Monthly Archives: Feb 2023

Early Tramroads near Telford – Part 9 – The Lilleshall Company Tramroad running from Sutton Wharf through the area East of Malinslee, through Hollinswood and Oakengates and the Company’s Early ‘Internal’ Tramroad Network

Part A – The Main Line to and from Sutton Wharf

The Lilleshall Company was a dominant force in the East Shropshire area and developed a network of canals and tramroads to transport goods between their many different sites. “The company’s origins date back to 1764 when Earl Gower formed a company to construct the Donnington Wood Canal on his estate. In 1802 the Lilleshall Company was founded by the Marquess of Stafford in partnership with four local capitalists.” [31]

Bob Yate, in his important book, “The Railways and Locomotives of the Lilleshall Company,” introduces the historical development of the transport provision of the Lilleshall Company, referring first to the Company’s canal network. The construction of these canals which, while of some significance, was unable to provide for all of the sites being built and run by the Company.

In order to reach the workings of the pits, quarries and works that these canals served, a system of tramways was soon developed. These were almost certainly constructed using wrought iron rails from the start, and were definitely of plateway construction.” [1: p36]

Yate goes on to explain that the tramroads/tramways/plateways had various gauges and comments that these short lines “linking the workings to the canals, gradually lengthened as their usefulness became apparent. So it was that in October, 1797 the ironmaster Thomas Botfield agreed with his landlord, Isaac Browne to carry 1,200 tons of coal each month from Malins Lee (about two miles south of Oakengates): to some convenient wharf or quay adjoining the River Severn, and to the railway intended to be made by John Bishton & Co. and the said Thomas Botfield, or to some intermediate wharf or bank between the said works and the River Severn upon the line of the intended railway.” [1: p35]

An extract from Robert Baugh’s Map of Shropshire of 1808. The red line drawn onto the map was added by ‘Dawley History’. The map from which the extract was taken is available on the ‘Dawley History’ website. It is worth noting that St. Leonard’s Malinslee, next door to which we live, is shown as Dawley Church. [7]

Yate continues: “This railway was working by 1799, running from Sutton Wharf, near Coalport, to Hollinswood, where it connected with several ironworks and mines to the north in the area of Priorslee. The total length of this line was about eight miles, and it is presumed to have been horse worked. Bishton and Onions, whose ironworks was situated at Snedshill, were certainly involved in the original line, and by 1812 it had become the property of the [Lilleshall] Company. This is recorded on Robert Baugh’s map of 1808, and again on the Ordnance Survey maps of 1814 and 1817, although in the latter two cases it is not shown in its entirety.” [1: p35]

Yate notes that the Company were sending down around 50,000 tons of coal annually and much iron. “However, the Shropshire Canal was not enjoying the most robust of business climates, and attempted in June 1812 to negotiate for the Company’s business, although this seems to have been unsuccessful. However, in April 1815, William Horton on behalf of the [Lilleshall] Company agreed that the tramway would be removed, and that its business would be transferred to the canal. In turn, the Company: received compensation of some £500. as well as favourable tonnage rates.” [1: p35]

This means that the direct tramroad link to the River Severn was very short-lived.

The closure of this mainline tramroad/tramway had little effect on the ‘internal’ network of routes serving the Lilleshall Company’s various pits and works. Yate tells us that, by 1833, the main tramways were: a line running along Freestone Avenue to Lawn Pit, near to Priorslee Hall, and to Woodhouse Colliery; branches east of Stafford Street, Oakengates and north of Freestone Avenue; a continuation of the main line northwards crossing Station Hill, Oakengates to the east of the Shropshire Canal, and on to meet the Wrockwardine inclined plane near to Donnington Wood. [1: p35]

By 1856, further tramways had been laid around the area of Snedshill Ironworks linking to the canalside warehouses, and branches reaching out to the waste heaps south and west of the ironworks. These spoil heap lines continued to expand in subsequent years around the Priorslee Ironworks, and south therefrom.” [1: p35]

Several of the coal pits in the Donnington Wood area were, by 1837, linked directly to the Old Lodge Furnaces and no longer needed to make use of the canal network. These tramroads were horse-drawn with minor exceptions on short, level runs where trams were manhandled. Yate comments: “It is nonetheless interesting to consider that wayleaves were granted in 1692 at Madeley and in 1749 at Coalbrookdale to permit the use of oxen. Admittedly this was over the roads of the area, but a good case could possibly be made for their employment as motive power on the tramroads, as surely local customs would be a powerful influence.” [1: p35]

Using the canal network became increasingly problematic. The underground workings in the area caused some subsidence and as a consequence canals could require significant repairs and be out if action for a time.

The Lilleshall Company’s tramroads eventually developed into a significant standard-gauge network. The later part of the transport story of the Lilleshall Company is for another time and another article!

In this article we concentrate on, what was, a relatively early (1799 to 1815), wrought-iron plateway tramroad. Perhaps we should bear in mind that it is possible that the Lilleshall Company saw no major financial advantage in lifting the whole line from Sutton Wharf into the Company’s industrial heartland and that elements of this tramroad came to be used as part of a later network of tramroads or railways If this was not true for the wrought-iron plates/rails themselves, it is much more likely that any embankments and cuttings could be used in this way. This may perhaps be something we will discover along the way.

The Tramroad Running North from Sutton Wharf

Savage and Smith provide some information about the line in their research in ‘The Waggon-ways and Plateways of East Shropshire‘. They provide two different series of drawings – the first set are 1″ to a mile plans relating to specific eras in the development of the local tramroads. The extract here is taken from the plan which relating to 1801-1820. [2: p85]

The line is shown in red ink, the Shropshire Canal is the heavy black line. The dotted and dashed thin lines are later railway routes. The short red dashes at the North end of the tramroad indicate that the route of the tramroad is not as certain as the length shown in continuous red ink.

Savage and Smith comment on the tramroad: “In 1808 Robert Baugh’s map of Shropshire shows the line from Oakengates to Sutton Wharf, but not with any great accuracy. Part of it is shown on the two inch ordnance survey of 1814 and 1817, but only as far as Holmer Farm. After this it disappears. Its owners seem to have been the Lilleshall Company and they sent down annually 50,000 tons of coal and much iron. It was agreed to remove it and transfer business to the Shropshire canal for compensation of £500 and a guarantee of favourable rates.” [2: p140]

The second series of plans provided by Savage and Smith are to a scale 6″ to a mile. At this larger scale, it at first seems that they are not prepared to show the same level of certainty over the actual route of the tramroad than on the 1″ to a mile map above. In fact the difference between the two lines shown has as much to do with the scale of the source mapping used. The long dashed red line in the more northerly section of the plans produced here indicates that the route was obtained from a 0.5″ to a mile plan. So they acknowledge that, while the route definitely existed, issues with scaling inevitably mean that there is greater uncertainty over the detailed alignment. We are probably best advised to see the route from Sutton Wharf to Holmer Farm as relatively reliable and to check the detail of the route from that point North. The 6″ to a mile plan is a fold-out plan and because of its length, difficult to photograph.

Savage and Smith also only show the line running to the North of Dark Lane, rather than around the West of Oakengates. With these provisos Savage and Smith show much of the length of the Sutton Wharf tramroad.

My photographs of the 6″ plan are not of the greatest clarity. But the two images provided here give sufficient clarity to make out the significant features that Savage and Smith recorded in the 1960s. [2: p139]

Their contribution is important, as they were able, in their onsite surveys, to record details subsequently lost with the remodelling of the landscape and the construction of new transport arteries by the Telford Development Corporation.

Our investigation of the route of the tramroad begins at its southern end at Sutton Wharf.

Below the key to Savage and Smith’s 6″ to a mile drawings there are a series of maps and satellite images showing the location of the Wharf.

The 6″ Ordnance Surveys of 1881/82, published in 1883 and of 1901, published in 1902 show the railways serving the immediate area to the West and South of Sutton Wharf. The GWR Severn Valley Railway is to the South of the River Severn with its station close to Bridge Inn. The LNWR Coalport Branch is on the North side of the Severn. The two stations are linked by Coalport Bridge.

Coalport Bridge remains in use in the 21st century, the two railways have disappeared. One picture of the bridge as it appears in the 21st century is provided below. The LNWR line is now the Silkin Way which links the River Severn with the centre of Telford. The Severn Valley Railway Coalport Station is, in 2023, a site with a variety of different holiday accommodation available.

The 6″ Ordnance Survey of 1881/82 published in 1883. This shows the new railways serving the immediate area to the West and South of Sutton Wharf. The GWR Severn Valley Railway is to the South of The River Severn with its station close to Bridge Inn. The LNWR Coalport Branch is on the North side of the Severn. The two stations are linked by Coalport Bridge. [3]
The same area as shown on the 6″ Ordnance Survey of 1901, published in 1903. Twenty years after the 1881/82 survey the most significant change in the immediate area of Sutton Wharf is the appearance of Coalport Brick & Tile Works on the South bank of the River Severn. [4]
The same area as in the map extracts above but this time as shown on the modern ESRI satellite imagery also provided by the NLS (National Library of Scotland}. Coalport Bridge remains. The two railway stations have seen major changes. The station site on the North bank of the Severn is now the Southern end of the Silkin Way, a cycle path/footpath leading North to central Telford. The station on the South Bank is now, the 2023, holiday accommodation. There is a new private bridge across the River Severn just to the West of Sutton Wharf. [4]
The same area once again, this time on OpenStreetMap with the location of the old wharf marked. The route of the old tramroad is identified by the dotted line which points towards the Wharf. It can be seen to the North of the northern boundary of Sutton Wood. [5]
This photograh of Coalport Bridge has been released into the public domain by its author, Peterlewis at English Wikipedia. This applies worldwide. [8]

As an aside, here are some details about Coalport Bridge as provided on Wikipedia: “Architect and bridge-builder William Hayward (1740–1782) designed the first crossing over the Severn at Coalport, based on two timber framed arches built on stone abutments and a pier. It was originally built by Robert Palmer, a local timber yard owner based in Madeley Wood, and opened in 1780. The bridge, known as Wood Bridge, connected the parish of Broseley on the south bank of the river with the Sheep Wash in the parish of Madeley and Sutton Maddock on the north bank. … The wooden bridge was short-lived and lasted less than 5 years until 1795, when severe winter flooding virtually washed away the mid-stream supporting pier.” [9]

The bridge remained closed from 1795 until the Trustees had it rebuilt in 1799 “as a hybrid of wood, brick and cast-iron parts, cast by John Onions (Proprietor’s Minute Book 1791–1827). The two original spans were removed and replaced by a single span of three cast iron ribs, which sprang from the original outer sandstone pier bases. The bridge deck was further supported by two square brick piers, the northern one constructed directly on top of the stone pier base and the southern one set back slightly towards the river bank. The remainder of the superstructure was built of wood and may have reused some of the original beams. However, by 1817, this bridge was failing again, attributed to the insufficient number of cast iron ribs proving inadequate for the volume of traffic. Consequently, the bridge proprietors decided to rebuild Coalport Bridge once again, this time completely in iron. The quality of the castings is good, especially by comparison with the castings of the Iron Bridge upstream. The bridge was recently (2005) renovated and the static load lowered by replacing cast iron plates used for the roadway with composite carbon fibre/fibreglass plates, with substantial weight saving.” [9]

The date of 1818 displayed on its midspan panel refers to this substantial work which allowed the bridge, subscribed to by Charles Guest, one of the principal trustees, to stand without major repairs for the next 187 years.” [9] In 2004-2005, during the closure (which lasted about a year), not only were major works undertaken to the span of the bridge, it was also necessary to reconstruct the two brick arches supporting the verges at the south side of the bridge. The bridge “still takes vehicular traffic, unlike the more famous Iron Bridge, albeit limited to a single line of traffic, a 3-tonne weight limit and a height restriction of 6 ft 6in (1.98 cm).” [9]

An extract from a plan submitted to Telford and Wrekin Council as part of a planning application for the extension of the Sutton Wharf Caravan Park. The approximate location of the Wharf is shown by the bold red line. [6]

From the Wharf, an inclined plane was needed to gain height to the land above the Severn Gorge. The location of the incline is shown below.

This Google Earth satellite image focusses on the North side of the River Severn and Sutton Wood. The Wharf location is again marked and the line of the Inclined Plane shown. Beyond the top of the incline the tramroad headed in a north-northeast direction following first a modern metalled minor road and then modern field boundaries. [Google Earth]
The route of the tramroad as it approached the top of the Inclined Plane. This photograph is taken facing South on the line of the tramroad. [Google Streetview]
Turning through 180 degrees to look along the route of the tramroad as it headed away from the River Severn. [Google Streetview]
The old tramroad followed the field boundaries heading North. Towards the top of this extract from the 6″ Ordnance Survey its formation was used by a later footpath. [3]
Approximately the same area as in the map extract above but shown, this time on modern satellite imagery [Google Earth]
Continuing North along the line of the old tramroad. The formation from the top of the incline is followed, in 2023, by a minor road. [Google Streetview]
The minor road continues northwards along the line of the old tramroad. [Google Streetview]
The minor road turns towards the Northeast. The field boundary shows the line of the old tramroad. [Google Streetview]
Google Earth’s bird’s eye view (3D) of the same location. The road turns away to the Northeast. The tramroad continues in a Northerly direction. [Google Earth]
A very short distance along the minor road, we get this view of the field boundary and the route of the old tramroad. {Google Streetview]

The next opportunity to look at the line of the tramroad comes at the point where its route is joined by a footpath which appears on the 1882 Ordnance Survey above and still is in existence today. The route appears on the modern 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey Explorer Series mapping as shown below.

The route of the tramroad is shown by the straight red line along the field boundaries in the extract from the 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey. The route North of that red line curved around towards the Northwest following the line of the Monarch’s Way Footpath. It passes to the North of Brickkiln Coppice and crosses the road which links Coalport to the A442. [OS Explorer Sheet 242]
Looking back South along the field boundary which marks the line of the old tramroad from the point that the Monarch’s Way begins to follow the route of the tramroad. [My photograph, 9th February 2023]
The symbol for the Monarch’s Way which has been placed on various gateposts along the route. [My photograph, 9th February 2023]
The old tramroad route continues to follow the field boundaries as it runs North. [My photograph, 9th February 2023]
The old tramway route passes through the gate ahead and remains alongside the field boundaries beyond. [My photograph, 9th February 2023]
Looking back to the South through the kissing gate which appeared in the last photograph. [My photo, 9th February 2023]
The 6″ Ordnance Survey of 1882 has a redline imposed which shows that the old tramroad route curves round to the Northeast edge of Brickkiln Coppice, crosses the road between Coalport and the A442 and runs North-northwest along Brick Kiln Lane. [10]
Looking North, once again, the tramroad route begins to turn away to the Northeast. [My photograph, 9th February 2023]
The alignment of the old tramroad ran through the Northeastern edge of Brickkiln Coppice. [My photograph, 9th February 2023]
The Monarch’s Way continues to follow the old tramroad route through the Coppice. [My photograph, 9th February 2023]
The route of the old tramroad crosses the road from Coalport to the A442 and runs onto Brick Kiln Lane. [My photograph, 9th February 2023]
Looking back along the line of the old tramroad from the road linking Coalport to the A442.The red line highlights the route through the Northeaast end of Brickkiln Coppice. [Google Streetview]
The old tramroad route is now followed, in the 21st century, by Brick Kiln Lane. [Google Street View]
The property ahead has been built across the line of the old tramroad which continued North from this point. Its route, at first, follows the line of modern field boundaries and then crosses open fields. [Google Streetview]
This next extract from the 6″ Ordnance Survey shows the old tramroad running North-northwest and then curving round to cross the line of the A442 in a Northeasterly direction and then curving back to the North. [10]
Google Earth’s 3D view looking North from the top of Brick Kiln Lane shows the line of the old tramroad running North. [Google Earth]
This panoramic view is taken from the field to the East of the old tramroad route. The old tramroad line followed the hedge running across the picture. [My photograph, 9th February 2023]
Google 3D image looking back to the South. The old tramroad turned towards the East at the end of the field boundary and crossed the line of the modern A442. [Google Earth]
Looking North along the A442. The actual point at which the tramroad crossed the line of the road is difficult to determine. This location is approximately correct. [Google Streetview]
In plan on this satellite image we can see the approximate alignment of the tramroad crossing the A442 and then turning to the North into what is now an industrial estate.
The 1901 6″ Ordnance Survey with the next length of the route of the old tramroad shown. It crossed Mad Brook and ran North-northwest close to the field boundaries before turning North-northeast. [11]
The same area as that covered by the Ordance Survey map extract immediately above. What was open fields is now the Halesfield Industrial Estate. It is only feasibile to provide approximate locations where the old tramroad route crosses modern industrial estate roads. [11]
The view North-northwest from point ‘1’ on the satellite image above. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
The view North-northwest from point ‘2’ on the satellite image above. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
The view Northeast along Halesfield 10, from point ‘3’ on the satellite image above. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
The view North-northeast along Halesfield 14, from point ‘4’ on the satellite image above. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
The view East-southeast along Halesfield 13, from point ‘5’ on the satellite image above. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
The view East along the A4169, from point ‘6’ on the satellite image above. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
The 1901 6″ Ordnance Survey with the next length of the route of the old tramroad shown. It approximately followed field boundaries while heading North-northeast beofre curving round to the North. Tramroads/tramways are shown on the OS Mapping of 1901. These would not have been present while the tramroad we are following was active. Neither Halesfield Colliery nor Kemberton Colliery were active at the time that the Lilleshall tramroad was in use. The local landscape will have been significantly altered by the spoil heap shown on this 1901 mapping. [12]
The same area as that covered by the Ordance Survey map extract immediately above. What was open fields is now, very much, part of the urban environment. It is only feasible to provide approximate locations where the old tramroad route crosses modern roads. [12]

Two collieries appear on the 1901 OS mapping – Halesfield and Kemberton Collieries. These would not have been present when the tramroad was active in this area. By the 1950s these two pits were worked as one by the NCB and together employed over 800 men. “John Anstice sank Kemberton Pit when director of the family company in 1864 mainly for coal but it also produced ironstone and fireclay. … Halesfield was sunk as an ironstone and coal mine in the 1830s and continued to work coal until the 1920s, it later became the upcast and pumping shafts for Kemberton pit.” [13]

Apart from the A4169 at the bottom of the satellite image (which is already shown above), the only modern road which crosses the line of this section of the old tramroad Is Halesfield 18. Google Streetview images in this area were taken at the height of Summer in 2022 when vegetation was at its most abundant and as a result show nothing of note.

The next extract from the 1901 6″ Ordnance Survey has the line as drawn by Savage and Smith continuing North-northwest, running very close to the buildings of Holmer Farm and across Mad Brook twice before crossing the lane between The Hem and Stirchley, Northwest of Holmer. There are some reasons to question the Savage and Smith alignment. They have transferred the alignment from the 0.5 to 1 mile drawings produced in 1836 for the proposed Shropshire Railway between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton. [14]
The same area as shown in the 6″ OS map extract above but on the modern ESRI satellite imagery from the NLS. Savage and Smith’s alignment of the old tramway is superimposed again. [14]
A closer extract from the Robert Baugh’s Map of Shropshire of 1808 which we have already seen. The red line drawn indicates the route of the Tramroad. The map from which the extract was taken is available on the ‘Dawley History’ website. At first sight, this map suggests a different alignment in the vicinity of Stirchley to that recorded by Savage and Smith, as it shows the village of Stirchley very close to the line of the old tramroad. However, it also shows Mad Brook very close to Stirchley. I am reasonably convinced that the old tramroad ran relatively close to the line of the brook. On this map this occurs close to Stirchley but to the south there is some distance between them. The position of the brook as shown on the 1827 and1836 maps below matches later Ordnance Survey mapping and aligns much more closely with the tramroad route shown on this extract from Baugh’s Map. [7]
An extract from Greenwood’s Map of 1827 showing Mad Brook running further to the East. [18]
This map was included in the British History Online Website. [16] It comes from A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford. [17] Sadly, for our purposes the line of what would by then have been a disused tramroad is no longer shown. However, the field boundaries in the vicinity of the brook are unusual. There appears to be a corridor roughly following the route of Mad Brook which appears on later mapping as well. In my naivety I would have expected the field boundaries to extend down towards the brook.
Mad Brook is a lot less obvious on the 6″ OS Mapping of 1883, but the corridor of land is evident again. [15]
Returning to the 6″ OS map extract from 1901 that we have already seen. Savage and Smith’s plotted line remains but I have added what appears to be the more likely route of the old tramroad as a red-dashed line. The illustrated discussion above covers the more northerly deviation. The more southerly deviation follows the line of a footpath which may well have been on the old formation. If correct then the tramroad would have run immediately alongside Mad Brook where by, by 1901, the brook passed under the more modern railway. However, the line shown seems more logical to me than the relatively arbitrary straight line. I’d be interested in any reflections on this from others. [14]
If my assumption is correct that the tramroad ran close to Mad Brook at the bottom of the 6″ OS map extract above then this culvert is on its approximate line. When the railway was built, Mad Brook was culverted here. The outfall from Holmer Lake now runs under the A442 and through the stone culvert. The picture is taken from the Southwest bound carriageway of the A442, Queensway. [Google Streetview, October 2022]

Our discussion about the old tramroad alignment is essentially speculative. We are in a better position than Savage and Smith were to trace routes using modern technology, but even so our possible route remains speculative. I have reproduced in in approximation on the same modern satellite image as were encountered above. Should it be correct, then some of its route can be followed and some locations can be photographed but all with a healthy sense of scepticism.

The ERSI satellite image which we have already seen, with a sketch of my suggested route of the tramroad included alongside the Savage and Smith alignment. MY suggestion is shown by red-dashed lines. [14]
Holmer Lake looking South towards the outfall. The tramroad would have crossed the line of the a442 a few hundred feet to the left of the outfall. The redline shown on the photograph is an approximation to my suggested route of the tramroad. [Google Streetview, March 2009]

Holmer Lake is a reservoir owned by Severn Trent Water and serves Telford and the surrounding areas. The land around Holmer Lake includes areas of woodland and grassland. [19] Mad Brook was dammed in in 1968-70 to create a balancing reservoir at the behest of Telford Development Corporation. [16][17]

Holmer Lake agin, this time looking Northwest from the same spot in the photo above. [Google Streetview, March 2009]
Looking East along Holmer Farm Road, showing, very approximately, the route of the old tramroad. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
Looking East-Northeast along Grange Avenue showing the approximate line of the old tramroad. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
Turning about 90 degrees to the North-Northwest, we look along another arm of Grange Avenue with the route of the old tramroad suggested by the red line, entering from the right, running for a distance along the road in a North-Northwest direction and approximately following the modern road as it curves to the right ahead. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
Further North along Grange Avenue, the route of the old tramroad probably veered away from the modern road. Mad Brook still runs close to the old tramroad route and is just off to the left of this photograph. [Google Streetview, June2022.

The next length of the old tramroad brings us passed the site of Grange Farm and Grange Colliery, Stirchley Ironworks and close to Randlay Pool. Mad Brook meanders North, initially close to the line of the old tramroad, moving away West beyond Grange Farm and then getting lost in the midst of Stirchley/Oldpark Ironworks.

Savage and Smith’s traced alignment for the tramroad has been transferred to this next extract from the 6″ Ordnance Survey of 1901 as the solid, but sinuous, red line. It seems to me to be likely that the actual route was close to the line drawn by Savage and Smith, but just a very short distance to the West over the length Southeast of Grange Farm and a lesser distance to the West over the length immediately Northwest of Grange Farm. [20]
A similar area to that on the OS map above with an imposed solid red line indicating, approximately, Savage and Smith’s traced tramroad route and my assessment of the likely route in the line of red dashes. There is very little difference between the two routes both have to have passed to the East side of Grange Farm. Both are difficult to plot on the modern landscape which is now heavily wooded. [20]
Looking East on Stirchley Road towards Grange Avenue from above the line of Mad Brook. The Savage and Smith traced line of the tramroad would have crossed the line of Stirchley Road close to the junction. The red line shown is an approximation to my assessment of the route which seeks to follow map features on the older OS mapping. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
Looking North along Swansmede Way across the probable line of the old tramroad. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
The view from the West on Grangemere into the site old what was Grange Farm. The old tramroad would have run across the photograph beyond the older farm buildings on the right, probably in what is now a wooded area beyond. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
Looking North at the top of Grangemere in the 21st century. The old tramroad alignment is suggested by the red line. [Google Streetview]

These images are taken at and around the site of Grange Colliery. On the image above, the spoil heaps from the colliery were immediately off-screen to the left the colliery yard ahead to the North. The image below was taken a from a point just to the North of the bins awaiting collection and looking to the left.

Grange Colliery probably opened by 1833. The extent of seams that could be worked was restricted by the Limestone fault, east of which the coal lay deeper. [21][17] By 1881 all the pits except Grange colliery had been closed. Despite the lease of mineral rights at Grange Colliery to Alfred Seymour Jones of Wrexham in 1893, the colliery was closed in 1894. [21][17]

Looking Northeast from the top of Grangemere along a modern path which leads into Telford Town Park today. This track is likely to follow the line of the old tramroad from Sutton Wharf. In the area ahead and to the North there were a number of major industrial sites all linked by a series of tramroads which post-dated the tramroad that we are following but predated the later railways. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
The route of the old tramroad from Sutton Wharf is show by a red-dashed line on this 2023 Google Maps satellite view. The paths in Telford Town Park are clearly marked on Google Maps. The path at the East side of the Park passing close to Stirchley Chimney is very likely to be on the line of the old tramroad. [Google Maps, February 2023]

The closer satellite view of part of Telford Town Park above gives us a good point to stop to think about the historical timeline in the immediate vicinity of Stirchley Chimney. The tramroads in this immediate area were looked at in an earlier article in this series which can be found here. [22]

Savage and Smith [2] and other sources provide sufficient information to allow us to pull together that timeline. We have already noted that the tramroad was operating by 1799 and abandoned by 1815. Other Tramroads around Stirchley and along the route of the Shropshire Canal came along, generally, in piecemeal fashion.

The canal predated the Tramroad. It was built to link Donnington Wood with Coalport on the River Severn, a distance of about 7 miles. Construction commenced in 1789 near Oakengates and reached Blists Hill relatively quickly. A shaft and tunnel were intended to get loads down to river level. However, it seems as though natural tar was found oozing out of the tunnel wall and it was turned into a tar extraction business. In its place the Hay Incline was built to bring tub boats down to river level. [23] The incline has also been covered previous articles: here [24] and here. [25]

Once the canal has been completed a number of businesses decided to use the canal as a route to the outside world. Before 1830 a wharf had been established on the West side of the Canal close to Hinkshay/Stirchley Pools which provided for colleries, brickworks and ironworks to the West and North.

A somewhat out of focus extract from Savage and Smith’s 1″ to one mile drawing of local tramroads which appeared in the period 1821 to 1830. The black lines are the canal network, the red lines, the tramroad network. The Tramroad link to the wharf at the Shropshire Canal can be seen to the Northwest of Stirchley. [2: p87]
Also rather out of focus, this extract is taken from Savage and Smith’s 1″ to one mile covering the period 1831 to 1840. There are additional links to the canal and a significant increase in Tramroads around Oakengates. [2: p89]

The 1840s saw minor additions to the tramroad network around Madeley (South of Stirchley), the next decade saw considerable developments alongside the canal as shown on the next Savage and Smith extract below.

Better focus, this time! This extract is taken from Savage and Smith’s 1″ to one mile covering the period 1851 to 1860. There are additional tramroad routes following the canal and a small additions around Madeley. The canal is gradually becoming less significant and a length between Stirchley and Madeley has by this time been closed. Savage and Smith are still showing very little to the East of the Canal, just two short lengths. [2: p95]

There was little change in the immediate area over the next 15 years. The next image covers the period 1876-1900 and again only shows minor changes to tramroads in the vicinity of Stirchley The railways now dominate the transport landscape.

Savage and Smith’s plan covering 1876-1900. The Wharf on the canal Northwest of Stirchley is now a wharf alongside the LNWR Coalport Branch, a change that only required a bridge over a remain length of the canal. Significant tramroad changes can be seen to the West and serve pits in the Dawley Area taking goods to Lightmoor and Coalbrookdale. [2: p99]

Missing from Savage and Smith’s 1″ to one mile drawings is the GWR branch parallel to the LNWR branch and running from the North down towards Stirchley. The route of that line is shown below in a turquoise colour on the mapping supplied by RailMapOnline.

RailMapOnline extract cover the area shown on the Google Maps satellite image above. As can be seen, its route replaced tramroad access to Grange Colliery and the Ironworks closer to Randlay Pool. [26]

The next few photographs take us along the route of what is the old tramroad from Sutton Wharf and that of the GWR Mineral Line along the East side of Stirchley Chimney which still stands in the 21st century.

At the bottom-right of the Google Maps satellite image above, the old tramroad route runs from the top of Grangemere into Telford Town Park in a Northwesterly direction before turning North onto the line of one of two arms of the old GWR Mineral Railway. [My photo, 22nd February 2022]
The route North runs close to Strichley Chimney. [My photo, 22nd February 2023]
The line followed a large radius right-hand curve passing to the East of the remaining Stirchley Chimney which is just off this picture to the left. The fencing protects the public from what is a significant drop within the area immediately around the chimney. [My photo, 22nd February 2023]
Looking North along the line of the old tramroad. Blue Pool is to the right of this image, Randlay Pool beyond the trees to the left. In later years, two branches of the old Mineral Railway met at this point. [My photograph, 22nd February 2023]
Looking back to the South, the old tramroad alignment is shown as a red line, Blue Pool is to the left, Randlay Pools to the right and the paths follow the two branches of the later Mineral Railway. [My photograph, 22nd February 2023]
This next extract from the 6″ Ordnance Survey of 1901 shows, as a solid red line, the approximate route of the old tramroad as plotted by Savage and Smith in the 1960s and taken from early 0.5″ to one mile scale mapping. There is no apparent indication of earthworks along this line. The railway embankments present on the 1901 OS mapping suggest that the line drawn by Savage and Smith is unlikely to be the actual route of the old tramroad. It is only my opinion, but it would seem more likely, given relative levels, that the earthworks used by later tramroads and the GWR Mineral Railway are likely to be enhanced versions of the earthworks required by the much earlier tramroad from Sutton Wharf. The difference in scale between Savage and Smith’s source drawings and the 6″ to 1 mile scale on which they plotted their route mean that there is every possibility that my alternative is correct and still remains within reasonable tolerances to allow their line to be seen as reasonably accurate given the resources available to them in the 1960s. [27]
The same area as in the OS map extract above but on modern satellite imagery with the routes discussed shown as on the OS mapping. The area has been transformed beyond recognition. After the time of the OS map extract above a quarry was opened up to the East of the Randlay Pool, and when exhausted became what is known in the 21st century as Blue Pool. The large building top-left is Telford International Exhibition Centre. [27]
The old tramroad and the later Mineral Railway run Northwards on what is now a path In Telford Town Park between Randlay Pool and Blue Pool. [My Photograph, 22nd February 2023]
Part of the information board at Blue Pool. [My photograph, 22nd February 2023]
An information board alongside the footpath which follows the route of the old tramroad and the Mineral Railway. [My photograph, 22nd February 2023]
The image shown on the top-right of the information board is difficult to make out as there is fogging and scratching to the protective sheet over the face of the noticeboard. This is the same image, sourced from the pages of the Shropshire Star. It shows Randlay Brickworks which sat a couple of hundred metres North of the information board and features what is likely to be a LNWR locomotive on the branch on embankment across the Randlay Pool. If so, the old tramroad route and the GWR Mineral Branch would follow a line behind the buildings of the Works. [28]

The information board reads: “From at least 1882, the Great Western Railway (GWR) ran a mineral railway from Hollinswood down the Randlay valley to serve the coal and iron industries in Stirchley. Within the Town Park, this followed a course from Randlay Brickworks to the Grange. … The Mineral Railway stopped travelling South to the Grange between 1903 and 1929 and terminated at the Wrekin chemical works. [These were at the present location of Stirchley Chimney.] Its use finally reached the end of the line in 1954. The line of the Mineral Railway is preserved today on this pathway and evidence remains including posts, buildings and artefacts.” There is also a note on the board about a network of sidings which linked various industrial works to the main line of the mineral railway alongside a sketch-map of the area.

The sketch-map from the information board, a little out of focus and fogged because of the deterioration of the covering plastic protection to the board. Various industrial railways and tramroads are shown. The wide yellow line running North-South is the LNWR Coalport Branch, that in the top-right corner is the main line between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton which was once part of the GWR. The red line leaving the GWr line close to the top of the image and running parallel to but to the East of the LNWR branch is the GWR Mineral Line to Stirchley. Other red lines give an impression of the different tramroads link with the teo standard gauge branch lines. [My photograph, 22nd February 2023]
The footpath continues to follow the old tramroad and Mineral Railway line Northwards [My photograph, 22nd February 2023]
Further North, approaching the site of the Randlay Brickworks, the footpath continues to follow the old tramroad and Mineral Railway line Northwards [My photograph, 22nd February 2023]
To the left of this image is the site of Randlay Brickworks and beyond it the top end of Randlay Pool. The old tramroad and the later Mineral Railway continue northwards towards Hollinswood and Oakengates. Savage and Smith’s drawn route of the tramroad is approximately the left hand red line. The old mineral railway and my suggestion of the actual route of the old tramroad is the right hand red line. [My photograph, 22nd February 2023]
The information board that the Randlay Brickworks site. [My photograph, 22nd February 2023]

North of Randlay Pool the line of the old tramroad and the line of the GWR Mineral railway plunge into undergrowth and the topography of the area beyond this point for some distance is very unlikely to be the same as that present in 1901. In the top half of the satellite image above the lines crossed three modern roads, Stirchley Avenue, Queen Elizabeth Avenue and Dale Acre Way, then run geographically along the line of Downemead for a short way.

Stirchley Avenue looking Northwest towards the exhibition centre. The old tramroad crossed the line of the road somewhere on this curve. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
Queen Elizabeth Avenue looking West toward the exhibition centre. The old tramroad crossed the road somewhere this side of the road signs ahead. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
Dale Acre Way in Hollinswood, looking Southwest towards the roundabout close to the exhibition centre. The old tramroad route crosses Dale Acre Way between the camera and the Deercote Road junction ahead in the vicinity of Hollinswood Local Centre which is just off this picture to the right.
A closer image of Downemead showing the approximate alignment of the old tramroad and the later Mineral Railway. [Google Maps, February 2023]

On the extract from the satellite imagery below the line is picked up running approximately along Downemead before crossing Dale Acre Way once again. At the point where Downemead meets Dale Acre Way at its North end, Dale Acre Way is running approximately along what was Dark Lane shown on the 6″ Ordnance Survey immediately below. Comparing the two images immediately below shows how much topographic change has occurred in the 120 years since the 1901 Ordnance Survey. Effectively the only feature which remains in the 21st century is the Shrewsbury to Wolverhampton Mainline railway which runs from top-left to bottom-right across both the map and the satellite image.

This next extract from the 6″ Ordnance Survey of 1901 shows, as a solid red line, the approximate route of the old tramroad/Mineral Railway. Both Savage and Smith’s plotted line and the old Mineral Railway resume the same course. [29]
The same area on ESRI satellite imagery (NLS) as shown in the 6″ OS map extract above. The line drawn is inevitably approximate and represents a line transferred from the 6″ OS map extract, which itself is transferred from Savage and Smith’s 6″ to 1 mile drawing of the line. Savage and Smith scaled from 0.5″ to 1 mile original plans up to 6″ to 1 mile. [29]
Looking North on Downemead along the approximate line of the old tramroad [ Google Streetview, June 2022]
Further North on Downmead, the old tramroad alignment is shown running North through what is now a children’s play area to the East of Downemead. The junction of Downemead with Dale Acre Way can just be picked out ahead. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
Looking West along Dale Acre Way across the line of the old tramroad and later Mineral Railway. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
Looking North from Dale Acre Way along a green passageway which very approximately follows the line of the old Tramroad/Mineral Railway. The probable alignment is under the housing visible through the trees right of centre of the image. [My photograph, 25th February 2023]
Looking North from the end of Duffryn towards the A442 which is just beyond the trees ahead. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
Looking Northwest along the slip road from the A442. The old tramroad crossed the line of the slip road at around the position of the white-painted directions on the tarmac. It is impossible to be sure to the relative levels of road an old tramroad. {Google Streetview, June 2022]
Looking Northwest along the other slip road to the A442 towards the roundabout which sits above the main road. The redline shows the approximate route of the old tramroad, but please note again, that it is impossible to be sure to the relative levels of the modern road and the old tramroad/Mineral Railway. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
Looking North across the railway lie which passes under the roundabout. The line is still in use as the main line between Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury. Telford Railway Station is ahead to the left of the image beyond the trees. [Google Streetview, June 2022].
Beyond the vegetation ahead the line of the old tramroad crosses the access road to the Railway Station. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
Euston Way looking North-northwest. The line of the old tramroad runs to the left of the building at the centre of the image. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
Looking Northwest at the junction of Euston Way and the access road to Titan House. The old tramroad/Mineral Railway route runs directly ahead between the Premier Inn on the left and the office block on the right. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
The view North from the rear carpark of the Premier Inn. The old tramroad ran along what is now an embankment parallel to the kerb edge of the carpark. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
The M54 looking West, the old Tramroad/Mineral Railway route crosses the motorway on an angle in the vicinity of the 100 metre marker for the junction slip road. [Google Streetview, November 2022]

From the North side of the M54 as far as Hollinswood Road, the modern ladscape is heavily wooded and it would be impossible to pick out important features on the ground as the satellite image below shows.

North of the M54 there are no features on the modern landscape until the old line crosses the modern Hollinswood Road. [Google Maps, February 2023]
On this next extract from the 6″ Ordnance Survey of 1901, once again, the red line shows the approximate route of the old tramroad. Snedshill Brickworks and Priorslee Furnaces were close to the route of the old line. [30]
A very similar area to that shown on the 6″ OS mapping above. [30]
Looking back from the end of the tarmac on Hollinswood Road along the line of the old tramroad to the South East into the woods mentioned above. {My photograph, 25th February 2023]
St. James House on Hollinswood Road with the route of the old tramroad travelling Northwest shown by the redline. [My photograph, 25th February 2023]
Looking back to the South-southeast towards St. James’ House. [My photograph, 25th February 2023]
Looking North-northwest along the line of the old tramroad. [My photograph, 25th February 2023]

Beyond the buildings shown above the old tramroad route crosses the A442 slip road which is just beyond the industrial estate as shown below. …

The A442 sliproad as shown on Google Streetview with the approximate route of the old line marked by the red line. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
Looking North-northwest across the A442. The line of the old tramroad was close to straight through this length, linking the approximate points it passed through leaves a curve which is the result of image distortion in the camera! [Google Streetview, June 2022]
The old line curved away North into what is now woodland running alongside the A442. [Google Streetview, June 2022]

It is at this point that we leave the old line. We are close to Oakengates and there was at one time a very large number of different tramroads ahead, part of the Lilleshall Company’s internal network. We will pick this tramroad up again once we begin to look at that network.

References

  1. Bob Yate; The Railways and Locomotives of the Lilleshall Company; Irwell Press, Clophill, Bedfordshire, 2008.
  2. R.F. Savage & L.D.W. Smith; The Waggon-ways and Plateways of East Shropshire; Birmingham School of Architecture, 1965. Original document is held by the Archive Office of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.
  3. https://maps.nls.uk/view/101594689, accessed on 8th February 2023.
  4. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=16.0&lat=52.61334&lon=-2.43435&layers=6&b=1, accessed on 8th February 2023.
  5. https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=16/52.6122/-2.4342, accessed on 8th February 2023.
  6. https://planning.org.uk/app/32/QQSNFYTDLXO00, accessed on 8th February 2023.
  7. http://www.dawleyhistory.com/Maps/1808.html, accessed on 8th February 2023.
  8. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/28/Coalport_br1.jpg, accessed on 9th February 2023.
  9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coalport_Bridge, accessed on 9th February 2023.
  10. https://maps.nls.uk/view/101594494, accessed on 9th February 2023.
  11. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=16.0&lat=52.63640&lon=-2.42745&layers=6&b=1, accessed on 14th February 2023.
  12. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=16.0&lat=52.64436&lon=-2.43028&layers=6&b=1, accessed on 14th February 2023.
  13. https://www.shropshirecmc.org.uk/below/2007_3w.pdf, accessed on 14th February 2023.
  14. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=14.6&lat=52.65918&lon=-2.43605&layers=6&b=1, accessed on 20th February 2023.
  15. https://maps.nls.uk/view/101594470, accessed on 20th February 2023.
  16. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/salop/vol11/pp185-189, accessed on 20th February 2023.
  17. A P Baggs, D C Cox, Jessie McFall, P A Stamper and A J L Winchester; Stirchley: Manor and other estates; in ed. G C Baugh and C R Elrington; A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford; London, 1985, p185-189; via British History Online, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/salop/vol11/pp185-189, accessed 20th February 2023.
  18. Christopher Greenwood; Map of the County of Salop, 1827; Facsimile Copy, Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society, 2008.
  19. https://www.telford.gov.uk/info/20629/local_nature_reserves/6525/holmer_lake_with_kemberton_meadow_and_mounds, accessed on 21st February 2023.
  20. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=16.0&lat=52.66125&lon=-2.44016&layers=6&b=1, accessed on 21st February 2023.
  21. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/salop/vol11/pp189-192, accessed on 22nd February 2023.
  22. https://rogerfarnworth.com/2022/06/24/ancient-tramroads-near-telford-part-6-malinslee-part-2-jerry-rails
  23. http://www.canalroutes.net/Shropshire-Canal.html, accessed on 22nd February 2023.
  24. https://rogerfarnworth.com/2020/10/21/coalport-incline-ironbridge
  25. https://rogerfarnworth.com/2021/06/10/coalport-incline-ironbridge-addendum-2021
  26. https://www.railmaponline.com/UKIEMap.php, accessed on 23rd February 2023.
  27. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=16.0&lat=52.67026&lon=-2.44101&layers=6&b=1, accessed on 23rd February 2023.
  28. https://www.shropshirestar.com/news/2007/04/26/brickworks-at-turn-of-century, accessed on 23rd February 2023.
  29. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=16.0&lat=52.67807&lon=-2.43952&layers=6&b=1, accessed on 24th February 2023.
  30. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=16.0&lat=52.68562&lon=-2.43991&layers=6&b=1, accessed on 24th February 2023.
  31. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilleshall_Company#:~:text=The%20Lilleshall%20Company%20was%20a,operated%20a%20private%20railway%20network, accessed on 4th March 2023.

Sodom & Gomorrah in the Bible

Many people will have been told that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality. Despite the fact that we use the word ‘sodomy’ to relate to homosexual sin, it is by no means certain that Sodom’s sin was homosexuality. It does not fit well with the Old Testament references to Sodom and Gomorrah. We also have to note that the idea of being ‘homosexual’ was not a concept in use until the 19th century AD when the word was first coined. However, that the sin of Sodom was ‘homosexuality’ is the traditional position, and it is the position taken by much of the worldwide Christian community.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Perhaps, first, I should set the scene. The Old Testament book of Genesis tells us that Abram’s nephew  chose to live in the Jordan valley. Genesis 13 is the first time we hear of this:

And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) … Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.” [Genesis 13:10-13 ESV]

Not many chapters later in Genesis we get a substantial story of a meeting between Abram and God and two angels (all three appearing as men), that story develops into a bargaining by Abram with God to save the cities of Sodom and Gommorah, with God eventually promising not to destroy the two cities provided 10 righteous people could be found in the cities. [Genesis 18: 1-33]

Later, the two angels visit Sodom in the guise of men, they meet Lot sitting at the gates of the city. He invites them into his home. He shows the two ‘men’ hospitality. While they are with him, the book of Genesis tells us, “before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”  But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door. Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.” So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.” [Genesis 19: 4-14 ESV]

Genesis 19 goes on to tell of how Lot is removed from the city of Sodom by the two angels, Lot, his wife and his two daughters; and of how Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed. The angels told Lot and his family to leave and to avoid looking back. But, in the story, Lot’s wife looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt.

There is no doubt that the Bible tells us that Sodom and Gommorah’s sins were very great. But what is it that led to the assumption that it was homosexuality that was the issue?

The key verse that is said to indicate that this is true is verse 5 of Genesis 19. “And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” [Genesis 19: 5]

There is a clear inference, in the word ‘know’, of sexual intercourse. But what is the motive and what is actually going on?

Lot does not interpret their request as a primarily homosexual request. He sees it as being something different. He offers his two daughters to the crowd, so that they might ‘know’ them instead. The desire of the crowd appears to be violent gang-rape. It is about power, control and abuse. The gender of those who were the objects of abuse is not important. But this is also, clearly, about the complete negation of the duty of hospitality.

There is nothing right about Lot offering his daughters to the crowd. It is heinous and wrong. It must raise questions for us today about Lot’s own righteousness. But it does say something very important about what was at stake. Abuse, dominance, control and rape. It has been accepted for sometime now that when a man rapes a woman, it is the exercise of dominance and power, enforcing his will on a woman, it is not primarily about sexual intercourse. The Rape Crisis Centre is clear about this. If there is no consent, “it’s not sex, it’s rape. No matter the circumstances.” [1] is also about hospitality. As Lot says, “Do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” [Genesis 19:8] We perhaps struggle to understand the gravity of this issue. Hospitality was a sacred trust.

Just as important is the theme of hospitality. As Lot says, “Do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” [Genesis 19:8] We perhaps struggle to understand the gravity of this issue. Hospitality was a sacred trust. This is emphasised, in the story, by Lot’s willingness to sacrifice his two daughters rather than give up his guests.

We know that, in Greek society, “hospitality, also called “guest-friendship,” was a social ritual expected of men in the Greek world. Under the rules of hospitality, men would be expected to host visitors, providing them with food, a bath, friendship gifts, the promise of safety for the night, and safe escorted travel to their next destination.” [2]

In Roman society, “Hospitium … [was] the … concept of hospitality as a divine right of the guest and a divine duty of the host. Similar or broadly equivalent customs were and are also known in other cultures, though not always by that name. Among the Greeks and Romans, hospitium was of a twofold character: private and public.” [3]

These values were shared throughout the ancient world and a failure to observe these values was a matter of grave dishonour. Great shame was brought on the household that failed to be hospitable. We, today, cannot fully enter into the gravity of that kind of failure.

From the story in Genesis, we have two areas to focus on as the awful sin of Sodom and Gommorah: violent gang-rape and negation of a sacred duty of hospitality. But what does the rest of the bible say about the sin of Sodom and Gommorah?

Sodom and Gommorah in the wider Old Testament

There are a number of references throughout the Old Testament to Sodom and Gommorah. Often these are graphic in their description of the punishment meted out on the two cities, see, for example: Deuteronomy 29:23. They are clear that Sodom and Gommorah had no shame, and flaunted their sinfulness before the world, see, for example:  Isaiah 3:8-9. They are used as comparators for the evil deeds of Israel itself, see for example: Jeremiah 23:14, Amos 4:11. The two cities are also used as a warning to others that Israel believes are godless evildoers, see for example: Isaiah 13:19.

Amid these various references are some which describe Sodom’s sin.

Isaiah, in condemnatory mode, compares the nation of Judah to Sodom and Gomorrah, saying that Judah needs to learn to do good, to seek justice, to rescue the oppressed, to defend the orphan, and to plead for the widow. … There is no mention of sexual sin.” [Isaiah 1: 9-17][4: p39]

The same pattern holds later in Isaiah, where Judah is judged for being like Sodom. Why? Because the people are ‘grinding the faces of the poor’.” [Isaiah 3: 9-15)][4: p39]

Ezekiel says: “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.” [Ezekiel 16:49-50 ESV] Ezekiel first focusses on Sodom’s pride, excess of food and prosperous need which did not result in care for the poor and needy. He then mentions an abomination. This is a term that we need to consider and we will do so later in this article.

There is one Old Testament passage that does not directly mention Sodom and Gommorah, but which appears to closely mirror the story from Genesis 18 & 19. That passage is in the book of Judges:

“In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite was sojourning in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, who took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah.  And his concubine was unfaithful to him, and she went away from him to her father’s house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there some four months.  Then her husband arose and went after her, to speak kindly to her and bring her back. He had with him his servant and a couple of donkeys. And she brought him into her father’s house. And when the girl’s father saw him, he came with joy to meet him.  And his father-in-law, the girl’s father, made him stay, and he remained with him three days. So they ate and drank and spent the night there.  And on the fourth day they arose early in the morning, and he prepared to go, but the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, “Strengthen your heart with a morsel of bread, and after that you may go.”  So the two of them sat and ate and drank together. And the girl’s father said to the man, “Be pleased to spend the night, and let your heart be merry.”  And when the man rose up to go, his father-in-law pressed him, till he spent the night there again.  And on the fifth day he arose early in the morning to depart. And the girl’s father said “Strengthen your heart and wait until the day declines.” So they ate, both of them.  And when the man and his concubine and his servant rose up to depart, his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, “Behold, now the day has waned toward evening. Please, spend the night. Behold, the day draws to its close. Lodge here and let your heart be merry, and tomorrow you shall arise early in the morning for your journey, and go home.”

But the man would not spend the night. He rose up and departed and arrived opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). He had with him a couple of saddled donkeys, and his concubine was with him. When they were near Jebus, the day was nearly over, and the servant said to his master, “Come now, let us turn aside to this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it.” And his master said to him, “We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners, who do not belong to the people of Israel, but we will pass on to Gibeah.” And he said to his young man, “Come and let us draw near to one of these places and spend the night at Gibeah or at Ramah.” So they passed on and went their way. And the sun went down on them near Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin, and they turned aside there, to go in and spend the night at Gibeah. And he went in and sat down in the open square of the city, for no one took them into his house to spend the night.

And behold, an old man was coming from his work in the field at evening. The man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was sojourning in Gibeah. The men of the place were Benjaminites. And he lifted up his eyes and saw the traveler in the open square of the city. And the old man said, “Where are you going? And where do you come from?” And he said to him, “We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, from which I come. I went to Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to the house of the Lord, but no one has taken me into his house. We have straw and feed for our donkeys, with bread and wine for me and your female servant and the young man with your servants. There is no lack of anything.” And the old man said, “Peace be to you; I will care for all your wants. Only, do not spend the night in the square.” So he brought him into his house and gave the donkeys feed. And they washed their feet, and ate and drank.

As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing.”  But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go.  And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, until it was light.

And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home. And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and taking hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. And all who saw it said, “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.”

[Judges 19: 1-30]

The story continues with a gathering of the people of Israel and with the punishment of Gibeah and Benjamin in Judges 20 & 21.

There are strong parallels in this story from Judges with the story from Genesis. A key verse is directly equivalent:   “And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.”.” [Judges 19: 22] The story then develops with a very similar offer to the crowd before eventually the concubine is thrown out to the crowd who abuse her and leave her for dead.

This story provokes, in me, the same, if not more, revulsion as the Genesis story. But on this occasion the crowd go on to abuse the concubine in place of the man. There are no angels to prevent the abuse, this time. What we might call ‘homosexuality’ is clearly not the primary desire of the crowd. They wanted to dominate, to abuse, to destroy, to dishonour, to violently gang-rape the man, and the concubine was seen as an acceptable alternative recipient of their depraved actions. This is again a story of gang-rape and abuse. (There are parts of the Bible which I sincerely dislike.) And it also demonstrably clear, once again, that it is a story of flagrant disregard for the sacred duty of hospitality.

Sodom and Gommorah in the New Testament

There are four mentions of Sodom and Gommorah in the words of Jesus, two in Matthew and two in Luke:

Matthew 10:14-15 ESV: “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gommorah than for that town.”

Matthew 11:23-24 ESV: “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Luke 10:10-13 ESV: “But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.

Luke 17:26-30 ESV: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulphur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”

None of these passages relate to ‘homosexuality’. The first, in Matthew 10 relates to a violation of ‘hospitality’. The second in Matthew 11 relates to a failure by towns to recognise Jesus’ ministry. The third relates again to a violation of ‘hospitality’. In Luke 17, in the last of these references, Jesus’ rebukes those who do not recognise the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Paul does not use Sodom and Gommorah as examples in his argument in Romans 1 & 2. He does mention them later in Romans as part of his discussion about righteousness coming through faith and not through obedience to the law. [Romans 9: 22-33]

He also does not refer to them in his argument in 1 Corinthians 6 (which incidentally includes a reference to homosexuality in the ESV and the NIV (later edition), most other translators, against the choice of the translators of the ESV and NIV, recognise the dubious and uncertain nature of the two Greek words which are translated in the ESV and NIV as ‘men who practice homosexuality‘.)

1 Timothy also does not include a reference to Sodom and Gommorah in the arguments made in chapter one, although in the ESV and the NIV, verse 10 suffers from the same failure to recognise the uncertain nature of the Greek words which are translated as ‘men who practice homosexuality‘. [1 Timothy 1:10]

2 Peter does mention the two cities and God’s rescue of Lot, in an argument about God’s ability to protect the godly from trials. [2 Peter 2: 6-9]

The final reference in our bibles to Sodom and Gommorah comes in Jude 1:7 and talks of their punishment for indulging in sexual immorality and pursuing ‘unnatural desire‘. [Jude 1:7]

To summarise what we have already established:

  • Genesis sees the sin of Sodom and Gommorah as that of gang-rape, abuse of power and significantly, a violation of ‘hospitality’.
  • The wider Old Testament seems to support this but includes pride, excess of food and prosperity which did not result in care for the poor and needy. In one place, in Ezekiel 16, in addition a failure to care for the poor and needy, there is mention of an abomination. As already promised, we will come back to that term later in this article.
  • Jesus uses Sodom and Gommorah as examples of violation of ‘hospitality’ and what will happen to those who fail to recognise the coming of God’s kingdom. He also says that what happened to Sodom and Gommorah is nothing compared to what will happen to those who fail to accept the evidence of his miracles.
  • Paul uses the two cities as part of his arguments about righteousness coming through faith in Romans. Although not specifically in Romans 1 or 2. He does, however, use words in 1 Corinthians 6 (and which also appear in  1 Timothy 1) which some modern translators have chosen to render as ‘men who practice homosexuality‘. We clearly need to look at these references in more detail, but must note that neither of these passages mention Sodom and Gommorah.
  • Jude mentions ‘unnatural desire‘ and in doing so mentions Sodom and Gommorah. We clearly needed to consider this in more detail.

This means that apart from three possible references in our Bibles we have no grounds for considering the sin of Sodom to be ‘homosexuality’. But, let’s look at each of these references in turn: abomination; unnatural desire; and ‘men who practice homosexuality’.

An Abomination

The ESV translates the Hebrew word in Ezekiel 16:50 as ‘an abomination‘, the NIV translates this as ‘detestable things’, the King James, as ‘abomination’, the NRSV, as ‘abominable things’. There is a reasonable consistency in these translations.

Wikipedia offers the following …

Abomination (from Latin abominare ‘to deprecate as an ill omen’) is an English term used to translate the Biblical Hebrew terms shiqquts שיקוץ‎ and sheqets שקץ‎, which are derived from shâqats, or the terms תֹּועֵבָה‎, tōʻēḇā or to’e’va (noun) or ‘ta’ev (verb). An abomination in English is that which is exceptionally loathsome, hateful, sinful, wicked, or vile. The term shiqquts is translated abomination by almost all translations of the Bible. The similar words, sheqets, and shâqats, are almost exclusively used to refer to unclean animals. The common but slightly different Hebrew term, tōʻēḇā, is also translated as abomination in the Authorized King James Version, and sometimes in the New American Standard Bible. Many modern versions of the Bible (including the New International Version and New English Translation) translate it detestable; the New American Bible translates it loathsome. It is mainly used to denote idolatry; and in many other cases it refers to inherently evil things such as illicit sex, lying, murder, deceit, etc.; and for unclean foods.” [5]

Wikipedia is not the worst place to start looking for meanings of words. But it should definitely be treated with caution. We can confirm, elsewhere, that the word used in Ezekiel 16:50 is תוֹעֵבָ֖ה … ṯō-w-‘ê-ḇāh. [6] Transliteration of the Hebrew text can at times be a little confusing, as the same word can be rendered slightly differently, phonetically, in our own script. There is, however, no doubt that the word used in Ezekiel 16:50 is the same word as used in Leviticus 18:22 which says:

You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” [Leviticus 18:22]

So, surely this is the conclusive link, there is a verse that confirms that the sin of Sodom with homosexuality. … But does it?

It am not an expert on the Hebrew text, but I am told that “the Hebrew word “toevah” (translated “abomination” and “detestable act”) is a cultic, not a moral, term. The English “abomination” means abhorrent, loathsome, unspeakably bad. Toevah means ritually unclean. Eating pork is toevah; having sex with a menstruating woman is toevah. You cannot come to worship after doing these things until you have been purified.” [7]

Greg Koukl quotes this as being a fair understanding of the word but insists that to use this in an argument to minimise the ‘abomination’ involved, is, in his view, unacceptable. He takes a traditional position on this matter. In the context of Leviticus 18 there is a series of different condemnatory statements about sexual sin and, in that context, Koukl dismisses any distinction between ‘cultic’ and ‘moral’ meanings of the word. And, in that context, his arguments have some weight. When we look at that passage, we will need to listen carefully to what he is saying.

However, here, we are trying to ascertain the meaning of the Hebrew word in a different context, that of Ezekiel 16, not Leviticus 18 or 20.

If, as Koukl says, the word usually has a ‘cultic’ rather than ‘moral’ meaning. How is it used in other parts of the Old Testament than Leviticus 18?

Patrick Beaulier notes the usage of tōʻēḇā in Leviticus and then shares details of its usage elsewhere in what we call the Old Testament. He highlights the following: [8]

  • Every shepherd was “an abomination” unto the Egyptians (Genesis 46:34).
  • Pharaoh was so moved by the fourth plague, that while he refused the demand of Moses, he offered a compromise, granting to the Israelites permission to hold their festival and offer their sacrifices in Egypt. This permission could not be accepted, because Moses said they would have to sacrifice “the abomination of the Egyptians” (Exodus 8:26); i.e., the cow or ox, which all the Egyptians held as sacred and so regarded as sacrilegious to kill.
  • Proverbs 6:16-19 lists seven things which are also abominations: “haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are swift in running to mischief, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”
  • Tōʻēḇā is also used in Jewish scriptures to refer to: idolatry or idols (Deuteronomy 7:25, Deuteronomy 13:14, Isaiah 44:19); illicit sex (e.g. prostitution, adultery, incest) (Ezekiel 16:22,58, Ezekiel 22:11, Ezekiel 33:26); illicit marriage (Deuteronomy 24:2-4); … temple prostitution (1Kings 14:24); child sacrifice to Molech (Jeremiah 32:35); cross-dressing – likely for the sake of confusing a person for illicit reasons (Deuteronomy 22:5); cheating in the market by using rigged weights (Deuteronomy 25:13-19, Proverbs 11:1); dishonesty (Proverbs 12:22); dietary violations (Deuteronomy 14:3); stealing, murder, and adultery, breaking covenants (Jeremiah 7:9,10); usury, violent robbery, murder, oppressing the poor and needy, etc. (Ezekiel 18:10-13).

Given this range of different things that are called tōʻēḇā, from relatively minor things to more serious matters; and things which are clearly culturally related to things which have a more lasting relevance, it is difficult to be sure that the use of the word in Leviticus necessarily is parallel to that in our passage from Ezekiel. It is a presumption to assume that the usage of the word is exactly the same.

We need to leave discussion of the Leviticus passages for another time, but this does leave us with a significant level of confidence that the word tōʻēḇā in Ezekiel is most likely to be best translated as ‘taboo’ or by a very similar word.

Of further interest is what Beaulier notes in the Talmud, specifically Sanhedrin 109b: [9]

When there was anyone who had a row of bricks, each and every one of the people of Sodom would come and take one brick and say to him: I am taking only one, and you are certainly not particular about so inconsequential an item, and they would do this until none remained. And when there was anyone who would cast garlic or onions to dry, each and every one of the people of Sodom would come and take one and say to him: I took only one garlic or onion, and they would do this until none remained.” [9]

There were four judges in Sodom and they were named for their actions: Shakrai, meaning liar, and Shakrurai, habitual liar, Zayfai, forger, and Matzlei Dina, perverter of justice.” [9]

When a poor person would happen to come to Sodom, each and every person would give him a dinar, and the name of the giver was written on each dinar. And they would not give or sell him bread, so that he could not spend the money and would die of hunger. When he would die, each and every person would come and take his dinar.” [9]

There was a young woman who would take bread out to the poor people in a pitcher so the people of Sodom would not see it. The matter was revealed, and they smeared her with honey and positioned her on the wall of the city, and the hornets came and consumed her. And that is the meaning of that which is written: “And the Lord said: Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great [rabba]” (Genesis 18:20). And Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: Rabba is an allusion to the matter of the young woman [riva] who was killed for her act of kindness. It is due to that sin that the fate of the people of Sodom was sealed.” [9]

These quotations are typical of the material in that part of the Talmud, there is no mention of sexual sins of any kind! At the end of that section, in the last quotation above, there is commentary from scholars. They affirm that it was the matters covered immediately above that were the sin(s) that brought condemnation on Sodom.

This evidence, together with the uncertainty over the use of tōʻēḇā and the matters discussed earlier in this article means that it is really difficult, with integrity, to assume that the sin of Sodom was ‘homosexuality’.

It is also difficult to see that the word tōʻēḇā is rightly to be translated as ‘an abomination’ on every occasion. The term tōʻēḇā may often have had a different meaning: “something permitted to one group, and forbidden to another. Though there is (probably) no etymological relationship, toevah means taboo.” [10] I don’t think I could express quite the same level of certainty over the meaning of tōʻēḇā, as in that quotation, but even so, its use in many situations is probably closer to ‘taboo’ than ‘abomination’.

Unnatural Desire

What does Jude mean by ‘unnatural desire‘? [Jude 1:7, ESV]

Let’s take the expression in context first. Jude 1: 6-7 says:

And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire (sarkos heteras), serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” [Jude 1:6-7]

There is a case to be made that Jude’s comment about sarkos heteras (“other flesh”) is a reference to sex with angels. Verse 6 is probably a reference back to Genesis 6: 1-4 which in Jewish thought has angels indulging in sex with humans. So, in context, in Jude “it is not far fetched to think that the “other flesh” in verse 7 is a reference to the men of Sodom trying to have sex with Lot’s angelic visitors. If this interpretation is correct, it makes it less likely (though not … impossible) to see the sin of Sodom as being … the sin of homosexual practice.” [11]

However, this is not accepted by those who hold the traditional position on human sexuality.

There is definitely some warrant for thinking that Jude is making reference to Sodom and Gomorrah’s ongoing and persistent sin, whatever that sin was, rather just one occasion of Tring to have sex with angels.

But, Jude’s understanding of what happened in Sodom is at variance with the significant majority of Old Testament thought which, as we have seen, was primarily concerned with, either a negation of the sacred duty of ‘hospitality’, or about an ongoing failure to care for the poor and needy.

Jude does seem to be referring to Sodom’s ongoing sin, not just one sin on one occasion. In the context of his letter, this is related to angels who had perverted desires for human women. (Genesis 6: 1-4) The evidence of the Genesis story is that the men of Sodom intended violent gang-rape. So, whatever Jude means by ‘sarkos heteras‘. We have to subject Jude’s interpretation to the wider position of scripture which is that Sodom’s sexual sin was violent gang-rape. In the case in the Genesis story this happened to be focussed two men (who unknown to the men of Sodom were actually angels), but as that story played out could easily have been the violent gang-rape of two women. Their behaviour was probably typical of their actions on other occasions as they would readily set aside the sacred duty of hospitality for their own gratification.

We leave this passage in Jude with a sense of confusion about what is meant by Jude. It is not strong enough evidence to lead us to assume that the ultimate sin of Sodom was ‘homosexuality’. Neither is it reliable ground on which to make a firm case that Sodom’s sin was not ‘homosexuality’.

Men Who Practice Homosexuality

This phrase is used in two translations of the Bible, the ESV and the 2011 revision of the NIV. This ‘catch-all’ phrase in these two translations is not warranted by the individual greek words used in these two contexts.

In our discussion of Sodom’ sin we could ignore the question of these two words. Neither reference (1 Corinthuans 6 or 1 Timothy 1) includes a direct reference to Sodom and Gomorrah. However, the way the two Greek words are treated is a case of over simplification by the translators. In an endeavour to simplify a reading of the text, they have allowed their assumptions to narrow down meaning and perhaps even obfuscate what is true. The truth is that scholars either do not know, or cannot agree on the meaning of two Greek words, The two words are arsenokoitai (ἀρσενοκοίτης) and malakoi (μαλακοὶ). Their exact meanings are lost in the past and scholars have been debating the best translation of the words for some length of time.

The assumption that the translators of the ESV and the NIV make is that together they are a kind of ‘catch-all’ for all homosexual acts. This is just one opinion.

Look at how leading English translations treat these two words in 1 Corinthians 6:9: [12]

“men who practice homosexuality” (ESV; a marginal note reads, “The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts”)

“men who have sex with men” (NIV [2011]; a marginal note reads, “The words men who have sex with men translate two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts”)

“male prostitutes … homosexual offenders” (NIV [1984]

“effeminate … homosexuals” (NASB 1995; a marginal note to the first word reads, “i.e. effeminate by perversion”

“effeminate … sodomites” (NKJV)

“effeminate … abusers of themselves with mankind” (AV)

These translations appear to agree that the individuals in view are men who are engaged in some kind of sexual activity of which Paul disapproves. But the translations’ differences outshine their agreement. Should the terms be understood together or separately? Does the term malakos denote male homosexual activity (generally), the passive participant in a homosexual act, a man who engages in paid sexual activity with other men, or an effeminate man? Does the term arsenokoites denote male homosexual activity (generally) or the active participant in a homosexual act (specifically)?” [12]

Reviewing the evidence in commentaries and academic literature only widens the uncertainty over the meaning of these words. A survey of the commentaries and academic literature would yield further possibilities.

I have taken the short notes above from a conservative evangelical website [12] to illustrate that this breadth of meaning has to be embraced before the argument on that website concludes that, when taken together, the two words are a kind of ‘catch-all’ phrase which embraces all homosexuality, both inclination and action. So, many who hold the traditional position on ‘homosexuality’ argue that the particular texts which use these words, 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1, say that “homosexuals” will not inherit the kingdom of God. Hence, the church cannot affirm same-sex relationships without abandoning the gospel.

We have, however, to be very careful in dealing with these two words and look as closely as we can at their use in antiquity within the cultures of Paul’s day, and we must particularly endeavour not to read back into them the cultural categories of our own times. This is a trap which we can all fall into so easily.

The term malakoi literally meant “soft,” in the Greco-Roman culture of Paul’s day. It was  often used to refer to, a lack of self-control, weakness, cowardice, and laziness. These were seen as negative characteristics and were often attributed to women in the societies of Paul’s day.

The term was also long translated as ‘effeminate.’ Although most uses of the term in ancient literature were not related to sexual behaviour, men who took the passive role in same-sex relations were sometimes called ‘malakoi’, which is why many non-affirming Christians argue that it represents a condemnation of same-sex relationships. But even in sexual contexts, ‘malakos’ was most frequently used to describe men who were seen as lacking self-control in their love for women. It’s only in the past century that many Bible translators have connected the word specifically to same-sex relationships. More common English translations in past centuries were terms such as ‘weaklings’, ‘wantons’, and ‘debauchers‘.” [13]

Even so, doesn’t Paul’s practice of using malakoi and arsenokoti in tandem make it likely that he uses it in a way that refers to what we call ‘homosexual behaviour’?

The term arsenokoitescomes from two Greek words: arsen, meaning ‘male’, and koites, meaning ‘bed’. Those words appear together in the Greek translation of Leviticus 20:13, leading some to speculate that Paul coined the term arsenokoites in order to condemn same-sex behaviour.” [13] Whether this is a speculation rather than a warranted assumption is a matter of dispute, as traditionalists argue that it is the most likely meaning of the word as Paul used it.

Speaking from a liberal perspective, Carolyn V. Bratnober argues in ‘Legacies of Homosexuality in New Testament Studies: Arsenokoitai and malakoi, fornicators and sodomites, in the history of sexuality and scripture‘, that “the tragedy of conservative homophobia in the 1980s was this: that antihomosexual usage of biblical texts was enflamed by HIV/AIDS discourse—while, at the same time, the effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on communities in poverty and communities of colour were unreported for so long that the epidemic devastated these communities to a greater extent than it did gay communities. Progressive biblical scholars, as well as Christian Religious Right leaders, fed this focus on homosexuality in their studies of New Testament texts. They focused so much on homosexuality that they missed the big picture: anti-imperial, anti-exploitation theology. President Reagan’s condemnations of “welfare queens” and “moral failures,” bolstered by his supporters on the Religious Right, co-opted a version of Pauline ethics that supported empire rather than opposed it. Failure to acknowledge this deeply problematic history of Biblical literature is harmful for the contemporary LGBTQ community and for combatting the legacies of racism in the United States. There is a deep and urgent need for Biblical scholars and historians to heed the words of Emilie Townes and others calling for efforts toward a counterhegemonic history that overturns pervasive racist myths and invisibilized narratives that continue to marginalize oppressed groups based on perceived collective characteristics. Biblical scholars and those who utilize scriptural resources in their work must address the historic use of Pauline epistles in homophobic discourse. They must acknowledge that terms such as arsenokoitai and malakoi referred to those who were vulnerable to sexual and economic exploitation through the social institutions of slavery and forced sex in the Roman Empire.”  [14: p51-52]

She is prepared to state categorically that the translation of arsenokoitai and malakoi to mean “homosexuals” or “sodomites” in the NRSV is false. “The idea of the ‘sin of Sodom’ can be traced to Biblical texts [although I question the link to ‘homosexual actions], but not ‘sodomy or ‘sodomites’- these terms were developed in the medieval period.” [14: p46] And she mentions the work of Scroggs, who argued that  malakoi and arsenokoitai referred to counterparts in sexual encounters where prostitution and economic exploitation were involved—that malakoi would have had the meaning of a specific role, something similar to an “effeminate call-boy” or passive recipient in penetrative sex, and that arsenokoitai would have meant the active partner “who keeps the malakos as a mistress or hires him on occasion.”[14: p18][15: p108]

Scroggs mentions that the two words appear side by side in 1 Timothy 1 along with a third term andropdistai “which was used in several other ancient sources to describe one who is a kidnapper or, literally, a slave-dealer.” [15: p118-120] Scroggs interprets the author of 1 Timothy’s inclusion of andropodistai in his list of vices as a reference to specific forms of the sex economy “which consisted of the enslaving of boys as youths for sexual purposes.” [15: p121] so, if it was this institution of sexual slavery that was being condemned in 1 Timothy and even in 1 Corinthians, then it is slavery and rape
which must be the subject of all scholarship on arsenokoitai and malakoi in the
New Testament—not ‘homosexuality’ as such. [14: p18]

Bratnober spends some time delving into the appropriate meaning of these two words, but ultimately concludes that much energy has been wasted on this work which would have been better spent on wider issues such as “those who were vulnerable to sexual and economic exploitation through the social institutions of slavery and forced sex in the Roman Empire. [14: p52]

Just as we looked at early Jewish interpretations of the ‘sin of Sodom’, we do well, in the context of this article to note that some modern Jewish scholars talk of the ‘sin of Sodom’ as prohibited, because “the Canaanites used homosexual acts as part of their pagan rituals. Therefore the Israelites were prohibited from doing this, not because it was an act between two men but because it was symbolic of pagan ritual. In today’s world this prohibition now has no meaning (and homosexual sex is permitted).” [Rabbi Michele Brand Medwin, as quoted by Patrick Beaulier] [8]

So, what is the substance of my argument about the words arsenokoitai (ἀρσενοκοίτης) and malakoi (μαλακοὶ). It is simply this, that there remains sufficient disagreement about the meaning of these words among scholars, some of whom take a conservative position, others who are more liberal. We are actually unable to be clear of their meaning and tend to take the meaning(s) that most suit our own arguments. The translators of the revised version of the NIV [2011] and of the ESV abandon the middle ground and assert both in the text and in the margin that these two terms are effectively used together in a ‘catch-all’ way to relate to all forms of homosexuality. This is very far from certain. The NIV and ESV translators should have accepted the ongoing struggle with the translation of these two difficult words (perhaps using the words which appeared in the original 1984 version of the NIV (male prostitutes … homosexual offenders) and should have placed commentary in the margins which commented on their particular stance in the debate.

Conclusions

Where does this leave us?

In this article we have established that:

  • Genesis sees the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah as that of gang-rape, abuse of power and very significantly, a violation of ‘hospitality’.
  • The wider Old Testament seems to support this but includes pride, excess of food and prosperity which did not result in care for the poor and needy. In one place, in Ezekiel 16, in addition a failure to care for the poor and needy, there is mention of an abomination. We sought to address the meaning of the Hebrew word in the context of Ezekiel 16 and concluded that the original Hebrew word is best seen in that context to mean something like ‘taboo’ rather than ‘abomination’.
  • We noted Jesus’ use of Sodom and Gommorah as examples of violation of ‘hospitality’ and what will happen to those who fail to recognise the coming of God’s kingdom. He also says that what happened to Sodom and Gommorah is nothing compared to what will happen to those who fail to accept the evidence of his miracles.
  • Jude’s use of words which have been translated in the ESV as ‘unnatural desire’ – sarkos heteras (other flesh), is confusing. We left that passage in Jude with a sense of confusion about what is meant by Jude. It is not strong enough evidence to lead us to assume that the ultimate sin of Sodom was ‘homosexuality’. Neither is it reliable ground on which to make a firm case that Sodom’s sin was not ‘homosexuality’.
  • And finally, Paul uses the two cities, Sodom and Gommorah, as part of his arguments about righteousness coming to God through faith in Romans. Although he does not use them specifically in Romans 1 or 2. He does, however, use words in 1 Corinthians 6 (and which also appear in  1 Timothy 1) which some modern translators have chosen to render as ‘men who practice homosexuality’. We clearly needed to look at these references in more detail, but we also had to note that neither of these passages directly mention Sodom and Gomorrah. We discovered that the evidence for that translation of the two words taken together is dubious.
  • So we discussed possible options for the translation of malakoi and arsenokoitai, our conclusion was the the meanings are confusing and that commentators view the words in different ways. My conclusion was that translators should accept that the meanings of the two words are uncertain and that translations of the Bible should continue to recognise this.

The overall conclusion of this article is that the sin of Sodom cannot simply be seen as ‘homosexuality’ but rather as a range of sins taken together: violent gang-rape, egregious abandonment of the sacred duty of hospitality, pride, and a corrupt system which failed the poor and needy.

References

  1. https://rapecrisis.org.uk/get-informed/types-of-sexual-violence/what-is-rape, accessed on 16th February 2023.
  2. https://www.sparknotes.com/lit/odyssey/context/historical/hospitality-in-ancient-greece, accessed on 16th February 2023.
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hospitium, accessed on 16th February 2023, cf. Hugh Chisholm ed.; Hospitium; in Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 13 (11th ed.), Cambridge University Press, 1911, p801.
  4. Jonathan Tallon; Affirmative: Why You Can Say Yes to the Bible and Yes to People Who Are LGBTQI+; Richardson Jones Press, 2022.
  5. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abomination_(Bible), accessed on 16th February 2023.
  6. https://biblehub.com/text/ezekiel/16-50.htm, accessed on 16th February 2023.
  7. Greg Koukl; Leviticus and Homosexuality; https://www.str.org/w/leviticus-and-homosexuality, accessed on 16th February 2023.
  8. https://www.sefaria.org/sheets/196548?lang=bi, accessed on 17th February 2023.
  9. The William Davidson Talmud (Koren – Steinsaltz), Sanhedrin 109b.
  10. https://wp.me/ppy6l-1C, accessed on 17th February 2023.
  11. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/what-does-jude-7-mean-by-other-flesh, accessed on 17th February 2023.
  12. https://gospelreformation.net/pauls-understanding-of-sexuality/?print=print, accessed on 18th February 2023.
  13. https://reformationproject.org/case/1-corinthians-and-1-timothy, accessedon 18th Fenruary 2023.
  14. Carolyn V. Bratnober; Legacies of Homosexuality in New Testament Studies: Arsenokoitai and malakoi, fornicators and sodomites, in the history of sexuality and scripture; Union Theological Seminary, New York, 2017.
  15. Robin Scroggs; The New Testament on Homosexuality: Contextual Background for Contemporary Debate; Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1983.

Railways Around Bridgnorth – Part 2

Highley and Billingsley

South of Bridgnorth in the valley of the River Severn were:

  • Alveley Sidings and Alveley Colliery with a private railway/aerial ropeway;
  • Highley Station;
  • Highley Colliery & Sidings;
  • The Billingsley Railway & Collery; and
  • Kinlet Colliery and Sidings.

These locations were all within the Wyre Forest Coalfield. All were connected to the GWR Severn Valley Railway (SVR)

Alveley Sidings, Alveley Colliery, Private Railway and Aerial Ropeway.

Of the locations looked at in this article the Alveley Sidings and Colliery were the closest to Bridgenorth. It was situated east of the River Severn, a little way north of Highley Station in the area now forming the Alveley section of the Severn Valley Country Park. [8][9]

The shaft at Alveley was sunk in 1935 to a depth of 360 yards by the Highley Mining Company. It was connected to their Highley shaft by underground workings which passed under the River Severn. Production started at the colliery in 1938. The shaft at Highley was then closed in 1939, only being retained for ventilation and as an emergency evacuation route. Alveley’s workings were very modern, with full use being made of electrical power and mechanical working at the coal face.

Coal was brought across the Severn by a rope-worked tramway across a bridge built to serve the mine, which was later replaced with an aerial ropeway in 1961. The colliery was connected to washeries, screens and sidings adjacent to the Severn Valley Railway by an endless cable-worked narrow gauge tramway which crossed the river on a concrete bridge bringing coal to the screens. The tramway was replaced later by an aerial ropeway. The sidings eventually became the location of Country Park Halt on the Severn Valley railway.

Colliery production reached “full output in 1944 with 275,000 tons raised, with that year’s record being 5,547 tons in one week, and a peak of 300,000 tons per year reached in the late 1950s. The colliery became part of the National Coal Bard (NCB) on nationalisation in 1947; at that time employment was 741, rising to over 1,250 in the mid-1950s, and falling to around 700 by the mine’s closure. A major expansion was undertaken in the late 1950s and early 1960s, completed in 1962, after large reserves of coal were found to the East of the current workings. These were purported to be enough to last the mine between 50 and 100 years, but a drop in the quality of coal combined with a reduction in demand due to a national over supply forced the closure of the mine in 1969, with the last coal being lifted on 31 January.” [8]

GWR Plan of Alveley Sidings. The GWR Severn Valley Line is shown in blue, with the sidings shown in red. The image is included here under a Creative Commons Licence, Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0). [8]
The 1943 revision of the Ordnance Survey of 1916, shows inclined plane crossing the River Severn. Alveley Village is to the right side of the map extract. The mine’s sidings can be picked out on the left of the image, to the West of the River Severn. Mine building appear not to have been recorded in any detail. [11]
The same area as it appears on the 1″ Ordnance Survey of 1963. The screens/washing plant can be seen adjacent to the Severn Valley Railway on the left of the map extract. The pithead and associated buildings are at the centre of the image. The aerial ropeway is shown operating between the two locations. [12]

A closer focus is provided on the National Grid Maps, two extracts follow, as the location runs across map boundaries. The Inclined Plane was not replaced by an aerial ropeway until 1960. [15: p16-18]

This extract is taken from Ordnance Survey SO78SE – A, Surveyed/Revised: Pre-1930 to 1954, Published: 1954. It shows the colliery site in more detail and highlights a loop of lines serving the colliery site as well as the inclined plane running down towards the River Severn. [13]
This extract is taken from Ordnance Survey SO78SW – A, Surveyed/Revised: Pre-1930 to 1954, Published: 1954. It shows the site of the screens and sidings for Alveley Colliery in more detail. [14]

George & David Poyner tell us that the “surface haulage used a 7/8th inch rope. The length of the track was 1100 yards so the endless rope was 2200 yards long. The railway was 21″ gauge with wooden sleepers 3′ apart; 9″ rollers fixed in wooden boxes supported the rope. There were eight tubs to each journey: the tubs were made of wood and later of iron and held 10 cwt of coal. The rope took the tubs to the Barker Screens.” [15: p16]

At the pit head, tubs were clipped to the haul-rope in gangs of eight. The first and last tubs, being attached to the rope and the wagons were coupled together. There was an haulage engine at the top of the incline. Initially a skilled operative manned the engine, but later it was worked by signals. when the wagons reached the creeper at the screens, the tubs were unclipped and “they were sent up the creeper into the tippler on the screens and then returned down the retarder. The chalk numbers were removed and the tubs were clipped back onto the haulage rope to go back to the colliery.” [15: p17]

The empties were sent back up the incline to the pit head where they were “unclipped off the rope and sent up creepers to the top and bottom decks of the cage. The supplies were also brought by rail so there were six men loading the tubs with pit props and unloading railway wagons. The rails needed quite a lot of maintenance, during hot weather they would expand and buckle, requiring the joints to be loosened.” [15: p17]

As the Incline became too old for continued use, a case was made for the replacement of the incline with an aerial ropeway. This was considered in 1958 by the colliery reconstruction committee. Apparently, the rope worked incline “required 54 men from the pit to the washery. It was estimated that an aerial ropeway would require 15 mean and would cost £160,568. … Figures are not available to show how much money was actually saved by the aerial ropeway. However, at least in its early days it was plagued by breakdowns.” [15: p18]

The bridge was constructed to carry the tramroad and it’s incline which linked the pit head at the Colliery to the screens and railway sidings on the West Bank of the River Severn. This photograph was shared by Margaret Sheridan on the Alveley History Bridgenorth Shropshire Facebook Group on 21st January 2023. [16]
A view from the West Bank of the River Severn looking East towards the colliery. The bottom of the old Incline Plane is ahead. The line was rope-worked throughout from pit head to screens. This photograph was shared by Margaret Sheridan on the Alveley History Bridgenorth Shropshire Facebook Group on 21st January 2023. [16]
A view from the West Bank of the River Severn, possibly from the colliery screens, which shows the 1935 bridge and the aerial ropeway which was installed in 1960. The pit head and winding gear is visible towards the rear of the photo. This image was shared by Bill Scriven in a comment on the Alveley History Bridgenorth Shropshire Facebook Group on 21st January 2023. [16]
The Seven Valley Railway, Alveley Colliery screens and sidings on the West side of the Severn. This photograph was shared by Margaret Sheridan on the Alveley History Bridgenorth Shropshire Facebook Group on 21st January 2023. [16]
The Alveley Colliery bridge across the River Severn with the aerial ropeway in use above. This picture was shared by the Shropshire Star on their Facebook Page on 28th November 2022. [38]

Further photographs can be found on the Alveley Historical Society web page:

http://www.alveleyhistoricalsociety.org/mining.html [10]

Highley Station

The Station at Highley was just a short distance to the South of the Alveley Colliery sidings.

On this extract from the 1″ Ordnance Survey of 1967 (Sheet 130: Kidderminster – B Edition
Publication date:  Revised: 1949 to 1967, Published: 1967), the mine at Alveley, the 1935 bridge over the Severn, the sidings and screens on the West side of the river are clearly shown well within a mile to the North of Highley Station. [17]

The Station was built and opened at the same time as the Severn Valley line. It “opened to the public on 1 February 1862 and closed on 9 September 1963, before the Beeching axe closures.” [18]

The Station was important as “the transport hub of a colliery district, with four nearby coal mines linked to the Severn Valley line by standard and narrow gauge lines, cable inclines and aerial ropeways . There were extensive sidings along the line, and wagon repair works at Kinlet, half-a-mile south.” [18]

The station was too far from the village of Highley to be convenient. The advent of reliable bus services and better roads soon resulted in passenger use dwindling. However, the signal box at the station remained in use until the closure of Alveley Colliery in 1969. The site of the Station remained disused until it was rejuvenated by the preservation movement.

The map extracts below show the Station in 1882 and then at around the turn of the 20th century.

Henley Station on the 25″ Ordnance Survey of 1882 published in 1884. The junction for the Colliery exchange sidings has been installed. [4]
Highley Station on the 25″ Ordnance Survey from the turn of 20th century. The junction for the colliery sidings appears to the South of the station, just beyond the Cattle Pen. [5]
Looking South through Highley Station in the years prior to preservation. Shared on the Closed Railways Facebook Group on 10th July 2021 by Chris Chiverton. [36]
Highley Railway Station & Signal Box: photo taken in association with the BBC Drama ‘The Signalman’ in the mid-1970s after the opening of the SVR heritage line. The photograph is taken looking to the South. [53]
Looking North through Highley Station in the years prior to preservation. Shared on the Closed Railways Facebook Group on 10th July 2021 by Chris Chiverton. [35]
Highley Railway Station buildings viewed from the Southwest across and engineers train. [Google Streetview]
Highley Railway Station, photographed from the South end of the station adjacent to the water tower with a Class 31 diesel locomotive standing in the Station. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
The view South from the same point as the picture above. The modern Engine House which sits on the site of the old colliery sidings can be seen top-right. This illustrates the proximity of the old colliery sidings to the Station. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
Just a few steps further South, we can see the gate to the road crossing at the entrance to the sidings. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
The view from the crossing gate North towards the station. The close proximity of the sidings to the railway station is once again emphasised. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
The gated entrance to the modern Engine House on the site of the Highley Colliery Sidings. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
The lane crossed by the siding at the entrance to the yard is shown in this Southward facing image. The lane passes under the SVR with the line being carried by a steel girder bridge with stone abutments. Just under the bridge the lane provides access to the West bank of the River Severn. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
A view of the bridge from close to the West bank of the River Severn. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]

Highley Colliery and the Highley Mining Company

John Tennent tells us that in early days (1883), Highley Colliery was connected to the Severn Valley Railway (SVR) at Highley Station via a standard-gauge self-acting rope-worked incline with 3 rails splitting into four at the halfway-point to allow rakes of wagons to pass. A loco may have been used at the top of the incline. [1] There is no evidence of this incline at the station site on the 1883 Ordnance Survey. It may well be that the Incline referred to is that which is shown of the later Ordnance Survey from the turn of the 20th century. That incline just sneaks onto the bottom left of the map extract from the later survey above.

By 1892, the Hindley Mining Co. opened a site a short distance to the Southwest of Highley Station. This became Kinlet Colliery and its link to the SVR was completed by 1895. An agreement between the Company and the GWR dated 27/05/1895 which required the GWR to construct a junction and sidings at the expense of the Hindley Mining Company. John Tennent tells us that these sidings “became known as Kinlet Sidings and survived as a wagon repair yard long after the colliery railways had closed.” [1: p9]

The exchange sidings for the Colliery as shown on the 25″ Ordnance Survey from the turn of 20th century.. [6]
Approximately the same area on Google Earth in 2023. The approximate route of the incline from the sidings to Highley Colliery is marked by the red line. [Google Earth, 10th February 2023]
The Colliery as shown on the 25″ Ordnance Survey from the turn of 20th century. [7]
Approximately the same area on Google Earth in 2023. The approximate route of the incline from the sidings to Highley Colliery is marked by the red line. [Google Earth, 10th February 2023]
An early image of Highley Colliery. [19]
Highley Colliery in 1942. This image was shared on the Telford & Shropshire History Facebook Group by Caren Craft on 26th January 2023. [37]
Highley Colliery pit head and buildings shortly before final closure in 1969. By this time the colliery was only in use as a ventilation and emergency egress point to  allow the escape of underground staff at Alveley Colliery. [20]

By 1900, about 240 men and boys were employed. … Main line railway trucks were filled with coal at the colliery, and then run down a standard gauge incline to the sidings, the layout of which can be seen on the extract from the Ordnance Survey Map, 1888-1913 series [above]. One of the main destinations of the coal was the carpet factories of Kidderminster.” [21]

The Highley Mining Company ran the colliery successfully for many years, with the workforce increasing to 670 by 1937. As the workings moved under the River Severn towards Alveley, a new shaft was opened at Alveley. Once the Alveley and Highley workings had joined up in 1937, men and equipment were transferred to Alveley, and by 1940 Highley Colliery itself had closed, although the pithead remained open for ventilation. The former colliery sidings then became the landsale yard for Alveley Colliery.” [8]

This extract from the National Grid Ordnance Survey mapping of 1954 shows the much reduced railway infrastructure serving Highley Colliery. The Incline has been removed a single siding serve the landsale yard referred to above. Some small elements of the internal tramway at the pit head remain, as doe a short line out onto the spoil heap. [22]

The area of the former sidings was eventually bought by the SVR and is now the site of The Engine House.

This modern satellite image shows a very similar area to that on the map extract above. The preserved station on the SVR is visible at the top-right of the extract. The SVR’s Engine Shed sits on what were once the colliery sidings and much of the Colliery site has reverted to nature. There is a modern carpark on the site of the old colliery in the top-left of this image [23]
The view South into what was the Highley Colliery site which has been utilised as a car park for the SVR and the local nature reserve. To the left of this image, off scene are the carpark facilities which include a display board about the colliery site. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
The Severn Valley Country Park display board at the Highley Colliery site. The car park is to the left of the display and the line of the incline down to the colliery sidings is shown in a sandy colour. [My picture, 10th February 2023]

The next sequence of photographs show the path which follows the incline between Highley Colliery and the colliery sidings adjacent to the SVR.

The incline leads away Southeast from the Colliery site. [My photo, 10th February 2023]
The incline continued towards the Southeast. [My photo, 10th February 2023]
Creating the incline required excavation through the rock walls which flanked the valley of the Severn. [My photo, 10th February 2023]
Beyond the valley side, the incline continued to fall steeply to the exchange sidings. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]

The Billingsley Railway

Highley, and the area immediately around, it has a long industrial history and the remains of numerous railways and tramways can be seen today. At the end of the 18th century coal mines and a blast furnace were opened in Billingsley. The coal and iron were brought alongside the Borle Brook through Highley by a horse-worked tramway to the River Severn where they were sent downstream in boats. The “tramway worked for no more than 15 years, but its route can still largely be traced on the North side of Borle Brook, running via shallow embankments and cuttings. A little later the Stanley Colliery (1804-1823) opened close to the site of the present Highley Station and this was also served by tramways, as were the numerous sandstone quarries by the river.” [26]

Stanley Colliery was just to the South of Highley Station. It was worked for that short period at the beginning of the 19th century in the sulphur coal at a depth of about 100 yards; the Brooch seam worked by the Highley Colliery was a further 200 yards below this. Stanley Colliery “is partially overlain by the trackbed of the Severn Valley Railway and sidings built by the HMCo. [Highley Mining Company] There are also extensive remains of the stone quarries which worked in this area from perhaps the Middle Ages to the 19th Century.” [21]

The old plateway/tramway/tramroad route is covered in an earlier article in this short series about railways to the South of Bridgenorth:

Railways Around Bridgenorth – Part 1

The tramroad was the first transport venture alongside the Borle Brook. It was some time before industrial development at Billingsley warranted the construction of another railway. In the early 1870s, a new mine had been sunk at Billingsley. The mine site was to the East of the Cape of Good Hope Inn. It “reached ‘Sweet Coal’ at 160 yards depth by Christmas 1872 (Sweet coal is low sulphur coal).” [24]

In the 1875 a public limited company, the Billingsley Colliery Company, was formed to work the mine and a decision was taken to link Billingsley Colliery to the Severn Valley Railway (SVR). [31]

Progress was slow, but eventually, in March 1877, a lease permitting the railway to cross land belonging to the Duke of Cleveland between the mine and the River Severn was signed. Further access rights were granted over land in Kinlet by February 1878 and, in December 1878, the GWR agreed a connection could be made to the SVR. [31]

The mine suffered significant cashflow problems in the late 1870s and the Company was bought out in 1878 by “Samuel Norton Dimbleby. The next year Dimbleby renamed it the Severn Valley Colliery Company and by various means … he raised enough money to allow construction of the railway to begin.” [31]

Work commenced in October 1880. The line was to follow the Borle Brook on its South side as far as New England. There it was to continue alongside the Borle Brook for a short distance “before striking due west to reach the colliery by a chain-worked incline, over half a mile long.” [31]

The line was due to be completed by the end of January 1881 and open by 31st March. This was an ambitious target but the contractors, Messrs Drewitt and Pickering of Stoke on Trent, seem to have made good progress, quickly constructing all the earthworks as far as New England. Then work stopped.” [31] It seems likely that “Dimbleby and the company never had enough money to pay for the completion of the line.” [31]

For two years, Dimbleby strove to complete the railway but without success. “Finally, in October 1882, the materials on the line were sold, probably by Drewitt and Pickering in an attempt to get some of their money back.” [31]

Dimbleby’s endeavours left a local landscape scarred by embankments and cuttings. The fruit of his labours is illustrated below on another series of extracts from the 6″ Ordnance Survey published in 1883.

The 6″ OS Map (published in 1883), shows the remnants of Dimbleby’s intended railway at it’s planned junction with the SVR. Some embankments and cuttings remain along the proposed railway alignment heading West away from the River Severn. [27]
The planned route continued West away from the River Severn. [27]
The intended line followed the Borle Brook as its valley ran to the Northwest. [27]
The route of the intended railway ran close to Borle Brook as it turned to the North near Borle Mill. [27]
The line of Dimbleby’s railway continues to be marked by the red line imposed on the 6″ Ordnance Survey published in 1883. [27]
The proposed railway’s alignment crossed the corners of four different Ordnance Survey sheets. I have resorted to using the later Ordnance Survey of the turn of the 20th century to show its route as the NLS (National Library of Scotland) kindly pieces the sheets for that series together. The different 6″ map sheets were published in 1904 and 1905. The route of the line becomes indistinct after it crossed the tributary of the Borle Brook into an old quarry. [28]

Dimbleby’s efforts were, ultimately, not to be wasted. The mine was purchased, along with Dimbleby’s Severn Valley Colliery Company, in 1882 by Alfred Gibbs. He continued to operate the mine successfully on a small scale until, after the turn of the 20th century, a new company, the Billingsley Colliery Company, was created. [24]

The Billingsley Colliery on the 1902 25″ Ordnance Survey which was published in 1903. [25]

This new company brought great optimism and quickly sought to establish the mine as a significant local player. A connection to the SVR once again became paramount in their plans for the Colliery and a light railway order was sought under the 1896 Act.

The cover of the Order under the Light Railways Act 1896 for the Stottesdon, Kinlet and Billingsley Light Railway, which was made in 1907. [29]

Billingsley Colliery Co. “undertook a major transformation of the mine, including a complete reconstruction of the surface buildings and alteration of the layout – adding a fan-house, lamp room, an electrical powerhouse, carpenters and fitters shops. Electric haulage was installed underground and a rope-hauled narrow gauge tramway built to drop coal tubs down to new railway sidings in a valley at Priors Moor about half a mile away and 300ft lower than the mine site. A new Garden Village was also built for the miners at Highley.” [24]

The Railway was built by 1913. The colliery screens were built at the head of the railway at Priors Moor. Coal came down the Incline was processed and loaded onto wagons. Waste from the screens and pit materials were sent up the Incline to the mine. [24][31]

Leaving the sidings alongside the SVR, the line initially ran parallel to the Kinlet railway, but continued for an extra 1½ miles to the colliery screens at Prior’s Moor. “This had no severe gradients although it did have a number of sharp curves. To work this railway, the Billingsley Colliery Company purchased a second-hand 0-4-0 saddle tank. No 599 built by Peckett’s of Bristol.” [41: p13]

In 1915. Billingsley Colliery was taken over by the Highley Mining Company, this means that they inherited No. 599. As we will see later in this article, they favoured No. 599 over their own locomotive ‘Kinlet’.

Much of the Railway from Kinlet to New England used the earthworks built by Drewitt and Pickering. From New England a spur was created which followed Bind Brook to Priors Moor where it met the narrow gauge ropeway. [31]

This extract from the Bartholomew 0.5 inch to the mile mapping shows the full extent of the Billingsley line. The reversing point at New England can be picked out close to the ‘Ford’ and Billingsley Colliery is at the extreme top-left of the image. There is little detail on the map, which is unsurprising given its scale. [33]

A brickworks opened in Billingsley in the late 1860s and was in use until the start of WW1. An aerial ropeway from the brickworks brought bricks, tiles and other products down to the sidings with coal for the kilns going back to the brickworks. [24][34]

The Colliery itself was relatively prosperous in the years around WW1. It was employing more than 200 men at that time. This prosperity was short-lived, Billingsley Colliery was taken over in 1915 by the Highley Mining Company after it had, had a number of financial and geological difficulties – they also took over the Garden Village housing development in Highley. [24]

The Colliery closed very early in the 1920s. The railway to Priors Moor remained in use until the late 1930s, serving a landsale yard at its terminus near the colliery screens close to Priors Moor. A few of the mine buildings survive and have been turned into farm buildings. The track bed of this railway and some of the bridges survive largely intact. [24]

The landsale yard closed in the 1930s and the railway had been dismantled by the end of 1938. Much of the Billingsley line is now a public footpath; the stretch from Billingsley to New England in Highley forms part of the Jack Mytton Way, a long-distance bridleway. [24][32]

Although initially separate, the Billingsley and Kinlet (see further below) railways were later connected and worked until the closure of Kinlet Colliery in 1937, when the railway was closed. [24]

The Billingsley Railway was about 3 miles in length. It ran along the valley of Borle Brook as far as New England. For much of its life the first section of the line followed the Kinslet line only a metre or two to the North, closer to Borle Brook. The sketch map below is based on a map provided by John Tennent [1: p8] Both the Billingsley Railway and the Kinlet line were gated close to the sidings.

My sketch, based on a segment of a drawing in Tennent’s article. [1: p8]

In its latter years the loop and sidings shown above were removed and along with the branch mainline and a connection was made to the Kinlet line closer to the point at which the steepest gradient of the Kinlet line commenced.

The Billingsley Railway is not shown on any of the extracts from the 25″ (1901/1902) and 6″ Ordnance Survey of 1925 shown in the notes about the Kinlet Colliery further below. I have imposed the approximate route of the line on the 25″ Ordnance Survey of 1901, published in 1902. A red line is shown on the 25″ Ordnance Survey extracts below.

The 25″ OS map extract above shows Kinlet Colliery and its line, the red line imposed on it is the approximate line of the Billingsley Railway. The modern day satellite image shows that the Colliery site and the railway routes are now shrouded in woodland. It is difficult to make out any features. The tributary of Borle Brook which passed under the railway, can just about be made out on the satellite image in the bottom-right. [43]
The view East along the line of the old railway from the point where the Billingsley Colliery line and the Kinlet Colliery line diverged. At the time of the photograph, the area had only very recently been cleared of trees and undergrowth. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
The line to Billingsley Colliery is indicated by the red line to the right, that to Kinley Colliery by the red line to the left. The line to Kinlet Colliery climbed steeply from this point. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
A short distance to the West as the Kinlet Colliery line begins its climb to the colliery, it crosses a tributary of Borle Brook. This is the remaining bridge structure (the abutments and pier and a single iron beam (as the picture below shows). This is the structural remains as seen looking South from the formation of the Billingsley Railway. [My Dolton John Smith, 10th February 2023]
A closer view of the East abutment and the central pier of the bridge. It seems to have been strengthened by a lower brick arch close to the level of the stream. The remaining bridge beam can be seen in this image. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
Looking back to the East along the line of the Billingsley Railway from a point on the line adjacent to the bridge pictured above. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]

There was a culvert provided for this stream when the Billingsley Railway was built. A photograph of the culvert can be seen by following this link. [59]

The SVRWiki website has this picture of a bridge on the line of the Billingsley Railway. I initially thought that this was at this location but the link above indicates that this must be at another location on the line. I have not been able to establish where. The topography does not appear to suit the significant bridges at New England. I’d appreciate any further information that anyone can offer which will allow the location of this photograph to be confirmed. It shows the bridge in 1963 with the trackwork lifted, © Copyright The Selleck Collection and used here under a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 3.0). [57]
The view ahead to the West from the same point. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
The old railway route can be picked out easily on the next 25″ OS Map extract (above) – there are earthworks from the much earlier attempt to build a line to Billingsley and the track/footpath which follows the line of the railway can be picked out on the map and on the modern satellite image. The most prominent feature on the satellite image however, does not appear on the map extract – New Road (B4555). [44]
As can be seen on the map extract and the satellite image above, the railway continued but curved round to a northwesterly direction. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
Further to the Northwest and looking in the same direction. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
Again, further Northwest the line begins to turn West-Northwest. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
The approach to the bridge under New Road.
This OpenStreetMap extract, also provided by the NLS, shows the footpath (which follows the railway route), Borle Brook and New Road. The OpenStreetMap also shows the two bridges which carried New Road over Borle Brook and the railway. Neither can be seen easily from the road. [44]

Tennent tells us that there was a single siding on the South side of the line before the railway passed under a concrete bridge built for New Road. [1: p9] There is, unsurprisingly, no evidence of the sliding at the location in 2023!

Looking Northwest on the approach to the relatively modern overbridge which carried New Road over the old railway. Borle Brook flows off to the right of the image. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
Looking back to the Southeast under the road bridge. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
This photograph shows the culverted Borle Brook as it passes some distance below New Road. The photographer is standing close to the track bed of the old railway on the Northwest side of New Road and looking East, but perhaps 3 metres lower than the line of the Billingsley Railway. [Photograph taken by J.H. Farnworth on 10th February 2023 and included here with kind permission]
About a third of the way along the trackbed between the New Road and Borlemill Bridge, looking North. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
Approaching Borlemill Bank and Borle Mill Bridge along the line of the railway. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
Looking South along the route of the old railway from Borle Mill Bank. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]

The railway encountered the old road a few hundreds of yards to the Northwest of New Road. It crossed the road on the level. The old road, Borle Mill Bank, was very steep at either side of Borle Brook’s valley. Tennent says that, “the crossing gates were linked by wires to two semaphore signals at the top of the gradients on each side of the valley. When the gates closed to the road, the signals went to danger and road users stayed at the top of the hill if they had any doubts about the effectiveness of their brakes. Strangely, the signal arms were painted white or grey but not the usual red. They did, however, display the usual red or green lights at night. The west one was level with the top of Borle Mill Cottage garden and the east one was by the bend in the road near the house at the of the hill.” [1: p9]

This next segment of the mapping and satellite imagery shows the railway crossing Borlemill Bank close to Borle Mill and Borlemill Bridge. [45]
Looking West-southwest along Borl Mill Bank across Borlemill Bridge towards the location of the Billingsley Colliery Railway Crossing which was just to the West of the Bridge. [Google Streetview]
Still looking West-southwest, the red line shows the route of the old railway which is followed by a public footpath. There is a styal for the footpath just this side of the vehicle closest to the camera. [Google Streetview]
A gate protects the footpath as it heads North away from Borle Mill Bank on the line of the old railway. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]

The railway continued North alongside Borle Brook.

North of Borle Mill the line of the old railway crosses what is now open farmland. I have shown the approximate line of the railway on the satellite image as well as the 25″ Ordnance Survey as the route is indistinct. One of the short cuttings is still visible on the satellite image at the third point from the top of the image. [46]
The first field boundary along the line of the old railway. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
The line cut across the fields, alternately running close to the brook and then further away. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
Borle Brook from the line of the old railway. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
The line of the old railway follows Borle Brook closely on the way to New England, a small hamlet which was located just off the North West corner of these map and satellite extracts. [47]
The styal at the entrance to the woodland shown above. The formation of the old railway runs ahead, now close to the brook. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
The railway route alongside Borle Brook as it approached New England. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]

About a mile from Borlemill Bridge, the line crossed a tributary stream and entered a short reversing line. Two bridges crossed the tributary and the ongoing line needed to curve sharply to the South to follow the tributary. The location was known as New England.

An enlarged extract from the 1901 25″ Ordnance Survey which was published in 1902. Note the ford across Borle Brook, the tributary to the South and the row of terraced cottages. This was a reversing point on the line to Prior’s Mill. [48]
The area remains deeply wooded. Most of the evidence of the terrace of cottages has gone, the quarry workings and the route of the old railway are completely hidden by vegetation. An archaeological unit undertook a dig at the site and uncovered the remains of one of the end cottages. The remains are still on display. [48]
The remains of New England Cottages. the reversing point was a few 10s of metres to the South of the lane at this location. [Google Streetview, August 2021]

In 1807 two rows of stone cottages were built at right angles to each other. The cottages were occupied by colliers, woodsmen and labourers. There was also a brick washhouse on the site. By 1918 the cottages were empty and demolished. The footprint of one of the cottages can still be seen,” (as shown in the Google Streetview image above). [49]

The ford on New England Lane crossing Borle Brook. [Google Streetview, August 2021]

In addition to the cottages, there is a ford near the location and the remains of Highley’s first sewage works. The ford by which New England Lane crossed Borle Brook can be seen above. The site of the sewage works can be seen immediately below.

Picnic benches sit at what was the site of the Highley Sewage Works! [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
The information board at the picnic site. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]

Three bridges at this location are shown on the Ordnance Survey below. All are shown with footpaths crossing them. The footpaths over the bridges crossing the tributary are now closed.

The location on Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping in 2023. The footpaths shown follow the old railway’s routes, entering the extract from the right, trains would have crossed the tributary before then reversing up the line to the South. Borle Brook flows from the top-left to the centre-right of this image, the tributary flows from the south towards a confluence with Borle Brook © Crown Copyright. [49]
The Donkey Bridge over Borle Brook. This is the bridge shown on the modern digital OS Map extract above close to the right side (east) of the extract. This bridge carries the Jack Mytton Way and South of it the Jack Mytton Way follows the old railway formation, © Copyright Noisar and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 2.0). [50]
The more northerly of the two rail bridges over the tributary. The deck has collapsed and is now partially blocking the stream. The short length of footpath which crossed the bridge is now closed! [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]

A sequence of three photos of the second bridge follows …..

A view from the footpath to the East of the stream, facing Southwest. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
A view along the Eastern edge-girder of the bridge deck taken from the South. My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
A view from the South across the bridge deck. The footpath beyond the bridge, to the North, is barriered-off but it remains possible to walk out over the bridge to look up and down the stream. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]

After reversing at New England, trains crossed the tributary stream and followed its East bank to Priors Moor. There it terminated at the colliery screens.

The green dotted line on this extract from the OpenStreetMap shows the approximate line of the public footpath which follows the old railway formation. The detail at the confluence of Borle Brook with its tributary stream (top-right) does not quite match the Ordnance Survey extract above. This length of the railway formation now carries part of the Jack Mytton Way. [51]
Ths extract from the OpenStreetMap website shows the main areas of interest on this section of the line. [54]
After running to the South, the line turned to the West, heading toward Priors Mill. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
For a time, the footpath along the route was no more than a narrow path, but it widened out to cover the full width of the formation of the old railway. Ahead, the formation crosses the line of a stream on the bridge shown below. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
A small-span girder bridge which carried the old railway over a minor stream. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
The same bridge in monochrome, shared on the Highley Forum by ‘badgerbrad’ and included here by kind permission of the photographer. [61]
Approaching the Priors Mill site near Ray’s Bridge the line passed over the site weighbridge. This is what remains of the weighbridge office. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
After the weighbridge, the line curved to the right. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
The line then curved round to run alongside the screens. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]

Priors Moor, the terminus of the standard-gauge Billingsley Railway: The railway terminated at the Billingsley Colliery screens at Priors Moor. Tennent tells us that “just before the terminus, a single road engine shed was passed on the right. The colliery was situated some 200 feet above the valley near Billingsley village and was connected to the screens by means of a rope-worked narrow-gauge tramway incline. The screens and railway yard were partly constructed on a girder bridge above the stream and this structure can still be seen from the adjacent road.” [1: p9-10]

We did not see any remnants of the engine shed on our site visit on 3rd February 2023. We found the channelled length of the stream and the culvert which carried the stream under the screens.

The walled channel of the diverted stream. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
Another view of the walled channel of the diverted stream. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
The East end of the culvert which supported the screens. The walled channel of the diverted stream. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
Another view of the East portal of the culvert. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
A view across the far end of the culvert towards Ray’s Bridge. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
The West end of the culvert which supported the screens, seen from the North. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]

The yard was also the terminus of a short-lived aerial ropeway serving a brick works near the Cape of Good Hope Inn. It seems that the brickworks were reopened in 1914. Tennent tells us that this was intended to “provide bricks for miners’ houses at the “New Village” at Highley … [The ropeway had a short working life as, following a dispute with the local council, building work ceased and the ropeway closed just a year after opening. It was not dismantled until 1937-38 when the railway was lifted. … The delivery of bricks was unbelievably complicated – ropeway to Priors Moor, Billingsley Railway to Kinlet Sidings, GWR to Highley Station and steam lorry to the building site. The latter caused complaints as it cut up the roads.” [1: p11]

The AditNow website has a number of photographs of the Priors Moor location, all of these were provided by I.A. Recordings. Rather than showing the images here, links are provided to the most relevant pictures to the Priors Moor site: [52]

Tennent provides an excellent monochrome postcard view of the Priors Moor site [1: p10] which shows that the sidings had four lines. The same image (below) was shared on the Bewdley Past Facebook Group in 2018.

Billingsley Colliery screens and sidings in around 1915. This image was shared by Andy Pye on the Bewdley Past Facebook Group on 29th March 2018. The image was published as a postcard in 1916. The screens and aerial ropeway were driven by electric motors powered by a steam generator at the colliery, © Reg Southern. [55]

Steam on the Billingsley Railway

Peckett & Sons Ltd. W4 Class 0-4-0ST (Works No. 599)

This locomotive was built in May 1895 for “Christopher Rowland, a shunting contractor of Swansea Docks: the works photograph shows that it carried “R No. 4” on its tank indicating that it was his fourth locomotive. In August 1891 Rowland was given a contract by the Swans Harbour Trust to load and discharge ballast and cargoes at the docks. … His business continued until his death in 1910 when it is probable that his work was taken over by Powesland and Mason, the main shunting contractors at the docks.” [41: p13]

No. 599 seems to have become surplus to requirements at this time and “was sold to C.D. Phillips, an engine dealer of Newport. … [by] May 1913 … the engine had probably been acquired by the Billingsley Colliery Company. William Foxlee, a director of the Billingsley Colliery Company was also a railway engineer who admired the products of Peckett’s Atlas works; he may have recommended purchase of [No.] 599.” [41: p13]

Several hundred of Peckett’s W4 Class locos were built over a period of 20 years from 1886. “As built, it was of peculiar appearance as it was adapted for extensive street running. … The wheels and coupling rods were hidden behind hinged panels and the exhaust steam from the cylinders was not discharged into the air but was led back by pipes to the tank where it was silently condensed. It is likely that, if these modifications still exited in 1913, they were removed by the Billingsley Colliery Company. The cab had no side panels above waist height as originally built, it is possible that more protection would have been offered to the crew when the engine ran to Billingsley.” [41: p13]

The Highley Mining Company bought Billingsley Colliery in 1915. When Billingsley Colliery closed in 1921. Poyner suggests that they favoured the 0-4-0ST which it seems was more than capable of managing the 1 in 15 incline and was more able to negotiate the sharp curves on the Billingsley Colliery line. It was retained and ‘Kinlet’ was sold.

Kinlet Colliery and Railway

Kinlet Sidings as shown on the 6″ Ordnance Survey as revised in 1925 and published in 1929. The line running to the West at the top of the extract serves the Colliery. The bridge shown at the top of this map extract is the Viaduct over Borle Brook which is illustrated in the section of this article about the Billingsley Railway. There is a signal box shown immediately South of the Viaduct and to the East of the SVR. [30]

The first siding for the Highley Mining Company’s Kinlet Colliery was sanctioned for use by the Board of Trade on 9 October 1895. It was situated a short distance south of Borle Viaduct, and had a single south-facing connection to the main line. The GWR subsequently entered into a contract for coal from the colliery, and in 1899 the sidings were greatly enlarged and connected to a 320 yard loop off the main line, accessed by a ground frame at each end. The Kinlet Sidings North ground frame was located on the left (west of the line) at 142 miles 9 chains, and Kinlet Sidings South ground frame on the right (east of the line) at 142 miles 3.9 chains.” [58]

When the New Billingsley Colliery Company applied to the GWR for siding accommodation in 1911. This was provided at the point where Kinlet traffic was already dealt with.

To handle the increased traffic from both collieries, a new signal box was opened in December 1913. Unlike all other signal boxes on the line, it was able to switch out, presumably only being open when required. The Signalling Record Society holds a document (SRS200701006) dated 16/08/1911, which references the new connection to Billingsley Colliery, including the provision of the new signal box. There are records of new tablet machines being provided in Arley and Highley signalboxes, used for long section working (short section working was by staff). The tablet machines on the long section were later replaced by token instruments. The box is recorded by the SRS as having 38 levers, making it one of the largest on the SVR. Of these, 32 were operational and 6 were spare. Presumably the existing ground frames were removed when the signal box was commissioned.” [57][58: p133]

Both of the lines to Billingsley Colliery and Kinlet Colliery “were removed at some time before 1941. The Highley Mining Company established a wagon repair works at the location, so when the signal box was closed in March 1943, it was replaced by two ground frames, once again referred to as Kinlet Sidings North ground frame and Kinlet Sidings South ground frame. These were locked by the electric train token for the Arley-Highley section. There was also an intermediate token machine provided in a cabin in the middle of the loop. Working Time Tables from 1948, 1949 and 1960 refer to these arrangements.” [57][58: p97]

The Kinlet Colliery Railway followed the line of the abortive earlier railway to Billingsley an reuses the groundworks highlighted on the 1883 Ordnance Survey as discussed ib the section about the Billingsley Railway above. This extract is also from the 1925 Survey. [30]
Passing to the South of Logmill Cottages the Colliery Light Railway continues westward towards Kinlet Colliery. [30]
The site of Kinlet Colliery as shown on the 1925 6″ Ordnance Survey. For some reason there is no record on this map series of the line to Priors Mill which was still in place until the mid- to late-1930s! The colliery incline started to the East of the bridge shown on the right of this map extract. [30] My pictures of this bridge are included in this article in the section about the Billingsley Railway above.

Further pictures of the bridge in the map extract above and of Kinlet Colliery buildings as they were in 2013 can be found by following this link and then scrolling through to the relevant pictures. [60]

In June 1885, agreement was reached with the Kinlet Estate of William Lacon Childe to bore for coal at the site of the proposed colliery. But it was not until 1892 that a shaft reached “the Brooch Seam – a good quality coal seam about 3ft. 9in. thick. Production started in the late 1890s, with the completion of the railway.” [39]

The Aditnow website records that “a large horizontal steam winding engine house was built in 1896, which wound from the Upcast shaft. Steam was provided by 4 Lancashire boilers. A fan house at the rear of the large winder house worked on the Downcast or ‘Back’ shaft – a small horizontal winder also worked this shaft.” [40]

Screens were erected around the upcast shaft, with coal being loaded into railway wagons and sent down an incline to join the branch line from Billingsley Colliery and eventually the GWR main line of what is now the Severn Valley Railway.” [40] David Poyner notes that the 300-yard length of the colliery line closest to the pit was at a gradient of 1 in 15. [41: p13] He further suggests that the locomotive ‘Kinlet’ (see below) was able to bring empty wagons up the 1 in 15 gradient. [41: p13]

‘Aditnow’ also notes that “there was a brickworks on the West side of the large horizontal winding engine house, with the colliery loco shed at the top of the incline with a spur running round the hillside between the winder and headframe.” [40]

There were hopes of finding additional seams, but these never materialised. Much of the seam consisted of basalt, which formed a hard rock mass difficult to cut through and destructive of the colliery screens.  Conditions did eventually improve to the north of the shafts, but working Kinlet was never easy. Nevertheless it grew from employing about 150 men at the turn of the century to twice that by the start of the First World War with an output of about 50,000 tons a year.” [39]

The colliery closed in 1935 [1: p12] and was subsequently abandoned “in September 1937, when the leases on the Kinlet Estate expired. The mine had proved impossible to mechanise, and there were continued problems with basalt having burnt out the coal; ironically, at the time of closure, the workings entered some of the best ground ever encountered at the mine.”  [39]

Steam at Kinlet

‘Kinlet’ – Andrew Barclay 0-6-0ST (Works No. 782)

Andrew Barclay 0-6-0ST (Works No. 782) ‘Kinlet’ (1896) at Blists Hill, Ironbridge Gorge Museum in 2009,
(c) Copyright Gillett’s Crossing, authorised for use here under a Creative commons Licence (CC BY 2.0) [56]

Andrew Barclay built a locomotive in 1896 which was supplied to Kinlet Colliery and named ‘Kinlet’ it was an 0-6-0ST loco (Works No. 782). In the 21st century, it is held undercover at Blists Hill.  

The locomotive was sold to H S Pitt & Co at Pensnett near Dudley and moved there in 1938 to work at the coal depot. It worked there until around 1966 when it was replaced by a Rushton diesel. Whilst at Pesnett the locomotive carried the name Peter.” [39]

Tennent is less sure about the date when the locomotive moved to H S Pitt and Co. suggesting that the date might have been earlier since he records the purchase of a replacement engine in 1929. [1: p13]

Poyner suggests that the date of sale was probably the end of December 2021. [41: p14]

Peckett & Sons Ltd. W4 Class 0-4-0ST (Works No. 599)

This locomotive (see the details provided above under the heading ‘Steam on the Billingsley Railway’) was inherited by the Highley Mining Company when they took over the Billingsley Colliery in 1915. It worked alongside ‘Kinlet’ until ‘Kinlet’ was sold and No. 599 then continued working for the Company until 1929 when a Hawthorn Leslie 0-4-0ST was purchased.

Hawthorn Leslie 0-4-0ST (Works No. 3424)

It seems that No. 599 was replaced by this locomotive which probably remained in service until the closure of the colliery. This loco was built in 1919 and “obtained,” says Tennent, “from Thos W. Ward in 1929. Later, this locomotive went to the Steel Company of Scotland via Thos W. Ward. Possibly it was about when the colliery closed but another engine was acquired from Ward’s Charlton Works at Sheffield in 1937.” [1: p13]

The history of the locomotive is interesting. I was sent new “to India, to work on a railway system belonging to the City of Bombay Improvement Trust. When this was wound up it was returned to the UK probably being purchased by Wards for resale. … it had very similar specifications to the Peckett. The probability is that by 1929, the Peckett was considered to be at the end of its working life: its fate is not known but it may have been scrapped after over 15 years service at Billingsley and Kinlet. An added consideration is that from 1929-30 the Billingsley railway saw extra traffic connected with the construction of a new road following the valley of the Borle Brook by Shropshire County Council. It may be that [No.] 3424 was purchased with one eye on these extra duties. It probably had a short tenure at Kinlet. For, in 1933, Ward supplied another engine to the Highley Mining Company.” [41: p14]

Hudswell Clarke 0-4-0ST (Works No. 1401)

This locomotive was built in 1920 and worked at first for the Darton Main Colliery Company in Yorkshire It was purchased by the colliery from Thos W. Ward. Tennet indicates that this purchase took place in 1937. Tennent suggests that it may have been required for the clearance of the railway and colliery “because it left in 1941 for W. Gilbertson & Co Ltd, Pontardawe in Glamorganshire.” [1: p13] Poyner’s view, above, is that this locomotive replaced No. 3424 as early as 1933. [41: p14] He goes on to suggest that No.1401 may well have left Kinlett in 1937, rather than 1941. Poyner provides details of a further locomotive which saw employment with the Highley Mining Company at Kinlet.

Andrew Barclay 0-6-0ST (Works No. 1113)

This locomotive was built in 1907 for the Shelton Iron and Steel Company in Stoke and named ‘Bowood’. Poyner says that “the existence of this locomotive at Kinlet is known only from a photograph, showing the engine with a footplate crew of Highley Mining Company staff, and the associated oral evidence.” [41: p14]

Poyner goes on to explain that ‘Bowood’ must have arrived at Kinlet after May 1936, as it was photographed at the previous owners premises on 16th May 1936. [41: p14][42] He goes on to relate how the locomotive arrived at Kinlet: “The Shelton Iron and Steel Company operated the nearby Holditch Colliery via a subsidiary. In July 1937, this was put out of use by an explosion. This may have resulted in the steel company having surplus locomotives at exactly the time the Highley Mining Company was looking for a new engine to work their salvage trains. The board of the Highley Mining Company was mostly made up of individuals from north Staffordshire, and so they may have had links with the Shelton company, making it easy for them to either purchase or, more likely, hire the engine, Bowood was substantially more powerful than any machine that had previously worked at Kinlet. … It is possible it was obtained specifically to work heavier than usual trains to help the dismantling work. This stretched well into 1938; hard core was used from Kinlet pit mound for earthworks at the new screens being built for Alveley Colliery. It is not known what happened to 1401 after Bowood arrived: it may have been left straight away although it is possible that it was retained to work alongside Bowood to help with salvage. perhaps allowing recovery work to take place simultaneously on both the Kinlet and Billingsley lines. In 1938 Bowood returned to North Staffordshire, arriving at the Florence Colliery of the Florence Coal & Iron Co Ltd. a subsidiary of the Shelton company. It eventually [was] transferred to Holditch Colliery in March 1960 by the National Coal Board, where it was scrapped in 1964.” [41: p14-15]

The Later Years of Highley Mining Company

In the late 1920s, the Highley Mining Co was looking for new reserves of coal in the area. It established that the coal beyond the River Severn at Alveley was of good quality. A single shaft was  (11) sunk there in 1935 but the Highley Colliery shafts were retained for ventilation and emergency access because there was good underground communication between the two pits. Alveley Colliery involved the use of modern equipment with coal cutters, electricity and underground conveyors progressively replacing pit ponies. It was connected to a new set of screens next to the Severn Valley Railway by an endless cable-worked narrow gauge tramway which crossed the river on a concrete bridge. The tramway was replaced later by an aerial ropeway. All coal and men haulage transferred to Alveley in 1940 marking the end of Highley Colliery.

Kinlet Colliery had closed in 1935 and been abandoned in September 1937 when the lease on the estate had expired. It had proved difficult to modernise the colliery and there were geological problems. The railway was lifted about 1940 and it had all gone by July 1941.

Kinlet Sidings had consisted of three parallel loops to the west of the Severn Valley Railway line just south of the bridge over the Borle Brook. A signal box was provided on the east side of the layout and the Kinlet and Billingsley railways had separate exits at the north end of the yard. Each exit was provided with a gate. The lines then ran parallel to each other along the valley of the Borle Brook. Both became double on leaving the yard but soon singled again. There was latterly one, possibly two, connections between the lines hereabouts and a weighbridge on the Kinlet track. The Kinlet railway soon began to climb the south side of the valley, while the Billingsley railway remained on the valley floor alongside the brook. The One Inch Ordnance Survey map of the period mistakenly shows only one line here. The Billingsley Railway suffers the indignity of not appearing on large scale maps as it came and went between two surveys; the One Inch detail being taken from a corrected earlier large scale sheet, now destroyed. The Kinlet Railway soon reached Kinlet Colliery perched high on the valley side and terminated at a single-road engine shed, the various sidings trailing back from a point just short of the shed.

As to the locomotives used on the Kinlet line, the Highley Mining Co purchased the new Andrew Barclay six-coupled saddle tank number 782 in 1896 presumably for the opening of the colliery. It had the following inscription painted on its tank – HIGHLEY MINING CO LD “KINLET”. The apostrophes appear to indicate that it was named KINLET and that the word was not just part of the address. It was sold to Guy Pitt & Co Ltd of Shutt End, Staffordshire at some date, being noted there by November 1946. Named PETER, it remained at Shutt End for the rest of its working life before being transferred to the Ironbridge Gorge Museum for preservation. It was replaced at Kinlet by Hawthorn Leslie 0-4-0 saddle tank, maker’s number 3424 of 1919, obtained from Thos W. Ward in 1929. Later, this locomotive went to the Steel Company of Scotland via Thos W. Ward. Possibly it was about when the colliery closed but another engine was acquired from Ward’s Charlton Works at Sheffield in 1937. This was a four-coupled saddle tank, Hudswell Clarke 1401 of 1920; it may have been needed for the site clearance because it left in 1941 for W. Gilbertson & Co Ltd, Pontardawe in Glamorganshire.

The loss of Highley and Kinlet Collieries was not felt by the mining company as, by 1945, Alveley was producing almost 250,000 tons of coal, more than the output of the earlier two combined. With the market for coal contracting, Alveley Colliery closed in January 1969, but remained active until March for clearance operations and so ended coal production in the area. The waste tips at Alveley have been landscaped into a country park and, amongst the relics on display, are two tramway tubs, one old wooden type and one modern metal one.

References

  1. John Tennent; The Railways of the Highley Mining Company; in ‘The Industrial Railway Record’ No. 250, September 2022, p7-13.
  2. D. Poyner & R. Evans: The Wyre Forest Coalfield; Tempus, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2000.
  3. M. Shaw, D. Poyner & R. Evans; Aerial Ropeways of Shropshire; Shropshire Caving & Mining Club, 2015.
  4. https://maps.nls.uk/view/121153529, accessed on 17th January 2023.
  5. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=17.1&lat=52.44523&lon=-2.37060&layers=168&b=1, accessed on 17th January 2023.
  6. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=17.1&lat=52.44363&lon=-2.37060&layers=168&b=1, accessed on 17th January 2023.
  7. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=17.1&lat=52.44510&lon=-2.37402&layers=168&b=1, accessed on 17th January 2023.
  8. https://www.svrwiki.com/Collieries_served_by_the_Severn_Valley_Railway#Alveley_Colliery, accessed on 24th January 2023.
  9. https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g2056585-d6612408-Reviews-Severn_Valley_Country_Park-Alveley_Shropshire_England.html, accessed on 24th January 2023.
  10. http://www.alveleyhistoricalsociety.org/mining.html, accessed on 24th January 2023.
  11. https://maps.nls.uk/view/239291761, accessed on 24th January 2023.
  12. https://maps.nls.uk/view/197236508, accessed on 24th January 2023.
  13. https://maps.nls.uk/view/189234258, accessed on 24th January 2023.
  14. https://maps.nls.uk/view/189234249, accessed on 24th January 2023.
  15. George & David Poyner; The Surface Haulage at Alveley Colliery; in ‘Below’, the quarterly journal of the Shropshire Caving and Mining Club, Winter Issue 2002.4, 2002; viewed online at https://www.shropshirecmc.org.uk/below/2002_4w.pdf, accessed on 24th January 2023.
  16. https://m.facebook.com/groups/238304664346000/permalink/715859019923893, accessed on 24th January 2023.
  17. https://maps.nls.uk/view/197236505, accessed on 24th January 2023.
  18. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highley_railway_station, accessed on 24th January 2023.
  19. https://www.nmrs.org.uk/mines-map/coal-mining-in-the-british-isles/shropshire, accessed on 26th January 2023.
  20. https://www.shropshirestar.com/news/local-hubs/bridgnorth/2019/01/19/history-day-marks-50-years-since-pit-closure, accessed on 26th January 2023.
  21. https://www.shropshirecmc.org.uk/below/2004_1w.pdf, accessed on 26th January 2023.
  22. https://maps.nls.uk/view/189234249, accessed on 26th January 2023.
  23. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=17.0&lat=52.44415&lon=-2.37124&layers=193&b=1, accessed on 26th January 2023.
  24. https://www.aditnow.co.uk/Mines/Billingsley-Coal-Colliery_9556, accessed on 26th January 2023.
  25. https://maps.nls.uk/view/121152875, accessed on 26th January 2023.
  26. http://www.highley.org.uk/railhist.html, assessed on 26th January 2023.
  27. https://maps.nls.uk/view/101595358, accessed on 27th January 2023.
  28. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=17.0&lat=52.44943&lon=-2.40133&layers=6&b=1, accessed on 27th January 2023.
  29. https://transportpasttimes.co.uk/railway-light-railway-orders/stottesdon-kinlet-billingsley-light-railway-order-1908.html, accessed on 28th January 2023.
  30. https://maps.nls.uk/view/101585827, accessed on 28th January 2023.
  31. http://www.highley.org.uk/page27.html, accessed on 28th January 2023.
  32. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Mytton_Way, accessed on 28th January 2023.
  33. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=14.5&lat=52.45071&lon=-2.39843&layers=192&b=1&marker=53.260932,-2.4960864, accessed on 28th January 2023.
  34. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billingsley,_Shropshire, accessed on 28th January 2023.
  35. https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=10222540093745946&set=pcb.3020627781514789, accessed on 12th February 2023.
  36. https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=10222540093505940&set=pcb.3020627781514789, accessed on 12th February 2023.
  37. https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=3370620066526324&set=gm.1787159831657761&idorvanity=1515738962133184, accessed on 12th February 2023.
  38. https://www.facebook.com/ShropshireStar/photos/a.10150113631596009/10159206874136009, accessed on 12th February 2023.
  39. https://preservedbritishsteamlocomotives.com/works-no-782-kinlet-0-6-0st, accessed on 31st January 2023.
  40. https://www.aditnow.co.uk/Mines/Kinlet-Colliery-Coal-Colliery_9453 accessed on 31st January 2023.
  41. David Poyner; Railway Locomotives of the Highley Mining Company and Billingsley Colliery Company; in ‘Below’, the quarterly journal of the Shropshire Caving and Mining Club, Autumn Issue 2013.3, 2013, p13-15; viewed online at https://www.shropshirecmc.org.uk/below/2013_3w.pdf, accessed on 31st January 2023.
  42. Industrial Locomotive No. 4, 1977 – backcover.
  43. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=17.0&lat=52.43491&lon=-2.38261&layers=168&b=1, accessed on 31st January 2023.
  44. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=17.0&lat=52.43788&lon=-2.39153&layers=168&b=8, accessed on 31st January 2023.
  45. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=17.0&lat=52.44155&lon=-2.39486&layers=168&b=1, accessed on 31st January 2023.
  46. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=17.0&lat=52.44495&lon=-2.39721&layers=168&b=8, 1st February 2023.
  47. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=17.0&lat=52.44875&lon=-2.40118&layers=168&b=1, accessed on 1st February 2023.
  48. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=18.0&lat=52.45139&lon=-2.40514&layers=168&b=1, accessed on 1st February 2023.
  49. http://www.shropshiresgreatoutdoors.co.uk/site/new-england, accessed on 1st February 2023.
  50. https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/5964987, accessed on 1st February 2023.
  51. https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=16/52.4483/-2.4129, accessed on 1st February 2023.
  52. https://www.aditnow.co.uk/Photos/Mine/Billingsley-Coal-Colliery_9556, accessed on 1st February 2023.
  53. https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/184659247141?mkcid=16&mkevt=1&mkrid=711-127632-2357-0&ssspo=y1qm-Gs2Qtu&sssrc=2349624&ssuid=afQhrar7TGK&var=&widget_ver=artemis&media=COPY, accessed on 2nd February 2023.
  54. https://www.openstreetmap.org, accessed on 3rd February 2023.
  55. https://www.facebook.com/groups/942854255808092/permalink/1645176155575895, accessed on 3rd February 2023.
  56. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Andrew_Barclay_0-6-0ST_782_%27Kinlet%27_(1896)Blists_Hill,_Ironbridge_Gorge_Museum_19.08.09_222795_031_06(10253536205).jpg, accessed on 4th February 2023.
  57. https://www.svrwiki.com/File:Billingsley-Line-Abandoned-1963-08-14.jpeg, accessed on 13th February 2023.
  58. John Marshall; The Severn Valley Railway; David St John Thomas, Nairn, Scotland,1991.
  59. https://www.aditnow.co.uk/Photo/Billingsley-Colliery-Branch-Line-Culvert_85758, accessed on 13th February 2023.
  60. https://www.aditnow.co.uk/Photo/Kinlet-Colliery-Branch-Railway-Bridge_85757, accessed on 13th February 2023.
  61. https://www.mylocalforum.co.uk/area/highley-shropshire-2418/general-highley-discussion-168/billingsley-colliery-railway-remains-149673, accessed on 3rd February 2023.

Railways Around Bridgnorth – Part 1

The Billingsley Plateway

Highley, and the area immediately around, it has a long industrial history and the remains of numerous railways and tramways can be seen today. At the end of the 18th century coal mines and a blast furnace were opened in Billingsley. The story is recounted by Poyner and Evans in their history of the Wyre Coalfield: [13: Chapter 5]

“By the late 1770s, coal mining was well established in Billingsley with a water wheel being used to drain the mines … but unfortunately the owners of this colliery have not been recorded. There then follows a brief unrecorded period until the start of the 1790s, by which time much of Billingsley was owned by Sir William Pulteney, M.P. for Shrewsbury; a man with land-ownings over much of the country. Pulteney was an able politician and keen businessman; the patron of Thomas Telford, he would have been well aware of the potential value of the coal beneath his lands. As a national figure, he would have been able to obtain the advice of the best mining engineers in the country, and this must have led him to Newcastle to obtain the services of George Johnson.”

Johnson was one of the premier colliery viewers in the land, with international experience as a consultant. Thus by 1794, Johnson had put together a consortium of Newcastle-based landowners and professionals to go into partnership to lease the coal under Pulteney’s land. His backers included William Chapman, a noted engineer, Sir John Gray, an M.P. and most significantly Henry Gray MacNab, his brother-in-law. Trained at St. Andrews University as a physician, by the early 1790’s MacNab was established as an influential figure in the North-Eastern coal trade, with a number of pamphlets to his name. In June 1794 the draft leases were signed, and soon work began at Billingsley, initially using at least some men brought down especially from the North-East.

One of the first problems the partnership had to overcome was the lack of effective transport in the area. Billingsley was on the Bridgnorth-Cleobury Turnpike, but that was in no condition to take heavy coal traffic. A way had to be found to move the coal onto the River Severn. The first idea was for a canal, partly along the Borle Brook, possibly with an extension all the way to the limeworks at Oreton. It was at this point that a future thorn in the side of the works first became apparent, with the implacable opposition of William Lacon Childe to the mine. Childe’s property bordered Pultney’s estate on the south; more significantly he controlled the only practical route from Billingsley to the Severn at Highley. The canalisation of the Borle needed his wholesale co-operation, and this was not forthcoming. Childe’s motives for opposing the mines are not entirely obvious; he was not against collieries per se, as he had small working mines on his own estate. He claimed that the large mine at Billingsley could force these to close, ultimately forcing up the price of coal in the district. Childe was also a committed countryman. He was in the forefront of agricultural improvement, and also was a keen huntsman. He may have feared the impact of large-scale mining on all of this. Whatever his motives, he succeeded in killing off the canal. Instead the partners constructed a horse-operated plateway, following the line of the Borle Brook but as far as possible on the opposite side of the bank from Childe’s land. Even this was not entirely possible, for in Highley they did have to cross through a short section of his land. Childe drove a hard bargain, for he made the Partners lease the Birch Colliery and connect it to their plateway by means of a branch. As the Birch was a small mine working the Sulphur Coal (see above), it was of no value to Johnson & Co., but they had little choice in the matter.

The coal and iron were brought alongside the Borle Brook through Highley by a horse-worked tramway to the River Severn where they were sent downstream in boats. The “tramway worked for no more than 15 years, but its route can still largely be traced on the North side of Borle Brook, running via shallow embankments and cuttings. A little later the Stanley Colliery (1804-1823) opened close to the site of the present Highley Station and this was also served by tramways, as were the numerous sandstone quarries by the river.”

[13: Chapter 5 (of ‘The Wyre Forest Coalfield’) – quoted here with the kind permission of David Poyner]

As we have noted, Stanley Colliery was just to the South of Highley Station. It was worked for that short period at the beginning of the 19th century in the sulphur coal at a depth of about 100 yards; the Brooch seam worked by the Highley Colliery was a further 200 yards below this. Stanley Colliery “is partially overlain by the trackbed of the Severn Valley Railway and sidings built by the HMCo. [Highley Mining Company] There are also extensive remains of the stone quarries which worked in this area from perhaps the Middle Ages to the 19th Century.” [1]

Ray Shill also mentions the tramroad/plateway to Billingsley: “Billingsley Coal and Iron
works was … served by an iron railway laid with iron rails and sleepers. The Billingsley
railway, owned by iron master George Stokes, was about two miles long and included an incline to the Severn, a sale of 1818 mentioned the incline
.”[8][9]

The old tramroad/plateway/tramway/railway route is shown below on a series of extracts from the 6″ Ordnance Survey revised in 1925 and published in 1929. Where possible I have also provided photographs taken on site.

The old tramroad route is now a footpath on the North side of Borle Brook. It is highlighted on this 6″ OS Map extract by the light blue line. South of Borle Brook. the later mineral railway serving Kinlet Colliery is also shown on the base maps. [3]
Brooksmouth: the cast-iron arched bridge across Borle Brook just upstream of its confluence with the River Severn. This view looks to the North alongside the Severn. The wharf for the old tramway would have been beyond the bridge. The bridge is shown at the bottom right of the OS map extract above, close to the River Severn. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]

Brooksmouth Bridge is a small cast iron footbridge, via which the towpath on the west bank of the River Severn crosses Borle Brook downstream from Borle Viaduct. It is a Grade II Listed Building under the name ‘Footbridge over Borle Brook.’” [23]

The bridge consists of an elliptical arch with a slightly curving path, the spandrels being filled by conjoined diminishing circles. The balustrades, half of one side of which has been renewed, have an elongated diamond pattern. The stretcher bars across the main arch are inscribed ‘Coalbrookdale Company 1828’. The cast-iron foot plates appear to remain intact. The abutments are of sandstone with string courses and parapets, one side of both of the latter replaced in brick.” [23][24]

The bridge was built by The Coalbrookdale Company of Ironbridge in 1828, pre-dating the building of the Severn Valley Railway by more than 30 years. At that time goods traffic was transported on the River Severn in barges called Severn Trows. These were hauled upstream against the current by horses, or by men known as ‘bow hauliers’, making use of the towpath.” [23]

Facing downstream alongside the River Severn towards the confluence of Borle Brook and the Severn. this photograph shows part of the area which would have encompassed the wharf which allowed transfer of loads to and from Billingsley to barges on the Severn. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
Looking North alon the West bank of the River Severn. This area will have been busy in the distant past with waggons from Billinsley unloading at the wharf onto Severn trows. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
Standing on the West bank of the River Severn looking along the line of the old plateway/tramroad which curved to the right beyond the field gate. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
The old tramroad curved round to follow the North bank of Borle Brook, passing under the viaduct as shown by the red line. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]

The old tramroad predated the Severn Valley Railway by many years. “Like other bridges on the Severn Valley Railway, it was built with the capacity for dual tracks but only ever installed for single line running. The viaduct is 42 yards in length, with four arches of 25ft span. Fishermen’s Crossing lies a few yards to the north, with the site of the former Kinlet and Billingsley Sidings a similar distance to the south. … The viaduct has suffered from mining subsidence over the years. Regular re-ballasting to overcome this … resulted in the line being above the original parapet walls.” [25] No edge protection on the viaduct was provided prior to preservation but post and rail fencing were added in the years after the viaduct was taken over by the preservation society. Significant maintenance was undertaken in preservation, first in 1977 and then in 2019.

Looking back towards the viaduct along the line of the old tramroad. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
Lookinf West along the line of the tramroad from the same position as the picture immediately above. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
Leaving the field close to the Severn Valley Railway, we were glad that we were walkign the line in the winter months with vegetation much less dense than in warmer times. We had to clamber over an old wooden gate which was held shut by barbed wire and not in good condition. The route of the old tramroad was difficult to determine in places. This picture looks West and shows a very shallow embankment along the line of must have been the route of the tramroad. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
Looking West again, some sections of the old tramroad route through the first length of woodland were easier to walk. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
Again looking West, the field gate provides access to a riverside meadow. The gate is approximately on the line of the old tramroad. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
Looking East along the line of the tramroad from the field gate in the picture above. The lightly used footpath follows the line. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
The route continues to the West running very close to the North bank of Borle Brook. This 1925 Survey show the location of Kinlet Colliery at the lefthand (West) side of the extract.  [3]
Just a little further West, this photo shows the field gate which appears in the pictures immediately above and shows the woodland that we had just traversed. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
Much easier going following the line to the West, at least while we were in the meadow. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
At the end of the meado, the kissing gate gave access to an area of significantly disturbed ground which may have suffered some movement towards Borle Brook in the past. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
Looking back East from within what would be dense vegetation in the Summer. The ground was soft and significantly broken up. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
Looking West again. The tramroad route heads to the right of the compound visible ahead and at that point joins New Road. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
This OpenStreetMap extract, provided by the NLS shows New Road which over the area of this extract follows the line of the old tramroad as far as the footpath (shown grey on the map extract) which itself follows the line of the old tramroad. [22]
Looking Southeast along New Road with the aforementioned compound on the right. The old tramroad route is followed by New Road from this point for a few hundred metres. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
Looking Northwest along New Road. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
Just as New Road swings sharply to the left to cross first Borle Book and then the line of the later Billinsgley Railway, the tramroad diverged to the right into what is now heavy undergrowth. The red line shows its approximate route. At the centre of this image, to the right of the road, the footpath sign can be seen leaning against a tree. [My photograph, 10th February 2023]
The old tramroad followed the North bank of Borle Brook as the course of the brook heads northwards. [3]

The images below show the route of the tramroad approaching Borle Mill from the Southeast.

The tramroad passed to the East of Borle Mill near Borlemill Bridge. [4]
This first photograph was taken a little to the North of the point where New Road crosses the line of the old tramroad. It looks North towards Borle Mill. New Road does not appear on the Ordnance Survey of 1925. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
This photo looks North along the old tramroad from a point much closer to Borle Mill. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
The old tramroad crossed Borle Mill Bank directly ahead of the camera and ran along the valley side. The footpath turns away from the line of the tramroad from this point for a few hundred metres so as to avoid private land. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
The tramroad continued in a northerly direction to the East the Mill Race. The footpath has been diverted to run closer to Borle Brook as far as the weir shown on this map extract. It returns to the tramroad alignment at that point. [5]
Facing to the South along the route of the old tramroad at the point where the footpath leaves the old tramroad. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
Looking North along the line of the tramroad from the same point. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
Facing South towards the field boundary which crosses the line of the old tramroad to the North of the weir. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
We were walking South along the tramroad rather than Northwards. Just after the photograph above was taken, we were joined by two gentle friends. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
Looking South into the field in which the sheep live, from the North side of the field boundary at the bottom-right of the next map extract. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
Looking Northwest from the same point. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
The tramroad continued alongside Borle Brook in a Northwesterly direction. [6]
Looking in a Northwesterly direction along an embankment which carried the tramroad to a bridge over a small tributary of Borle Brook. All that is left of the bridge is a gap in the embankment. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
Another Northwesterly facing photo looking along the line of the tramroad. For much of the length between Borle Mill and New England the footpath is wide enough to occupy the full width of the formation of the old tramroad. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
Looking Northwest and approaching New England the old tramroad passed through a narrow but relatively shallow cutting. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
Looking Southeast along the line of the tramroad from close to New England. This is the Northwestern end of the cutting in the last photograph. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
The line of the old tramroad can relatively easily be followed as far as New England, where for a very short diatance the tramroad followed the verge of the road before turning away to the West as the lane dropped down to ford Borle Brook. There is archaeological evidence, close to the Ford shown on this map extract, of a tramroad bridge over Borle Brook which indicates that the tramroad continued along the line of the footpath shown on this extract from the 1882 Ordnance Survey, published in 1883, to the West of Borle Brook. [7]
The old bridge abutment is in the undergrowth to the left side of this image. Borle Brook is further to the left. Close to the level of the tramroad and roughly at road level today is an information board. It can be seen here towards the top-right of the image [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
The information board mentioned above. At the centre top of the board is a photograph of the historic abutment taken when heritage work was undertaken at the site. To the right of that picture is a schematic map of the tramroad/plateway. Below that is an illustration of the traffic which would have used the tramroad. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]
A closer view of the illustration of tramroad traffic. This picture raises a few questions in my mind. The wagon shown has flanged wheels and the rails seem to be continuous edge- rails. A plateway would usually be made up of short sections of rail and would most often have had L-shaped rails with wagons having flangeless wheels. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]

The wagon illustrated on the information board at the site of the bridge abutment has flanged wheels and the rails seem to be continuous edge- rails. A plateway would have usually been made up of short sections of rail and would in many cases in Shropshire have had L-shaped rails with wagons having flangeless wheels. during the period that the plateway/tramroad was active (circa. 1796 – 1812). This is supported by David Poyner’s discoveries along the line of the old tramroad which he reported in the journal of the Shropshire Caving and Mining Club in 2010. He first describes the plateway:

In the Wyre Forest Coalfield, a plateway was constructed from a wharf on the River Severn in Highley to a colliery at Billingsley in 1796; about this time or shortly afterwards a spur was constructed to more mines at Birch Farm in Kinlet. … The mines had all closed by 1812 and it is unlikely that the plateway saw much use after this. It was amongst the materials of Billingsley Colliery and associated blast furnace that was offered for sale. In 1814 “about 30 tons of straight and turned iron rails, and sleepers in proportion” with 43 railway wagons were put up for auction. This sale may have been a failure as the complex was offered again in 1817; lot VII included “about 50 tons of cast iron rails, sleepers etc now upon a rail road”. This suggests that the plateway had not yet been taken up. It appears that this sale was more successful as no more is heard about the mine, furnace or plateway after this date.” [10]

Poyner continues to describe his finds in the vicinity of the plateway – some years prior to his article, he found “a broken section of plate rail from this system whilst putting some steps into an embankment along the former track. Subsequently more pieces of rails and a chair were found by Simon Cowan and Hugh McQuade who were tracing its route.” [10] More recently, he came across a chair “from the system on the Kinlet bank of the Borle Brook at Logwood Mill. SO 740820 (Figure 1). It is cast iron, and approximately 6½” x 5″. At the one end there is 1″ high flange: at the other is a curled lip about ½” high which extends for only half the length of the plate; however, it is extended as a slight ridge in the casting which terminates in an inverted L-shape. There is a ½” diameter hole in the centre of the chair and two in projecting lugs at either end. There are also 4 lugs which extend beneath the chair.” [10]

The rail he found “from the plateway is 3½” x 24″; the casting is ½” thick. It has clearly been broken at the one end and may also have been fractured at the other.” [10]

The schematic map of the tramroad route included on the information board is enlarged here and in an image below. This first enlargement shows the route of the tramroad/plateway closer to the River Severn and shows a branch tramroad/plateway to Birch. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]

The Birch Branch

The thematic or sketch map on the information board at New England shows a branch extending to Birch Farm, South of Borle Brook. For this line to form a junction with Borle Brook it would have needed to bridge the ‘river’. It then followed a tributary to Borle Brook before striking off to the South towards Birch Farm. The line was unnecessary in purely engineering and mining terms. It was constructed as part of a ‘quid-pro-quo’ arrangement between the Colliery Company and William Lacon Childe who owned all the land on the South side of Borle Brook and a parcel of land to the North of the Brook which the Colliery Company needed for wharves alongside the River Severn. Ultimately he granted access to the River Severn, conditional upon the Colliery Company building a plateway link to one of his small collieries, that at Birch Farm. [13: Chapter 5]

This image shows the location of Logmill Cottages, close to the confluence of the tributary and Borle Brook, on the 25″ Ordnance Survey of 1882, published in 1884. It shows no bridge existing over Borle Brook at this point towards the end of the 19th century. It does however show a bridge crossing the tributary. [11]
A little to the Southeast of Logmill Cottages and on the next Ordnance Survey Sheet to the South, a footbridge is marked. Might this have been the location where the plateway crossed Borle Brook? Perhaps it served the mill, close to Logmill Cottages, which by the time of this Ordnance Survey had disappeared? [12]
The tributary, once again. The 1882 mapping, published in 1884, shows some earthworks at various points on the South side of Borle Brook. One location where these are apparent is the possible location of a future bridge across the tributary. Might this be relevant to the seacrh of the route of the plateway branch to Birch Farm? Looking more widely at the 1882 mapping South of Borle Brook, there appears to be no residual evidence of a plateway immediately at this location. [12]

We have noted in the above map extracts that it is difficult to be specific about the route of the tramroad/plateway close to Borle Brook. The mapped details in the vicinity of Logmill Cottages show no real evidence of the tramroad.

A wider view of the 1882 Ordnance Survey showing the possible route of the plateway/tramroad between Borle Brook and Birch Farm. There is a track marked on the map, extending from the bottom-left corner of the extract to the second minor stream met along the route, travelling to the Northeast. The presence of the track is an indicator of the probable alignment of the tramroad. Across the rest of the map the blue line indicating the tramroad route is shown dotted over this length as there is nothing to confirm its actual route on the Ordnance Survey. [12]
The 1882 Ordnance Survey once again. The plateway/tramroad branch continued to travel in a southerly direction. [12]
The terminus of the tramroad/plateway was close to Birch Farm where William Lacon Childe had a small colliery. [12]

The line to Birch Farm is entirely on private land and access to its route is not possible. The best that I can offer is extracts from satellite images. These are those from the National Library of Scotland (NLS). …

Borle Brook is at the top of this extract from satellite imagery. Its tributary flows to the North of the dotted blue line which indicates the possible route of the tramroad/plateway to Birch Farm. [14]
The line curved away from the stream and headed South towards Birch Farm. [15]
Birch Farm and the location of the Colliery. [16]
This second enlarged view shows the upper reaches of the tramroad which clearly continued some distance beyond New England. [My photograph, 3rd February 2023]

The Billingsley Area

Access to the length of tramroad/plateway beyond New England is just as difficult as access to the branch to Birch Farm, although is does come close to the public highway at one location and crosses it at another. Immediately to the West of Borle Brook there was an incline which brought the tramroad/plateway out of the valley and into the open fields above its scope. All of this, through to ‘Scot’s’ (the spelling on the OS Mapping) is on private land.

The blue line on these side-by-side images show the approximate line of the tramroad/plateway through New England and on to the West. Immediately on the West side of Borle Brook there was a rope-worked incline. [17]
It is possible that the tramroad followed the route of Bind Lane which would have taken the tramroad closer to Billingsley Colliery and the Cape of Good Hope Inn, but the presence of the curved track at the West edge of this extract from the 1882 Ordnance Survey suggests that at least at that point the line was fixed a little to the South of Bind Lane. The dotted blue line follows approximately the line shown on the information board at the New England bridge abutment. [18]
The junction of the B4363 and Bind Lane as shown on Google Maps Satellite Imagery in early 2023. The blue line represents the approximate line of the tramroad. The route of the line to the West of the B4363 becomes a matter of conjecture. [19]
The approximate line of the tramraod has been imposed on this Google Streetview image looking North-northwest on the B4363. Bind Lane meets the B4363 at the junction ahead and runs in front of the new-build property to the right middle of the image. [Google Streetview, November 2021]

From the tentative line of the tramroad shown on the information board near the bridge abutment at New England (above) it appears that the old tramroad ran in a roughly Southwesterly direction as far as Southhallbank Farmhouse as suggested on the 1882 6″ Ordnance Survey map extract below.

Britishlistedbuildings.co.uk lists the Farmhouse. as a Grade II listed building predominantly constructed in the 17th century, perhaps with earlier origins, and with some 19th century rebuilding. It is “Timber-framed with red-brick infill and red brick. Plain-tile roofs.” [20]

If the tramroad ran as close to the farmhouse as is suggested in the map extract below, It is very likely that the owner of the building at the turn of the 19th century had a strong interest in the tramroad.

The continuing tramroad route shown on the 1882 Ordnance Survey. The tight bend at the Northwest corner of the farmyard of Southallbank Farm is shown on the information board close to the bridge abutment near New England. [18]
Southwest of Southallbank Farm buildings I can only guess at the route of the tramroad and its length. My guess is shown on this extract from the 1882 6″ Ordnance Survey. It reflects the line drawn on the information board at the bridge abutment near New England and the fact that close to Scot’s Cottages there is a packhorse bridge which has been retained as a footbridge. [21]

Looking Forward

The tramroad was the first transport venture alongside the Borle Brook. It was some time before industrial development at Billingsley warranted the construction of another railway. The later history of railways in and around Borle Brook can be found in an article about the railway connections to the Severn Valley Railway in the area South of Bridgnorth. … To view this article please follow this link. …

https://rogerfarnworth.com/2023/02/13/railways-around-bridgenorth-part-2

References

  1. https://www.shropshirecmc.org.uk/below/2004_1w.pdf, accessed on 26th January 2023.
  2. http://www.highley.org.uk/railhist.html, accessed on 26th January 2023.
  3. https://maps.nls.uk/view/101585827, accessed on 28th January 2023.
  4. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=17.0&lat=52.44044&lon=-2.39178&layers=6&b=1, accessed on 29th January 2023.
  5. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=17.0&lat=52.44495&lon=-2.39508&layers=6&b=1, accessed on 29th January 2023.
  6. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=17.0&lat=52.44910&lon=-2.40330&layers=6&b=1, accessed on 29th January 2023.
  7. https://maps.nls.uk/view/101595139, accessed on 29th January 2023.
  8. Aris’s Gazette April 18th, 1814 and Aris’s Gazette 20/04/1818.
  9. Ray Shill; The Long Road to the Permanent Way [part 9]; RCHS Occasional Paper 23 from the Railway History Research Group, the Railway & Canal Historical Society, Newsletter No. 33, December 2021.
  10. David Poyner; An Early Chair from the Billingsley Colliery Plateway; in ‘Below’, the Quarterly Journal of the Shropshire Caving and Mining Club, Volume 2010.2, Summer 2010, p8-9.
  11. https://maps.nls.uk/view/121153529, accessed on 6th February 2023.
  12. https://maps.nls.uk/view/121153547, accessed on 6th February 2023.
  13. David Poyner & Dr. Robert Evans; The Wyre Forest Coalfield; The History Press Ltd, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, 2000.
  14. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/#zoom=17.0&lat=52.43311&lon=-2.37885&layers=168&right=ESRIWorld, accessed on 6th February 2023.
  15. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/#zoom=17.0&lat=52.43112&lon=-2.38544&layers=168&right=ESRIWorld, accessed on 6th February 2023
  16. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/#zoom=17.0&lat=52.42708&lon=-2.38963&layers=168&right=ESRIWorld, accessed on 6th February 2023.
  17. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/#zoom=17.0&lat=52.45254&lon=-2.40705&layers=168&right=ESRIWorld, accessed on 6th February 2023.
  18. https://maps.nls.uk/view/101595139, accessed on 7th February 2023.
  19. https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Billingsley,+Bridgnorth+WV16+6PF/@52.4543135,-2.4233002,338m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m6!3m5!1s0x4870624ff705e501:0x8cfda65ba0240fb1!8m2!3d52.454348!4d-2.422812!16s%2Fg%2F1q67q74s0, accessed on 7th February 2023.
  20. https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101367585-southallbank-farmhouse-billingsley#.Y-I3d3bP2Uk, accessed on 7th February 2023.
  21. https://www.shropshirecmc.org.uk/below/2019_1w.pdf, accessed on 7th February 2023.
  22. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=17.0&lat=52.43788&lon=-2.39153&layers=168&b=8, accessed on 31st January 2023.
  23. https://www.svrwiki.com/Brooksmouth_Bridge, accessed on 11th February 2023.
  24. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1254137, accessed on 11th February 2023.
  25. https://www.svrwiki.com/Borle_Viaduct, accessed on 11th February 2023.

Early Tramroads near Telford – Part 8 – Malinslee Part 4 – the East side of Malinslee in the vicinity of the later Coalport (LNWR) and Stirchley (GWR) Branches

The area covered by this article is the area on the East side of Savage & Smith’s tracing [1: p164] and is as shown in the adjacent extract.

They included the line of the Coalport Branch on their plan (the continuous thin black line with circular dots). The Stirchley Branch was a little to the East of the Coalport Branch. It ran down past the Randlay Brickworks towards Old Park Ironworks which were South of the bottom end of Randlay Pool. Savage & Smith grouped the two ironworks in the vicinity under one title of ‘Stirchley Furnaces’.

It should be noted that the Shropshire Canal pre-dated the Coalport Branch but was on very much the same line as the railway. Small deviations in the alignment remain visible in the 21st century, particularly the length close to Hinkshay Pools and that close to Wharf and Lodge Collieries.

Tramroads on the remainder of the tracing [1:p164] are covered in previous articles, particularly those noted below.

The tramways alongside first the old Shropshire Canal and the later LNWR Coalport Branch were not all operational at the same time. However, Savage and Smith were highly confident of the routes of most of these tramways. Only a few lengths are shown as dotted on these plans. The solid red lines are those which they could locate relatively precisely.

As can be seen on these drawings, the lines associated with the Shropshire Canal Coalport Branch and the later LNWR Coalport Branch railway are shown as solid red. The lines shown with the longer red dashes are translated from the 1836 Shropshire Railway Map. The scale of that map is relatively small – just ½” to a mile. The shorter red dashes denote lines as drawn on the 1833 1” Ordnance Survey. Enlarging from both of these maps leaves room for discrepancies to be introduced.

Savage and Smith highlight many of these lines on a 1″ to the mile map representing tramway additions between 1851 – 1860. During that decade their 1″ plan shows the Shropshire Canal as active to the North of Stirchley but without a northern outlet to the wider canal network. At the southern end of the active canal, the Lightmoor branch to the South of Dawley Magna suggests that much of the movement of goods on the canal was related to the Lightmoor Ironworks and the Lightmoor Brick and Tile Works. Unless there was only local movements during this period, perhaps associated with the Priorslee Furnaces and any other works in that immediate area.

Tramway/Tramroad changes in the 1850s. [1: p95]
An enlarged extract from Savage & Smith’s 1″ to a mile plan of the Malinslee area (1851-1860), showing some of the tramroad routes alongside the Shropshire Canal. [1: p95]
The Ordnance Survey of 1881/1882 published in 1888. The lettered locations match those on the Savage & Smith extract above. Further details are provided below. [2]

Savage & Smith provide notes about the Tramways/Tramroads close to the line of the LNWR Coalport Branch (and the Shropshire Canal Coalport Branch). They comment: “By 1856, there is a considerable amount of industry along the canal from Hinkshay to Shedshill. The upper reservoir at Hinkshay had appeared before 1833, but the site of the lower reservoir was in 1856 just a small canal basin with a line running to it probably from Langleyfield Colliery. A line from Jerry Furnaces to the ironworks at the rear of New Row crosses it at right angles and a common type and gauge of rail cannot be assumed. This second railway from Jerry Furnaces reverses and continues in to Stirchley Furnaces. … To the north of Stirchley Furnaces the line runs on the west side of the canal on the towpath. There is a branch near Stone Row, perhaps to pits; to Randley Brickworks and perhaps to pits to the north of the brick- works; to Wharf Colliery and Lodge Colliery; past Dark Lane Foundry; to old Darklane Colliery and Lawn Colliery with a branch to old Darklane Brickworks. After a reverse the line carries on to Dudleyhill Colliery and Hollinswood Ironworks ” [6: p166]

The tramroads marked are:

  • A: Tramroads in the immediate area of Stirchley Ironworks.
  • B: A line to the North of Stirchley Ironworks on the West side of the Canal, on or alongside the towpath.
  • C: a branch near Stone Row which probably extended further than shown by Savage & Smith to Wood Colliery to the Northwest of Stone Row.
  • D: a looped branch probably serving Wharf Colliery, Darklane Foundry, Lodge Colliery, Little Darklane Colliery and Lawn Colliery.
  • E: a short branch to pit heads to the Southwest of Randlay Brickworks, perhaps also serving the Brickworks.
  • F: Tramways around Old Darklane Colliery.
  • G: a short branch serving the Brickworks at Hollinswood.
Another enlarged extract from Savage & Smith’s 1″ to a mile plan of the Malinslee area (1851-1860), showing their remaining tramroad routes close to the Shropshire Canal. The red letters match those on the 6″ Ordnance Survey plan immediately below [1: p95]
An extract from the 1881/1882 Ordnance Survey published in 1888. The redlines drawn on the extract match those drawn by Savage & Smith on their plan above. In the period from 1855 through to 1880 the profile of theland in this vicinity was markedly altered by the construction of the railways shown on the map. Lines to A, B, C and D have all gone by 1881. The line to E connects with the line running East-southeast from Priorslee Furnaces and shown on plans below. [2]

By the 1860s, Savage & Smith show that the Shropshire Canal was no longer in use. Between the 1870s and the turn of the 20th century, some further minor additions to the network in the immediate are of Stirchley and just to the South of Oakengates associated with the Priorslee furnaces can be seen on their 1″ to the mile

Tramway/Tramroad changes between 1876 and 1900. [1: p99]

The later changes to the tramroad/tramway network relate partly to the coming, in 1861, of the Standard-Gauge LNWR railway branch to Coalport. Stirchley and Jerry Furnaces – on the 1876-1900 map, have tramroad links to the railway.

The tramroad/tramway network changes to permit access to the LNWR line close to Stirchley. The locations marked with red letters match those on the OS map extract below. [1: p99]
The Ordnance Survey of 1881/1882 published in 1888. The lettered locations match those on the Savage & Smith extract above. [2]
  • A: Langley Fields Brickworks, at on e time this line extended Northwest towards St. Leonard’s, Malinslee to serve Little Eyton Colliery.
  • B: Langleyfield Colliery.
  • C: Jerry Ironworks – serve by two different lengths of tramroad, one at high level and one at low level.
  • D: A connection which crossed the old Shropshire Canal to a wharf running alongside the LNWR Branch.
  • E: a line connecting Stirchley and Oldpark Ironworks to the network and so providing access to the wharf at D.
  • F: access to an ironworks to the Northwest of Hinkshay Row.
  • G: A line which curved round the West side of Hinkshay Pools to provide access to another length of wharf alongside the LNWR branch close to Dawley & Stirchley Railway Station. This is not shown on the plan drawn by Savage & Smith.

The lines noted above were all walked when I was looking at the immediate area for an earlier article (https://rogerfarnworth.com/2022/06/15/ancient-tramroads-near-telford-part-4-malinslee-part-1).

The other changes between 1876 and 1900 relate to Priorslee, where tramroads are shown to the Southeast of Priorslee Furnaces. The 6” Ordnance Survey of 1903 shows the bottom arm at this location linking Darklane Colliery to the Furnaces. The upper arm is shown on the 6” Ordnance Survey of 1885 as serving a colliery adjacent to the Lion Inn. The tramroad link to the colliery is not shown on the later survey.

The tramroad/tramway network changes associated with Priorslee Furnaces. The locations marked with red letters match those on the Ordnance Survey extract below. [1: p99]
The 1880/1882 Ordnance Survey published in 1885 showing the Oakengates/Priorslee area. The locations marked by red letters match those highlighted on the Savage & Smith extract above. [3]
  • A: Priorslee Furnaces.
  • B: Darklane Colliery.
  • C & D: tramroads serving a colliery adjacent to the Lion Inn..
  • E: the tramroad access from Priorslee Furnaces.

Telford in the 21st century

The area covered by these maps has been dramatically altered by the construction of Telford Town Centre. The centre of Telford sits directly over the area covered by this article. This is demonstrated by the side-by-side image provided below. 21st century satellite imagery is set alongside the 1901 Ordnance Survey.

The National Library of Scotland provides a version of its mapping software that allows two different images to be placed side by side and geographically related to each other. The image on the right covers the same area as that on the left. [4]

There is nothing to be gained by attempting to walk most of the routes covered in this article. However, some limited areas can still be seen (topographically) roughly as they were. That is true of the Priorslee area, Northeast of the town centre and the area North from Stirchley to the North end of Randlay Pool. Most of the second of these two areas is the subject of earlier articles (https://rogerfarnworth.com/2022/06/15/ancient-tramroads-near-telford-part-4-malinslee-part-1, https://rogerfarnworth.com/2022/06/24/ancient-tramroads-near-telford-part-6-malinslee-part-2-jerry-rails, and https://rogerfarnworth.com/2022/08/11/ancient-tramroads-near-telford-part-7-malinslee-part-3). The remainder of this article focusses on the area around Priorslee Furnaces. (NB: these tramroads really fall into another series but we will pick them up again when we look at the area around Oakengates and Priorslee)

The area around Priorslee Furnaces in 1901 and in the 21st century. By 1901 the Furnaces made use of the Mineral railway to their Southside rather than access to the tramroad along Holyhead Road. On the 1901 mapping the tramroad link into the works ahs been cut. This suggests that the line along Holyhead Road was probably no longer active by 1901. [5]
Facing Northwest along Holyhead Road in June 2022. The access road from the A442 Queensway is ahead on the left. The old tramroad would have run roughly where the footpath is on the left. [Google Streetview]
Turning through 180 degrees and now looking Southeast, the tramroad was on the south side of the road. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
A little further to the Southeast and the tramroad was still alongside Holyhead Road (B5061). [Google Streetview, June 2022]
we are now running alongside the site of what were Priorslee Furnaces. There was a tramroad access from the site to the tramroad running alongside Holyhead Road. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
Further Southeast the tramroad continued to follow the verge of Holyhead Road. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
East of Priorslee Furnaces the tramroad ran on the South side of Holyhead Road. A branch headed South towards Darklane Colliery. The ‘mainline’ only contiued a short distance further East. [6]
Further Southeast and now approaching the modern roundabout shown on the side-by-side image from the NLS above. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
Looking Southeast across the roundabout towards Shiffnal Road. The tramroad alignment remains on the south side of the road. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
On the other side of the roundabout and now on Shiffnal Road. The tramroad ‘mainline continues Southeast toward Stafford Colliery, the branch heads towards Darklane Colliery and, as it is under modern buildings cannot be followed on the North side of theM54. Photos of the area it travelled on the South side of the M% can be found further below [Google Streetview, June 2022]
Both the Darklane branch and the ‘Mainline’ terminate in these images. The DarkLane route cannot easily be found on site, apart from the approximate location of what would have been its at-level crossing of what was once a road and is now a footpath. That to the Stafford Colliery near the Red Lion Pub can still be followed! [7]
For a short distance further the tramroad remained alongside the old road before turning sharply to the South along what is now a footpath and cycleway. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
Looking South from Shiffnal Road along the footpath/cycleway which follows the route of the old tramroad to Stafford Colliery. [Google Streetview, June 2022]
Looking South from a point 100 metres or so along the footpath/cycleway which follows the route of the old tramroad to Stafford Colliery. [My photograph, 2nd February 2023]
The approximate limit of the tramroad heading South. [My photograph, 2nd February 2023]
This view from the Eastbound carriageway of the M54 shows the footbridge which carries the path that followed the line of tramroad. The Stafford Colliery was on the North side of what is now the motorway. Somewhere close to the top of the motorway cutting is the location of two tramroad arms which ran approximately East-West serving the Stafford Colliery site. [Google Streetview, November 2022]
Looking North along the line of the footbridge which crosses the M54. Shiffnal Road is ahead beyond the site of the old Stafford Colliery. The redlines are indicative of the tramroads serving the colliery. [Google Streetview, March 2021]

The tramway/tramroad route which led to Darklane Colliery crossed the line of the M54 a short distance to the West of the modern footbridge.

Looking North across the M54, on the approximate line of the old tramroad/tramway. [My photograph, 2nd February 2023]
Looking approximately in a northerly direction. The old tramway ran approximately as shown by the red line. [My photograph, 2nd February 2023]
Turning through around135 degrees to the East this is the view along the line of the tramway/tramroad. The alignment is roughly as shown by the red line. [My photograph, 2nd February 2023]
The tramroad ran on a line which now runs from the rear of Syer House towards the Volkswagen dealership on Stafford Park 1. It would have passed the spoil heaps from Darklane Colliery as it did so. Darklane Colliery straddled the line of Stafford Park 1.
Sketch of the old tramroad route on the modern ‘Street Map’ of the immediate area. [8]
The footbridge over Stafford Park 1 sits over the site of Darklane Colliery. [My photograph, 2nd February 2023]
Looking East along Stafford Park 1 which is spanned by a modern footbridge. The photograph is taken from within the site of Darklane Colliery. [My photo, 2nd February 2023]
Two views looking South over the site of Darklane Colliery from the footbridge spanning Stafford Park 1. [My photo, 2nd February 2023]
This final photograph looks North along the footpath/cycleway and shows the approximate route of the tramway/tramroad which terminated a short distance to the East of the modern footpath. [My photograph, 2nd February 2023]

References

  1. R.F. Savage & L.D.W. Smith; The Waggon-ways and Plateways of East Shropshire; Birmingham School of Architecture, 1965. Original document is held by the Archive Office of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.
  2. https://maps.nls.uk/view/101594470, accessed on 1st February 2023.
  3. https://maps.nls.uk/view/101594308, accessed on 1st February 2023.
  4. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/#zoom=15.0&lat=52.67809&lon=-2.44688&layers=6&right=ESRIWorld, accessed on 1st February 2023.
  5. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/#zoom=17.0&lat=52.68634&lon=-2.44238&layers=6&right=ESRIWorld, accessed on 1st February 2023.
  6. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/#zoom=17.0&lat=52.68432&lon=-2.43633&layers=6&right=ESRIWorld, accessed on 1st February 2023.
  7. https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/#zoom=17.0&lat=52.68130&lon=-2.43190&layers=6&right=ESRIWorld, accessed on 1st February 2023.
  8. https://streetmap.co.uk/map?x=505180&y=249173&z=0, accessed on 2nd February 2023.