Aqueduct – a brief history

BRITANNIA AQUEDUCT HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This is an edited version of a leaflet produced in August 2009.

The Aqueduct c 1792

A SHORT HISTORY OF AQUEDUCT VILLAGE
Within the boundaries of the East Shropshire town of 
Telford lies the village of Aqueduct. In common with other 
places such as Ironbridge, the village took its name from the 
construction of a particular edifice. In this case it was a 
sandstone bridge, built to carry the newly dug Shropshire Canal 
over the turnpike road from Bridgnorth to Wellington; an 
aqueduct.
(O.S. map ref SJ 695058)

The canal was built following an act of Parliament of 1788, its function being to link the ironworks and mines in the Oakengates area to the River Severn. The waterway was opened in 1792. It ran southwards from Wrockwardine Wood, via Oakengates, through a tunnel at Stirchley and on to Southall Bank whereupon it split into two branches. The western branch was intended to meet the river at Coalbrookdale but was never built beyond Brierly Hill; it was this branch that crossed the aqueduct.

The eastern branch went via a descending inclined plane of 126 feet at Windmill Farm to the wharf at Tweedale and then on through Madeley to meet the river, using the Hay Inclined Plane and a short canal at Coalport. The Shropshire Canal did not enjoy unlimited supplies of water to feed it and its depth, shallow by design, restricted the size of the tub boats to about 5 tons.

By the 1850s traffic on the canal was very much reduced, due partly to problems associated with subsidence along with the increased presence of the new railways and their ability to carry more goods and do so with greater speed, to the extent that in 1861 a railway line was opened from Wellington to the new town of Coalport, with much of the track being laid on the bed of the now disused canal. That railway line has now also gone and the route forms part of the Silkin Way footpath which passes through Aqueduct Village.

Much of the evidence of the canal’s existence is now gone; the Windmill Farm Inclined Plane and indeed the Windmill Farm itself, are buried under Brookside Estate, although a little further south a short section of the waterway  may be seen still crossing the Blists Hill Museum site along with the Hay Inclined Plane, descending to Coalport. This part of the canal did survive in use until about 1894.

Earlier mention was made of a railway and indeed if one considers the activities of railway companies during the middle part of the 19th century, it can be seen that this part of Shropshire was very well served with public transport.

On certain lines, the frequency of stations and halts gave a convenience to the travelling public not so far removed from a modern day rural bus service. The nearest station to serve Aqueduct Village would have been either Dawley & Stirchley or Madeley Market, both on the LNWR line.

The beginnings of what became Aqueduct Village, were in the early 1790s in the Aqueduct Bank area. A substantial stone cottage was built, known as Aqueduct House, probably having some connections with the new canal. It later acquired the name of Stone Cottages and was demolished about 1960.

There were also some commercial buildings in that area (O.S. Map ref SJ 693059). A Gilbert Gilpin carried on a chain making business, his products probably being used in local mines and on the inclined planes. He pursued that activity until about 1827 but from that date little is known for the next 20 years until 1847, when the site was described as an iron foundry.

By 1856 half the buildings had been converted into housing for five families, whilst the remainder was in use as a soap manufactory, although by the end of the 19th century these buildings too were being used as houses. 1965 saw the demolition of the site.
In what later became known as Chapel Lane, there were four rows of houses built in 1840 – 1841; presumably to provide accommodation for people working at Aqueduct Bank or other very local industries. In 1850 a Primitive Methodist Chapel was erected, its arrival giving the lane its name; sadly, the existence of that lane is now the only reminder of the chapel.

A ribbon of development now began along a section of the Bridgnorth to Wellington turnpike road. The first houses to be built were seven rows with four houses per row and known as Foster’s Row, later numbered 22 to 49 Aqueduct Road.

James Foster, who built this housing, was an ironmaster from Stourbridge who bought Madeley Court in 1828 for £24000 with the idea of exploiting the mineral resources in the area to add to his not inconsiderable industrial interests.

He began his mining operations at Madeley Court using local tramways and canals to carry his mined materials to his ironworks based at Wombridge. Within a short time a combination of transport inadequacies and the now diminishing deposits of raw materials at Wombridge persuaded him to concentrate his efforts at Madeley Court, resulting in his building the Madeley Court Furnaces around 1840.

Fosters Row

Foster's Row

Many of the workforce moved from Wombridge to work the new furnaces at Madeley and were housed in the cottages known as Foster’s Row. Foster also built a house for his furnace manager further down the road and it is likely that the bricks used for this new building work came from the nearby brickworks. These works were another of Foster’s operations, the site of which now sadly lies beneath the Brookside Estate.

James Foster also built a small church in Aqueduct Road, St. Paul’s, completed in 1851. It was known as a chapel of ease providing a place of worship for his workforce within the immediate area and thus removing the need for them to travel to Madeley.

St. Paul's Church

St Paul's Church

It was not until 1951, that the Foster family handed over the deeds of this church to the Vicar of Madeley. It is no longer used for worship but instead provides a base for the local boy scout group.

Around 1860, two chartermasters, Messrs Holmes and Dainty built two rows of cottages between Foster’s Row and the furnace manager’s house. Named Aqueduct Terrace they were later numbered 2 to 6 and 7 to 13 Aqueduct Road. At the side of number 7, a lane was made to run from the main turnpike road to the brick works. It was called Dainty’s Lane and a section from Aqueduct Road to Brookside Avenue is still in evidence.

The Britannia Inn

The final part of the building work in the village was the construction of the row of cottages, now numbered 15 to 20, along with what is now the Britannia Inn which was rebuilt from another chartermaster’s house.

With the exception of numbers 22 to 24, which were lately demolished to allow for a car park to the inn, all of this housing has survived to the present time.

A slow ongoing period of increasing quietness in the area began with the closure of immediate industry at the turn of the century, followed some sixty – odd years later with the end of the railway from Coalport. A part of the Brookside development was to re-route the section of the old road, which had previously passed through Aqueduct Village, through the new housing estate and by so doing, create a vehicular cul-de-sac in the village. The additional feature of tree planting along what is now the Silkin Way has lent yet further seclusion, to help in the creation of this delightful back-water; Aqueduct Village.

Acknowledgments.
N.J. Clarke, ‘The Aqueduct: an East Shropshire
Industrial Settlement’, Shropshire Newsletter 
No 40 (1971).
Text by Raymond Haire, 
Illustrations by Raymond Haire & John White.

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37 Responses to Aqueduct – a brief history

  1. It was a brick works up the back of houses. Known as the brickle

  2. Theresa Salmon says:

    What was at the back of the cottages,i think there was a narrow passageway so the top house could go down to the bottom house if needed, fences and gates now stop this , before the gardens and grass got put down up to the length of dainties lane what was the back land used for, yard, livestock?? good to find out.

  3. rosemary perry says:

    There are still Poolers in the area if you wish to contact them. I remember the Hearts names being read out every year at St Paul’s Church Aqueduct when it closed the memorial was moved to St Michaels at Madeley.

    • Vanessa Lawrence says:

      Thank you Rosemary. The power of the internet is vast. Maybe one of the Pooler family might contact me. I would love to be involved. Vanessa

    • rosemary perry says:

      Vanessa I have messaged Rob Pooler who you will see is on the feed on here. I made a mistake to on my previous post it should have read Gearys and not Hearts. Sorry! Hopefully Rob will be in touch . There are also other people trying to trace the Gearys in the feed. Regards Rosemary

      • Vanessa Lawrence says:

        Thank you Rosemary. I did wonder about Hearts, and am pleased to know that the Gearys were always remembered. I always put something out every Anzac Day (25th April here in australia) about my grandfather’s two brothers who gave their lives. All my Geary line stem from the Shropshire area, and to my calculation there were at the time of the 1911 census, 3 Geary families living in Madeley. I have no photos, except for those that Harriett Pooler put in the local paper about 1914, of which I have a copy. She was so proud of her sons. Also in the 1911 census it shows that James Pooler named my grandfather as his stepson. Just love my family so much, I know so much, but need to know their background also. I have messaged Carole Penni Burnett. We both share the same family line. I am still researching Madeley and trying to find out just when the mining of coal stopped, and then what? I find this page so informative. Thank you again. Vanessa

  4. Vanessa Lawrence says:

    I am the great grandaughter of Harriett Pooler (who was James Pooler’s 2nd wife), and her name was originally Geary, (or prior to that Paget). She had 4 sons with her first husband Henry Geary, and lost two of them in WW1, namely George and Percy. The other two, namely William Horace Geary had emigrated to Canada in about 1914, and my grandfather, John Geary was found unfit for medical reasons to serve in WW1. Obviously I am his descendant. However, Harriett remembered her lost sons with dedications and memorials to them in St Pauls Church, and also their names appear on the Madeley War Memorial. I have been researching the Geary family for years now, and realise what a devastating loss it was to her at that time. She lived with James Pooler at Windmill house/Farm until her death in 1925. Look I have no connections to the Pooler Family album, but maybe, just maybe there are photos of her that I can use in my family history which now revolved around the son (William Horace) that emigrated to Canada (still in touch) and my own line stemming from her son John Geary.born 1894. This is all just a shot in the dark. Vanessa Lawrence (nee Geary) daughter of John Geary who was the first born son of John Geary son of Harriett Pooler (Geary/Paget . my email is ray2van@bigpond.com

  5. carole penni burnett says:

    I’m not sure if anyone can help me . My grandmother was born in Madelay around 1860 ish. Im saying that because she was married in 1890 in Saltcoats Scotland. Her name was Myra Geary. Her mothers name was Ann. There was a mention that she lived by Aquaduct..any information will be appreciated. I live in Pennsylvania in the United States.

    • carole penni burnett says:

      Also contradicting information: Her mother was Ann Richards Geary. It appears that she married Mr. Geary after having my grandmother so the name could be Myra Richards, or some member of the family said there was also a Miriam, and a Letitia for the Myra name. But I always knew her as Myra. Sorry to be so uninformed .

      • carole penni burnett says:

        I have a picture of Ann Richards, my great grandmother in front of a cottage with a sign saying Honeysuckle Cottage.

      • R Perry says:

        Carole,

        I have attached a picture here of the Memorial to the dead of the first world war. I remember those names as being read out every armistice day at St Pauls Church Aqueduct,  They were brothers P. Geary and G. Geary both died in action 1914- 1918. I thought perhaps you maybe able to use military records to trace if they are realtion to the Geary family of Aqueduct. Hope this of some help to you.

      • Vanessa Lawrence says:

        Hallo Penni. I have quite a bit of information re Myra Richards. I believe you used to be in contact with Bill Geary (now passed). He and I collaborated quite a bit with our Geary genealogy. Vanessa

  6. Rosemary Perry says:

    Fosters Row is what the row of cottages in Aqueduct Road were originally called. They were renamed as Aqueduct Road years later. Windmill Farm, was close by in Aqueduct but the rest of the developements mentioned are in Madeley.

  7. Rosemary Perry says:

    My Auntie lived in 49 Aqueduct Road and that was the last house in that row in the 1950’s when I was growing up so I guess it was at the end and was demolished. If it was blacksmiths it would have covered quite a bit of ground and it was all cleared when Bostock Cresecent development started. That would be in the late fifties early sixties I think

    • Susan Turner says:

      I’m quite confused if I’m honest, in the 1871 it says 51 Aqueduct, but in the clipping from the paper it says Fosters row Aqueduct. I’m sorry I’m not local to your area so am struggling a little, are these two areas one and the same?
      The 1871 census says that the area covered is “along Court Street, all the houses at the Aqueduct that are in the parish of Madeley, the Windmill Farm, Three Furnaces, Tweedale, Cuckoo Oak farm to cottages left side of road to Cripples hill up Turnpike road to Madeley taking all on the right and comprising all in that circle”
      Are there any local history publications that you think could help me get to grips with the location and the area circa 1870.
      thanks for your help

  8. peter walker says:

    we are always happy to advise if and when we can my number is 01952 595864 please ring for a chat

    • Susan Turner says:

      Hi
      In my family bible, there is a reference to my great great great grandfather Thomas Gittins funeral, he lived in Fosters row Aqueduct and worked for the Madeley Court Company. He was buried in the parish church. In the 1871 census he says he was living in 51 Aqueduct and was a blacksmith. Could you tell me if any of these places are still in existence as I would dearly love to visit. Thanks

  9. Jacqueline N says:

    Have just found this fascinating social history website – wow. I am not local, have no ancestors from the area but I do live here (26years) and I am like a sponge for soaking up local history. Please tell me more!

  10. Rosemary Perry says:

    I was born at 53 Aqueduct Bank in one of the first cottages of the Aqueduct Village Community. My father Arthur Evans was also born there in 1913 the youngest of eight children. In 1961 we moved to Chapel Lane when the houses on the bank were condemned. I have many happy memories playing in the area, on the remains of the railway bridge which were at the end of Chapel Lane, the embankments, and in the lovely lilac trees and bluebell wood which were across the bridge with railings over the old Aqueduct Bridge. Mr & Mrs Peel lived in the stone house opposite, and we had lovely neighbours like the Williams’s, Heighways, Smarts, and more from down in the village in Foster Row. No bathroom, no toilet only up the garden, on Aqueduct Bank, communial tap at the end of the road, but we had a happy childhood and I would not have wanted to live anywhere else. I remember the remains of the old chapel up the lane and the day the memorial stone was removed by Malcolm Knowles Architect from Dawley Urban District Council who took it to Ironbridge Gorge Museum for safe keeping. That would be around 1973.

  11. Sue Curryer nee Bennett says:

    Hi I have just started research my family history and from the 1911 census it appears that my great grandfather Thomas Arthur Bennett ( then aged 18) lived at 34 The Aqueduct with his mother and siblings. He died prior to 1952 and prior to that living at Burners House, Sunderton, Shrewsbury.

  12. pnoakes says:

    Loved your site. A great example of the power of the web

  13. Robert Pooler says:

    I grew up in No: 2 Aqueduct Rd, also known as Dantys Row. It is still a family home my Sister living there. My parents were caretakers of St. Paul’s until it’s closer and I was in the Chapel Choir. Growing up it was very rural and had a great local community until the building of Brookside.. Happy Days

  14. Geoff Fletcher says:

    My father lived at 45 Aqueduct Row as shown in the 1911 census. His name was Henry Percy Fletcher and he was the eldest son of Walter and Alice Fletcher. His brother Harold took over the house in due course, and I remember visiting them there as a boy in the late 1940s to 1960. Does this house still exist? He also had a sister named Reaba.
    In 1969, together with a friend of mine, walked the route of the coal canals from Coalport to Wappensall Junction and took several monochrome photographs. These include the sites of the Donnington Wood and Trench inclined planes and a metal bridge complete with a section of a mineral line at Teague’s Brifge. If these are of any interest, I would be happy to supply copies of same.

    • Mel says:

      Yes all the houses are still here. I live in the same row.

    • walkerptw says:

      Hi Geoff, Yes the house still stands. If you could let us have a copy of the photographs you mention we would be more than grateful to receive them. My email address is peterthomaswalker@sky.com
      if there is anything further that you require, we would be happy to help.
      Peter Walker Chairman.

    • Wendy Palin says:

      Would love to see your photos. My Gran and her sisters lived at no 47 until 1978. I myself have family from all over Telford. There is a greatFacebook page called Oakengates and carnival I think where lots of old photos are posted

      • Robert Pooler says:

        A photo of my brother Stephen Pooler taken in Aqueduct Lane (Dainty’s Lane) behind Charlie Morris’s butchers shop – Circa 1966

        Regards Rob Pooler

    • maggie says:

      Hi Geoff
      I’m writing on behalf of your cousin Dot, because she’s got a new ipad and hasn’t sorted emails yet but can receive: dot.fletcher36@icloud.com. Her aunt was Reaba and her father Harold. Do email her if you can, Many thanks, Maggie

  15. Adam Green says:

    Would anyone from your excellent website be able to meet myself and Vicki Archer from BBC Radio Shropshire. We have randomly selected Aqueduct as our place of the week on our show!

  16. martin says:

    would love to learn more

  17. BereniceUK says:

    The war memorial from St Paul’s can be found in St Michael’s Church, Madeley.

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