Broseley: A Town Of Many Views


Well they say that moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do ~ and it was, and for more than a year, but here we are in a new small town, scarcely a crow’s flight from our old home in Much Wenlock.

Broseley as a town isn’t as ancient as Much Wenlock. There were only 9 residents recorded in 1086. Much Wenlock, by contrast, had its Priory which saw much growth from the Norman period onwards, the new cult of St. Milburga (who was abbess of the first religious house there in the 7th century) attracting pilgrims, and thus spurring demand for local trades and services throughout the Middle Ages.

Broseley, with its once well wooded and agricultural lands, was part of Wenlock Priory’s domain, providing prime territory for deer-hunting monks. The Priory also exacted various rents from Broseley manor tenants, including the lord  himself, who held his land according particular obligations to the Prior.

In the 1200s the Lord of Broseley kept his possessions on the basis that on St. Milburga’s day he was to dine at the Priory and carve the principal dish. His immediate neighbour, the Lord of Willey was  obliged to bear the Prior’s robes to Parliament. Rents were charged for pannage (grazing of pigs in the woods) and also for operating coal pits in the area.

In 1570 Broseley was a small (mostly) agricultural village of around 125 individuals. But this changed when the lord of the manor, James Clifford encouraged the immigration of miners to work the local coal deposits. He let the newcomers build cottages on irregular plots of the uninclosed commons and wastes to the north of the village above the River Severn, a part of the town now known as Broseley Wood.


Soon the mining households outnumbered the locals’ homes more than 2:1, their presence leading to riots during the early 1600s, as Broseley villagers grew increasingly angry over their loss of common rights. Nonetheless, the hugger-mugger building of cottages in Broseley Wood continued as the mining enterprises(ironstone and clay as well as coal) thrived. As might be imagined, there was a proliferation of taverns to serve the workforce, and by 1690 Broseley Wood apparently had the looks of ‘a country town’. Miners were the main inhabitants, but there were also watermen (handling the export of coal down the River Severn), potters (making tavern mugs) and clay-pipe makers. Interestingly too, the hillsides down to the River Severn wharves were, from 1605, laid with a network of railways, the earliest ones made of wood, the haulage of trucks provided by humankind, often children.



New builds in the town emulate traditional local idioms and continue the habit of filling every available space, no matter how awkward to reach.



The cottages cling to the sides of precipitous ridges, access only by winding narrow lanes and cross-paths known as jitties.



I still have much to discover about the jitties, but on my short walk from the house yesterday, I revisited Maypole Jitty. It hives off Woodlands Green where the new maypole stands (reinstated in 1985), also the locale of the 1600s riots between villagers and miners.

Standing here, you can just see the top of the Severn Gorge above Ironbridge.


And here’s the maypole:


A nearby information board tells me that maypole dancing was part of an age-old fertility rite:



And now in case you’re wondering where the header image comes into this, well it was an unexpected discovery. After passing the maypole I found myself at the end of a cul de sac on Maypole Road where a discreet footpath sign caught my eye. It took me down a narrow bosky bridleway of celandines and wild garlic…


And in no time brought me to this spot at the top of the Gorge, and thence to the wood on Ball’s Lane and the maypole.



And so back into town:



With a here and there burst of spring colour if not spring warmth:


More Broseley views to follow.

Lens-Artists: New experiences This week the theme is set be Anne at Slow Shutter Speed

50 thoughts on “Broseley: A Town Of Many Views

  1. Sounds like you’ve hit the ground walking if not quite running.
    Looks a delightful place, Tish, and from the sound of your enthusiastic first Broseley post it will feel like home in no time at all.

    1. Thanks, Ark. It’s not totally unknown territory as I lived on the Willey estate many moons ago – BA – as in Before Africa – and Broseley was the nearest shopping centre. So actually what is exciting is discovering how much I managed not to notice back then. Duh!

  2. I knew you’d find lots of wonderful things in your new home, Tish, and I wasn’t wrong. I love that bit of spring color at the end. I don’t imagine anyone who walks much has to worry about calories! 🙂

    1. Many thanks, Janet. It’s certainly a change from Wenlock, which was in a dip below the Edge. Here, we’re up on a ridgy plateau and in one direction can see all the way to the Black Country. In the other, we seem to be almost at eye level with the Wrekin.

  3. Wow! Welcome home. It’s so different from where I live and history older than our country is amazing. The jittys were fun to discover, I am sure. I love forward to more of your wanderings. Nothing like new discoveries/experiences. Loved this.

    1. Much appreciate those words of welcome, Donna. And yes, so many layers of history. It’s hard to take it all in, how a settlement came to be over a thousand years of change, the different land owners who effected it.

  4. It looks more townish than Much Wenlock. But is that because you are showing the town? Is that still in Shropshire?

    On that topic, I wondered what the Much in Much Wenlock meant. Wodehouse situated his fictional Much Matchingham in Shropshire.

    1. That’s a good question about the Much, IJ. It apparently comes from the Middle English muchel and simply means great. I dare say Wodehouse knew of it. There’s also Little Wenlock a few miles away across the River Severn.

      And yes Broseley is in Shropshire too, and population-wise, twice the size of Wenlock. As well as the very old cottages, there some grander Georgian houses built during the town’s industrial trading heyday. Then there are several modern housing estates and small developments from the post-war era onwards, tucked in here and there; also a small industrial estate, and farm fields in between. As a settlement. it’s altogether irregular, but v. interesting. Original name Burwardsley referring to the clearance of a stretch of Royal Forest in Saxon times, and said to mean ‘forest clearing of the fort guardian’ which sounds very Tolkeinesque.

  5. That looks like an interesting town to explore, especially those little jitties 🙂 I’ll look forward to learning more about Broseley as you continue to settle into your new home.

  6. Congrats on successfully completing the move Tish – never easy! Your new town looks really lovely and such a change for you! We in the U.S. marvel at YOUR history versus ours LOL. And what an interesting path the town ended up developing over time. Looking forward to hearing and seeing more about your new world.

  7. They captured my heart, the jitties! Just the kind of paths I would follow, and love to get lost in. This looks like a lovely place to live in, Tish – congratulations to your choice!

  8. Just found you again Tish, you seem to have dropped off my reader.. such an interesting village to explore, the word “jitties” just invites you to explore. Will this be your permanent home? Or are you still looking?

    1. Hello, Pauline. This is just a stop-gap sojourn, though proving a very interesting one. We are in the midst of looking for somewhere to buy, but in the meantime the jitties are a great place to ramble in.

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