The Coming of the New Town 4


Devastation at the bottom of the High Street as the new roundabout is constructed. (Click to enlarge).

The pub sign which you can just see on the left of the picture is of the Foresters Arms, which survives. George Boden’s blacksmiths shop (just behind the Landrover) and Moore’s bakery (centre foreground) were not so lucky. The light coloured structures just behind the Landrover are part of the concrete footbridge which carries the Silkin Way footpath over the bottom of High Street and Parkway, replacing the iron girder railway bridge which carried the Wellington to Coalport branch line (the route of the famous “Coalport Dodger”). The railway embankment can be seen centre right.

In the master plan for Dawley New Town, Madeley was shown as a residential area situated at the south end of the town park, with the area designated for the university (Woodside) to the west, the industrial areas to the east and the recreational area of the Severn Gorge in the south. It was to be developed to house about 8,000 people, the same size as the estates at Sutton Hill and Woodside. Because of its central position, it was also to serve as a social and main shopping centre for a population of at least 26,000 in the next few years. Serious work on planning the new Madeley began in 1966 and by October 1967 a draft report and policy plan had been prepared. While recognising that some change would be unavoidable, the report stated that ‘it is nevertheless considered important to preserve whenever possible the buildings and landscape which give Madeley its particular life and character’.

It is necessary here to describe Madeley as it was. The nineteenth century commercial centre had grown up along the four roads of Court Street, High Street, Church Street and Park Street. At the meeting of these roads was the square and around this point were the major shops, a pub, and the Anstice Hall. High Street and Park Street formed the main road between Shifnal and Ironbridge and thence on to Wenlock, the centre for the borough administration. Park Street was lined with substantial houses and led west to agricultural and pastureland. Court Street led to the industrial area of old iron works and here were many workers’ cottages as well as newer estates. High Street led down to the site of the old canal, of the two railways, coal mines and the gas works. This area was known locally as the Neck End. All the length of the High Street and beyond into Queen Street were lined with shops and commercial services. Finally Church Street led to the Church, the schools and older residential property.

The Corporation report of 1967 described Madeley thus :-

‘Approaching Madeley from East or West, the dominant impression is one of a settlement in decline. An inadequate road network is lined with fairly extensive areas of obsolescent housing interspersed with industrial premises that have no place in a residential area’.

A comparison of statistics from the 1961 census showed that the population had hardly increased since the census of 1841. Pits had been worked out, iron works blown out, factories had relocated and prosperity had declined leading to many people moving away to new opportunities. The report continues:

‘The settlement is, today, threatened by both obsolescence and congestion, and the whole pattern of the settlement in terms of communications, distribution of land use, shopping and communal facilities, may prove inadequate to meet changing social and economic needs’.

The 1967 report studied all aspects of life in Madeley in turn – housing, transport and communications, shopping, industry, education, recreation, historic buildings etc and made recommendations for improvements in each area:-

Housing – the rapid rise in population during the nineteenth century and the decline in the twentieth was responsible for the old and substandard houses in the town, many of which were empty and dilapidated. Of the 1240 households identified in the Madeley area, 41% had been erected before 1881 and of these 11% were structurally unsound, 15% had been erected between 1881 and 1945 and 44% after 1945. Again of these 1240 houses, 10.6% had no cold water (running?), 29% had no hot water, 32% had no fixed bath and 19.3% were without a wc (internal?). The plan included a programme for new housing in pockets of land within the area, restoration of houses of sound and historic value and renewing sub-standard houses. It was noted that the older houses in the centre of Madeley were populated by the older generation, often living alone while younger, larger families lived in the council estates away from the centre.

Historic houses – Blocks of houses as well as individual properties were identified for renovation and subsequent private or public use mostly situated in the old core of Madeley around St. Michael’s Church. Most of them dated from the 17th and 18th centuries and were seen as having value for preservation as a group. The largely nineteenth century buildings on the High Street and Park Street were not considered worth preserving. (Madeley Policy Plan – map 5).

It was hoped that when the major buildings had been restored that local services and groups would be encouraged to use them. (For instance Upper House became the headquarters of the social relations department of the Telford Development Corporation, but there was still plenty of room for local societies.) (Dawley Observer, 5 March 1969).

‘The head of the department, Social Relations officer Mr. Gerard Brooke Taylor, said,’When we bought the premises we could not pull it down because it is a scheduled building of great quality, and I suggested we use it as an office and also a meeting place for voluntary bodies in Madeley. Madeley Residents Association meets here, also other organisations and we shall be delighted to let others use it. If we can bring together the different societies it will become a little social centre in Madeley as well as a place where people can come and see us’. (Dawley Observer, 26 January 1969)

Transport and communication – the closure of the local railways to all but coal trains had increased the pressure on the inadequate road system. The B4380 (Shifnal to Ironbridge Road) was of a poor standard, narrowing to 17ft in Park Street with a severe double bend in the centre of Madeley.

Traffic problems were identified under four headings:

  • Through traffic – traffic was already exceeding the 500 vehicles per hour capacity during peak hours and it was expected that peak hour traffic would reach 1800 vehicles per hour once Sutton Hill, Woodside and the industrial estates were up and running
  • Car parking – lack of car parks led to kerbside parking restricting road capacity
  • Public service vehicles (ie buses) at an average of 12 per hour and numerous commercial vehicles unloading at the kerbside added to congestion.
  • Pedestrians – the pavements were below the standard 6ft width, with no provision for widening.

Obviously road transport was a major problem to be addressed and the suggested solution was to cut the through road, and hence through traffic, and to build a by-pass around the centre of Madeley with implied changes to the feeder roads.

A bulldozer prepares the site for Madeley’s new library, situated bizarrely at first floor level above a Co-op furniture store. The architects displayed a rare sense of humour when they provided access to the library via either a steep flight of steps or an equally difficult ramp. Perhaps nobody told them that the elderly are amongst the most frequent users of libaries?

The row of shops opposite roughly follow the line of the southern side of the present day Anstice Square (directly opposite the Anstice Institute).

Shopping – there were 60 shops in Madeley before redevelopment.

(These included 20 grocers, 7 newsagents and tobacconist/stationers, 9 clothing shops, 6 hardware/furniture shops, 6 hairdressers, 5 butchers, 2 betting shops, 2 greengrocers, 2 off-licences and one each of various others including a saddlers and a blacksmiths.)

‘We had fryer Eric, Carter’s paper shop, Pooler’s vegetables, fruit and sweets and then the Co-op. The Co-op was the grocery shop and they had bedclothes and things and then there was a shoe shop and then these was Brian’s which we called big Brian’s ‘cos it was a big shop and then these was ‘Little Brian’s’ which was opposite. Big Brian’s sold clothes, Little Brian’s sold shoes. They were two brothers and they were German.

Then there was Ottley’s and Brunt’s and Jones’ the hairdressers and Cartwright’s the butchers and what about Mrs. Jones the grocery shop.

Jones the electrical shop and Jones the chippy and there was a fresh fish shop called ‘Coddy Smith’s’ and another Jones who used to sell fresh fish.

There was Bennett’s the painter and decorator and what was the other one across Court Street? Bloxidge’s – they were painters and decorators.

Heighway’s – this little old lady used to have, well, she would sell anything really. I mean she even would do bacon which she would cut and slice you know, on the slicing machine.

Gardiner’s the butchers, there was Cartwight the Butcher’s and Pooler’s the butcher’s and then there was a little sweetshop called Hood’s which was set up by the cinema and Nelly Oak’s, she had a shop which sold practically all sorts , biscuits, sweets and tinned stuff. Newbrook’s. I think there is still a Newbrook’s, they sold fruit and vegetables and the other Newbrook’s, they were brothers, the other Newbrook’s sold sweets.

And then there was Jones’ the papershop and Pritchard’s and Peter Edward’s, this was across Court Street – they were grocery shops and Wilde’s, they used to sell sweets and then there was quite a lot of sweet shops when I think about it.Evan’s the café, opposite the cinema, I used to love going there for lollipops and their sugar buns, they were beautiful and there was a cleaners shop, Harper’s, that was a sort of grocery shop.

Hallett’s, they sold jewellery and the other Hallet’s that lived next door, they were brothers, the other Hallett’s sold all sorts of ironmongers stuff, mops, buckets and paint and things like that and material.

Lowes’ used to sell dresses. There was the garage down Madeley, Mr. Pope’s we used to get the accumulators for radio or wirelesses there. (Jeanette Gough – The Madeley Book).

“Apart from the existing cluster of shops established in the vicinity of the Anstice Hall, the large proportion of shops straggle for a considerable distance along High Street, Park Street and Court Street. The majority of shops are old and are ill-suited to modern retail trade requirements, which demand large clear floor areas, convenient storage space, rear access for loading and unloading and convenient approaches for pedestrians.Practically all of the shops are extremely small by modern standards. It is estimated that most of the shops in the main streets have an area below 200sq. ft which is under that considered necessary for efficient trading. In the main streets practically every shop is at least 50 years old. No modern shop fronts have been installed and some have untidy and out-dated signs and adverts’. (Madeley Policy Plan, 1967).

The projection for future need was to decrease the number of shops to 36 in central Madeley but increase their size – ie replacing most of the foodstuff shops by 2 supermarkets in a new, pedestrianised district centre with opportunities for off street parking and unloading facilities.Industry – The major industries in Madeley in 1967 were identified as three metal industries (Coventry Gauge & Tool Co. Ltd, Walton & Co. Ltd and Jubilee Nuts and Bolts Ltd) a pyjama factory and two haulage contractors. All except the pyjama factory were seen as not being acceptable within a residential area and likely to generate additional traffic especially at peak periods. It was envisaged that most of these industries would relocate leaving Madeley as a primarily residential area.

Education and recreation – a major deficiency in Madeley was seen in the lack of formal public playing field space although there was nearly 10 acres of private space for bowling, tennis football and cricket, owned by the Miners’ Welfare and Madeley Cricket Club. The influx of new families would need leisure facilities and additional educational establishments and it was proposed that the two needs should be combined in one educational and recreational development on land near Madeley Court. The plan would include sports halls and fields, a swimming pool and a dry ski run. It was also recommended that a 2 acre site for a playground be located and a place for a youth club to operate. Another leisure facility was being provided at Sutton Hill in the form of a golf course and of course the Telford Development Corporation was investing heavily in helping to create the museum based around the Iron Bridge.

At the Recreational Centre, the facilities would be shared with the children attending the secondary school on site. With the Abraham Darby School this would provide two secondary schools. All the primary schools in the area, apart from Madeley Infants, were to be closed and rebuilt making a provision of 7 primary schools in the wider Madeley area. (Madeley Policy Plan, 1967)

(Dawley Observer, 9 April 1969) On the social front, the Policy Plan for Madeley found many thriving clubs and societies, at least 26, operating from centres in Madeley which made the erection of a community centre unnecessary. However it did criticise the exclusivity of some of the clubs which were based on past employment, such as mining, which had decreasing validity in Madeley of the 1960’s and might be a hindrance to community development and social integration. When the new social club was proposed for Hills Lane in 1969, this was the first such initiative since the building of the Anstice Hall 100 years before.

A special press conference was called by Dawley Development Corporation on 2 May 1967 to announce that Whitehall had given the go-ahead for all the plans for Madeley – for the new by-pass, for the redevelopment of the centre and for the necessary compulsory purchase orders. (Dawley Observer, 3 May 1967)

Objections were made to the proposals – and some were successful but others not. Owners of buildings, which stood in the way of development, were subject to a compulsory purchase order, which most of them accepted after negotiations with the Corporation. By the time of the public enquiry in November 1967, only three objections still remained. Two of these were for specific objections and only one was an opposition to the development as a whole.

“With the New Town, the planning laws are different and the normal thing of complaining to your local councillors doesn’t work. TDC only had to inform the council they wanted to close a footpath, and if they said it was of importance to the development of the new town, then normal planning laws ceased to exist. The council could complain to the Secretary of State, but since he appointed the TDC board, he was hardly likely to override them and I don’t think he ever did’. Rob Breeze – The Madeley Book.

At the local council meeting held at the end of September 1967, a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the Development Corporation was narrowly passed. The main criticism was one of non-communication with the local council which led in turn to the residents and tenants of Madeley not being informed about what was going to happen next or when it was going to happen. The Development Corporation were accused of ‘talking down’ to the members of the liaison committee instead of communicating on a level plane. Also the local councillors went to meetings without any prior information while the Corporation representatives were backed by legal advisors and of course they won every round. (Dawley Observer 4 October 1967).

The plans went ahead.

The by-pass was routed to run from the junction of Queen Street and High Street in the east, round to the north cutting through Court Street just north of Victoria Road and then sweep round to join the road leading down to Ironbridge in the west. Initially it was to be constructed as a single carriageway to be widened to a dual carriageway when traffic demanded it. The overall plan was to tie in future roads from the new housing estate at Woodside and from the industrial zones at Halesfield and Tweedale. The B4380 from Shifnal would be rerouted through Halesfield to a new island at Cuckoo Oak necessitating the demolition of the Cuckoo Oak pub and some other properties there. The new route continued through to Madeley, replacing parts of Prince Street to meet up with the bottom of the High Street at another new island, where it joined with the bypass. The contract also included two footbridges in Madeley, an entirely new access road to the new centre at Madeley and foul sewer trunks.The £240,000 contract for the building of the bypass was awarded in July 1967 to Percy Bilton Ltd from Stone in Staffs. (Dawley Observer, 19 July 1967).

This photo, taken from a position a few yards to the right of the previous one, shows the beginning of construction of the Madeley Bypass or “Parkway”.

The edge of the roundabout can be seen on the left, with Parkway curving away between the construction machines and the large hoarding. The houses on the horizon are part of Coronation Crescent.

Harry Goodwin, the reporter then received a blow by blow account of the scheme from the resident engineer – the pre-cast concrete sections for an underpass, each weighing about 15 tons, the first of this size ever used in Britain, huge scrapers removing 32 tons of earth in one movement and worth £26,000 each (the tyres alone cost £700). The impact of the size of the machinery and the scale of the project must have been beyond belief to the locals. The bypass was being constructed in two parts, the sections above and below Court Street would not meet until the residents there had been provided with new houses, which was predicted to be in May 1968, depending on the weather. The Dawley Observer of 6 September 1967 published a feature on the progress of the bypass construction. ‘An upheaval at Madeley’ and ‘The bypass begins to bite into the earth’ were two of the headlines;-

‘When work starts on schemes which will eventually add 2,400 homes to a Shropshire town, local people can be excused at being rather puzzled – and upset – by the upheaval. Which is no doubt why some Madeley people have lately asked me “What on earth is going on round here?”

Earth is the right word – because thousands of tons of it, sandy clay, are being moved. Giant machines rumble around the district, gardens and fences have disappeared, walls knocked down. The reason is that the new town work is really bustling at Madeley – with the new bypass the big objective.

Local people are just beginning to realise the gigantic size of the scheme’.

‘Before the rain, frost and snow arrive the aim now in Madeley is “Get a move on!”. This is essential if the new town schedule is to be maintained, but Corporation officials have told me that they don’t forget that for all that, Madeley folk are having quite a bit to put up with. But in the long run, when the homes and streets are all finished, the area should be a showpiece’.

Evidently the work did not proceed as quickly as hoped for by November 1967, reports appeared in the newspaper complaining that Madeley was like “a sea of mud”. (Dawley Observer, 15 November 1967).

A local councillor, Denis Powis, volunteered to lead the revolution to improve conditions in Madeley. ‘In Madeley we don’t have a viscount or a lord living in the place, else we would have them washing the streets so that he wouldn’t get his car dirty. The trouble is that we are not considered at all by anyone’.

The blame for the mess was laid both on the shoulders of the Development Corporation that should be checking on the contractors and on the contractors themselves. (Dawley Observer 4 October 1967).