Broseley Local History Society Journal No 5 1977


The Wilkinson Society


The Year's Activities

Programme of Events for 1977.-8

The Museum





Josiah John Guest

Boatbuilding  in  the  Ironbridge Gorge

Pottery Workers


Editor:  N. J. Clarke

The Wilkinson Society

  The Society was formed in 1972 to meet the demand for an organisation to preserve the material and documentary evidence of Broseley's industrial past. Since an important part in this industrial past was played by John Wilkinson, who lived for a time at "the Lawns"; it, was decided that the organisation should be known as The Wilkinson Society.

  The aims of the Society are:-

Administration of the Society is by an annually elected committee. Membership is open to anyone interested in the Society's aims and activities. These activities include illustrated lectures, social evenings, researching and exhibiting the collection field trips and coach tours. Members are kept informed by newsletters; and this annual Journal presents articles on the history of the Broseley area; John Wilkinson, and industrial archaeology in general.


The Year's Activities 

The Fourth Annual General Meeting was held at "The Lawns" on Friday 22nd October 1976. Your officers and the serving committee were re-elected "en bloc" by a unanimous vote. The Chairman, in his report. thanked specially all those who had helped with the museum reorganisation and redecoration. The Treasurer, in his report, pointed out that there were outstanding loans for £49-50 arising from this work, which it was expected would be cleared within 12 months.

Anthony Mugridge, a student member, was elected Assistant Museum Curator.

After the formal  part of the meeting,  Messrs Griffiths and. Hawes gave an illustrated account of their trip to Wilkinson Sites in Cumbria in June 1976.

On Friday 12th. November 1976 we held our customary joint meeting with The Friends of The Ironbridge Gorge Museum, again at "The Lawns", Dr. Ivor Brown, the well-known local expert on mining matters, spoke on "Old Mines, Miners and Mining Machinery on the Banks of the Severn Gorge.' The evening was held to be most interesting, and the slides were greatly appreciated.

There was an involuntary gap in the Society's activities during January and February 1977, due to the illness of our regular hostess, Mrs. Dora Pee.

Eventually a Social Evening was arranged for Friday 18th. March 1977, at Broseley Hall, by the kind invitation of Mr. and Mrs. M. Silvester. The theme this year was "Broseley Pipes", and special thanks were due to Mr. Ivor Southorn for sending a number of most interesting exhibits relating to Southorns Pipe Works and to Miss Fox-Edwards for bringing her drawings and a real "Churchwarden", which the Secretary was pleased to demonstrate in action. The raffle prizes, of Jackfield decorative tiles, were won by Mrs. Diana Clarke, Mr. Chris Whall and Mr. Tony Herbert.

The month of May 1977 proved to be the most hectic in the life of the Society to date; for, in addition to visits to the Coalport Museum (May 20th) and the Dyson Perrins Museum at Worcester (May 28th), this was the month that saw your officials involved in discussions at local, county and national level over the proposed sale by the Willey  Estates Company of the two remaining buildings on the New Willey Furnace Site, together with the land immediately adjacent to them.

The visits were both very successful, being well-attended and financially self-supporting; and the Worcester outing was also blessed by wonderful summer weather.

The New Willey properties were offered for auction at the "Forester Arms"' Broseley on Wednesday June 1st. Your Society was represented at the sale, but we were not able to purchase either of the properties for the prices your Committee had in mind. However, we were pleased that, in the sale-room, the historic importance of the Site was made clear to potential purchasers by reference to a letter from the Department of the Environment to Lord Forester, dated 27th May 1977.

The final event of the 1976/7 Season was our third annual Celebrity Lecture, held in association with the Broseley and District Arts Union, on Friday 26th . August. Mr. Roy Beard, the well-known Shrewsbury architect, spoke wittily and entertainingly on "The English Village", illustrating his theme with slides `of nationwide coverage.

In addition to the activities outlined above, Committee Meetings were held on 5th . April, 14th  May and 29th . May 1977. The latter two meetings were special meetings in connection with the then proposed sale of the New Willey Furnace properties.

Programme of Events for 1977.-8

14th October          Illustrated talk –“The Ceramic Industry in the Severn Gorge, 1750-1820”- by Mr. D.B. Roberts,

11th November       Fifth A.G.M.  followed by a short illustrated talk .- “The Severn Navigation” by Mr N. J. Clarke.

9th December        Joint meeting with the Friends of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum – a tape-slide presentation with spoken commentary – “Exports from Ironbridge” arranged by Peter Green, Hilary Green, Tony Herbert, Peter Martin and Barrie Trinder.  At the Severn Warehouse, Ironbridge.

24th February      Members Evening at "The Lawns".

31st March          Illustrated talk - "George Maw, Botanist, Gardener and Plant Hunter" – by Sir Paul Benthall, F.L.S.

20th  May            Summer Outing  to the Avoncroft Museum  of  Buildings, near  Bromsgrove, and Evesham.

1st  September    Fourth, Annual Celebrity Lecture in association with the Broseley and District Arts Union:  Mr. Henry Sandon, Curator of the Dyson Perins Museum at the Worcester Porcelain Works, will speak on “Caughley and Worcester Porcelain.”

The Museum

For the 1978 season the Museum will normally be open on, Saturday and Sunday afternoons (2.00 – 6.00 p.m.) between Easter and. September; or by special arrangement with the Curator.

The. Reorganisation of the Museum was described in the last issue of this Journal,

The Journal.

To celebrate this, the fifth issue of the Journal we have listed the main articles published since 1972. They make an impressive list; and the Journal is beginning to command the attention of both local and national institutions (see Correspondence).

We are grateful to our Secretary for the typing of this issue. Further copies and some back numbers may be obtained from the Secretary at 18, Salop Street, Bridgnorth, Salop, price 25p  each including postage

Contributions to future issues of the Journal would be welcome, and should be sent to the Editor, N. J. Clarke, "Cranleigh"; Little Wenlock, Telford. 


The name of George Maw is usually associated with the manufacture of decorative tiles. His lesser claims to fame are in the fields of botany and geology and it is interesting to speculate on just how these widely differing enthusiasms may have affected each other.

The link between the geological study of clays from all over Britain and the use of clays to make decorative tiles is easy to appreciate. Indeed, geology grew up as a practical field subject whose theories were worked out in new railway cuttings, well borings or mine workings, rather than the hushed atmosphere of an academic library.

It is also perhaps not too fanciful to suggest that George Maw's knowledge of flowers (especially crocuses) may have influenced his approach to tile design. Certainly there are plenty of examples of Maws tiles bearing floral designs of remarkable botanical accuracy. But it is George Maw's patent plant labels that provide the best example of a new idea emerging from the eclectic mind of a Victorian polymath.

Necessity is often said to be the mother of invention and it is not difficult to picture the young George Maw arriving back at his home at Benthall Hall in the 1860's laden with new plants for his. fine garden perhaps collected on a recent trip abroad. His strict taxonomic approach to botany would make it imperative that each species should be accurately and permanently labelled. Imagine his frustration with the existing labels at that time of wood or metal which would rot or corrode. It is therefore perfectly natural that his inventive talent should have combined a knowledge of clays, opportunity for ceramic manufacture and an appreciation of the needs of botanists and gardeners to result in Maws patent plant labels.

The provisional specification for his invention was left by George Maw at the Office of the Commissioners of Patents on 6th June 1868. It reads as follows:

'I, George Maw, of Benthall, Broseley, in the county of Salop, Manufacturer, do hereby declare the nature of the said invention for ' Improvements in the Manufacture of Garden Tallies, or Plant Labels or Markers' to be as follows, that is to say:-

My improvements in the manufacture of the articles above named and which are usually formed of wood or metal, consist in making them of burnt earthenware, either composed of pulverised clay by Prosser's process or of plastic clay. The blank forms so produced may be either glazed or left plain, and when glazed they may be lettered or inscribed by the ordinary processes of porcelain and earthenware printing, painting, or writing either upon or beneath the glaze. When unglazed tallies or markers are used, they may be written upon with paint or black lead, composition or metallic pencil, either with or without the surface being previously or subsequently oiled, painted, or varnished, or coated with other suitable composition.

The patent was sealed on 24th November 1868 and dated 6th June 1868, bearing the number 1861.

The new plant, labels met with immediate success and in the summer of 1868 were commended by such worthy people as The Editor of the 'Gardener's Chronicle', Sir Joseph Hooker, The Director of the Royal (Botanic) Gardens, Kew and the Floral Committee of the Royal Horticultural Society. Maw and Co.'s catalogues were soon extolling the virtues of these new 'Imperishable terra cotta plant markers and garden tallies' as 'a cheap and permanent sub­stitute for wooden and zinc tallies, for the labelling of plants in pots and in the open border, and for suspending to Roses, Orchids, Ferns, Fruit Trees, etc. These labels, unlike wood and Zinc, combine perfect durability with a lasting legible inscription, and form an elegant adjunct to the Garden and Conservatory for the naming of Horticultural and. Botanical collections. They are also invaluable for the labelling of wine cellars, and for employment in any position where other materials would be perishable by damp.

Nearly twenty different types were available in cream or buff colour, some provided with holes for suspending, others upright with spikes for inserting in ground Other larger sizes were available mounted on iron shanks (cast at Coalbrookdale?) for use in Arboretums and Botanical Gardens.

The works at Benthall offered a special service of black enamel writing on the labels ('in various styles of writing') which had the appearance of jet black ink, but perfectly permanent. In addition, 'consecutive sets of Numerals printed on the Labels, with Enamel, and Label's for Wine Bins were kept in stock, and could be obtained 'at the -manufactory' or through any nurseryman, Seedsman, or Ironmonger.'

Several of George Maw's own plant labels have been found from time to time in the gardens of Benthall Hall and all are still perfectly legible.

Time has proved that the claims made by George Maw for his new plant labels were indeed justified and have earned their mark in Benthall History.

Tony Herbert 




Josiah John Guest

After reading the article in Journal No. 4, and being a resident of King Street, I contacted our oldest and most knowledgeable resident - Mr. Bob Thomas. I thought, if anyone could throw any light on the matter (of Guest Meadow) he could and sure enough, he did.

Mr. Thomas tells me that the meadow near the bottom of our garden belonged to the Guest family until about 1906 when it was sold to  Mr. George Keay who lived in the King's Head Public House, now occupied by Mr. Ivor Southorn.

Mr. Keay bequeathed the meadow to Mr. Len Walmsley, who lives in Bridgnorth Road, from whom it was purchased by Mr. Thomas and. his brother Will (who lives next door to him) in 1927. It is still in their possession and these details are, of course, recorded in their deeds.

Mrs. F.V. Francis, Holly House, Broseley. April 1977

(Another letter on this subject, from Mr. Frank Selkirk of Church Street., Broseley, adds that the sitting-room of Mr. Billy Thomas' house - 29,King St., - "hardly changed for some 150 also of interest"; and that the Jubilee book of the Birchmeadow Chapel contains further information on the Guest family. - Ed.)

Boatbuilding  in  the  Ironbridge Gorge

.With reference to the article in Journal No. 4, Griffiths of Coalport operated two such yards:

(i)   a canal boat and repair yard beside the Shropshire Canal near Blists Hill ironworks, where the canal separates the brick and tile works; and

(ii)  a yard where river boats were constructed or repaired, situated somewhere in the angle between the Coalport road from Madeley and the riverside road from Coalport village.


T.C. Hancox, Woollam Road,  Wellington., May 1977


(Soon after receiving this letter, we heard. of the death of "T.C.H",.In our early days the Society received a lot of encouragement from Mr. Hancox, and his original research on glassmaking in Broseley appeared in two parts in issues 3 and 4 of this Journal. A full appreciation of his contribution to local history in Shropshire appeared  in the newsletter of the Friends of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, No.29, Nov.1977 - Ed.)


Pottery Workers

We are writing to you to seek permission to use information contained in your Journal No. 2, 1974. We are preparing a publication on slipware and would like to include references to the item on 'The Migration of Pottery Workers between Stoke-on-Trent and the Broseley area in the 18th Century' by Maurice Hawes.

We would also be interested to learn if Mr. Hawes has any further published information or whether his extra-mural group published a report of their work

A. R. Mountford, Director,

City Museum and Art Gallery, Hanley,


December 1977

(Permission was of course given, and Mr. Mountford's query passed to Mr. Hawes. It is gratifying to see the work of contributors to the Journal recognised in this way. We can also claim the Science Museum of London as a recent subscriber to the Journal - Ed.)



Boat-building in the Ironbridge Gorge-, by N. J. Clarke; No.4, pp:7-8

The Broseley home of John Wilkinson, by Ralph Pee; No.1, PP-5-6

Churches of the Broseley area, by Dennis Mason; No. 2, PP-3-5

Gilbert Gilpin, 1766-1827: agent, trade correspondent and chain-maker, by N .J. Clarke; No 5, pp,9-12

Glassmaking in Broseley, by T. C. Hancox; No. 3, pp,3-4, No.4, pp 4-6

The Hawarden Bridge Iron and Steel Work, Shotton, near Chester: a study in entrepreneurial history; by P. S. Richards; No 3, pp. 9-11

King of the Ironmasters, by Wayne Turner; No.1, pp. 3-4

John Wilkinson's Trade Tokens, by Wayne Turner; No.2,pp.10-12

Josiah John Guest, 1785--1852., ed by N. J, Clarke; No.4, pp.11-12

Markers in Benthall history, by Tony Herbert; No.5, pp.4-5

The Migration of pottery workers between Stoke-on-Trent and the Broseley area in the 18th century, by Maurice Hawes; No.2, pp.7-9

Richard Trevithick and the Hazledine Foundry at Bridgnorth, by Maurice Hawes ; No. 3., pp. 7-8.

The Severn in South Shropshire, part 1, by Ralph Pee; N0.5, pp~6--8

Working at the Blists Hill mine forty years ago; by Frank Turner; No-3, pp. 5-6













A s t.