Section 1 – Lawley
Duration: 40 minutes at a steady pace
Terrain: Majority flat
Path type: Footpaths (tarmac/flag stones), cycle paths
Disability access: For school, Village Green, Viewpoint, Lawley House, and St. John’s Church from Lawley Square use route between marker signs (1-8). Alternatively, use parking at St John’s (off Dawley Road) for church grounds.
Pushchair/cyclists: Suitable. Caution for oncoming traffic.
Food/Drink stop: Lawley Square and Lawley Shop
1. Lawley School
To start the trail, begin outside the Lawley and Overdale Parish Council office on Birchfield Way,, and go right along West Centre Way to marker sign (1) at Newdale Cross. Cross over Lawley Drive and again over Arleston Lane. Proceed up Arleston Lane along the cycle path passing Bartholomew Road. At marker sign (2), take the footpath to your right until you reach the primary school at marker sign (3).
Lawley Board School opened in 1877, with admissions of 78 mixed pupils and 20 infants in separate departments. By 1884, the building’s interior had been amended to combine departments, with school attendance levels rising to an average of 200 by the 1900s.
The school remained an all-age school until 1956 when seniors were relocated to secondary schools. In 1980, Lawley Primary School both utilised the original Victorian building and several external classrooms.
Today, the remaining part of the original building – incorporating the former assembly hall – serves as a community centre. Within the hall are two wall plaques. One commemorates 19 former pupils who served in the Great War (1914-1918); the other commemorates five former pupils who served in World War Two.
Retrace your route back along the footpath. Opposite the gate into the school playing field, take the footpath on your right back to the cycle path. At marker sign (4), head right following the cycle path around the perimeter of the Village Green.
2. Lawley Furnace and Colliery
At marker sign (5), use the crossing over Glendale and proceed up Village Drive. Take first right into Long Row Drive. Follow the road until you see marker sign (6). At this viewpoint, look across the field towards the woodland in the distance.
Mining on the site began in the 1700s, with shafts sunk into the Little Flint, Randles, and Two Feet seams extracting ironstone, coal, and later fireclay. The blast furnace was built in 1822 under the purview of the Ketley Company, before partners Henry Williams and William Hombersley formed the Lawley Company in 1829.
Men complained of the hardship of the work involved; they were not even allowed to rest on the Sabbath. The company assigned a skeleton crew to stoke the furnace on Sundays. In 1847, the Coalbrookdale Company acquired the lease from the Lawley Company. Output of coal mined and processed in 1856 was approximately 10,000 tons with 5,000 tons of ironstone. The furnace had ceased operations by 1870.
Lawley Colliery continued well into the 20th century, with the former furnace buildings still in situ until around 1902. The mines on the site were run by The Wrekin Coal Company, who employed up to 50 men working underground with eight above, including a service engineer. Slag from the furnace was used to underlay roads in the 1920s. Mining ceased by 1958.
A team of archaeologists surveyed the site in 1994 prior to open-cast mining. They uncovered remains of the blast furnace, buried in layers of slag and rubble, constructed from sandstone, brick and clay. They also located foundations of the outbuildings including the steam engine house which powered the furnace’s bellows. To preserve the site, it was re-buried. The site is now occupied by a caravan park.
Proceed back to Village Drive. On Village Drive, go right passing the row of new houses until you reach marker sign (7), opposite a recently restored residence.
Lawley (circa 1907)
- Furnace and colliery
- Lawley House
- Lawley Farm
3. Lawley House
Lawley House was erected in the 19th century. The main red brick farmhouse, its solid masonry walls of Flemish Bond, was later expanded with an accompanying wing. The farm had an initial estate of 107 acres, mostly arable land with several outbuildings including a cow house, threshing barn, potato store and pig pens. A notable tenant was Bartholomew Yates (1851). He employed five men and three boys with a holding of 35 acres. His sister, Eliza Yates, was the housekeeper. He served as Churchwarden at St John’s for 35 years, and was an influential spokesperson in making Lawley a prominent district.
The farmhouse was accredited Grade II status in 1983. In 2012, a restoration project commenced, completed in May 2013.
Continue ahead, passing into Church Walk until you eventually reach Dawley Road. At marker sign (8) cross over Dawley Road and proceed to the entrance of St John’s Church.
4. St John’s Church and grounds
Walk right to look at the Church Hall.
The present Church Hall was erected in 1962, replacing the original institute building dating from the 1920s. The Church raised funds to build the new hall by holding fetes and bazaars.
Proceed up the main drive to the Church. Take the path to your right and walk counter-clockwise around the Church to the rear to a very specific memorial.
Thomas Ragg was born in Nottingham in 1808. Son of a lace weaver and a devoted Christian, he was ordained in Southfleet, Kent in 1858. Moving to Shropshire in 1860, he became preacher at Malinslee Church before being appointed Vicar of St John’s in 1865, where he remained in post for the next 20 years. His sermons at the church brought in large numbers of people, especially during long cold winter evenings. He died in 1881 (aged 73), leaving a widow and 10 children. His funeral was a memorable affair, with pupils from Lawley Board School lining the church drive.
Continue to the front entrance of the church. Opposite is the Vicarage built in 1865. For several years it served as the Priory House of the Order of the Glorious Ascension. Presently it is in private ownership.
With an increasing population in Lawley Township, there became a need to build a church. In 1861, a petition was forwarded to Bishop Lonsdale of the Lilleshall Diocese. Donors included Lord Forester and the Coalbrookdale Company under benefactors Henry Dickinson and Mrs Mary Jones (nee Miss Darby, daughter of Abraham Darby II).
The Vicars of All Saints and Little Wenlock provided further endowments.
The architect, John Ladds, appointed the Nevett Brothers of London to build the church at a cost of £1,500. The outer walls have distinctive red and yellow polychrome brickwork. The stained-glass windows, supplied by Evans of Smethwick, were a later edition installed in 1882 and 1902 respectively.
The tower on the south side of the chancel has a pyramid spire. The clock was dedicated to former Parish Councillor Leonard Smith in 2007. The solitary bell of 3.5 hundredweight was supplied by Mears and Stainbank (1865), and added in 1915. At the foot of the tower facing towards the cemetery, you’ll find an Ordnance Survey mark.
The interior has an apsidal chancel with a side vestry. The pipe organ obtained from a demolished Wesleyan Chapel in Horsehay (circa 1968), was installed in 1970. The marble font is used as a memorial on Remembrance Sunday. There are two prominent brass plaques on the rear wall dedicated to parishioners who served in the Great War. The marble wall plaque dedicated to Bartholomew Yates of Lawley House can also be seen. When the church was consecrated in 1865, the pews held an initial congregation of 302, including 108 parishioners from New Works and Huntington.
Exit the Cemetery. Head right along the footpath up Dawley Road passing the bus stop. At the crossroads, carefully re-cross Dawley Road. At marker sign (9) take the footpath on the right-hand side of The Meadows into Lawley.
5. Lawley Village
Lawley originates from the Saxon word “leah”, which means “clearing”, indicating that the locality was previously woodland being cleared for farming.
In the Middle Ages, arable farming had commenced with open fields such as Synders Field and Wall Field on the northeast side of the settlement. Enclosure farming commenced in the 16th century. A blacksmith close to Synders Field is indicated on the 1901 map.
Both estates underwent several successions of ownerships until 1283 when Robert Corbet (of the Corbets of Morton Corbet) acquired both manors.
In 1853, Robert Burton sold the Lawley Estate to the Coalbrookdale Company who sold land plots, excluding the manor, in 1910. A separate parcel of land under ownership of Philip Browne was sold to William Forester of Dothill in 1733 which remained in the Forester family until 1918.
There were up to eight farms by the 17th century – the three larger farms having livestock as well as arable land. By the 19th century, the three primary farms were Lawley House, Lawley Farm, and one owned by John Williams.
The 1841 census of Lawley Township recorded 33 properties with 173 inhabitants, rising to 1,203 by 1881. Wellington Rural Civil Parish incorporated the township in 1894, with the Church erected in 1865.
In the early 1920s, Wellington Urban District Council had commissioned new terraced houses to be built, such as those in The Meadows (1929) and later Glendale, to accommodate population displacement from Newdale and other areas. The village post office was formerly by Lilac Cottage, by the crossroads. The Co-operative local shop was established in the 1930s.
Continue along Glendale until you again reach the Village Green.
6. Lawley Farm
Lawley Farm occupied 208 acres. There was a prominent three-storey farmhouse of red brickwork built in the 18th century. A previous manager, John Jones (1861), employed 43 “heads”, with land primarily used for dairy and arable farming.
Outbuildings were in a square configuration, with a barn and separate dwelling beyond. The farm had a large garden, including a vegetable garden. A field to the rear of the farm was used by Lawley Football Club, a precursor to the Playing Fields behind Glendale. The farm was demolished in 1978. A surviving feature is a section of stone wall on the cycle path adjacent Lawley Primary School.
Retrace the route along the cycle path to Arleston Lane. Yew Tree Moor and Clip Moor are several new streets named after fields on the parish’s 1840s Tithe Map.
Proceed down the cycle path back to the pedestrian crossing on Lawley Drive, and go up West Center Way. At the marker sign (10) outside the Parish Office, go left into Birchfield Way, and head towards Lawley Square in front of the supermarket. The zigzag pattern is a graphic representation of the Parish’s mining legacy. Continue through the Square until you reach marker sign (11) on Gresham Drive.
7. Birchfield Foundry
Birchfield Foundry was located on the east side of the Severn Junction Railway Line, close to Lawley Bank Station. The company was established by Mr Whittingham in Mannerley Lane around 1954, before relocating to this area in 1957. The company manufactured ferrous/non-ferrous metals and castings for several local companies, closing in 1968.
The Wrekin Coal Company owned a drift mine linked to the Princes End Colliery. In 1923, the company made a request to Great Western Railways to construct a siding for their brick and sanitary works. The factory was erected but the siding was never built.
Go left down Gresham Drive until you reach a mini-island. Head left, and at marker sign (12) take the path passing through a play area to Newdale Pool. Follow the track around the left-hand side of the pool until you reach a cycle path at marker sign (13). Pause here and look towards the houses to your left.