BRITANNIA AQUEDUCT HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Aqueduct and Stirchley village walk
The first known reference to any building in the area was to the Windmill farm, part of the Madeley Court estate which was sold in 1722.
The farmhouse, which stood in Bishopdale on what is now the Brookside estate, played a vital part in what was to become Aqueduct village giving part of its pastures to its birth.
Start from the Britannia Inn, originally built as a chartermasters house in the 1840s. Turn north along what is now Aqueduct Road. This was a once a turnpike road linking Bridgnorth to Wellington. On the right is Fosters Row, seven rows of four houses, built for James Foster, an ironmaster from Stourbridge in the 1840s for his workers, many of whom moved to the area from Wombridge.
Further along is St. Pauls church, built in 1851. Opposite St. Pauls is Chapel Lane, where in the 1840s, four rows of houses where built presumably for the people working on Aqueduct bank. At the junction of Chapel Lane and Aqueduct Road is the site of a railway bridge, which once crossed over the road from Wellington to Bridgnorth, the A442. Continue along the path to the left of the Silkin way which is the course of the old A442, to the Aqueduct, built in 1792 by John Lowden to carry the western arm of the Shropshire Canal over the old road. The route of the canal was surveyed by William Reynolds.
Proceed under the Aqueduct and turn left on to the path which takes you to the top of the bridge.
On the bridge, the pathway was once the bed of the canal. Looking west and to the right is the area once known as Aqueduct Bank, the site of commercial premises: a chain-making business operated by Gilbert Gilpin up until 1827 and an iron foundry owned by Charles Clayton in 1847. From 1856 to 1900 the site was converted to domestic dwellings and demolished in 1965. On the eastern side of the bridge and to the immediate right of the path is the site of Aqueduct House, one of the first buildings in Aqueduct, believed to have been built in the 1790s. The building was later converted into two dwellings and was known as Stone Cottages. They also were demolished in the early 1960s.
Continue on the path up to the brick bridge, built in the 1930s to bypass the narrow road under the Aqueduct. Cross the main road and turn into Aqueduct Lane, originally Stirchley Road. Where the lane rises, is the site of a bridge under which passed the eastern branch of the Shropshire Canal, towards Windmill Farm, now taken over by the Brookside housing estate.
At the top of the rise are Tunnel Houses, named after the canal tunnel which was built at the rear of the premises, prior to being opened into a railway cutting. It is thought that the cottages were built to house canal workers. Continue along Aqueduct Lane and into Stirchley Road eventually reaching Stirchley Hall on the right hand side. Stirchley Hall was built in 1653 and enlarged in the 18th century. Recent development has seen the stables converted into modem dwellings. Further along and on the left hand side of the road is the site of Stirchley School, now rebuilt in Blists Hill Museum.
Turn right along the track opposite the school site, to St James Church, which was originally a Norman Chapel, partially rebuilt in 1741 and later extended in 1838. No longer a place of regular worship, the inside has recently been cleaned and painted.Retrace the route back to Stirchley Road. Look out for the section of old iron chain outside the small building on the right, which was once the village stores. Continue down Stirchley Road as far as Northwood Terrace. The Rose and Crown public house existed prior to 1839, but then consisted of only the old part facing Northwood Terrace; the extension dates from the 1980s.
In 1777 Isaac Hawkins Browne bought Stirchley Grange and Hall. He established The Old Park Company and as James Foster had done in Aqueduct, built houses for his workers. The only ones remaining are those in Northwood Terrace.
If necessary, a short cut can be taken at this point, taking the left fork past the end of Northwood Terrace, then follow the track to The Silkin Way. Otherwise continue along Stirchley Road to a turning left, just past the two cottages and along the pathway leading to Stirchley Grange, originally owned by the monks of Buildwas Abbey.
Proceed along the path leading into the Town Park, taking the left fork past the end of Northwood Terrace, then follow the track to the Silkin Way.
Randlay Chimney, visible above the trees, was built by the Wellington Iron and Coal Company in 1873. However, due to bankruptcy in 1877 the furnace was never fired. The Silkin Way follows the the line of the railway, which eventually replaced the Shropshire Canal, a section of which still remains between the Silkin Way and Hinkshay Pools.
Tum left (south) along the Silkin Way eventually reaching the site of Stirchley and Dawley station.
The bridge here is the one that once carried the Stirchley Lane over the railway. Proceed under the bridge, further along is the ruin of a line side hut. The next bridge was presumably built to provide access across the railway when the canal tunnel was opened out into a cutting. At the point where access to Aqueduct Road is available, is the site of the east-west canal junction and the site of the bridge for the eastern arm, now packed with stone.
Return to Aqueduct via the Silkin Way, passing under the 1930s brick bridge. On the right, you come across Chapel Lane again. At the bottom of the lane on a site now occupied by garages, stood a Primitive Methodist Chapel built in 1850, again for the workers of the village. Proceed back to Aqueduct Road and continue past the Britannia. The next large house was also built for one of Fosters chartermasters.
Continue on until you reach Number 1 Aqueduct Road. This house was built for James Foster’s Furnace Manager. Turn up the track alongside number 1, originally known as Dainty’s Lane. This was the access to a brickworks situated between the rear of Fosters Row and the canal, now buried beneath the allotments and Brookside perimeter road.
Return to the Britannia.