The historical bit of the Advent Challenge has been the most difficult. Raw facts and information are difficult for me to process, I need a story to hang the context on, I need an experience to hook me in.
Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust prepared an archaeological and historical commentary on the Lightmoor Development in 1991. The full document can be found here.
Two bits leapt our at me regarding one about the furnaces and another bit about the Squatter Cottage.
The Lightmoor Furnaces.
The Lightmoor Furnaces were a group of 3 blast furnaces constructed from 1758 onwards. They are nationally important as an example blast furnace technology for which the Coalbrookdale area was world renowned. The furnaces closed in c,1878 and were demolished. Part of the furnaces remain up-standing and have been listed Grade II.
The ironworks as shown on the 1883 OS map comprised the furnace bank, a large casting house, a plateway network and associated outbuilding.
An archaeological investigation was undertaken in 1984 (Higgins 1988) to determine the extent of deposits to be affected by the proposed Coalbrookdale bypass. These were on a limited scale but did indicate surviving remains. No provision was made for full archaeological investigation.
About half of the complex was removed during the construction of the Coalbrookdale by-pass. The area not affected by the bypass has been enclosed in a fenced reserve. This includes a fragment of upstanding wall surrounded by rubble, although considerably more of the furnace remained visible in 1974.
Outside the fenced area to the north there were also remains of the complex. This area has been dumped upon recently. but buildings and plateway are likely to survive on or near the natural ground surface. The building to the north which remains standing may well have been part of the complex as well.
The furnace bank has landscape significance in that it creates topgraphical variety, and acts as a buffer between the bypass and the area behind. The bank is an important feature in the setting and context of Shropshire ironworks.
The Squatter Cottage
On Woodlands Lane stands a so-called “Squatter Cottage” built in 1797. This is the only complete example of a once important building type in the area. Its setting is also unique.
In April 1797, Robert Bayley paid a 6d fine to the Earl of Craven for a cottage on a small triangle of wasteland between the Shropshire Union Canal and Woodlands Lane, just above Stocking Bridge. The site was known as Beggarly Bank. Many of the later occupants of the cottage were colliers, miners or labourers.
It’s likely that Robert Bayley built the house with his own hands. His own hands.
It was owned by the tilemaker William Taylor in the 1850s who may have installed some of the tiled features.
Squatter cottages were built on unregulated wasteland, by individuals who paid an annual fine at the Manorial court. Such communities housed a substantial part of the working population of the Coalbrookdale Coalfeld during the Industrial Revolution.
Until the early 1970s, a squatter community survived along Holywell Lane nearby, although the houses have since been demolished or modernised. A single squatter cottage from Burroughs Bank has been re-erected at the Blists Hill Museum.
The Woodlands Lane cottage is unusual in the Telford area because it has not been modernised. Few changes have taken place to the building since the 1850s.
I love these details. I can walk from my house and see the Squatter Cottage. I can now look and think about Robert Bayley and how he wanted to provide himself with some shelter.