Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

River Severn

The Severn is the longest river in Britain. It rises on Plinlimon in Mid Wales, close to its beautiful tributary the Wye, and flows through several counties, until its estuary eventually becomes the Bristol Channel. Its total length is 220 miles.

The name Severn is of pre-Roman origin, and is probably of pre-Celtic origin.

Until the 1820s, the river was navigable as far up as Welshpool, but can now be navigated about 45 miles up from Gloucester.

The first town through which the Severn flows is Llanidloes, with its black and white market hall on stilts, now used as the town museum. Caersws is strategically placed where Afon Carno and Afon Trannen join the Severn, and had a Roman garrison.

Newtown has a handsome main street, and was the birthplace of the philanthropic industrialist Robert Owen. Welshpool stands in the valley of the Severn and of the Montgomery Canal, and just outside the town is Powis Castle, with the tallest tree in Britain.

Shrewsbury is an outstanding border town, which the Severn almost encircles. Its skyline is dramatic and beautiful, with a host of church spires and towers. The town has a wonderful collection of black and white timber framed houses. Wroxeter, now a village, was an important Roman town.

Ironbridge, where the river flows through the beautiful Ironbridge Gorge, was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, and the Iron Bridge itself was the first in the world to be made of cast iron. Bridgnorth is a historic market town on two levels, where High Town is joined to Low Town by England’s only inland funicular railway.

Bewdley is a handsome Georgian town which was formerly one of the leading river ports in the Midlands. It has an excellent museum. Stourport developed in the late 18th century as a canal centre, and is now busy with pleasure craft.

Worcester has a splendid cathedral, where King John and Prince Arthur are buried, the Royal Worcester porcelain factory and a beautiful cricket ground. There is a statue of the great composer Sir Edward Elgar, a local man, and a folk museum, formerly managed by the council, which has been reopened by a local trust. Upton-upon-Severn has a heritage centre in the former church tower.

Tewkesbury is a wonderful old market town, where the Severn is joined by Shakespeare’s Avon. Tewkesbury Abbey, of cathedral-like magnificence, is now the parish church, and there is a superb collection of black and white houses. Deerhurst has an Anglo-Saxon parish church, in addition to Odda’s Chapel from the same period.

Gloucester has a splendid cathedral, housing the tomb of the murdered Edward II. The galleried New Inn is where Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen, and outside the cathedral is the Tailor of Gloucester’s House, immortalised by Beatrix Potter. Gloucester Docks have been refurbished as a major tourist attraction.

Below Gloucester there is a tunnel, completed in 1885, that carries the railway from London. The Severn Road Bridge was opened in 1968, and carries the M48, and a second Severn Crossing opened in 1996 to carry the M4.

The Severn Bore is a small tidal wave, formed by the incoming Atlantic tide, which occurs about 250 times a year, and reaches a height of about ten feet. This phenomenon attracts many onlookers.

Once the Severn Estuary has become the Bristol Channel, it flows on between South Wales on the North side, and Somerset and Devon to the South, until it meets the Atlantic Ocean.