Some Records of
23 BENTHALL, BROSELEY
Wilding & Son Ltd
THE last account of Broseley and its surroundings was that published in 1879, by the late John Randall. The writer, born in Broseley, and living in the district for over sixty-six years, has collected the following information, which he thinks should be put on record, and that would be interesting to those inhabitants who have not had the opportunity of buying Mr. Randall’s book, which is now out of print, and to which he is indebted for many facts and dates. Further records of Broseley have been added.
A BROSELEY man, among many of note, was John Wilkinson, who lived at the Lawns, the present Residence of the ex-Mayor, Councillor E. H. H. Shorting. It is claimed he made the first iron boat to float, he constructed the first coal-cutting machines (they were called his iron men), invented hot-blast for furnaces, produced the first true bored cylinder for Boulton and Watt engine. The first engine made by this firm was for his Broseley iron works, its erection being superintended by Watt personally. Wilkinson erected the first steam engine in France, for the Paris water works; and chiefly through his influence iron was used for the construction of the bridge across the Severn, in 1779; it is claimed to be the first iron bridge built in the world; the weight of iron was 378 tons. At this date it is scheduled as an ancient monument, and is closed to vehicular traffic. Beard is another Broseley name; there were two brothers: Thomas became sole Judge of South Wales circuit, Henry became sole Judge of one of the provinces of North America. Crowder was a man who left Broseley for London; he became an Alderman, then a Sheriff, and later, Lord Mayor of London. Easthope was another who left, and became proprietor of the Morning Chronicle, and was Knighted. John Guest also left, and founded the great Dowlais Works in South Wales. William Flower at one time practised surgery in Broseley; later, April 24th, 1555, he was put to death in London as a martyr, by burning. George Thornycroft, a descendant of an old Broseley family, and a workman of John Wilkinson’s, left, founded the Shrubbery ironworks, and became the first Mayor of Wolverhampton. William Hazeldine was a workman who left and became the builder of Menai Suspension Bridge. Rev. Samuel Newth, a noted scholar, was at one time connected with the Congregationals; he became one of the revisers of the New Testament. Pritchard was at one time a household name in Broseley. George Pritchard died December 24th, 1861. The Memorial in Broseley, and also the present Jackfield Church, were erected by public subscription, to his memory. A sad event in connection with the Memorial happened some years ago: there being a well underneath, and the covering being defective, a little boy named James Nock fell in, and was drowned. A short time ago the brickwork lining of this well was found to have collapsed; directly it was known the Council had the well filled in and well grouted in cement, which practically made it safe; also, on account of motor traffic, iron railings were removed from the Memorial, which is a great advantage for vision, for drivers approaching the town from the Bridgnorth road. Nearby is the Memorial Green (or town garden), which is also under the control of the Council, chiefly through the efforts of the Rector, Rev. C. S. Jackson, M.A.; this has been well kept and admired by many. On the same site stands the War Memorial, erected by public subscription, at a cost of £553 l5s. 2d.; it was unveiled by the late Lord Forester on March 20th, 1921. After all payments were made, a balance remained of £14 16s., which was given to Shirlett Sanatorium. Besides the War memorial, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Welcome Home and Peace Celebrations were held on a fine scale, £81 l0s. 2d. being expended on the soldiers’ and sailors’ welcome alone, and £69 19s. 6d. on the peace celebrations, chiefly for children and old people, including a telegram to the King. Public buildings are: the Church, supposed to be the third erected on the same site—according to records I have it was built in 1845; the Town Hall, built in 1779, partly by public subscription and partly by monies borrowed from a poor fund derived from legacies on behalf of the poor; Victoria Hall was built as a meeting house for the Plymouth Brethren; the National Schools foundation stone was laid June, 1854, and a new wing built about 1877; the present headmaster is Mr. A. Wilkinson. Old Baptist Chapel, built 1741-42. Methodist Chapel bears dates 1796—1802, Vestry 1819, School 1841. Congregational Chapel built 1841 ; the school is much older, having been a meeting house of the Friends. Birchmeadow Chapel was built 1803, jointly by John Guest and George Crompton (draper); this has not been used for worship for some years, and is now in a derelict condition. The Mission Room, Broseley Wood, is now connected with the Church; it was formerly built as a Primitive Methodist Chapel. The Infants’ Day School, Broseley Wood, was built as a Working Men’s Institute.
Industries are few: the chief are Brick and Tile Works, Broseley and Jackfield; and the Encaustic Tile Works of Messrs. Maw & Co. Ltd., and Messrs. Craven Dunnill & Co. Ltd. The Capacity Engineering shop is in King Street, and the name Southorn has been associated with the manufacture of the well-known Broseley church-warden pipes since 1823; at workshops in King Street, the industry is still carried on by H. S. Southorn.
The writer can remember ten new dwellings built by private enterprise. At the present time here are fifty-four Council-houses tenanted, only four of the total pay their way, as all the others have subsidies from the General Rate. On the question of subsidy, in the writer’s opinion in the past few years the Government have been too lavish. At the same time, I am in favour of all help that can be given to low wage earners. As I understand it, the present position is that a subsidy is paid in respect of tenants having to leave unfit buildings, overcrowding, and rural workers. The Council-house building now in progress, with the exception of a very few houses, will all be subject to subsidy payments, which means further payments from the rates.
The town is well governed by a Council of eight members, two of them Aldermen, who are elected every six years by Councillors (only) of the whole Borough. The vote is taken in writing at Borough Council Meetings, which are held quarterly. Of the remaining six Councillors, two are due to retire each year, but are eligible for re-election; this is varied in either of two circumstances: should a, member be appointed an Alderman, a new member taking his place must finish out the remaining period of the member he takes the place of; also should a vacancy occur through the death of a member, the same applies. Broseley is entitled to one County Councillor, who may be elected by public vote; the present representative, who was returned unopposed, is Rev. C. S. Jackson, M.A. The present Chairman of the District Council is Alderman A. A. Exley; Vice-Chairman, Councillor T. W. Howells, J.P. Some few years ago a former Chairman, the late Maj. Aid. D. L. Prestage, gave the town the Birch Meadow as a playing field, together with the Cockshot Mound. He placed .the management in the hands of Trustees and a committee of Victoria Hall, but there being no income, trustees and committee have transferred grounds to ‘the Council who are taking steps for improvements. Counci1 Meetings are held on the first Wednesday of each month.
The Burial Board is composed of the whole of the Council Members; meetings are held quarterly. Council officials are: F. W. Derry, Solicitor, Town Clerk; D. Fergusson, his Assistant; Dr. Gepp, Borough Medical Officer of Health; C. J. Thomas, Borough Sanitary Inspector; F. Richards, Borough Surveyor; A. G. Fenn, Rate Officer and Housing Agent; A. O. Callear, Water Engineer; F. S. Francis, Cemetery Superintendent.
I would like to say a word as to unfit dwellings. Before orders for demolition are made, owners should be given every opportunity to put places in a fit state of repair; also, I consider that some compensation should be paid, however small it may be, to owners of property compelled to take it down, as no doubt in some instances, especially in the case of aged people, great hardship is caused.
Now a word as to rates. The general rate for this current year is 14/1 in the £; Water Rate 2/- in the £. There is no discount on the water rate. In regard to the general rate: if rate is paid within four months, a discount of 15 per cent, is allowed to owners who pay rates on property they let at an inclusive rent; on the other hand, an owner occupier, or a tenant who pays rates direct, only gets a discount of 2½ per cent., and a shorter period of time allowed to get the discount. All rates and borough accounts are subject to strict audit, and no arrears of rates or rents can be allowed.
I consider the Dark Lane housing site the best position in the town; as to safety for foundations, nothing could be better. A portion of the site is on what is known as the Broseley Fault; this accounts for so much rock near the surface. It is believed that the fault commences at Lincoln Hill limestone, Ironbridge: it takes an irregular line and varies in width. The following are marks said to indicate its course: the iron plate, Bridge Road, at the junction of roads leading to Benthall and Broseley, the Mission Room, Broseley Wood, the site of the old Cockshot Lane pool, Birch Meadow Chapel, and a small cottage on the left-hand side of the Coalport Road leading from Broseley, facing the Prestage and Broseley Tileries Office; nearer the Amies, it is said to spread out and somewhat diminish. At some remote period in the past it must have been a great upheaval in the earth ; the vertical upthrow is sixty yards. The fault itself is practically barren so far as minerals are concerned. The writer has been in coal mines each side of the fault; the lowest workable coal seam, known as Little Flints, in the area of land near the Broseley Cricket Ground, is 100 yards in depth; on the top side of the fault it is forty yards. In the Broseley district generally, minerals dip to the east ; the coal seam just mentioned crops out in Benthall Churchyard, at six feet depth, really only a coal smut, as it is so near the Benthall edge limestone, which underlies the coal measures. Many years ago coal has been very extensively worked, evidence of pit refuse often being found in most unlikely places. Fireclay of exceptionally good quality abounds, especially on the lower side of the fault.
Broseley has a good record as to health. The present sewage scheme being carried out is not so costly and comprehensive as it probably may have been, it having been decided to deal with sewage from present outflow of existing drains except in the case of the new housing site, from which it will be dealt with by new drains direct to plant. So far as the town is concerned, it appears that the present scheme will deal with the drains outflow the lower side of Fox Lane. Other areas in Broseley Wood direction will have to be dealt with later on by some other scheme.
Recently, a Ratepayers’ Association has been formed, but I cannot see much probability of any reduction of rates, unless it can be brought about by less expenditure on roads. Speaking generally, I have never known the district roads and footpaths in better condition than at present; of course, the main road from bottom of Barratts Hill to Iron-bridge Station is maintained by the County Council and not by the District Council.
Electricity is available: light 6d. per unit, heat 14d. per unit, subject to a discount of 10 per cent. if paid within a stated period.
Quality of gas has been much improved; price for the first 5,000 Cu. ft. in any quarter, 5/2, subject to 2d. per 1,000 ft. discount for payment ‘ within one month; six other rates quoted, according to quantity used per quarter; alternative prepayment meter consumption if desired. The Council some time ago accepted a contract for public lighting for five years, at £2 l0s. per lamp per season, the Gas Company to maintain all fittings during the contract period. The first burial took place in Broseley Cemetery, July 10th, 1885. Mrs. Mary Walker, her husband later, was the first person who died in Broseley Hospital. Although fees charged for burials from outside the Broseley and Jackfield areas are 150 per cent. higher. Many burials take place. especially from the Ironbridge district. Further land has been purchased for future cemetery extension. Public payments from the general rate are towards cemetery upkeep, £35; Fire Brigade, £20; Library, £10.
A public convenience has been erected near Birch Row, at a contract figure of £362.
Contract for public scavenging and ash collection was accepted for three years at £110 per year.
Efforts have been made to get the County Council to build a new school, and quoting from a recent statement in the Wellington Journal, this seems probable in 1940-41.
The town has been, and is, well served by The Lady Forester Hospital, opened on April 8th, 1907.
There are two resident doctors in the town: Dr. Boon, Whitehall, who is also in charge of the Hospital, and Dr. Hoy Fiefield.
There is one Bank (Lloyds) ; the present manager is Mr. J. R. Nicklin.
The Postmaster is Councillor W. E. Davies; there is also a sub-office at Broseley Wood, in charge of Miss Johnston; there are two collections and deliveries daily. One telephone call box, near the town garden
Some people have spoken of Broseley declining, but, judging by the recent show and the carnival, there is still vim left.
There is a good Midland Red bus service daily, except Good Friday and Christmas Day. The first bus came from Wellington into Broseley, October 27th, 1923.
Solicitors in the town are Messrs. Potts & Potts, High Street, and Mr. A. H. Thorne Pudsey, Broseley Hall.
Broseley has been noted for the achievements of its Cricket Club, established 1860, and I believe is maintaining its reputation. President, Lt.-Col. Right Hon. Lord Forester ; Secretary, J. B. Dixon; Treasurer, H. Lloyd. A few years ago a new pavilion was built.
Broseley is in the Wrekin Parliamentary Division, and the present Member is Col. Baldwin Webb, who was elected on November 14th, 1935. The figures were: Col. Baldwin Webb (National), 20,665; G. T. Garratt (Labour). 15,040: majority, 5,625. In the current Broseley list of electors there are 1,515 Parliamentary voters; out of this total 1,143 have municipal votes. Every householder who receives a form at the end of May, 1939, should, for the sake of all concerned, fill in particulars correctly, of every person in residence who had attained the age of twenty-one on June 1st, 1939; and return form (postage is free).
There is a Tennis Ground in Duke Street, which has hard and green courts.
I should have mentioned earlier that the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths, and also Relieving Officer, is W. Edge.
Diocesan Lay Reader, E. C. S. White. Church-wardens: Councillor E. H. H. Shorting and H. Bayfleld.
The Rector is the only resident minister in the town.
The British Legion is well represented by both men’s and women’s branches. President, Lt.-Col. Right Hon. Lord Forester; Chairman, W. J. Ritchings; Secretary, T. Goodall; Treasurer, E. C. S. White; Chairman of Benevolent Committee, Capt. Aid. E. D. Collins.
I have in my possession many interesting papers relating to Broseley. (1) A letter written by Rev. Townsend Forester (a brother of the first Lord Forester), and also for forty years Rector of Broseley, from the College, Worcester, December 3rd, 1831, addressed to John Pritchard, Broseley, Shifnal. The letter mentions certain things to do to dean up Broseley, and draws attention to the Churchyard, which he says, for years has been a disgrace to the parish. (2) Order to Messrs. J. G. and J. Pritchard, Bankers, Broseley and Bridgnorth, to pay to myself £25; signed, Richard Thursfleld. (3) A receipt from John Onions for bricks, supplied to Mr. Adam Jones, at 3/- per hundred. (4) List of subscriptions, December, 1832, for blankets and other clothing to the poor of the parish of Broseley. (5) Receipt from Richard Thursfield, September 5th, 1832, to the Broseley Board of Health ; a few of many items are: a large mixture, 4/- ; eight hours attending J. & E. Clarke, 8/-; a dose of pills, Rose Oakes, 6d.; bleeding Abm. Beard’s wife, 1/- ; bleeding Thos. Clarke, 1/-; a draught, 1/3; castor oil, Alice Symmonds, 6d. (6) An account dated May 2nd, 1833, from Richard Thursfleld: Contract attending all cholera cases and bowel complaints, occurring between September 29th, 1832, and 25th March last, £26 5s. (7) A letter of resignation from William Fiefleld, addressed to Secretary, Board of Health, Broseley, dated October 3rd, 1832, stating that as it was resolved to have one medical man only to deal with all cholera cases, I beg leave to resign the situation I now hold as one of the surgeons belonging to your institution.
I have an interesting Almanac, 1833, not directly connected with Broseley, containing much information, including the time-table for mail coaches from London, stage coach regulations, window duties, etc.