The Dana is one of the more intriguing Shrewsbury place names, especially for visitors! It starts as a walkway from Castle Street, continues round the Castle and across the railway, and then becomes a street skirting the Prison until it merges with Victoria Street. The Dana (pronounced ‘Danner’, not ‘Darner’) is named after Rev Edmund Dana (1739-1823), who was Vicar of Wroxeter, Eaton Constantine, Harley and Aston Botterell, all apparently at the same time! He did not live in any of these places, however, but in Castle Gates House, the black and white house near the Castle entrance. He had a reputation for being a very eccentric character, but he was a magistrate and also a Trustee of the body responsible for the upkeep of the town’s streets. Hence his interest in improving the rough path that wound around the Castle. How he himself got to be there is also a convoluted path!
Edmund Dana was born in 1739 in Charlestown, which is now within the city of Boston, Massachusetts, where his father was Chief Justice. He entered Harvard in 1756 and gained a BA in 1759. It was his father’s intention that he should become a doctor and so he was apprenticed to a local doctor, but he soon decided that medicine was not for him. He gave up the apprenticeship and instead sailed to London from where the family had emigrated in 1660. There he ‘led the high life’ for some time, much to his father’s dismay and cost, but, by 1764, was persuaded to go to Edinburgh to study science. Whilst in Edinburgh Edmund met and decided to marry the Hon Helen Kinnaird, daughter of Lord Kinnaird of Inchture. This did not much please her parents, as she was only 16, and also Edmund was not from the nobility. However, the wedding took place in 1765 in a fashionable church in Leith, after which the couple moved to London, where their first three children were born. So Edmund did not complete his studies at Edinburgh, nor did he when he enrolled at Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1768, though this attendance did enable him to be ordained in the Church of England.
Helen Dana was related to the powerful Vane family, though whose influence Edmund became the Vicar of Wroxeter (and later the other Parishes listed above). Helen Dana was also related to William Pulteney, who owned Shrewsbury Castle, which is presumably why the Danas (who eventually had 13 children, nine girls and four boys) lived in Castle Gates House. Thomas Telford, another protégé of William Pulteney, arrived in Shrewsbury in 1786, initially to superintend the rebuilding of the Castle, so one assumes that he advised Dana on the re-engineering of the path, which was finished in 1790.
Helen Dana died in 1795, but the rest of the family flourished. The eldest son became a general in the Army, and another son migrated back to America and Edmund Dana’s great-nephew returned to England as the highly respected American Ambassador in 1876.
The author is very grateful to Arthur Manterfield for much of the information in this article.