Another Jaunt Down The Jitties

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The museum is closed at present, but you can glimpse the top of the King Street bottle kiln from the end of our road.

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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

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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:

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At this point we left the jitties and stepped out on to Quarry Road which then presented us with a choice, downwards towards Ironbridge:

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Or upwards towards home…

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…passing the cottage that was once the Broseley Wood post office:

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And a new jitty sign:

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This will have to be explored another day, although I’ve since discovered this path leads down to Bridge Road where in the 1930s and 40s the Wolfsons, a Jewish family ran a pottery works making plain plates and dishes. A branch of the family also set up another works nearby where they made china petals for Woolworths, and also painted porcelain dolls’ faces, all of which meant useful employment for local women who could work from home. The family apparently paid good wages and were well respected, although it is said their faith kept them socially aloof.
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And next the sign to Ferny Bank, which again must wait for another day:
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And so onwards up Quarry Road, views up and views down across the valley to Benthall:
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And of course this was an offer I could not refuse. In fact we have learned that this is very much a Broseley custom. Residents put out on their doorsteps still useful items they’ve finished with, but others might like. We passed a microwave on a wall the other day. Also a large etched glass vase outside another house.
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Then comes the star find of this particular jitty jaunt. At the junction of Quarry Road and King Street is a telephone box. And inside the telephone box is…
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It closes in the evening, but is open earlier in the day. I think we might be making one or two donations to this particular institution.
And just in case you looked at the link about the Southorn family which included a 1950s photo of the King’s Head inn on King street – here’s the link again https://www.broseley.org.uk/cutting/kings%20head.PDF
This is the King’s Head today; an inn no more:
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Finally, a salutary reminder of how things were:
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32 thoughts on “Another Jaunt Down The Jitties

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.
    Thanks, Tish

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