The Rock and Old Park trail

A photograph of Lawley Community Centre, an old Victorian school building with a tall, arched front window and a bell on the top.

Section 3 – The Rock and Old Park

History trail contents
Main Lawley Newdale and Overdale The Rock and Old Park Dawley Bank Lawley Bank Lawley Common

PAGE 22

[INFOBOX BEGINS

Information icon

Duration: Over 1 hour at a steady pace.

Terrain: Majority flat

Path types: Footpaths/Rights of Way and Cyclepaths (tarmac)

Disability Access: Advise parking on Forge Retail Park to walk to Old Park, Ironworks and up to Old Park Colliery site (marker signs 33-30) (33-35)

Suitable for pushchairs and cyclists

Food/Drink Stop: Forge Retail Park INFOBOX ENDS]

14. Rock Cottages

At marker sign (22), proceed left along Upper Rock Road, passing some cottages to your left…

The eastern side of the Parish, including Ketley, The Rock and Old Park, formed part of the Lichfield Estate belonging to The Duke of Sutherland. Many of the cottages in The Rock were sold from the estate in auctions held at Wellington Town Hall; one of which took place in 1894. This included the sale of Lot 44 (Rose Cottage) sold for £193 to Mr James Holmes.

Amongst covenants applicable to the properties, owners had privilege to draw water from nearby pumps and wells; with exception of Lot 44 pending on how much they could carry on foot from the Tea Well spring.

[PHOTO HERE]

Above • No. 13, The Rock; one of a number of Duke of Sutherland cottages in the area

Continue walking along Upper Rock Road until you reach the Chapel by marker sign (23).

15. Rock Primitive Chapel and Sunday School

Primitive Preaching in the Rock started around 1835, part of the Ketley circuit. A small, plain chapel was built in 1861 with a larger chapel built adjoining it in 1877 with distinctive polychrome brickwork. On the apex of the Chapel’s gable is a clock with a blue face and gold Roman numerals with the inscription “It’s time to seek the Lord”.

The earlier Chapel became the Sunday School – modernised in 1954 by Wellington “, and Urban District Council, with a stone commemorating the opening by Cllr Isaiah Jones. It retains the date stone from the 1861 chapel with the inscription “Let the inhabitants of the Rock sing”.

[PHOTO – unable to paste] PRIMITIVE METHODIST 1861 – the date and inscription stone on the Sunday School take a new photo?

Carefully cross over Rock Road and walk right. At the bend, the next marker sign (24) indicates a public right of way. Close by was a weighbridge for Rock Colliery. Go through the kissing gate and follow the track through a small coppice until you reach open space. Continue along the path until you reach marker sign (25).

[TWO MAPS HERE]
  1. Rock Colliery
  2. Clares Lane
  3. Reservoir
  4. Bethesda Chapel
  5. Collier’s Row
  6. Hill Top Chapel
  7. Former Ironworks
  8. Forge Row

PHOTO – Rock Colliery (circa 1960) unable to copy

  1. Rock Chapel
  2. Weighbridge
  3. Engine House No.1 Shaft
  4. Tracks
  5. No.2 Shaft
  6. No.4 Shaft
  7. No.3 Shaft

16. Rock Colliery

The Rock Colliery consisted of several shafts first sunk in 1882, extracting coal and fireclay from the Little Flint seam. A short tramway linked the main shafts operating on 18-and-a-half-inch gauge.

By 1928, James Jones and Sons took over operations on the site to work coal, fireclay and iron pyrites, however after 1956 only fireclay was produced. The main shaft (Rock No.1) had a headframe and engine house; still visible on the site after mining ceased in 1964. The fireclay shafts had an electric winder and manual operated hand winch respectfully, while the coal shafts hod two manual hand winches with one possessing a motorised winch.

In the later years of operation, the main fireclay seam was worked from a 30-yard-deep shaft with up to 10 miners employed. Candles were used for both lighting and as a means to detect blackdamp; produced when exposed coal absorbs oxygen and emits carbon dioxide and water. If warning signs were missed, miners could be asphyxiated. Hand boring machines were used for drilling; and after blasting, the clay was manually loaded onto trams and brought to the surface. The mine produced 150 tons a week.

After the site was abandoned, some equipment was salvaged by the Shropshire Mining Club. A number of items are on display at the Blists Hill Museum. Perhaps a link to their website?

Continue along the footpath which passes through a wooded area to the rear of Acer Close. Go down the railway sleeper, through the gate to marker sign (26). Go right along the cycle path until you reach marker sign (27) on Bellpit Lane.

[PHOTO HERE]

Top – Rock Colliery site today

Middle – The main fireclay and surface buildings of Rock Colliery taken in 1964

Bottom – the motorised hand winch and suspended box on No.3 Shaft

Both mono photos courtesy of I.J. Brown Collection

At marker sign (27) cross over Bellpit Road. Take the footpath by marker sign (28) into Clares Lane Close. Proceed left, passing 2 houses, then immediately right into a cul-de-sac. You will see a footpath to Old Park Way. Cross over the road at marker sign (29) and follow the path to Park Lane. At the junction for Old Coppice Grange at marker sign (30) you’ll see a former chapel.

17. Bethesda Chapel

Bethesda Primitive Chapel was erected in 1857 by the Old Park Society whose congregation was mainly miners and ironworkers. The chapel closed in 1963 with its congregation merging with Hill Top Wesleyan Chapel at the far end of Park Lane. If you look to the right-hand side of the front entrance, you’ll see a Victorian wall letter box painted blue. Collections were made at 5:30pm (Kelley’s Directory 1901). Take new photo?

Continue up Park Lane passing the junction for The Crest on your left until you reach marker sign (31) opposite a second chapel

18. Wesleyan Chapel and Memorial

The Wesleyan chapel, known as Hill Top Chapel, was erected in 1853 with a Sunday School to the rear. It remained in use until 1973. What it is now? One of them has been converted into houses l think?

The marble wall memorial to the right of the front entrance commemorates 13 soldiers, members of the chapel’s congregation who served in World War 1. 11 soldiers served in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. 1 served with the Grenadier Guardsmen and the last was a Private from the Gloucestershire Regiment. The memorial was found behind the Rock Methodist Chapel and restored to the building in 2009. Photo?

At the top of Park Road, head right until you reach Colliers Way. At marker sign (32) glance towards your right

[PHOTOS HERE]

Top – Bethesda Chapel, Old Park

Left – The Victorian post box

Right -The War Memorial

19. Park Cottages

In the 18th century, Old Park was port of the estate belonging to Issac Hawkins Browne, industrialist and politician from Badger. In 1790 he agreed to lease land to Thomas Botfield who established on ironworks which Howkins Browne supplied. Link to Thomas Botfield…not necessarily the pub!

Over 58 cottages were erected on the estate between 1790 to 1797 for miners and their families working in the pits and new works. 24 were erected in a “long row” known as Forge Row close to Hollinswood, while approximately 14 cottages called Colliers Row were at Old Park just west of Hill Top Chapel. Other independent properties were located around mines and spoil mounds. The cottages were quite spacious with gardens and designed to attract skilled labour under provision of charter masters working for the Botfields. The majority of the properties were demolished, either during open cost mining or later for development of Telford Town Centre.

Proceed left (don’t cross the road) along the cycle path. As you reach the mini island – glance left towards Forge Retail Park.

[PHOTO HERE]

Above• Site of Collier’s Row today

[PHOTO HERE]

Above – Forge Retail Park partly occupies the site of Botfield’s ironworks. Recent photos?

20. Ironworks and Brickworks

In 1753, Beriah Botfield, a miner from Great Dawley established a successful iron foundry in Lightmoor. Beriah’s son – Thomas, followed his father’s footsteps by establishing on ironworks on the Browne estate in 1790. By 1801 four blast furnaces had been erected along with a forge rolling mill powered by a 56 horsepower. Boulton and Watt engine. Adjacent the ironworks was a brickworks in production by 1809.

When Thomas Botfield died in 1801 his estate passed to his sons, Thomas, William and Beriah. William managed Old Park works, increasing output of pig iron to 9200 tons per annum, half of which was converted to wrought iron. This established Old Park as the largest ironworks in Shropshire. The second largest in Great Britain. In February 1821, miners from Old Park took part in the “Cinderloo” riots in protest due to a reduction in wages. Link to website?

The ironworks under the Old Park Iron Company was run from Malinslee Hall, a brick house with on ionic pillar frontage built by Thomas Botfield around 1790; later occupied by his son William. The hall was demolished in the 1970’s making way for Telford Town Centre.

A combination of not being able to compete with more “modern” methods of iron processing and an outbreak of typhoid resulted in the closure of the ironworks by 1887. In 1976 an archaeological survey was carried out. Traces of the foundations of the blast furnace, bricks and tracks from the tram line bearing the company name “T.W & B Botfield” were found.

At marker sign (33), cross over Colliers Way and Caledonian Way. At marker sign (34) behind the retail park, go up Caledonian Way towards Thomas Telford School. When you reach the mini-island, cross the road to the cycle path and pause here.

21. Old Park and Prices End collieries and pits

There were several mines around Old Park stretching towards Dawley Bank. Most had a gin pit (with a horse) for winding coal to the surface and a secondary shaft with a handwinch for miners.

Clare’s Lane Colliery (1945) was a shallow pit operated by a hand winch while Ivy Colliery (1905 -1937) near to Colliers Row was surmounted by a headframe. Owned by T.J.Teece, it was locally known as Teece’s Gin Pit. There was also Harris’ Pit, nationalised in 1947 employing 12 men including owner Ed Harris and his 3 sons.

Adjacent Old Park Colliery was Princes End Colliery -in operation around 1881 and worked up to 1948 by the National Coal Board, later open cast.

[PHOTO HERE]

Above • The present day

landscape from Old Park towards Dawley Bank.

Proceed along the cycle path to West Centre Way. At marker sign (35) head right along the cycle path to Old Park Island. Cross over Old Park Way (marker sign 36), then Colliers Way until you reach marker sign (37).

SHORT CUT -If you wish to bypass Dawley Bank and return to Lawley Square continue down the cycle path, going under the foot bridge, and head down West Centre Way back to the Square. TO CONTINUE THE TRAIL -Cross over West Centre Way and walk up Milners Lane. At marker sign (38) cross over the road and take the footpath up Cemetery Road. Opposite the industrial estate you will see a set of gates by marker sign (39).

Next: Dawley Bank