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