The barley field behind the house is now the colour of fresh-baked buttery shortbread. A bit perverse, then, to display it monochrome. But then I find the abstracting effect intriguing; all the textures.
Telford is Much Wenlock’s closest town, just a few miles away across the River Severn. It’s a new town in fact, begun in the 1960s when its developers laid claim to the brownfield land between the traditional coalfield communities of Wellington, Madeley, Ironbridge, Dawley and Oakengates, places whose inhabitants had played their part in Britain’s industrial revolution from at least the 17th century.
One new-town aim was to provide fresh work opportunities and decent housing for families of the ever-expanding West Midlands (Birmingham-Wolverhampton) conurbations. Another was to revive the old Shropshire coalfield towns and villages, including Ironbridge, which by the 1960s, with their declining local industries, appeared to have lost the will to live. Back then I recall visiting Ironbridge on a school history trip. We peered at the decaying bottle kilns of the Coalport China Works through a jungle of waste-ground weeds and wondered why on earth Miss Price had brought us to such a dreary place.
From the start, then, Telford Development Corporation (TDC) panjandrums had a mission: their new town had heritage. They chose to name it after a man of vision: Thomas Telford 1757-1843, father of modern civil engineering and a man with strong local connections. At the start of his career, after leaving his Scottish homeland, he had been Surveyor and Engineer for Shropshire. He left us many striking landmarks too, including the breath-taking Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
The ‘new town with a past’ message was not simply a piece of window-dressing. TDC committed huge resources to saving the historic industrial fabric of the coalfield settlements, deploying teams of conservation architects and builders across the district, restoring everything from workers’ cottages and toll houses, to ironworks warehouses and riverside tile factories. It is probably fair to say that without all the new-town investment in conservation, the internationally famous Ironbridge Gorge Museums might never have made it off the starting blocks.
This particular high-rise, Darby House, is also a nod to the past. HQ for the Telford and Wrekin Council, it rises above one of town centre’s notoriously numerous traffic islands, and salutes the ingenuity of the Darby ironmasters of Coalbrookdale. (Abraham Darby I invented the means to smelt iron using coke instead of charcoal, and Abraham Darby III built the world’s first cast iron bridge over the River Severn).
One can’t help but wonder though what Thomas Telford and the Darbys would think of these tributes – the new-fangled new-town architecture, the dizzying, multiplying networks of roads, shops, business parks and housing. But then you could say these were men who started it all; played their part in the pioneering of cast-iron construction which gave rise to the high-rise and more besides.
Anyway, here, by contrast, is a building that the Coalbrookdale ironmasters considered ‘just the thing’ in its day. Designed in the Gothic style around 1840, it was the riverside warehouse for the despatch cast iron goods down the River Severn to Bristol. It is also one of the many buildings saved from decay by Telford Development Corporation and now part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum complex.
And finally the Iron Bridge (1779) (restored and owned by English Heritage).
For those of us who tend to think the modern more ugly than picturesque and prefer to take comfort in the ‘antique’, it is worth remembering that in its day, this bridge, the manner of its construction, was unthinkable for most people. There it was, replacing the stalwart, heavily buttressed stone bridges that everyone had used for hundreds of years. It literally was ‘the shock of the new’, a daring piece of pioneering technology designed to show off and sell a concept. In this respect then, you could say it has very much in common with the enterprise and entrepreneurial zeal that gave rise to Telford ‘new town’. Surprising or no, the connections are real ones.
Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Buildings
The coast in winter is a special place. When we came to Port Wrinkle beach on a late December morning we found the seascape lived up to its name. From the clifftop at least the incoming tide looked scenically ‘wrinkled’.
But down on the shore it was another story. Those ‘wrinkles’ reared and unravelled with such force they left you breathless. This was Cornwall where for centuries past communities had depended on the sea, and not only for fish, but for smuggling and the harvesting of washed up cargos from wrecked ships. Soon you were wondering how it would be if life and livelihood meant the daily taking on of such seas. Would you have the heart for it?
You know you wouldn’t. But never mind. We were only there to look. And spectators can afford to be thrilled. And so thrilled we were. Bring on the white horses!
copyright 2021 Tish Farrell
Our early June arrival in New York coincided with a heat wave – 100 degrees F and every degree making its presence felt. We had thought that standing over the East River might have a cooling effect, but it didn’t. And so we did not bother to exert the energy required to cross the bridge to Brooklyn, only went midway then retraced our steps. Our New York-born friends were astonished when we told them. ‘You mean you didn’t cross the Brooklyn Bridge? You only walked half way?’ ‘Yep. Too hot.’ There were disbelieving looks. But then there was a stunning view of downtown Manhattan coming back.
Today on her black-and-white challenge Cee says show her anything to do with flight, so this photo seems to hit the mark: two-in-one I’d say. The tumbling jackdaw was snapped a couple of springs ago at St. Bride’s Castle, Pembrokeshire.
This week Cee wants to see black & white subjects ‘bigger than a bread box’. And since ‘bigger’ some how prompted notions of New York, I thought I’d opt for the more extreme end of large with these shots of the Queen Mary II.
As spotted through the blinds of a closed-down man-shop in Shrewsbury’s Darwin Shopping Centre.
The path to Bradley Farm
Walk out of Much Wenlock in any direction and you will almost instantly find yourself amongst crop fields or pasture. Our town is quite literally ‘on the farm’. The field name behind our house on Sheinton Street says it all: Townsend Meadow. In the nineteenth century it really did mark the town’s end. I also remember when there was still a working farm, Brook House Farm, in the town centre, one of the last of its kind. These days the farmyard buildings have been barn-converted and gentrified. I recall glancing through a newly installed window in the roadside barn and seeing a small grand piano standing where once winter-housed cattle huffed in their straw filled stalls. Odd to say, but when the farm went, it seemed the town had lost its heart.
There are also small fields within the town boundary. Our scenic route to the shops features the path beside the Cutlins, the meadow where various members of the Highland Cattle clan, aka the MacMoos, are often installed. And then, when you reach the kissing gate at the bottom of the path, and after all decide not to go shopping, you can turn up the lane by the Priory ruins and be eyed up by sheep in the Priory Park. Baaaaah!
Over the garden fence a week ago. More snow forecast.