Market Drayton has been the home of gingerbread for the last 200 years. In the past, not content with rum in their secret recipe, decadent Draytonians dunked it in port. It is reputed to have curiously restorative powers.
A Saxon settlement referred to as Draitune in the Domesday Book and granted its market charter by Henry III, it has been home to one of the liveliest street markets ever since.
Every Wednesday Cheshire Street, the main road through the town, is closed off to allow local stallholders to set up and sell their wares. You'll find everything from clothing and electrical goods to linens and products for pets. There is also much local, fresh produce that is ideal to liven up your dinner plate.
In times gone by Market Drayton was famed for its Damson Fairs when the textile makers from the north would buy the damsons to make dye for their cloth. Nowadays you'll find damsons in jams, cheeses, pies and of course, gin. Find them on the WI market stall at the Wednesday market and at the Clive and Coffyne Inn.
The town also has some rather beautiful architecture. You'll find half timbered and red brick buildings in the town centre and the skyline is dominated by the beautiful 14th century church which is built from local sandstone. Here you will find the tomb of Thomas and Elizabeth Bulkeley distant relatives of 3 presidents of the United States; Calvin Coolidge, George Bush and George W Bush.
The church sits on top of a steep slope known locally as Phoenix Bank and it can boast wooden doors that date back to the 12th century and extensions to the building dating from the 18th and 19th centuries.
At the centre of the town lies the Buttercross, a lovely stone portico that was built in 1824 to act as cover for the local market stalls. The old town fire bell still hangs from the Buttercross to act in memorial to the fire that started in a local bakers shop in 1651 and almost destroyed the town.
The town's most famous son, Clive of India, even gave the French a culinary lesson. His "little pies" won the Guinness Best Pub Food Award. The French in Pezenas wolf down 150,000 a year.
Indeed, Robert Clive was something of an entrepreneur and adventurer. He is rumoured to have run a protection racket amongst the local shopkeepers and it is also claimed that he climbed the church tower. In later life he went on to defeat the French and thus secured the spice routes for the British empire. It is believed that he is responsible for bringing ginger spice to the town.
Today Market Drayton still brings food to the world. Both Müller yogurts and Palethorpes quiches and pies are made in Market Drayton. If all this food needs walking off, there are unusual, even bloodthirsty, town trails - Murder & Mayhem, the Boyhood haunts of Clive of India and Children's Wild Animal Adventure trail.
As you venture a little further out of town, visitors can enjoy the delights of the Shropshire Union canal and the breathtaking 40 steps aqueduct. Whether you are heading out for a gentle stroll to feed the ducks or if you are going for a hike towards Audlem, there is great fun to be had. Children will love helping the canal boaters with opening and closing the locks and there are plenty of places to rest and enjoy a picnic. The canal itself was built between 1827 and 1835 by Thomas Telford and went a long way to aid trading in Market Drayton, linking the town to Cheshire and Birmingham amongst others.
Nearby there are the award winning gardens of Wollerton Old Hall, Dorothy Clive Gardens and Bridgemere Garden World. Also Hawkstone Park, a unique landscape of follies, cliffs, caves and grottoes.
For information about Shropshire, contact Shropshire Customer First & Visitor Information Centre, Market Drayton on 01630 653114
Click here to download the Market Drayton Town Trail leaflet (PDF).