Historic Timeline

Historic Dawley Timeline

The Industrial Revolution which began in Shropshire in the 18C changed the world as it was then, and continues to shape the world today. Few parishes played a more important role in the growth of that early industrial movement than Dawley. Lying at the heart of the East Shropshire Coalfield, the ancient parish had associations with ironworking from early times, but it was during the 18C and 19C that its rich seams of coal, clay and ironstone began to be exploited in earnest. Almost overnight a small and largely agricultural community saw its population grow rapidly, transformed by the influx of migrant labour. The parish underwent a process of wholesale change with the emergence of numerous distinct industrial settlements, at first in the north and west where the seams of minerals were shallow and accessible, later to the east where deep collieries were established. By the mid-19C many of the dwellings and other buildings which had grown up rather haphazardly throughout the area had begun to coalesce, most notably at Dawley Green which became the town’s commercial centre, located along the present-day High Street.

The parish’s industrial prosperity was driven particularly by the investments of two ironworking dynasties: the Quaker Darby family who ran the Coalbrookdale Company, and the Botfield family who set up at Old Park in the north of the parish. Dawley can take some considerable pride in the fact that at Old Park it was once home to the largest ironworks in Shropshire and the second largest in Great Britain. Similar achievements saw the one of the first rolling mills in the world established at Horsehay. Such was the scale and importance of Dawley’s industrial activity during this period that by the mid-19C century half of all the furnaces and forges operating in east Shropshire were located within the parish.

By the late-19C century, however, the Shropshire iron industry was in decline. One by one the blast furnaces were blown-out, the forges and foundries closed, and the collieries – such a distinctive part of Dawley’s landscape - soon followed suit. As elsewhere throughout the Coalfield, almost all of Dawley’s collieries closed for good, which led to an era of considerable poverty. By the end of the 19C century the population of the parish had dropped by more than a third from it high point in 1871. The landscape left behind was one of pit mounds and spoil heaps, a great deal of poor housing stock, derelict furnaces, forges and engine-houses, abandoned canal systems, in short a landscape of depression which remained largely so until 1955. It was then that an ambitious initiative by Dawley Urban District Council sought to tackle the question of regeneration. Out of its proposals was born Dawley New Town which forged many links and started the process of renewal before becoming enlarged and redesignated as the greater enterprise of Telford New Town itself in 1968.