Oswestry’s position on the border between England and Wales has always been an important factor in its history. For a thousand years, the border has shifted around the town – sometimes peacefully, sometimes violently. Oswestry has been both in Wales and in England – and is sometimes referred to as “the Welsh town in England“. Oswestry’s town walls, Oswestry’s Norman castle, Offa’s Dyke, Wat’s Dyke – even Old Oswestry hillfort – are all evidence of the uncertainty that living along a border can bring. But there are advantages too. Living in the middle of anything can bring opportunities as well as uncertainties – and Oswestry the town in large part owes its origins to the markets which it hosted and fostered; markets which took full advantage of its position between upland communities in Wales and lowland communities in England. These markets drove Oswestry’s peacetime prosperity and secured its reputation as a place “between” England and Wales.
We can still see evidence of that today. We have Powis Hall Market and the Bailey market, of course – itself located in the area protected by the extended wooden wall that surrounded the original Norman castle. The livestock markets, too, are reminders that Oswestry has always functioned as a meeting place for upland and lowland communities. But Oswestry’s new markets and festivals continue to do a similar job: the Literary Festival, Oswestry’s festival of Food and Drink, the Continental markets, the late-night shopping and street markets at Christmas, the Borderlands Visual Art Open Studios festival, plus Apple Day, the Heritage Market, the Antiques Market and many, many more occasional and one-off market events. These modern festivals and markets bring different peoples together, and demonstrate how Oswestry’s heritage as a place “between” continues to drive the town’s economic life.
In trying to decide which themes to focus my comics on, Oswestry’s identity as a borderlands town – and ideas of “boundaries” and “crossing boundaries” – was an obvious topic to include. This is a major aspect of Oswestry’s heritage and history, and – as evidenced by our markets and festivals – continues to shape the town’s identity even today.