Wombridge: Communications

A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.

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A P Baggs. D C Cox. Jessie McFall. P A Stamper. A J L Winchester, 'Wombridge: Communications', in A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford, (London, 1985) pp. 284-285. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/salop/vol11/pp284-285 [accessed 27 May 2024].

A P Baggs. D C Cox. Jessie McFall. P A Stamper. A J L Winchester. "Wombridge: Communications", in A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford, (London, 1985) 284-285. British History Online, accessed May 27, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/salop/vol11/pp284-285.

Baggs, A P. Cox, D C. McFall, Jessie. Stamper, P A. Winchester, A J L. "Wombridge: Communications", A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford, (London, 1985). 284-285. British History Online. Web. 27 May 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/salop/vol11/pp284-285.


Few roads are likely to have been made before industry and settlement expanded in the 17th century, though there was presumably a way leading north from Watling Street to Wombridge priory, perhaps on the line of the later Hadley Road. Priorslee probably grew up beside the road from Watling Street to Shifnal, first mentioned in 1335. (fn. 1)

Watling Street and the road via Priorslee to Shifnal were turnpiked in 1726. The latter, bounding Snedshill coppice to the west, was replaced in 1730 by a 'new road', the later Canongate, running across the coppice. (fn. 2) About 1820 it in turn was replaced by a new road to the south-west as part of the Holyhead road improvements. The first part of the new road, built c. 1817, left Watling Street at Pottersbank, Ketley, and rejoined the existing Shifnal road at Snedshill along the later Church Road; about 1824 the new road was extended from Snedshill to Priorslee; and c. 1826 the length to Shifnal was completed. (fn. 3) Apparently associated with the Holyhead road improvement was the construction of a road running south-west from Watling Street at Pain's Lane to join it at Snedshill, the limit of the improvement of c. 1817. That road, the later Stafford Street, was apparently turnpiked by 1831, allowing traffic along Watling Street to bypass Oakengates to the south. (fn. 4)

At Teague's Bridge a sectional iron bridge was erected where the road (later Teague's Bridge Lane) crossed the Wombridge Canal, perhaps not long after the canal's construction in 1788. (fn. 5)

In 1931-2 the St. George's bypass was built under a government unemployment relief scheme. (fn. 6) Several major new roads were built following the designation of Telford new town in 1968. Queensway, partly built along the former Coalport branch railway, opened northwards to the Hollinswood interchange in 1971, to the Greyhound interchange, Ketley Bank, in 1975-6, and to the Wombridge interchange north of the church in 1981. A ring road around the centre of Oakengates was completed in 1975. The M 54 motorway, opened to the south of Oakengates, terminated in the east at Priorslee in 1975. Work to link it eastwards to the M 6 at Essington (Staffs.) was completed in 1983. (fn. 7)

A network of canals and railways linked mines and ironworks in the Oakengates area with each other and with outside markets. They were built over unsuitable terrain that necessitated the construction of frequent tunnels, bridges, and inclined planes. In 1788 William Reynolds completed the 2½-km. Ketley Canal linking Ketley ironworks with mines near Oakengates, and c. 1788 he built the 3-km. Wombridge Canal connecting mines near Wombridge church with the Donnington Wood furnaces and the Donnington Wood Canal. About 1790 the Shropshire Canal opened; it ran south from the junction of the Donnington Wood and Wombridge canals and linked up with the Ketley Canal before passing through Oakengates to the Severn. The coalfield was given access to the county town by the Shrewsbury Canal, which opened fully in 1797; a section from Trench Pool to Long Lane, linked to the existing Wombridge Canal by the 223-yd. long Trench inclined plane which allowed boats to descend 75 ft., opened in 1794. (fn. 8)

The section of the Wombridge Canal not incorporated in the Shrewsbury Canal probably became disused c. 1819. The Ketley Canal was abandoned in the mid 19th century but the Ketley inclined plan had closed by 1818, preventing access past that point. (fn. 9) The Shropshire Canal required considerable attention in the early 1850s; leaks were common and the canal was said to have broken through into the underlying Wellington- Wolverhampton railway in 1855, draining the summit level and flooding Oakengates. It was replaced in 1860 by the Coalport branch railway. (fn. 10) The Trench inclined plane closed in 1921, effectively marking the end of the Shrewsbury Canal; latterly the only regular traffic carried by the canal was flour to the mill at Wrockwardine Wood. (fn. 11)

A horse-drawn railway was built in 1747 on the Charltons' Oakengates estate from the Horsepasture mines, north-east of the settlement, probably to a wharf on Watling Street. (fn. 12) Among many railways of the earlier 19th century was that running eight miles from Hollinswood to Sutton wharf on the Severn, (fn. 13) and those to the Shrewsbury Canal west of the Trench inclined plane, (fn. 14) and from Priorslee to the Wrockwardine Wood inclined plane. (fn. 15)

In 1849 the Shrewsbury & Birmingham (later G.W.R.) line from Wellington to Wolverhampton opened after completion of a tunnel 471 yd. long south of Oakengates. (fn. 16) In 1857 the Coalport Branch Railway Co. (later L.N.W.R.) obtained permission to buy the decaying Shropshire Canal, and replaced it with the Coalport branch line from Hadley junction, which opened for freight in 1860 and for passengers in 1861. The G.W.R.'s goods branch from Hollinswood to Stirchley, known at first as the Old Park line, opened in 1908 and closed in 1959. Both companies had stations in Oakengates: Oakengates Market Street (L.N.W.R.) closed for passengers in 1952 and for goods in 1964, while Oakengates (G.W.R.), known as Oakengates West between 1951 and 1956, closed for goods in 1965. Stops at Hollinswood on the lines of both former companies closed in 1964, Wombridge halt on the old L.N.W.R. line also shutting in that year. (fn. 17)

Railways were vital to the local extractive and manufacturing industries. Between 1851 and 1855 the basis of the Lilleshall Co.'s extensive private railway system was laid, linking Priorslee and Snedshill with the company's other enterprises in the area. (fn. 18) From 1856 Hollinswood, adjacent to Priorslee furnaces, became an important marshalling yard, linked to the G.W.R. (fn. 19) Many smaller firms also had sidings from the main lines. (fn. 20)


  • 1. Cal. Pat. 1334-8, 188.
  • 2. 12 Geo. I, c. 9; 3 Geo. II, c. 6; B.L. Eg. MS. 2872, Oaken Gate Cottages, Sneds Hill Works and Coppice (copy in S.R.O. 3629); O.S. Map 6", SJ 71 SW. (1967 edn.); T.S.A.S. xlix. 24.
  • 3. 6th Rep. Sel. Cttee. Holyhead Rd. H.C. 549, p. 110 (1819), v; 1st Rep. R. Com. Holyhead Rd. H.C. 305, p. 23 (1824), ix; 3rd Rep. H.C. 129, p. 10 (1826), xi; 4th Rep. H.C. 412, p. 11 (1826-7), vii.
  • 4. Not shown on B.L. Maps, O.S.D. 208; shown on O.S. Map 1", sheet 61 NE. (1833 edn.).
  • 5. Below; S.R.O. 1664/1; bridge in I.G.M.T. store.
  • 6. S.R.O., S.C.C. Roads and Bridges Cttee. min. bk. 11, pp. 69-70; 12, pp. 117-18 (Co. Surveyor's Rep. Jan. 1932, p. 3).
  • 7. Telford Jnl. 12 Dec. 1975; inf. from Miss U. B. M. Rayska; T.D.C. Telford Street Plan (1981).
  • 8. Trinder, Ind. Rev. Salop. (1981), 75-85; SA 3404; Salop. News Letter, xxxiii. 14; xxxiv. 4; I. J. Brown, Mines of Salop. (Buxton, 1976), 63; R. Dean, 'Canal Inclined Planes- A Contemporary View', Jnl. Rly. & Canal Hist. Soc. xxvii. 198-200; above, plate 8.
  • 9. Above, Ketley, intro.; C. Hadfield, Canals of W. Midlands (1969), 151-2.
  • 10. R. Christiansen, W. Midlands (Regional Hist. of Rlys. of Gt. Brit. vii. 1973), 158; J. H. Denton, Tour of Rlys. and Canals between Oakengates and Coalbrookdale (Rly. & Canal Hist. Soc., W. Midlands Group, 1961; copy in S.P.L.); above, Hadley, intro.
  • 11. Hadfield, op. cit. 251.
  • 12. Trinder, Ind. Rev. Salop. (1981), 31, 72; M. J. T. Lewis, Early Wooden Rlys. (1970), 240, 273-4.
  • 13. Trinder, op. cit. 84; R. F. Savage and L. D. W. Smith, 'Waggonways and Plateways of E. Salop.' (Birm. Sch. of Archit. dissertation, 1965), 93-4 (copy in S.P.L.).
  • 14. C. & J. Greenwood, Map of Salop. (1827); S.R.O. 3882/1/17.
  • 15. Savage and Smith, op. cit. 93-4.
  • 16. Following para. based on Trinder, Ind. Rev. Salop. (1981), 152-3; J. M. Tolson, 'In the Tracks of the Iron Masters', Railway Mag. xci. 373-8; Christiansen, W. Midlands, 86.
  • 17. C. R. Clinker, Clinker's Reg. of Closed Stations 1830-1977 (Bristol, 1978), 64, 103, 150, 170 n. 2651.
  • 18. W. K. V. Gale and C. R. Nicholls, The Lilleshall Co. Ltd.: a Hist. 1764-1964 (1979), 34-5; below, Wrockwardine Wood, intro.
  • 19. Christiansen, W. Midlands, 90.
  • 20. O.S. Maps 1/2,500, Salop. XXXVI. 11, 15 (1882 edn.); S.P.L., Rly. Plan 32.