Section 2 – Newdale and Overdale
Duration: Under 1 hour at a steady pace.
Terrain: Mostly flat except for incline up Rock Road.
Path types: Footpaths/Rights of Way and cycle paths (tarmac/gravel)
Disability Access: Restricted to Newdale and Pool area off Newdale Village and Railway Line/Ironbridge Way (marker signs 12-16) only. Access to Tram Bridge (marker sign 15) may not suitable for wheelchairs.
Suitable for pushchairs and cyclists (2 kissing gates)
Food/Drink Stop: Lawley Square
8. Newdale Village
In 1759, Abraham Darby II had leasing problems in Coalbrookdale. After negotiations with landholder Robert Burton, Darby attempted to establish an ironworks, choosing fields south of Ketley for the site.
Not only did Darby intend to build a blast furnace, a foundry, and a steam house to power the foundry, but also outbuildings using the nearby brook as a source of water. More radically, he intended to create an entire purpose-built community to accommodate his workers and their families.
However, the issue with the leases in Coalbrookdale was resolved, and subsequently aspects of the ambitious undertaking were constrained – yet New Dale Village was a remarkable innovation with a number of features.
The Foundry consisted of two buildings, with the experimental furnace located between them. There was also a watercourse built to nearby Ketley Dingle, and a pond. In 1980, archaeological excavations on the site found possible evidence of an experimental reverberatory furnace – used to carry out smelting experiments.
The Chapel occupied the former northern building of the foundry. It was first used by the Coalbrookdale Friends of the Quaker Movement from 1762, who were given licence to hold meetings at 10:00am and 3:00pm on Sundays, and 11:00am on Wednesdays.
The Methodists took ownership of the building, converting it into a small chapel, by 1853. After the Methodists left the area, the chapel was later used as a barn. A row of cottages was approximately 35 metres north of the chapel and main buildings.
The Long Row was 150 metres south of the village centre. Also called “The Old Row” or “The New Row”, it consisted of 17 “back-to-back” dwellings. The Row was a double-gabled roofed structure, 61 metres long by 7.3 metres wide, constructed of red brick (Flemish Garden Wall and English Garden Wall), with distinctive diagonal scars matching the Foundry. There was a communal washhouse at one end, and a “Master’s House” or “Foreman’s House” at the other.
Inside each dwelling, fireplaces were located alternately on east and west facing walls shoring a common chimney. Cupboards were under the stairs, often used as bunkers for coal. Floors were tile or brick, although traces of linoleum were found during archaeological excavations of the Master’s House. Large wooden water barrels were located on the north side to collect rainwater. There was evidence that the brew house was used to slaughter pigs, with a trough found in the floor of the building.
Newdale Village, circa 1907
- The Long Row
- Tramway Bridge
- Newdale Halt
Illustration based on the Layout Map courtesy of the Historical Environment Department, Shropshire County Council
Newdale School was 55 metres east of The Long Row. The school was a later building established by the Coalbrookdale Company. The construction date of the single-gabled building isn’t known, however an inspection carried out in 1818 indicated 89 pupils, with 14 more on Sundays.
The wooden-floored classroom was approximately 12 metres by 8 metres. The local vicar of Lawley managed the school, with fees in excess of 1d a week (equivalent to roughly £0.26 in 2017) for company children, and for others 3d a week (equivalent to roughly £0.78 in 2017), with other expenses covered by the Company. The school closed in 1877, with pupils transferred to Lawley School.
A toll house located on the turnpike road by Newdale, was listed on a survey conducted by Mr A P Wallace in 1969 (Archive SJ672097), and later demolished. The community had its own railway station, Newdale Halt, erected in 1939 as the Severn Junction Railway line ran nearby.
Newdale Farm occupied the southern building of the former Foundry. There were two rectangular, double-gabled structures originally for industrial use before conversion into a farmhouse. Originally, both had open-planned single rooms before subdivision took place. It remained a working farm until 1987, after which the buildings were demolished for open-cast mining to take place.
SHORT CUT: If you wish to bypass the next section, continue along the cycle path until you reach Newdale Campus. At marker sign (20), you will re-join the Trail to The Rock. If you wish to continue to Old Park, continue along the cycle path crossing over Rock Road until you reach marker sign (26).
TO CONTINUE THE TRAIL: At marker sign (14), take the path left heading into the coppice. At marker sign (15) proceed down the steps to your left and follow the track to Newdale Tram Bridge.
9. Tramway Bridge
When Abraham Darby (I) established his foundries in Coalbrookdale Valley, teams of pack horses carried ironstone, coal, and limestone in “panniers” strapped to their backs, travelling along tracks or “prime-ways”.
To improve transport of raw materials from neighbouring furnaces and collieries at Horsehay, Steeraway, Ketley, Donnington Wood, Lawley, and Old Park to Coalbrookdale, Abraham Darby (II) and the Coalbrookdale Company created a single-track tramway network with waggons pulled by horses.
The bridge, built in 1759, is made of brick and stone, flanked by buttresses spanning Ketley Dingle. It was possibly still in use well into the late 18th century. The bridge was restored in 1987, and has a Grade II listing.
Retrace your steps back to the main path. At marker sign (15), proceed left following the route of a former railway line.
10. Railway Line and Newdale Halt
In 1848, Alfred Darby I had a vision of creating a passenger railway link between Ketley and Coalbrookdale using existing tramway routes. After Alfred’s death in 1852, the Coalbrookdale Company proposed a partnership with John Dickson of Shropshire Works, who a year earlier had opened a branch line – funded by himself – linking the newly-opened Shrewsbury and Birmingham Line with Ketley Furnaces.
Work began on 25th August 1855 (reported in the Wellington Journal) when the first sod of earth was cut. Dickson was awarded the tender to build the link, an extension of his private line under Engineer Henry Robertson. In 1857, the line opened for commercial use under the Great Western Railway company, with stations at Horsehay, Lawley Bank, and Ketley. The line reached Lightmoor in 1859, and Coalbrookdale in 1864.
Passengers started using the line in 1859, with a further station – Newdale Halt – built to serve Newdale’s mining community in 1939. The line continued in operation until the late 1960s when, along with countless branch lines across the country, it was closed due to the Beeching cuts. A section of the line still operates under the Telford Steam Railway.
At marker sign (16) use the kissing gate to your right and follow the path behind Charlecote Park. Towards the end you’ll get a good view of Overdale.
Work on the Mannerley Lane Development began in 1939. The project was halted due to World War Two, and recommenced in 1946. Wellington Urban District Council appointed Towers, Wilson and Co to build 2- and 3-bedroom homes, designed by James Hickman and Sons of Wellington.
A shortage of timber supplies for frameworks resulted in the use of pre-fabricated steel from K J Sommerfield of Trench, a radical new concept at the time. The first homes were occupied by 1948. Suggested street names for the new housing estate included Dale View, Vale View, Ercall View, and Jones Crescent.
At the end of the gravel path, take the next path going left down a slight incline to Rock Road. At marker sign (17) proceed right going up Rock Road using the cycle path. About halfway at marker sign (18) you’ll reach the junction for Marlborough Way and Newdale Primary School.
12/13. Rock Farm and Mannerley Lane Pit
Newdale School occupies the site of Rock Farm. The farm was demolished when land was acquired for open-cast mining by the National Coal Board.
On the other side of Rock Road is a path leading to Oak Road. The Mannerley Lane Pit was sunk in the 19th century by Beriah Sheppard, later owned by John Owen; partner to the Eagle Ironworks in Hollinswood. Up to a dozen men were employed. One seam was abandoned in 1904, and the Pit ceased operations in May 1930.
SHORT CUT: If you wish to go to Old Park – use the crossing over Rock Road and follow the cycle path until you return to the trail at marker sign (26).
At marker sign (19) go right via the kissing gate and follow the cycle path. At marker sign (20) take the path to your left. Go through a second kissing gate until you reach Lower Rock Road. At marker sign (21) take the path up to Upper Rock Road.
SHORT CUT: If you wish to return to Lawley Square, continue down the cycle path back to Newdale Pool. Re-take the bridle way back to Gresham Drive and follow the footpath back to the Square.