Football in Shrewsbury arrived long before the modern version of the game in the mid-1800s. In 1562 two persons were sentenced to prison for playing the game on All Saints Day! There were several previous incarnations of a town club in Shrewsbury, the first being Shrewsbury Football Club, founded in 1874. Other clubs were Shrewsbury Engineers from 1878, Shrewsbury Town, with no relation to the present club, from 1879 and Shrewsbury Castle Blues who came to the fore in the early 1880’s.
Shrewsbury Town as we know it today, however, was formed in 1886 following a meeting at the Turf Hotel, Claremont Hill. The initiative came from former members of the Shrewsbury Castle Blues club, the latter being known for their very rough and onorthodox tactics during games. The other day a local match versus Wellington Town in 1885 ended with four Wellington players unable to continue due to the treatment dished out to them. Anyway, Shrewsbury Town started life at the Monkmoor Racecourse. Since the grandstand was too remote from the pitch and spectators could only watch from flat standing areas a move was made to the adjacent Amblers Field in 1889 and vacated in 1893 in favour of a switch to Sutton Lane. In 1895 yet another move was made, this time to The Barracks ground, also at Copthorne. As the years advanced, Shrewsbury Town gradually became more of a force on the field and finally found a permanent home in 1910 at what was than called the Gay Meadow fields.
There are two theories as to how this venue took its name. One is that the meadow was owned by a farmer called Gay in the time of Charles I, but other records suggest that the name was acquired because it was a favourite spot for fun and games in a time when “gay pursuits” were entirely innocent. In fact, there’s a covenant placed upon the premises by the local authority which prevents it from being used for anything other than sporting events, something which by law is very difficult to turn over and a great problem when trying to sell the ground to local developers when Shrewsbury Town want to re-locate their ground. Among its most striking features today, along with the romantic and idyllic setting next to the River Severn, are the breathtakingly beautiful cast-iron Victorian turnstiles at the away end, which are only pressed into service when a capacity away following is anticipated.
The ex-scholars of the famous public school in the town, players of Castle Blues and also instrumental in the founding of Shrewsbury Town gave their blue colours to the new club. Amber was added to the blue strip in the 1970’s, an elegant combination still worn to this day.
The club’s first shirt badge was worn on the shirts from 1950 till 1970 and features the name of the club separated by the initials F.C. and a football in blue colours against a white background.
Shrewsbury Town’s second badge was derived from the pre-1975 coat of arms of the town and used from 1970 till 1981. The origin of the animals, often referred to as ‘loggeheads’ and depicted on the emblem have been subject to heated debates. The thought of three golden lions as shown on the English Royal Arms since the twelfth century can easily be discounted since animals when depicted as heraldic symbols are almost always shown in profile whereas the Shrewsbury arms show them from a frontal viewpoint. The three faces shown are not lions, nor leopards, in fact they are a mythical character known in France as ‘l’ogre’. France?? Yes, the depiction of the three heads was brought over to Great Britain from France by the De La Pole family who were then to become Earls of Suffolk in the fourteenth century.
Ogres are mythical giants who feast upon human flesh, moreover that of badly behaved children. They were used as a symbol to to ward of evil in the dark and superstitious days of medieval Europe. Given the original French translation as ‘les têtes d’ogres’ it is perhaps not too unrealistic to see why the English variation ‘the ogre’s heads’ eventually became ‘loggerheads’.
The 1980-81 campaign saw the arrival of a representation of the old loggerhead’s badge, surrounded, as is Gay Meadow, by the waters of the Severn, to be followed in 1983 by an artist’s impression of a shrew. This shrewd little creature would adorn the shirts until 1993 when the club reverted back to the three loggerheads.
Shrewsbury Town are referred to as simply ‘Town’ or ‘Blues’. Another nickname is ‘Salop’, a colloquation taken from the Latin enscription on the county banner ‘Floreat Salopia, meaning ‘Let Salop Flourish’, which screams for further explanation. In ancient days the name Shrewsbury was written variously as Scrobbenis, Scropesbyri, Scrobbesbyrig and Scriropesberie. The root of these variants is probably the nickname ‘scrob’, meaning a gruff person (this also tells us that the correct pronunciation of Shrewsbury is shro- and not shrew-). The name Shropshire comes from the Old English ‘Scrobbesbyrigscir’, meaning ‘the shire with Shrewsbury at its head’.
It will come as no surprise to learn that the Normans found the original names of Shrewsbury and Shropshire – ‘Scrobbesbyrig’ and ‘Scrobbesbyrigscir’ – rather difficult to pronounce, so they softened them to ‘Salopesberia’ and ‘Salopescira’ respectively. Salop became the shortened form of both. So if you cheer on the Town with ‘Come on you Scrobbesbyrigscir’ at the next match, your mates on the terrace will either think that you are drunk or have a delicate sense of history