Bishop's Castle Historical Research Group was formed in 1974 by the late Keith Ritherdon, and under the guidance of James Lawson and Barry Trinder, worked on local projects such as tithe maps, census returns, probate inventories, family and church records and parish histories.
In the 1980s, with the inception of the Community College, Bishop's Castle, the group became the nucleus of the South West Shropshire Historical and Archaeological Society (SWSHAS). It has continued to flourish, supporting local research and offering members a programme of lectures and outings. In December each year a seasonal lecture is given by either the President or Chairman of the Society. The Society frequently organises or participates in exhibitions on local history and archaeology, and publishes an annual journal (from1989) with articles by members and other material of local interest.
Research work has included the publication of all volumes of Bishop's Castle Parish Registers. Members' individual interests and researches have resulted in the production of publications on many subjects including oral history, photographic records, dialect, education, church buildings, village histories, guide books and town trails. In April 2000, to celebrate the Millennium, the Society published The Gale of Life, a collection of twenty essays on the history and archaeology of south-west Shropshire.
The Ritherdon Lecture, in memory of Keith Ritherdon, was introduced in 2000. The Ritherdon Day, in 2004, celebrated the development of the Society over several decades. The Christopher Train history essay prizes were introduced in 2009 to honour the memory of a past chairman of the society.
The Society, which usually meets at The Community College, Bishop's Castle, has over 100 members and warmly welcomes new members and visitors to its functions. Its broad aim is to promote active involvement in the study of history and archaeology, with particular emphasis on south-west Shropshire and the Welsh Border.