For those who missed my earlier post, the Broseley jitties comprise a hillside maze of passages and pathways that served the ancient mining community of Broseley Wood. Today they wend between erstwhile squatter cottages, now restored and extended to make highly desirable homes with terraced gardens and magnificent views across Benthall Woods and the Severn Gorge.
In the early evening sunshine, the place feels idyllic, but back in the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries this hotchpotch of dwellings built on the wastes around coal, iron and clay pits would have been more shanty town than orderly village. For one thing think taverns on every corner to quench the thirst of hard labouring folk. And for another think no sanitation.
There are seventeen jitties, most of them cross-paths between more substantial lanes and each named after individuals, wells or particular landmarks associated with them. We began this particular exploration at Crews Park Jitty, hiving off Woodlands Road not far from the town May Pole.
At the foot of this hill is Gough’s Jitty, that runs crosswise, left and right to Crew’s Park. We turned left and soon came upon the very noteworthy retaining wall built entirely of saggars. These are fireclay boxes, the remnants from one of Broseley’s clay tobacco pipe factories.
Adaptive re-use: the pipe factory saggars make a fine wall.
There were three Broseley factories in the 19th century, although pipe-making had begun in the area by at least the seventeenth century. The pipes were exported across the world and often referred to as ‘broseleys’. During firing, and to protect them from ash damage, the pipes were packed inside saggars, which were then stacked up inside the bottle kilns.
And by way of a further digression, talking of clay pipe factories, here’s a glimpse inside Broseley’s last surviving pipe works, operated by the Southorn family until the 1950s and now owned by Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust:
Pipe-maker Rex Key demonstrating his skills at Broseley Pipe Works Museum.
The museum is closed at present, but you can glimpse the top of the King Street bottle kiln from the end of our road.
See also an intriguing article from the 1950s that talks about the Southorn family and their Broseley pipe works: https://www.broseley.org.uk/cutting/kings%20head.PDF
But back to the jitties.
As I said, Gough’s Jitty runs crosswise from Crews Park, and following the south westerly end along the saggar wall you soon collide with Mission Jitty heading north east. Near the intersection there’s a delightful ‘farmyard’ filled with fun activities: swings, coops, rails and ponds, for ducks and hens. You can buy the eggs too (honesty box provided). The hens came hotfoot to the fence when they saw me:
At this point we left the jitties and stepped out on to Quarry Road which then presented us with a choice, downwards towards Ironbridge:
Or upwards towards home…
…passing the cottage that was once the Broseley Wood post office:
And a new jitty sign:
32 thoughts on “Another Jaunt Down The Jitties”
Thanks for the tour Tish. The Jewish family probably kept to themselves for fear of antisemitism. While they may have been respected employers, they may not have been welcomed in some social circles.
That is a possibility, Anne. But from what I’ve read the Broseley Wood community was fascinated by the family’s customs and seemed to know something of them. It was also well known that the daughters undertook ritual bathing at a fully open-to-public-gaze over-head spring beside Spout Lane, near where they lived. Broseley Wood was a very non-conformist community – Methodists, Congregationalists and Baptists. Historically there had also been a Quaker meeting house. Meanwhile the gentry of the far end of the town were staunch Church of England.
I guess it was a non-conforming town. The ritual bath, called bathing in the mikvah, is a very private practice–normally–performed by orthodox Jews. Must have been some fun times in that town!
What an interesting and very photogenic place you have settled in Tish. The history fascinates me and I look forward to reading and seeing more and virtually walking with you along more of the jitties.
I’m more than a bit in love with the place, Pauline 🙂
🥰how’s the garden growing?
Lots of happy pots, Pauline – peas and spinach sprouting well; herbs and tomato plants potted on 🙂
What a totally delightful post, Tish, that even introduced me to some new British words (jitty, for instance)! You’d stay in shape walking around there, I’d imagine. But in those days of yore, people probably wouldn’t have had lots of time to just go walking, although they would have walked a lot just in a day’s work. Naturally I love the little library, especially using the old, iconic phone booth for one and “Ferny” brought to mind Bill Ferny of LOTR fame (or infamy.) I also like the idea of people putting still-useful items out for others to take, the ultimate recycling. When we lived in Ohio, people would put items like these out the day before garbage pickup and you’d often see someone in a pickup truck driving around to glean the good stuff. We gave away lots of things that way before we moved to Illinois. Didn’t work when we moved to Arizona because Covid had begun and no one was taking anything.
Glad you liked this, Janet. And that’s a very pleasing association for Ferny Bank. The word ‘jitty’ is new to me too, and to most non-Broseley people I mention it to. It seems to be used in the East Midlands, which also has its mining traditions, so I’m wondering if the word arrived with the miners who immigrated from the 1590s onwards. Fascinating stuff vernacular expressions.
It looks like you have found a very interesting area to relocate to. I look forward to seeing and learning more.
I have to say wandering the jitties makes me feel very happy, a sort of child-like excitment akin to going to the beach. It’s a pity in some ways that we’re not planning on staying here.
Any progress with the house hunting?
There’s been hardly anything to catch our eye, Jude. The market seems v. flat.
You seem to be finding your way around very well . This has be a lovely trip with you. Thanks.
Thanks, Beverly. The getting around is much aided by a locally produced leaflet with a map of the jitties! But even then, they sneak up on you at odd angles, or their openings look too narrow not to be a path to someone’s property.
These days a lack of sanitation has been replaced by a complete lack of parking which, while annoying, is probably healthier for all inhabitants. I’ve always loved pictures of those areas and how they are almost atop one another. Very artistic, too as of course are your pictures.
That’s a very good point about the lack of parking. It seems to be a nightmare everywhere.
Too many cars and not nearly enough public transportation in areas that really NEED it.
How interesting! I do like a walk into history.
A walk into history exactly, Ana Maria. It gives me a sort of tingling feeling 🙂
Fascinating post. Lots to explore here! So .. no ginnels and snickets round your way then?
That’s a good question. I was just saying to Janet jitty is not a common Shropshire word, or at least Broseley is the only place I’ve heard of it. Shut is the more commonly used local term. I remember ginnels from Sheffield days.
Oh, you have a Sheffield past too? Excellent!
Did my first degree there in the early 70s. Also have ancestral connections.
Ah – my Sheffield period was a little later, but it was a city I came to love.
What an interesting and picturesque place you have moved to! I like the enticing lanes and the history is fascinating 🙂 In our London suburb, Ealing, people started that custom of leaving unwanted items on the wall outside their house during Covid lockdowns when the charity shops closed, and many still do it.
It’s an excellent notion, putting stuff out for others to use.
Love the library in a telephone box. We have lots of little libraries here in New Mexico, but the phone box, well the phone box is perfect.
I’m thinking there could be a story or two in it, Thom – aside from the books that is 🙂 🙂
I can’t wait to read them!
Oh I am enchanted! I would love to explore those jitties. It’s exactly my kind of thing.
Happy to enchant, Alison. It’s how I feel too 🙂