A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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Ketley township, south-east of Wellington town, had roughly the shape of an equilateral triangle, its apex to the south. A small part on the east lay in Wombridge ancient parish; (fn. 1) it was perhaps the part of Ketley wood where Thomas Tuchet granted perpetual quarrying rights to Wombridge priory c. 1269. (fn. 2) Much the greater part of Ketley township lay in Wellington ancient parish and forms the subject of the present article. Ketley, including the Wombridge part, was accounted a member of Leegomery manor (fn. 3) and was wholly owned by the marquess of Stafford in 1813. (fn. 4) The Ketley estate of his descendant, the 4th duke of Sutherland, was broken up and sold in 1894. (fn. 5)
The Wellington part of Ketley was reckoned to be 775 a. (314 ha.) in 1841. (fn. 6) Its northern boundary was Watling Street, its western Ketley brook and a tributary of that brook from the south-east. The eastern boundary (i.e. that of Wellington parish) ascended Hadley brook immediately south from Watling Street; thereafter it took a line southwards, turning several angles (to divide the Wellington and Wombridge parts of the township) and in part following Shrubbery Road, and reached the brook that marked Dawley's northern boundary. Thence it continued up that brook towards the south end of the township. (fn. 7) Ketley was included in Wellington Rural civil parish in 1894. (fn. 8)
The drift cover is mostly boulder clay except near Redlake and on the township's western edge, where sands and gravels predominate. Much of the township was underlain by workable coals of the Middle and Lower Coal Measures. (fn. 9) The land slopes down from south-east to north-west; the township's southern limit is at c. 195 metres above O.D., its north-western at c. 105 metres. Most of the township drains north-westwards into Ketley brook but the eastern edge drains eastwards into the boundary brook. (fn. 10)
Ketley and other parts of the coalfield had the custom of 'heaving' (groups lifting individuals of the opposite sex into the air) on Easter Monday and Tuesday, but it was in decline by the 1880s. (fn. 11)
The Roman Watling Street was turnpiked in 1726. (fn. 12) By the late 18th century many minor roads linked the scattered settlements. (fn. 13) A new section of the Holyhead-London road was built c. 1817 from Pottersbank on Watling Street to Snedshill (in Shifnal). (fn. 14)
The Ketley Canal, completed in 1788, brought coal and ironstone across the township to Ketley ironworks from Oakengates, where it later joined the Shropshire Canal. (fn. 15) The Ketley Canal may have been fed by the 'Derbyshire' underground drainage level dug from Old Park (in Dawley) to Ketley. (fn. 16) The canal included the first successful canal inclined plane in Britain, devised by William Reynolds (fn. 17) and situated immediately southwest of Ketley Hall. (fn. 18) The canal also took coal and iron via the Shropshire Canal to Horsehay and Coalbrookdale and brought in limestone from Lincoln Hill (in Madeley) and Buildwas. (fn. 19) The incline, however, was disused by 1818, probably because of the ironworks' recent closure. (fn. 20) East of the incline lay a coal wharf, which the canal apparently still served from Oakengates in 1842. (fn. 21) By the 1880s, however, that surviving length had been abandoned. (fn. 22)
The earliest part of the Wellington & Severn Junction railway, opened 1857, (fn. 23) passed through the township with a station at Ketley. In order to meet competition from buses (fn. 24) New Dale halt (in Ketley township) opened in 1934 and Ketley Town halt in 1936. In 1962 the halts closed and Ketley station closed to passengers; the station closed entirely in 1964. (fn. 26)
Ketley had 14 taxpayers in 1327 (fn. 27) but only 3 'able' men 1542, fewer than Aston, Lawley, or Walcot. (fn. 28) There was growth before 1672, probably associated with inclosure of wastes and with mining; (fn. 29) 12 households then paid hearth tax. (fn. 30) Ketley town and Coalpit Bank (mostly in Wombridge parish) were apparently the only nucleated settlements.
Ketley town was presumably the Ketley mentioned c. 1180. (fn. 31) It remained small (fn. 32) until Sinclair Gardens, 40 private rented houses, were added westwards 1934-5. (fn. 33) Eastwards 136 council houses were completed 1967-9. (fn. 34) Ketley Hall, residence of the ironworks managers until the late 19th century, (fn. 35) stood nearby at Ketleyhill. The small late 18th-century house, with a main (west) front of three bays and two storeys, was symmetrically extended by a third storey and by two bays at each end c. 1820. At the same time the interior was remodelled, notably by the heightening of some ceilings and the insertion of a spacious new staircase hall.
Near Coalpit Bank (fn. 36) was Bank House, home of the Hartshornes and later of Richard and William Reynolds. (fn. 37) The older part is a tall 2-storeyed building of the early 18th century with fronts of four bays to the south and west. In 1721, for Richard Hartshorne, (fn. 38) the east side was lengthened and refronted as seven bays with a central entrance. A little later short single-storeyed walls were added at each end of that elevation: the northern one concealed a small extension, and later in the century it was enlarged and carried up to the same height as the main elevation. Several rooms behind the east and south fronts retain early to mid 18th-century fittings. The main staircase was probably moved to its present position in the later 18th century. Before c. 1900 the house was more than once enlarged and redecorated.
On Watling Street (whose north side lay in Hadley township) a settlement called Staneford occupied the site of modern Beveley in 1447. (fn. 39) There were probably miners' cottages along the road by the late 17th century. (fn. 40) In 1794 four workmens' settlements, almost contiguous, occupied its length. (fn. 41) Ketleybrook (inhabited by 1672) (fn. 42) lay immediately north of the ironworks. Shepherd's Lane (fn. 43) was the length near the Seven Stars inn. Eastwards lay Pottersbank and Beveley Brook (later called Beveley). The roadside settlements ceased growing in the early 19th century (fn. 44) and the more decayed parts were cleared in the mid 20th. (fn. 45)
The Ketley wood recorded as inhabited in the 16th and 17th centuries (fn. 46) was probably an extensive and loosely defined area outside the centres of population. (fn. 47) By 1794, however, Ketley Wood was merely a small group of cottages east of the Rock. (fn. 48)
The rest of the township was sparsely inhabited before the 18th century, when mining gave rise to unconnected, but sometimes large, groups of cottages on the wastes. At first many were let by speculators but in the early 19th century the marquess of Stafford assumed direct management and carried out improvements. (fn. 49) In 1841 the township had 2,642 inhabitants. (fn. 50)
The largest colliers' settlement by 1794 was that later defined as Redlake, Petershill, and the Quarry, but then called Beveley. (fn. 51) At Redlake a brick and stone cottage dated 1769 was standing in 1983. The settlement had virtually ceased to grow by 1813 (fn. 52) and in the 20th century was favoured as a quiet residential area. The speculative Castle View estate (29 houses) was built northwards 1938-40. (fn. 53)
Mannerley Lane and the Rock were by 1794 a loose north-south string of colliers' cottages south of Redlake. (fn. 54) By 1813 the cottages had spread northwards around Gorsy (later Cow) Wood and had reached Redlake. (fn. 55) Cow Wood dwindled in the late 19th century but there was otherwise little change (fn. 56) until 32 council houses were built at Mannerley Lane and the Rock 1930-6. (fn. 57) A further 213, the Overdale estate, transformed the area 1948-56 (fn. 58) and more were added in the later 1970s. (fn. 59) In 1978 Telford development corporation planned an estate of over 600 public (rented) and private houses east of the Rock. By 1983 some of the private houses had been built. (fn. 60)
Lawley Bank had encroached on the township's southern edge by 1794. (fn. 61)
The dispersed and impoverished nature of Ketley's settlements inhibited organized social life, and in any case the proximity of Wellington, Hadley, and Oakengates rendered special provision for Ketley largely unnecessary. Moreover such amenities as Ketley acquired were often sited on the north side of Watling Street in Hadley township. (fn. 62) Public houses and friendly societies were popular in the earlier 19th century, but later industrial decline made many of them redundant.
There were few alesellers c. 1600. (fn. 63) They multiplied (fn. 64) with the growth of industry and the improvement of the London-Holyhead road, and in 1842 there were thirteen, six on Watling Street and the rest scattered among the settlements. (fn. 65) Many, however, were closed before 1900. (fn. 66)
A Brotherly Society was formed in 1784, a Union Society in 1806, and a Union Friendly Society in 1809, (fn. 67) as well as several societies at Ketley Bank, (fn. 68) but no later 19th-century friendly societies are known. An old people's club was built in 1959 by voluntary effort. (fn. 69) The Glynwed and Shropshire Star works had their own sports facilities. (fn. 70)
The county library sited a branch in Ketley town 1968-71, (fn. 71) but no other library is known.