A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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The Severn was early the county's main artery of trade, (fn. 1) on which barges and the larger trows were in use by the early 15th century. (fn. 2) By the earlier 17th century there was a community of barge and trow men settled in the Severn Gorge (fn. 3) whence, from riverside wharves, (fn. 4) coal became the staple trade up to Shrewsbury and down to Bristol. (fn. 5) In 1772, partly to put an end to the degrading work of the gangs of bow-haulers, Richard Reynolds began to urge the making of a horse tow path. There was one from Coalbrookdale to Bewdley by c. 1800; William Reynolds made the stretch through his father's property in Madeley Wood and the Lloyds. A horse path up river to Shrewsbury was made in 1809. (fn. 6)
The Coalbrookdale Co. owned a small river fleet briefly c. 1800, but other industrialists never tried to integrate river transport into their operations. Further improvement of the river in the 19th century was resisted by barge owners supported by W. R. Anstice and many of the parish's industrialists. Nevertheless competition from the railways, in which the Coalbrookdale Co. was also involved, caused the river trade to decline sharply in the mid 19th century, and it was virtually extinct by the 1880s. (fn. 7)
Before 1780 the Severn was not bridged be tween Buildwas and Bridgnorth, coracles and ferries serving instead. The making and use of coracles in Madeley, continuing in the early 1980s, was probably of long standing (fn. 8) when observed in the mid 17th century. (fn. 9) About 1780 there were several regular ferries in the Severn Gorge. (fn. 10)
Two principal roads crossed the parish from early times and were turnpiked under an Act of 1764. (fn. 11) The road from Worcester via Bridgnorth to Wellington, bypassing Madeley to the east, was unimportant for communications within the parish. The Shifnal to Much Wenlock road, however, crossed the parish from east to west and lanes led out of it. Presumably one ran south to the Green and Madeley Wood. (fn. 12) From the two southward loops forming the streets of Madeley town (fn. 13) lanes went south to the Lloyds (Dabley Lane) (fn. 14) and, from near Cottage Farm, past Bowdler's mill to the farm's land, the Hay, and Sutton wood. (fn. 15) On the north were lanes giving access to parts of the open fields adjoining the manorial demesne and leading to Madeley Court, (fn. 16) and Park Lane led around Rough Park to Lightmoor.
Though there was apparently no public road along Coalbrookdale until the later 18th century, when one was made beside the railway, from the 17th century the ironworks used the dale as a route to the Wharfage at Loadcroft. The earliest route between Madeley and Coalbrookdale was a bridle road (probably the later Church Road) over Lincoln Hill, (fn. 17) probably adopted by the parish c. 1854. (fn. 18) The later Station Road, along the western slopes of the dale to Sunniside, was still private in 1849 (fn. 19) and the later Coach Road, leading out of it north to Upper furnace pool, (fn. 20) was presumably built alongside the railway in 1864. (fn. 21)
In 1724 the parish roads were said to be 'in indifferent repair'. (fn. 22) The terrain limited improvement, and the turnpike road up Lincoln Hill was notoriously steep. (fn. 23) In the later 18th century byroads were often impassable, especially in bad weather. (fn. 24)
Two Severn toll-bridges, opened 1780-1, modified the parish's road communications; (fn. 25) both were financed by local industrialists, especially the ironmasters. (fn. 26) The wooden Preen's Eddy (later Coalport) bridge was opened between Sutton Maddock and Broseley parishes in 1780, its proprietors having power to build connecting roads. (fn. 27) One from the Wenlock turnpike in Broseley was completed to the Worcester-Wellington road (fn. 28) soon after the failure of a Madeley road Bill (fn. 29) in 1797. (fn. 30) Though the bridge and the new road lay just outside the parish, both were important for William Reynolds's development of Coalport in the 1790s; (fn. 31) Reynolds was probably the moving spirit behind the building of the road. (fn. 32) Coalport bridge was rebuilt in iron in 1799 and 1818 (fn. 33) and became a county bridge in 1922. (fn. 34) The Coalport-Ironbridge road through the Lloyds was private property in 1849 (fn. 35) and at least part remained unadopted in 1909 (fn. 36) and later. (fn. 37) In 1909 the ferro-concrete Haynes Memorial (or Free) bridge was built across the Severn near the Lloyds Gate. (fn. 38) In 1922 a war-memorial footbridge was built from Coalport to the Tuckies, replacing Coalport ferry closed in 1912. (fn. 39)
The building of the Iron Bridge 1777-80 caused the Madeley turnpike trustees to provide a route to it from near the top of Lincoln Hill, first by improvement of an existing lane (the later Ironbridge High Street) then by a sharp turn uphill into a 'new road' (the later Church Hill). From 1782 the owners of Loadcroft wharf allowed the use of the Wharfage as a road to the bridge from the bottom of Lincoln Hill. Better connexions between the bridge and the turnpike were made under an Act of 1806 renewing the Madeley trust for the second time: the Wharfage was turnpiked, though wharfingers kept their right to stack on it, and by 1810 the road eventually known as Madeley Hill had been constructed from Ironbridge High Street to the turnpike road near Hill Top. The Iron Bridge was closed to traffic in 1934, and in 1950 the proprietors conveyed it to the county council. (fn. 40)
The road from the Shifnal to Much Wenlock road at Dale End up Coalbrookdale to Wellington was turnpiked c. 1817. (fn. 41)
The new town development corporation greatly modified the road pattern by building three large housing estates 1966-75, each with a perimeter road. Woodside estate cut Park Lane, and its perimeter road became the Madeley-Lightmoor route. Central Madeley was bypassed to the north by Parkway (built 1967-8) and to the east by a link road (opened 1979) from Madeley roundabout to Coalport Road at Blists Hill. (fn. 42) In the 1970s the Madeley section of the BridgnorthWellington road lost importance to two new roads. Brockton Way, opened 1971, connected Queensway (the new town's 'eastern primary road') to the old Bridgnorth-Wellington road in Sutton Maddock parish. Castlefields Way, opened 1978, ran north from Parkway to Southall, in Dawley. In 1980 the two roads were connected by the new town's 'southern district road', a new Dawley- Bridgnorth link across the north-east part of Madeley parish; Bridgnorth Road then became a cul-de-sac. (fn. 43)
Despite some road improvements in the Severn Gorge by the early 1980s traffic there was becoming heavier and more congested (fn. 44) and there were plans (fn. 45) for a new relief road.
The earliest rail or waggon ways in the parish led out of the coalmine adits in Madeley Wood down to the Severn. (fn. 46) One, almost a mile long, was laid from the Lane pit in 1692. Another, from a pit in Lloyds dingle or 'gutter', had a 'wind' and chain to let coal and ironstone waggons down the steep hillside; tenants of mines north of the Wenlock road were allowed to use it in 1706. (fn. 47) The Coalbrookdale Co. built a railway at Lake Head in 1748, and by 1758 three railways from coal and ironstone pits converged on the Madeley Wood ironworks. (fn. 48) Tramways were laid in a sandstone adit mine at Madeley Wood and an early 19th-century ironstone mine in Ironbridge; from the latter an inclined plane ran down to the Severn. (fn. 49) In 1786 William Reynolds began a technically more ambitious route in the riverside meadows soon to be developed as Coalport: the Tar Tunnel, said to have been projected as an underground canal, was driven c. 1,000 yards into the side of the Severn Gorge to reach pits at Blists Hill c. 150 ft. below ground. In the event rails were laid to bring out the coal. Employed for mine drainage and ventilation, the tunnel was used in connexion with local mines until the 1930s. (fn. 50) A tunnel built in Ironbridge in 1800, probably another of Reynolds's, carried a tramway from Lincoln Hill limeworks to Bedlam furnaces. (fn. 51)
Until the 1850s exports from the coalfield were routed south through Madeley parish to the Severn. Early wharves, served by wooden railways, were in the western part of the parish between Strethill Farm and Dale End. The railways were important to the Coalbrookdale Co. and from 1767 Richard Reynolds introduced iron rails, the first in the country; by 1785 the company had over 20 miles of iron railways. In the 1790s a new canal shifted through traffic to Coalport in the eastern part of the parish. (fn. 52)
In 1728 William Forester and William Hayward had a railway built from Little Wenlock to take their coal and ironstone to Meadow wharf; (fn. 53) by 1732 they had had a 'wind' built, and the lessee had to keep it and the railway bridges in repair. (fn. 54) In 1750 the Coalbrookdale Co. laid a two-mile line from Forester's mines at Coalmoor to their Coalbrookdale furnaces, (fn. 55) a new or additional line perhaps being laid c. 1776. (fn. 56) Probably in the 1750s rails down the dale gave access to the Severn. (fn. 57) In 1755 a new company line from Horsehay probably joined the line of 1750 near Stoney Hill; connexions from Horsehay were made to Lawley, Ketley, and (by 1788) Donnington Wood. From 1794, however, Horsehay-Coalbrookdale traffic was by canal from Horsehay to Brierly Hill; thence, from the foot of an inclined plane, a new railway ran along Lincoln Hill and down to the Severn by an inclined plane near Lower forge. In the 1820s the railway was replaced by a third Horsehay-Coalbrookdale line which ran down Lightmoor dingle. (fn. 58)
A branch of the Shropshire Canal built through the eastern part of the parish 1789-92, with inclined planes at Windmill farm and the Hay, connected most parts of the coalfield to the Severn, and it survived the competition of a private railway (c. 1799-1815) to the east. (fn. 59) Tramways converged on the canal at Blists Hill: one from Bedlam furnaces and the Lloyds pit, another from Meadow pit (fn. 60) via an inclined plane (replaced by a bridge c. 1861) north of Lee dingle. There was a short spur to the Shaws pits. Further north tramways were built from Madeley Court pits and ironworks to the Tweedale basin near the bottom of the Windmill farm incline, and from the Hales pits. (fn. 61) The canal was taken over by the L.N.W.R. in 1857 and closed north of Tweedale basin in 1858. It served mines and works in the parish but fell into disuse after 1894, closed in 1907, (fn. 62) and remained an unsightly nuisance until filled c. 1944. (fn. 63)
The Madeley branch of the G.W.R., opened in 1854, had a station near Madeley Court and terminated at Lightmoor. (fn. 64) About 1858 the Coalbrookdale Co.'s Wellington & Severn Junction Railway, later part of the G.W.R., reached Lightmoor from the north; only in 1864, however, did the G.W.R.'s Wenlock Railway, crossing the Severn by the Albert Edward bridge, (fn. 65) make the long-planned extension through Coalbrookdale, where there was a station, to Lightmoor Junction, whose passenger service then ceased. The sparse passenger services on the Madeley branch ceased in 1915. (fn. 66) From 1964, save for a temporary revival of passenger traffic for the Iron Bridge bicentenary in the summer of 1979, (fn. 67) the Madeley branch and the line of 1864 linking it south to Buildwas were used only by coal trains to Ironbridge 'B' power station. Halts at Lightmoor, opened as Lightmoor Platform 1907, and Coalbrookdale had lost their passenger services in 1962.
The Coalport Branch Railway, later part of the L.N.W.R., opened through the eastern part of the parish in 1860, had a station called Madeley Market in the low town, and terminated at Coalport East station. Both stations closed for passengers in 1952 and entirely in 1960. (fn. 68)
The Severn Valley Railway, later part of the G.W.R., opened in 1862 and, though not entering the parish, served it with two stations, one called Ironbridge and Broseley, in Benthall, and one called Coalport West, in Broseley. Both stations closed in 1963 and the line in 1970. (fn. 69)