JOURNAL OF THE WILKINSON SOCIETY No. 6, 1978
Broseley Local History Society Journal No 6 1978
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 : -
(i) to act as custodian of any relevant material and information
and to make such material and information available to interested individuals and organisations;
(ii) to promote any relevant preservation activity and to assist individuals or organisations in such activity where deemed appropriate ;
(iii) to provide a link with the community of Broseley for individuals or organisations undertaking local historical research.
Any available material will be added to the existing collection of Broseley and Wilkinson relics at "The Lawns", Church Street, Broseley. This collection is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays between Easter and September, from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m., or at other times by appointment.
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 first meeting of the 1977 - 78 season was held at "The Lawns" on 14th October, 1977. Mr. Dennis Roberts spoke on "The Ceramic Industry in the Severn Gorge, 1750 - 1820", concentrating on little-known aspects of Jackfield and Caughley products, and the personalities of Messrs. Turner, Gallimore and Rose.
The Fifth Annual General Meeting was held at "The Lawns" on 11th November. The Chairman reported that the museum debts had been cleared and that the Society had been very active during the period leading up to the auction sale of the New Willey buildings.
Officers and Committee for the year1977-78 were then elected as follows :
Chairman N. J. Clarke
Secretary M. Hawes
Curator R. Pee
Assistant Curator A Mugridge
Committee C. Pointon, J. Cragg, Mrs. S. Perfect, Mrs. A. Morton.
Unanimous votes of thanks were given to the Chairman, Mr. M. Silvester, and the retiring Treasurer, Mr. D. Mason, for their past efforts. Both had been on the Committee since the foundation of the Society in 1972.
At the conclusion of the business Mr. H. Griffiths showed slides of the two summer outings in 1977, to Coalport and Worcester. After coffee, Mr. Neil Clarke presented a short but very interesting talk on "The Severn Navigation".
The annual joint meeting with the Friends of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum took place, for the first time, at the Severn Warehouse in Ironbridge, on 9th December. It was well attended by members of both organisations, who were treated to a series of photographic and tape-slide items of high quality, on Ironbridge, an iron-framed building in Shrewsbury, and on exports from the Severn Gorge.
The usual Social Meeting took place at "The Lawns" on 24th February, 1978. Members brought along a splendid selection of photographs, maps, postcards and paintings relating to the Broseley area, and the gathering of 50 enjoyed these with their sherry.
On 31st March, Sir Paul Benthall gave an expertly researched talk on "George Maw, Botanist, Gardener and Plant Hunter". The beautiful slides for his talk were photographed by Mr. Graham Saxby of Wolverhampton Polytechnic, from Sir Paul's copy of George Maw's book "The Genus Crocus".
The summer outing to the Avoncroft Museum of Buildings on 20th May was greatly enjoyed by the 39 participants; the weather did us proud, and the event was a success in all respects.
The fourth Annual Celebrity Lecture was held at "The Lawns" on Friday 1st September. Mr. Henry Sandon, Curator of the Dyson Perrins Museum of Worcester Porcelain, gave a most engaging and informative talk on the early history of the Worcester Porcelain Factory, and its connections with Caughley.
Finally, on September 7th, 8th and 9th at "The Lawns", several members of the Society took part in the Broseley Pageant. Written by Ralph Pee, directed Mike Kaiser and with splendid costumes organised by Mrs. Freda Spickernell, this effort attracted large audiences and was so successful that it may be repeated in the near future.
In addition to the above, Committee Meetings were held at "The Lawns" on 27th January, 13th July and 6th October, 1978.
It is with great regret that we record the death of Mrs. Dora Pee, on August 12th, 1978 at Broseley.
Her kindness and hospitality to the Society from its earliest days will not be forgotten. Apart from her keen interest in all the Society's activities she created the welcoming and friendly atmosphere at "The Lawns" which has contributed in no small measure to the success of our meetings there.
We extend our sincere condolences to Ralph Pee and the family.
27th October : Sixth A.G.M., followed by a talk - "The Broseley Association for the Prosecution of Felons" - by Mr. J. Cragg.
10th November : Illustrated talk - "The Bradley Ironworks of John Wilkinson" - by Mr. W. Smith.
8th December : Joint meeting with the Friends of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum at the Severn Warehouse, Ironbridge : illustrated talk - "The Uncommon Genius - Thomas Telford", by Alistair Penfold.
26th January : Members' evening at "The Lawns".
16th March : Illustrated talk - "Memories of Old Broseley", by Mr. E. Harris.
May/June : It is hoped to arrange a summer outing in association with the F.I.G.M
August : Fifth Annual Celebrity Lecture (details to be announced).
After holding the price of the Journal at the same level. for three years, we are forced by production costs to increase the price (to non-members) to 30 pence. We are grateful to Mrs. B. Bale of Wellington for the typing and duplicating of this issue. Further copies and back numbers 3 - 5 can be obtained from the Secretary at 18, Salop Street, Bridgnorth, price 37p each (including postage). Contributions to future issues of the Journal would be welcome, and should be sent to the Editor at "Cranleigh", Little Wenlock, Telford.
Among the letters received by the Secretary over the past year were the following
(1) from R.D. Turnbull of Connah's Quay, a copy of the report by Clwyd County Planning Department "Archaeology at Bersham", based on excavations carried out in 1976 under the auspices of the Manpower Services Commission ;
from D. G. Thomas of the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society, who is working on a bibliography of "The History of the Ironbridge Gorge" for Encyclopaedia Britannica, a request for the back numbers of our Journal ;
(3) from W. L. Goodman, who recently visited our Museum to see the collection of joiners' tools, a dust-jacket of his revised study "British Planemakers from 1700", published by Arnold and Walker in October at £7. 95p.
Next year sees the 200th anniversary of the building of the Iron Bridge. A Bicentenary Committee, representing many public and private bodies, has been planning the form which the celebrations will take. Our Society was represented by the Chairman at a public meeting held on 24th October, 1978, at the Severn Warehouse, Ironbridge, where details of the next year's programme were given, ideas and suggestions sought from those present and participation invited. As our contribution to the occasion, we are planning to
(1) produce a special publication on John Wilkinson, one of the main promoters of the bridge project (June);
(2) take part in the special events of 2nd July, 200 years to the day since the spans of the bridge first met over the River Severn; and
(3) devote our annual celebrity lecture to an appropriate theme (late August).
BOAT-BUILDING AND THE CHEPSTOW SHIP REGISTERS by R.A. Barker
A few comments and additional material of local interest might be added to the article in Volume 4 of the Journal, which was based largely on Grahame Farr's "Chepstow Ships".
In the first place Farr's book was researched around thirty years ago, was orientated primarily to the lower Severn and Wye, and without the benefit of, for example, the photographs of barges now in the possession of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. Secondly, a few of his conclusions are suspect.
Take, for example, the definition of tuck stern. The form described is indeed seen in illustrations of Wye boats, but would more normally be called a counter or lute stern. Tuck has two normal meanings in boat construction, and both relate to the sweep of planking along the length of the hull near the junction of sternpost and transom, not to the face of the transverse counter. More fundamentally Farr's conclusions ("Chepstow Ships", Page 26) about the occurrence of clench and carvel building on the Severn
are in doubt, both on internal evidence and because there is no place in his scheme for the late nineteenth century clench-built barges of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust photographs ( in fact there is no simple explanation for them).
These and other issues are clouded by the unreliable nature of the Register entries for this sort of purpose. Thus early entries at Gloucester include for "build" the term "British (clench)" - the Surveyors were obviously in doubt about what information was required. (Early iron boats apparently so bemused the Surveyors in this respect that they were termed "clench built of iron" which, though a rather nice term, could be misleading). The pro formas were not intended to fully describe the construction of vessels, and details are so sparse that the Surveyors' meaning is elusive.
In similar vein there is to my knowledge no clear definition of the differences between barges, frigates and trows, even for a single period; size alone is not adequate, on that and the fact that barges never had two masts, at least, the Registers are clear.
The Register entries are also transient: particularly for up-river boats, for there was little need for owners to keep the entries up to date. A registration was only necessary for vessels trading beyond the Customs Port of Gloucester. Thus the Commissioners were unable to record full details of such information as masters, owners and rebuilding. Individuals could be noted as being the master of several different vessels at one time, changes of ownership are recorded many years after the event, and the fate of the vessel is often a matter of conjecture.
An extreme example of local interest is the "Three Brothers", built at Bridgnorth in 1849, registered in 1859 as the property of William Exley of Broseley, Brick and Tile Merchant; owned about 1866 by John Burroughs, of Ladywood Ropery and Firebrick Works, Jackfield, Ironbridge, when the vessel was described as "worn out" and was removed from the Annual List. The Register was not finally cancelled until 1971. In 1859 she was a barge of 20.94 tons, 66.6 feet x 14 feet x 2.8 feet depth in hold.
Because the Acts did not require vessels used for inland navigation to be registered, and only vessels over 15 tons at all, it is likely that the majority of up-river vessels escaped the records altogether. It is unfortunate that the Act ( 35 Geo 3 c58, 112) for special registration in 1795, requiring all vessels over 13 tons throughout the country to be recorded by Clerks of the Peace has apparently preserved no more than a few isolated records.
In no instance that I have seen was the name of a Severn vessel changed with ownership or rebuilding ( mariners would have considered it unlucky, I believe). There are very distinctive patterns of names for barges on the upper Severn - even personal names not widely used for commercial craft elsewhere. William is the classic Severn name, but Brothers, Sisters, Friends are common and unusual. Eliza, Fanny, Mary, George, Betsy, Industry, Endeavour, Prudence, similarly. All bespeak a homely streak, and honest trade ( the barge-masters were truly a different class from the bowhauliers ! ), and it is hardly coincidence that Quakers were prominent in the area.
The Chepstow register for the "Fanny", trow, of 125 tons, in 1791 - 2 reveals the shipowning interest of William Reynolds of Ketley ( in partnership with William Horton, deal merchant of Coalbrookdale). It perhaps also reflects links between the ironmasters of the Gorge and Cumberland and the merchants and shipbuilders of Chepstow, touched on by Trinder in "Industrial Revolution in Shropshire" and by Farr in "Chepstow Ships".
Earlier this year a member of our Society, Mr. Ray Pringlescott, and fellow-members of the R.A.F. Cosford Sub-Aqua Club started a survey of the bed of the River Severn from Coalport to Apley. Just below the Coalport China Works Museum they discovered the wrecks of possibly nine boats.
Some of these wrecks are visible at low water and have been known of locally for some time; but the significance of this 'barge graveyard' does not seem to have been previously recognised. A full report of the survey and a possible explanation for the wrecks will appear in the next issue of the Journal.
A s t.