The Coming of the New Town 5

Madeley continued

A crowd gathers outside Moore’s bakery and greengrocery, at the bottom of the High Street, which was to be demolished to make way for the new roundabout (see story below).

Click the photos on this page to enlarge.

This by-pass section of the development met with the obduracy of Mr. Moore, the owner of the bakery and green grocers shop which had stood on the site just where the new island was to be located since 1910. (The owner of another old business at this site, Mr. Boden the blacksmith, had accepted the Compulsory Purchase order because he wished to retire). Mr. Moore refused to accept his Compulsory Purchase Order even after the Public Enquiry Inspector had confirmed the order without modification. Negotiations had come to nought because it was felt that Mr. Moore’s bakery was not a suitable business to be relocated into the new centre and of not sufficient size to be rehoused in an industrial unit. Mr. Moore was offered other sites in Madeley but he wanted a freehold property rather than the leasehold tenancies he was being offered. Under the Compulsory Purchase Orders the Corporation did not have to offer freehold for commercial premises and this was confirmed by central government.

Mr. Moore told the local newspaper:

‘I have tried to settle in other parts of Madeley, but I have been refused on planning grounds in most instances. They do not give property any life and I have not been allowed to turn a house into a business. Even at this late stage I am hoping we can come to some agreement. The compensation they have offered me is not adequate to re-establish the business. My impression following negotiations with the Development Corporation leads me to believe they do not want private traders in Madeley other than in the commercial centre”. (Dawley Observer 3 April 1968)

In Mr. Moore’s opinion the by-pass and feeder roads could have been rerouted to avoid so much destruction to Madeley. He warned other communities, such as Dawley, that it would be their turn next after the Corporation had finished with Madeley.

By April 1968, the shop was continuing to operate from the middle of a partly built traffic island, but on the 22nd of that month the Sheriff’s Officer came to close the premises. It did so at seven minutes past ten amidst the protests of the Madeley housewives who were buying the last homemade loaves. The sheriff refused the loaf he was offered. (Dawley Observer, 26 April 1968). The demolition gang moved in and this section of the road was quickly completed.

Other objections were met at the other end of the by-pass where the Woodside estate was to be built on land surrounding Park Lane/Road — an old road lined with houses leading across the pasture to Lightmoor. Here it was intended to buy out all the owners, rehouse them, and start the estate with a blank sheet. Here however the objectors partially won, for although some buildings disappeared, notably the Hammer Inn, other survived amidst the new estate.

However this was perhaps a mixed blessing for then the residents found themselves marooned while the normal routes into Madeley for shops, schools, businesses etc were blocked by the building of the by-pass and the perimeter road for the Woodside estate and it appeared that the cut in the old road route would be permanent. Until they protested again there were no plans for an underpass or bridge — both of these solutions were too expensive. Representatives from the Corporation said that they must think of how the New Town would be in 20 years time rather than of the present inconveniences.

The new road was officially opened in late 1968. Complaints followed:—

  • the traffic was travelling far too fast but the speed restriction signs had not arrived in time for the opening.
  • the traffic took no notice of any pedestrians. (Dawley Observer, 22 January 1969)
  • the traffic count to discover whether a school-crossing warden was warranted was taken the day after the opening before a true picture of use could be established (Dawley Observer, 18 December 1968)

Trade in the local shops decreased as traffic avoided the centre of Madeley. High Street traders protested that shopping was safer than before because of the light traffic and the easier parking in the Street and that the range of goods on offer rivalled the shops in Wellington and Shrewsbury.

The first demolition work in the centre of Madeley was timetabled for late 1968 to coincide with the opening of the bypass. The physical development at the centre of Madeley was planned to be a modern pedestrian shopping precinct with adequate car parking facilities centred on Anstice Hall. The plan also included the creation of a village green, to which the war memorial would be resited. The centre would be based on two adjoining squares – Anstice Square and Russell Square – which would provide shops on the ground floor and housing and a new county library on the first floor. Access to the first floor was to be via stairways and a circular ramp. Even back in 1968, people were questioning the wisdom of siting a public library where the access was so difficult for many of the public. To create the centre, all existing buildings in the site had to be demolished, except for the Anstice, and all the through routes destroyed.

By this time all objections to the Compulsory Purchase Order had been answered. Some businesses would be resited in the new development, other business owners decided to retire and sell their businesses to the Corporation – such as Mr. G. Poole, who ran the saddler’s shop at the top of the High Street, Mr. N. Pooler, who owned a sweet shop/ off-licence at 6, Park Avenue and Mr. A. Carter, with his newsagents/ tobacconist shop at 3, Park Avenue. Other private tenants needed rehousing when they sold their homes to the Corporation. Press reports show the sadness of people, particularly the old, having to move from homes that many of them had lived in for all their lives. One of the last objections to be settled was from a Mrs. Smith who did not want to leave her accommodation in Park Avenue. Many of these families were rehoused in the development at Mayfield which were described by some inhabitants as ‘little palaces’ and also won national design awards. 29 families were rehoused in these new houses, 27 of whom had previously lived in the centre of Madeley. In all 160 houses and five public houses were demolished throughout Madeley. In the centre two trees and the Anstice Hall were preserved.

As a spokesman for the Development Corporation, Mr Brooke Taylor told the local newspaper “This will mean quite a revolution in the appearance and working of Madeley as a settlement..I know people in Madeley are unhappy about it and this is very understandable but once they have tasted what it is like to have a new central area they will appreciate the tremendous advantages they will gain. We will get a different attitude from the people’. (Dawley Observer 4 October 1967).

It was predicted that Madeley people were in for a rough time — ‘If you are ripping the heart out of a village it is going to be one hell of an upset’. (Dawley Observer, 20 December 1967).

D-Day for Madeley was in fact 31 January 1968, the day on which the big demolition and rebuilding scheme was due to start. (Dawley Observer, 31 January 1968). The delay was due to concern about the shopping facilities in Madeley, especially in the run up for Christmas.

A wintry scene in January 1968, looking southeast from Park Avenue towards the newly built Sutton Hill estate, which can just be seen on the horizon.

The demolition sign refers to the former old people’s rest room, which once stood just in front of the pile of earth, centre right.

The first building to be demolished was the Madeley Rest Room. The last service in the original building in Park Avenue was held on 12 January 1968. By the following Friday the members of the Rest Room met in this new building but with their old furniture and all plaques and inscriptions also transferred. (Dawley Observer, 17 January 1968).

There were questions though about the bricks which built the original building, which had all been bought by subscription and were incsribed with people’s names. It is said that these and other rubble from the centre of Madeley was used as hardcore for the Eastern Primary Road. (Madeley Book).

By the middle of 1968 Madeley people were said to be ‘ very, very patient and tolerant’ as Court Street, Church Street and other minor pathways had been severed or made impassable or diverted through new underpasses. (Dawley Observer, 24 July 1968).

One year later, Dawley Urban Council was debating the noise and disruption that the people of Madeley had suffered over the last year.

  • Sleepless nights as the tunnelling operations for new sewers continued 24 hours per day in order to meet deadlines for completion.
  • Mess. There were two tractor drawn sweepers operating in the area, but they were insufficient when the rain turned the streets into quagmires.
  • One of the early buildings to be demolished had been the public conveniences and so far these had not been replaced leaving not only local people but also hundreds of workmen without this facility.
  • Everything was being done for the newcomers with little consideration for the existing population.
  • Lack of local shops. The old ones had been demolished and the new ones were not yet built. This problem had been exaccerbated by shopkeepers closing their old premises
  • Jobs were left undone. The Three Horse Shoes public house was demolished, a mess left and then they moved on to create a mess elsewhere.
  • Lack of footpaths amongst the developments to enable people to go about their business.

Councillor Bostock summed up the list of complaints by saying ‘We are suffering – there is no part of the new town where the people are tolerant as the Madeley folk. Sir Frank Price talked about the new Jerusalem — he could well say — and personally I would like to see him come and have a look – it is a city of despair in a slough of despondency’. (Dawley Observer, 22 January 1969)

And how did the people of Madeley feel at this time apart from tired?

At first the local people supported the Development Corporation against the opinions of the local Dawley council. When asked if they supported the vote of no confidence taken in the autumn of 1967, surprisingly about half of those interviewed supported the view that the Development Corporation were doing their best to fulfill its obligations and that the local council should not criticise. (Dawley Observer, 4 October 1967). Other however, notably Mr. Moore felt that the New Town was destroying the community spirit of Madeley. (Dawley Observer, 11 October 1967).

By 1968, headlines in the local newspaper were saying:

‘OLD FOLK SAD AS THEIR MADELEY DIES. There is a feeling of sadness amongst the older people of Madeley as demolition work speeds up. Perhaps for some of the old folk it has severed a connection with their childhood. Mr. Joe Hardman is pictured standing near to a partly demolished house three doors away from his home in Court Street. ‘It is sad to see the houses go when you have known them for so long’ said Mr. Hardman. ‘I suppose it is good for the youngsters but it is not so good for us old ones’Another of the older residents said that she felt sad because of the tremendous development going on. ‘The places we have grown up with are coming down but I suppose we have got to keep up with the times. It is all part of progress’ (Dawley Observer 15 May 1968). People were ready to make sacrifices for the sake of the whole community. (Dawley Observer, 11 October 1968).

By 1969 the local newspaper reported other stories of older residents reluctant and sad to leave their old homes but this time tinged with anger. Those in Princes Street were faced with a move to the one bedroomed flats at Sutton Hill at a higher rent. A councillor spoke for them ‘The people do not want to go to Sutton Hill or Woodside, They positively hate Sutton Hill and Woodside. But if they have to go and it would appear that they must, because the roads have got to be built, then the people should have a special priviliged rent. These people have faith in Telford, but they are having it shattered by these heartless officials going around them”. (Dawley Observer, 7 May 1969). But still the general feeling is one of inevitability and helplessness in the path of progress.

By February 1969, the local newspaper claimed that a ‘startling transformation’ was taking place to the centre of Madeley. The first phase, including the Co-op and eight other shops, was taking shape. The Co-op was the first shop to be opened on April 1969 by the Queen of Coronation Street, Elsie Tanner. The Co-op was a retail unit of 8,000 sq. ft, 6,000 devoted to wares and wear, and the other 2,000 to foodstuffs.

The new library was officially opened in September 1969, and the centre was well under way when Princess Margaret visited it in 1970. New housing to the north of the centre, around The Villa, proved popular with residents and won two design awards in 1971. The Green was levelled and reseeded and the war memorial moved to incorporate more of old Madeley into the new centre. The local British Legion had urged for the memorial to be moved for a long time since it had been in traffic hazard in its previous position in Park Street.

By the beginning of the 1970’s the major work at Madeley had been completed. It had changed rapidly and irrevocably. In the late 1970’s a Madeley Review Plan was published to consolidate the development and see what remained to be done. Public consultation and areas for development included small factory units in Station Road and a new road from the foot of Madeley High Street to Blists Hill to relieve the pressure of the tourist traffic. It is ironic that this latter development was identified. Madeley has had a long and honourable history, which in recent years has been overlooked in favour of the interest shown in the Ironbridge Gorge. While the historic heart of Madeley was being destroyed, the Corporation was recreating Ironbridge.

There is no doubt about the depth of local feeling about the changes. Ten years after the development of Madeley, the Telford Development Corporation issued a pamphlet describing the process and acknowledging that the ‘Madeley people endured so much whilst development went on around them which profoundly affected their way of life’.

  • Madeley was the first area within the designated area of the New Town to be developed and so the inhabitants had no example of how radical the changes would be. In national new town planning this was also the first example of major reconstruction taking place so early in the life of a new town. (Dawley Observer, 4 October 1967)
  • The development happened very quickly — for instance most of the work at the shopping centre taking place within two years. The experience must have been shocking to local inhabitants who witnessed the sudden destruction of their surroundings.
  • The development was vast and complex involving a lot of destruction and demolition before anything new was constructed.
  • There are many claims of a lack of consultation about the plans for Madeley. The plans for Madeley had been shown to the public at a meeting in Madeley in April 1966 at which over 400 people attended. One local resident claimed ‘it was quieter than a church meeting’.
  • Madeley folk were slow to react to the proposed changes. It was only in November 1967 that the local Residents Association was talking to the local Chamber of Commerce about their worries, perhaps when the impact of the first stages of building the by-pass was making them realise how gigantic the rest of the scheme would be.
  • The Development Corporation was been accused of remaining very aloof from the general public but they had no reason to be otherwise. The officers were appointed by the central government of the day to create a new town, and with this mandate they could dictate what would happen to the local communities as the major plan rolled forward.

Twenty years after the event, ‘The Madeley Book’ recorded some more thoughts about the developments.

‘I don’t think we knew what to expect. They knocked the heart out of the place in my opinion, but that’s progress’. Fred Owen.

‘I used to grit my teeth every time I saw them, I knew they were buggering things up’.

‘They altered the middle of Madeley. There was an adverse reaction among older people, this is what they were used to and they were pulling things down’ Arthur Hooke.

Thirty years after the event a letter appeared in the Shropshire Star in which the proposed plans for Lightmoor were compared with the history of Madeley.

‘Madeley was once a nice village until TDC desecrated the area by destroying lovely old buildings and building a dreadful housing estate, ugly flats and a grim, concrete shopping centre and ugly underpasses covered in grafitti and strewn with litter and broken glass.So this is progress? God help us’. (Shropshire Star, 24 February 1998).

This photo shows Madeley shopping centre half way through construction, with Russell Square completed in the background. Webster Wilkinson’s engineering works can just be seen centre left.

At the time of writing (October 2000) there are proposals to demolish the engineering works and construct a huge new supermarket and additional car parking to the south of the existing shopping centre. Many local residents feel that this is likely to draw trade away from the shopping centre and create additional traffic problems in the centre of Madeley, as well as ignoring its location, surrounded by part of the Ironbridge World Heritage Site. It has been suggested that we would be better off learning from the mistakes of the recent past and having a traditional shopping street, with businesses looking on to the main street (in fact, something very similar to what was there before 1968……….).


  • BROOKE TAYLOR, G: Dawley: Midlands New Town. Town and Country Planning (1964?), pp 126—130
  • DAWLEY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION: Madeley Policy Plan, draft report. 1967.
  • DAWLEY NEW TOWN: Madeley Educational and Recreational Centre; draft report of the Advisory Joint Committee on Recreation. February 1967
  • DAWLEY OBSERVER: Many articles 1967—69
  • DE SOISSONS, Maurice: Telford: the making of Shropshire’s new town. Swan Hill, 1991
  • EVERSLEY, D. C.; Dawley New Town. Town and Country Planning, (1963?), pp445—7.
  • THE MADELEY BOOK: A short history of Madeley, Woodside and Sutton Hill told in the words of local people. Madeley Parish Council, 1991
  • TELFORD DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION: The redevelopment of Madeley. 1988
  • WHARTON, Kate: Madeley has made it — and in ten years Telford will triumph. Daily Telegraph, 28 October 1974, p 17