It certainly looked like spring as we pursued our May explorations of Broseley’s lanes and jitties – but then looks can deceive. The trees in these photos may be bursting with greenery, the hawthorns hanging in blossom, and the cottage gardens bright with late spring flowers: Welsh poppies, columbines, clematis and wisteria, but this past month has been COLD. Even on the sunniest days we have had winds that feel as if they have just blown over an ice field. In fact, come the first of June, we switched the central heating back on for a spell.
Still, we’ve not let draughty climes stop our walks. We’ve made some special finds too, in particular the Haycop Nature Reserve, a wooded ridge a short walk from the High Street. It was once a coal mine (1760-1860), the coal extracted from it coked and used for firing two nearby blast furnaces. Later it was used to fire local brick kilns.
The mine shafts were capped in the 1970s and the ground reverted to grazing land. Then in 2007, the Haycop Conservation Group began restoring the natural habitat, including the pond that had once been the holding pool for pithead winding gear. This week when we visited the flags were definitely ‘flying’:
The 9-acre site is a warren of trails through mature woodland, meadow and heath, the main paths smartly sign-posted at intervals, and provided with information boards highlighting the local wildlife, including several varieties of butterflies, moths and dragonflies and some 58 bird species, among them sparrowhawks and nuthatches. From the top of the ridge there is a fine view of the parish church, All Saints, built in 1745 and an excellent example of the perpendicular:
Looking at these views now, it’s hard to envisage Broseley in its industrial heyday (17th to early 19th century), the fumes from steam engines, furnaces, kilns and coking ovens, the clatter of waggons on the network of wooden railways, the carts pushed by humans, hauling coal, bricks and iron through the town to the River Severn.
One of Broseley’s famous industrialist residents was John ‘Iron Mad’ Wilkinson, who pioneered the use of cast iron, including the first iron boat, and the accurate boring of cannon. By way of thwarting any attempts of industrial espionage, his two furnace sites were in secluded spots just outside Broseley at Willey, on land owned by the lord of the manor. From 1763 he lived in the town, not far from the church, leasing a rather grand house called ‘The Lawns’. Nearby was a building wherein he operated a mint, producing his own token currency, a common practice among ironmasters to keep their workforce in thrall.
The Lawns was first leased by John Wilkinson in 1763. Later it was the home of porcelain manufacturer, John Rose, who founded the nearby Coalport China Works
John Wilkinson’s mint, next door to The Lawns.
This town boundary sign takes a bit of spotting; the hawthorn hedge is definitely winning.
And now for a few ‘hanging’ roofscapes in and around the Broseley Wood jitties:
Speeds Lane – John Wilkinson’s personal railway apparently ran down here to the River Severn – the waggons loaded with iron from his Willey Furnaces
And to finish – another visit to the Quarry Road duck and hen ‘farm’:
The Changing Seasons: May 2023
Kindly hosted by Brian and Ju-Lyn. Please go and see May in their respective home territories – Australia and Singapore.