about the project
back to the map
all about Amy

Carnarvon Lane

History of the Shut

Carnarvon Lane was one of the few Shuts to retain its original name. Ludovick Carnarvon lived her in 1460.

But who was he?

And where did he get his name?

Who helped Amy create the story

Shrewsbury Town Centre Residents Association was founded in November 1991 to promote the interests of people living within the loop of the River Severn ("between the bridges"). Its main aims are to promote the social and physical amenities of the town centre and to represent the interests of residents to the various authorities and organisations concerned with planning and development, policing, river use and other issues relevant to the continued well-being of the town centre and the quality of life for residents, visitors and businesses. It actively encourages more residents in the river loop and tries to be a social focus, with three main parties annually and various meetings and events, on anything from flooding to gardening.

working hard, full of ideas

The Association has recently taken up the need for more public and performance art in Shrewsbury and was therefore very pleased to be invited to take part in the Mythstories' Shut Stories venture.

The Story Of Carnarvon Lane

Ellie made her way outside, the money her father had given her clasped tight in her hand. She made her way down through the town, along the Mardol and at last turned left by a water conduit (she'd always thought they were strange looking things - a bit like a dustbin with a handle) and into Carnarvon Lane, stopping to hungrily peer in at the cakes in the cake shop and smell the bread baking. She passed the 2 up 2 down cottages and paused to look at the old woman sat on her step plucking a chicken for sixpence, then she turned the corner and made her way into the cigarette factory. Her dad had sent her down for a half ounce of tobacco. She handed over her money and received a black snake wrapped up in blue paper in return.

As she made her way outside, she could hear laughter coming from around the corner. She slipped out of the passage and peered around the corner. The laughter was coming from the Mr Bailey's, the florists. She looked in through the window to see three or four ladies hanging on his every word. She strained her ears, but could only just make out a few tantalizing snippets. The young ladies at last came out in a group, giggling and laughing and she pushed herself against the wall out of their way.

"You can come in now girl if you want to. Eavesdropping is a nasty habit! I'd much rather talk to your face!" Ellie whirled around and found herself looking up into Mr. Bailey's face.

"Were you telling them a story?"

"I was that. The thing about stories is that they're addictive - people always want more - they can't live without them. And so they come back and they buy more flowers."

"I don't have any money for flowers."

"No - I can see that. But it looks as though you might not be a bad floor sweeper - how's that for a deal?" Ellie nodded and followed him wide-eyed into the shop.

"Now the thing about stories is that they are everywhere- all you have to do is look and more importantly listen. You have to learn to listen with your whole body - to what people say and what they don't say, listen to the hairs raising on the back of your neck when you walk down a dark street, take notice of what you see in the shadows and out of the corner of your eye and most importantly listen to names. Everyone and everything has a name and if you know something's true name, there is a lot of power in that and somewhere there is always a reason for a name and that usually involves a story."

"Tell me the story of your name" asked Ellie.

"Oh no, I think we'll leave that one for now, now where did you come from. Down Carnarvon Lane. Ah yes, one of the shuts - strange places, everyone always dashes through them, but there's a lot of strange names and stories there. For some reason, narrow alleys always seem to hold stories, they seem to get stuck to the nooks and crannies. So, Carnarvon Lane.

Well you see Carnarvon's interesting - the lane itself was named after a person named after a person named after a place - funny how things work.

Long ago, way back in the 1400s a man called Ludovick Carnarvon lived at the end of the passage. He was a wool merchant dealing with wool brought in on pack horses over the Welsh Bridge. It was all the trade he did with the Welsh that earned him the name Carnarvon. He had come from abroad originally, the continent maybe, and no one could pronounce the name that he came with.

Ludovick courted and married a local girl, much to the annoyment of the local lads, she was one of the prettiest girls in town. In time the two of them had a daughter, but it was a hard birth. The baby made it, but her mother didn't. And so Ludovick was left to bring her up on his own. He was sure that the baby would grow up to be as beautiful and graceful as her mother and so he called her Sabrina. Sabrina grew to suit her name: Beautiful, full of flowing grace, but there were currents beneath her smooth exterior that her father rarely guessed at, though he knew she could be as strongwilled as the river. As she grew older the young men also discovered that her beauty could be as dangerous.

Carnarvon Lane, full of shadows
Sabrina was rapidly becoming her father's most valuable asset, a perfect blend of her mother's rose-like beauty and her father's dark flashing eyes, she was a prize that any man would desire. Ludovick began to look around for the family that would be most advantageous to marry into. Sabrina however had different ideas. There was one young man who came down from the hills with the wool. A common shepherd. He had no money, but he had a tanned face with blue eyes that seemed to have soaked in the light of all the sunrises and sunsets that he had seen on the mountains. He was tall, strong and fit from striding the hills and the first time that Sabrina looked into those sunfilled eyes she was lost. He too was lost for love, although he probably would have suffered in silence, knowing her to be far above his station, if she had not made it obvious how she felt. The two of them plotted and planned and Sabrina was ready to tell her father of her decision and to try and talk him around into the idea of the marriage. After all, Ludovick had no sons, he needed someone to train up to take over the business and Sabrina felt sure her sweetheart was the ideal man.

But that evening she was presented to a merchant - a man as old her father. What was left of his hair was grey, his paunch bulged out beneath his robe and when he smiled at her his tongue flicked between his lips like a snake. This was to be her husband. The dowry had been agreed and the date was set. Sabrina smiled sweetly, but her eyes flashed and she knew that her father would never consent to the marriage that she was planning on. Well, then, she would just have to do it without him.

She left the men to discuss their business. She ran to her room, gathered what she could into a bundle and flung her cloak about her shoulders and then went to find her sweetheart. As she explained her plan, he slowly shook his head.

"No, Sabrina" he said, "My life is not like yours. There are no towns where I live. No bright markets full of chatter. I will be out on the hills while my wife stays at home. The woman who comes to live with me will have a hard life, a life full of work, no new clothes, no presents, but hard work and making do. You could never live like that. All too soon the love in your eyes would turn to hate and I could never bear to see you look at me like that."

Sabrina wailed, Sabrina cried, Sabrina pleaded, but he would not change his mind.

At last she hit him with all her might and stumbled out into the night and the rain. She found her feet making their way down to the river. Now no one knows whether she slipped, or whether she threw herself into the water in despair, but there was no sign of her the next morning. A few days later her body was found, washed up further down the river.

But Sabrina was strongwilled and defiant. She refused to give up her hold on Shrewsbury and she still appears though every now and then, a beautiful lady caught in the current, calling for help, luring young men into the water to save her. But once they are in the water, their arms outstretched to pull her to shore, that raven black hair turns to river weed, winding its way about the neck of her would-be saviour. Her arms meld with the current, pulling the young man deeper and deeper down. Unfortunately it's a fact that even today the river claims a few souls every year and more often than not, they're young men, their eyes bulging when they're found, a look of horror on their faces as Sabrina wreaks her revenge.

copyright Amy Douglas 2001

Back To King's Head Passage
to options page
back to the map
Back To Poetry & Projects
On To Gullet Passage