Stranger than Fiction

Ann Hills gets to the bottom of heritage whodunnits in Shrewsbury.

A battle between the power of fiction and the poverty of genuine history is being fought around the abbey in Shrewsbury. On the commercial side are plans for a Cadfael Centre, based on Brother Cadfael, the medieval monk-sleuth who is the hero of a score of whodunnits written by Ellis Peters. On the side of historical correctness are members of the Abbey Heritage Enterprise Team who take a long-term view.

Several million pounds and the restoration of historic buildings are at stake, with the local paper running such headlines as 'Cadfael plan is latest blow to heritage site'.

The battle results from the fame of Brother Cadfael, who has become an international draw, bringing thousands of visitors to Shrewsbury where he supposedly lived in the abbey (built in 1083) before Henry VIII brought its dissolution and long before Thomas Telford drove a road through the site.

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