


1721 – Granville Leveson-Gower born.


1723 – Workhouse Test Act


1725 – Robert Clive (Clive of India) born at Styche near Market Drayton.


1727 – George II becomes king.


1735 – Richard Reynolds born.


1756 – Madeley Wood Company formed.


1757 – Thomas Telford born.


1758 – William Reynolds born.


1760 – George III becomes king.


1767 – Donnington Wood Canal opened.


1772 – Shrewsbury Chronicle newspaper first published. A tourist who stayed at Ludlow said of that town “… there is to be found there an abundance of pretty ladies, provisions extremely plentiful and cheap and very good company." 


1778 – Eardington Canal opened.


1779 – The Iron Bridge constructed.


1782 – Relief of the Poor Act


1787 – Tar Tunnel opened.


1788 – Ketley Canal and Wombridge Canal opened.


1792 – Shropshire Canal opened.


1793 - Britain declares war on France.


1795 – Coalport China Works opened.


1796 – Leominster Canal, Montgomery Canal and Shrewsbury Canal opened.


1797 – Ditherington Flax Mill (the first iron framed building) constructed.


1802 – Lilleshall Company formed. War with France ends following the Treaty of Amiens


1803 – Britain violates the Treaty of Amiens and is again at war with France.


1805 – Llangollen Canal opened. Britain destroys French and Spanish fleets at Battle of Trafalgar.


1807 – Britain starts fighting the French in Portugal and Spain in what becomes known as the Peninsular War.  Shropshire regiments take part in the fighting.


1809 – Charles Darwin born in Shrewsbury.


1814 – Napoleon abdicates and the war with France ends.


1815 – Napoleon defeated at the Battle of Waterloo.


1820 – William IV becomes king.


1834 – Poor Law Amendment Act


1835 – Birmingham & Liverpool Junction Canal opened (later to become the Shropshire Union Canal.


1836 - Police forces created in Bridgnorth, Ludlow, Oswestry and Shrewsbury.


1837 – William IV dies.




Discovering Shropshire’s History




Napoleonic Wars


Peninsular War


The Hanoverian Dynasty



Peninsular War


Captain Charles de Beauvoir Chepmell, 53rd Regiment of Foot, c1829


The Peninsular War took place between 1807-1814, when British forces fought against the French in Portugal and Spain.  General Wellesley (later to become the Duke of Wellington) was placed in charge after a disastrous start to the campaign and he forced the French out of the Iberian peninsula and into France itself, where Napoleon eventually surrendered. The Shropshire county regiment at that time was the 53rd Regiment of Foot. Whereas its 1st Battalion never took part, a 2nd battalion was created in 1804 and fought in several of the battles. Their red uniform jacket had red facing and this led to the regiment’s common nickname of the “Brickdusts”. Other nicknames included the “Old Five and Threepennies” (from its numeral), the “Honeysuckers” (after some of its men were flogged for disobeying Wellesley’s orders not to steal honey) and the “Red Regiment” (given to it by Napoleon when it was guarding him on St Helena). In the following account, the military format of describing units is used, ie 2nd/53rd Foot refers to the 2nd Battalion of the 53rd Regiment of Foot.


Douro - 12th May 1809



The 53rd were in the 2nd Brigade (Brigadier Alexander Campbell) of the British 4th Division (Major General Sir Charles Colville).  Other units in that brigade were 2nd/7th Royal Fusiliers, 5th/60th Foot and 1st/10th Portuguese Foot.


Following the evacuation of the British army from Corunna and the death of Sir John Moore, British forces returned Portugal under the command of Wellesley. A French army under Marshal Soult held the northern Portuguese city of Oporto and the River Douro lay between them and the British army. A British officer crossed the river in a boat and brought back 3 barges they had found unguarded. The 3rd Buffs battalion crossed the river in the barges and occupied a derelict convent before the French realised what was happening. The French attacked the convent but several batteries of British cannon had been set up on the opposite bank and the attack was thrown back with heavy casualties. Soult ordered 3 more French battalions to drive the British back but by this time there were 3 British battalions in the convent and the attacks were unsuccessful. Around midday, Soult sent the troops guarding the Oporto waterfront to attack the convent as these were his only available reserves. As soon as they had gone, the Oporto inhabitants rushed boats to the southern bank and 4 British battalions, including the 53rd Foot, crossed to the city. Deciding that the city had become untenable, Soult ordered a general retreat up the north-eastern road towards Spain. They were attacked by the 14th Light Dragoons during the retreat and several hundred French were captured.



Talavera - 28th July 1809



The 53rd were in the 1st Brigade (Brigadier Alexander Campbell) of the 4th Division (also temporarily commanded by Brigadier Campbell). Other units in that brigade were 2nd/7th Royal Fusiliers and 5th/60th Foot.


On 2nd July, Wellesley had crossed the border from Portugal into Spain with the intention of joining with the Spanish armies in an attack on the French in Madrid. As soon as they met the French under Marshal Victor, the Spanish armies retreated and joined Wellesley at Talavera.

Wellesley deployed his troops on an area of high ground and Marshal Victor attacked immediately, even though it was now night. The French reached the summit before the British troops realised they were there and there was considerable confusion. General Hill brought up a reserve brigade and drove the French back. The rest of the night was spent by the British waiting for a further French assault. At 5am, the French attacked again but this time the British were ready. Wellesley’s troops were lying down behind the crest of the hill out of the line of artillery fire and, as the French reached the top of the hill, the British 29th and 48th Foot stood up and charged with the bayonet, driving the French back down the hill. The French attacked again at the point where the hills were lowest. His left column was driven back by the 7th Fusiliers and the 53rd Foot. His right column attacked the British Foot Guards and the 83rd Foot and, after Wellesley brought up the 48th Foot in support, the French were driven back. The French retreated during the night.

Map of Talavera, 33k


Busaco - 27th September 1810



The 53rd were in the 2nd Brigade (Brigadier Alexander Campbell) of the 4th Division (Major General Lowry Cole). Other units in that brigade were 2nd/7th Royal Fusiliers, 1st/11th Foot and 5th/60th Foot.


In May, Marshal Massena had taken command of the French army with orders from Napoleon to capture Lisbon and drive the British army out of the Peninsular. During the winter, however, Wellesley’s engineers had built fortifications across the Lisbon isthmus, known as the Lines of Torres Vedras. As Massena began his advance into Portugal, the British and Portuguese fell back towards the capital. Massena captured the Spanish town of Ciudad Rodrigo and the Portuguese fortress of Almeida. Wellesley positioned his army at Busaco along a long high ridge. The French attacked early in the morning and were engaged by the 74th Foot, two Portuguese battalions and 12 guns. Another French attack to the north reached the summit but the 88th Connaught Rangers and 45th Foot hurried to the threatened point and drove them back down the hill. A further attack reached the summit but was driven back by the 5th Division. On the left, a French attack reached the summit but was driven back by a bayonet charge from the 43rd and 52nd Foot. Seeing the failure of all the attacks, Massena called off the assault and marched round the ridge line while Wellesley’s army withdrew south towards Lisbon. During the battle, the 53rd Foot had been in position on the north of the line but were not attacked.



Fuentes de Onoro - 3rd-5th May 1811


The 53rd were in the 1st Brigade (Colonel Hulse) of the 6th Division (Major General Alexander Campbell). Other units in the brigade were 1st/11th Foot, 1st/61st Foot and  5th/60th Foot.

During the winter of 1810, Marshal Massena’s French army slowly starved in front of the lines of Torres Vedras and he eventually had to retreat into Spain, leaving a garrison in the Portuguese fortress of Almeida. Wellesley laid siege to Almeida and in April Massena advanced from Ciudad Rodrigo to relieve it. Wellesley’s army took position along a ridge and in the streets of the village of Fuentes de Onoro. The French attacked Fuentes de Onoro on 3rd May and by nightfall were finally pushed back across the stream and the village remained in British hands. On 5th May, a large force of French cavalry and 2 divisions of infantry attacked the right flank and the Seventh Division were in danger of being annihilated. The Light Division saved them by attacking the French while they withdrew. Once the Light Division and 7th Division had reached the high ground, Wellesley’s flank was secure and Massena
began to withdraw. During the battle, the 53rd Foot were on the northern slopes and were not attacked.



Salamanca - 22nd July 1812


The 53rd were in the 1st Brigade (Major General Hulse) of the 6th Division (Major General Clinton). Other units in the brigade were 1st/11th Foot, 1st/61st Foot and 5th/60th Foot.

Following the capture of Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo, Wellesley advanced into Spain and was attacked by French forces under Marshal Marmont. Wellesley was caught off guard and fell back on Salamanca. He ambushed the French by making them think they were only facing a rearguard when he had hidden the whole British army. The Third Division attacked the head of the French column, while the Fourth and Fifth Divisions attack the centre, supported by the Sixth and Seventh Divisions and two Portuguese infantry brigades. After heavy fighting, the French gave way. At that point, British cavalry struck the retreating French infantry and overran them. The charge was continued until the cavalry were stopped by a French brigade of infantry in squares. The French launched a counter attack on the open flank of the Fourth Division and were only stopped by a Portuguese Brigade from the second line of the Fifth Division. The Sixth Division, including the 53rd Foot, then drove the French back. A general French retreat then started.



Vitoria 21st June 1813


The 53rd were in the 1st Brigade (Major General William Anson) of the 4th Division (Major General Lowry Cole). Other units in the brigade were 3rd/27th Foot, 1st/40th Foot, 1st/48th Foot and 5th/60th Foot.

Wellesley had advanced into the north-east of Spain, forcing the French armies towards the French border. At Vitoria, the French congregated the remnants of their armies of the South, Centre and Portugal and awaited reinforcement by the Army of the North. Wellesley attacked but was initially unable to cross the river. Further to the left, the Spanish Division eventually managed to cross and block the road to France. The Third Division crossed east of Tres Puentes and the Fourth Division, including the 53rd Foot, crossed at Nanclares. The French retreated in chaos and many of the British, Portuguese and Spanish troops proceeded to loot their baggage trains.



Pyrennees - 25th-27th July 1813


The 53rd were in the 1st Brigade (Major General William Anson) of the 4th Division (Major General Lowry Cole). Other units in the brigade were 3rd/27th Foot, 1st/40th Foot, 1st/48th Foot and 5th/60th Foot.


After the French defeat at Vitoria, Marshal Soult consolidated the remnants of four armies into a single force of 80,000 troops. He simultaneously attacked the Maya and Roncesvalles Passes and tried to relieve the siege at Pamplona. The French took Maya Pass from the 2nd Division but were stopped by the 7th Division. The 4th Division, including the 53rd Foot, initially held Roncesvalles Pass but Cole feared a further French attack and retreated toward Pamplona. When Picton appeared with his 3rd Division, Cole convinced him to retreat also. The French then advanced to within 10 miles of Pamplona but were stopped by the 3rd Division. On 27th July, Wellesley reinforced the 3rd Division and defeated the French, causing them to retreat over the border.




Toulouse 4th April 1814


The 53rd were in the 1st Brigade (Major General William Anson) of the 4th Division (Major General Lowry Cole). Other units in the brigade were 3rd/27th Foot, 1st/40th Foot, 1st/48th Foot and 5th/60th Foot.


This was the last major battle of the war and Wellesley’s forces were lined up in front of Toulouse, which was defended by Marshal Soult. The 2nd Division and Portuguese Division attacked St-Cyprien but this was a feint and the fighting was not serious. The 3rd Division attacked the Pont Jumeaux but was repulsed with heavy casualties. The 4th and 6th Divisions, including the 53rd Foot, were to advance down the west bank of the River Hers and attack the Heights. They encountered muddy fields and fell behind schedule but eventually reached their jumping off positions, with the 6th Division leading. The French counterattacked but were driven uphill and the British divisions began to advance up the slope. They fought their way to the top of the Heights despite bitter resistance, then paused to drag up some cannon. Swinging to the north, they began rolling up the French defences. The heights being lost, Soult withdrew his soldiers behind the city's fortifications and that evening withdrew out of Toulouse. On the following morning, a delegation of city officials handed the city over to Wellesley. That afternoon, news came of Napoleon's abdication.


After the War

For a while, the 2nd Battalion of the 53rd Foot was engaged in garrison duties in France but was not involved in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. However, after that battle, the regiment was appointed to be Napoleon’s guard on St Helena. It remained there until it returned home in 1817 and was disbanded.