Broseley Local History Society Journal No 8

Jackfield in 1851




When we were first handed the census returns to analyse[1] , we were unfamiliar with much of the area; but gradually we began to know the area, and by what it was known in 1851. Three sections formed the riverside portion of the parish :-

1.         North-east side of the road leading from Bridgnorth to the Ironbridge, to the Calcutt Pit and to the footpath leading to the Calcutt House; Ladywood, Upper Passage Ferry, Holly Groves, Lloyds Head, The Knowle.

2.         The Rock, Jackfield Rails, Jackfield, Salthouse, The Tuckies.

3.         East and north-east side of the road leading from Bridgnorth to Ironbridge, from Dean Brook to Broseley Old Furnace, and south-east side of the bridle road leading from the Old Furnace to the Tuckies or Coalport Ferry Boat: Dean Brook, Dunge Farm buildings and cottage, Pound Lane, Rough Lane, Coalport Bridge Road, Severn Lane, Coneybury, Cornbatch Dingle, The Folly, Hanley's Hatch, The Amies, Lower Riddings, Upper Riddings, Swinbatch and Rowton Farms, Tarbatch Dingle,

Coalport Bridge Inn, The Old Rope Walk, The Towing Path House, The Werps, Ferry Road (at the Tuckies).

First, statistics of population and housing were examined. The number of separate dwellings in the entire area already mentioned was 348 - these were mainly concentrated along the river bank; for instance, thirty-four houses between the Ironbridge and Upper Passage Ferry, fifty-seven at Coalford, thirty-four at Lloyds Head, thirty-seven in Jackfield and forty-eight at Salthouse. Although the area was fairly poor, of 347 families only six houses were occupied with more than one distinct family and only five dwellings housed lodgers not related to the head of the household. It was perhaps a case of everyman's home being his castle. The entire population for the area was 1,630, and of those, 803 were males, 827 females. Two surprising factors emerged from the breakdown of the population figures- one third were aged ten or under, and only twenty per cent were over the age of forty years. Life expectancy was, of course, much shorter, due to poor living conditions, lack of medical care and so on; but it is interesting to note that the sexes over forty years were equally balanced, so one can assume that the male working population was not unduly decimated by industrial accidents and diseases generally associated with the working man.

What were the employment prospects like in 1851 ?  A large proportion of men and boys worked either on the river as watermen or as labourers: 14.8 per cent in each case. By comparison, a smaller number, only 11.4 per cent of men and women, were employed in the mining industry, reflecting the decline in mining this side of the River Severn. However, the clay industries were important: 9.9 per cent of the male population were employed as brickmakers. Of the employers, Theophilus Doughty, who lived at Coalford, employed ten brickmakers, while Yorkshireman William Exley at the age of thirty-eight employed five labourers, thirty-two brickmakers, fourteen coalminers and six bargemen at his earthenware factory. Another migrant was George Proudman, who hailed from Measham, Derbyshire. Mr. Proudman is styled as an earthenware manufacturer employing twenty-seven men.

For some men, being a publican in Jackfield must have been a very busy job. John Jones was the innkeeper of the Duke of Wellington, but he also records his occupation as China Potter; and likewise Thomas Jones, innkeeper of The Rock, whose other occupation was fishmonger. It is the dual occupations of some of these men that distorts the facts regarding the drinking facilities in the area. One famous pub was the Dog and Duck, described at the beginning of this century as "a long low range of half-timber building abutting on the Free Bridge .... until lately an inn .... Carved on panels beneath the bedroom windows is the inscription 'C.A.M. May 30 + 1654' for Adam and Margaret Crumpton ...." [2]   The Crumptons were known to the ferrymen in 1680, and it is satisfying to note that still in 1851 in these census returns, not far from the Dog and Duck, is a William Crumpton, proprietor of The Ferry Boat.

Some sixty-five per cent of the female population over the age of fifteen years stayed at home, although this figure did include all those with no defined occupation. However, the rest of these industrious Jackfield women knew no bounds as to their talents. Two innkeepers were recorded: one Mary Ann Board, who was a native of Guilsfield, Montgomeryshire, kept the Werps Inn, presumably while her husband was away from home; and Mistress Ann Edwards, widow, with the help of her two daughters, Lucy and Betsey, kept a pub in Lower Church Street. Ceramic workers with defined skills accounted for 6.5 per cent, and the total of women and girls employed in domestic service was 9.05 per cent. This was a low figure for the time - probably because the china works provided alternative employment. Also recorded are shopkeepers, pit girls, brickmakers, farm labourers, washerwomen, an upholsteress; and one female records her profession as the oldest one in the world.

Jackfield School House was home to John and Hannah Wiggins, National Schoolmaster and mistress respectively. They came to Jackfield from Cheltenham, but the census reveals that Sarah and William, their children, were born in Broseley. These teachers were the only ones recorded in the census. Schools must have been very different from those in which children are educated to-day. For instance, the census records two children aged three years as attending school; numbers rising to a peak at eight years when twenty boys and fifteen girls are recorded as scholars; but then the figures decline so that at thirteen years, only three boys and ten girls remain. As a supplement to these facts, it is interesting to note the report of J. Norris, Schoolmaster at Jackfield in 1862, who had "resided here for twelve months. In the summertime, many children leave my school for the brickyards. These children are only a very small portion of the children at work - several girls between eleven and twelve have left in the summertime for the brickworks. The works are close to my house and I have often heard their conversation when at work and in going from work. I have heard bad language used by both girls and boys. I have also heard, on good authority, of very low conduct taking place between the young men and girls while at work" [3].

Eleven boys were at work at the age of twelve and the number increased to eighteen by the age of fourteen years. However, even younger child labour was in evidence: four boys aged nine were being employed full-time as ceramic labourers. One example was Edward Reece, resident of 17 Jackfield; he is described as a collier aged fourteen years. He may have worked with his two sisters, Harriet and Ellen, who were both labourers at the coal pit. His story, or rather that of his family, is worth mentioning as it is somewhat unusual. Edward's mother, Catherine, is a widow at forty-seven years, and it states in the census she is in "receipt of Poor Relief". Harriet Reece, daughter, aged twenty, and Ellen, daughter, aged seventeen years, both work at the coal pit; but what, you might ask, is out of the ordinary ? Well, the birthplace of Catherine and Harriet Reece was Madras, India, Ellen was born in the "Isle of France" and Edward in Benthall. Surely a story is to be found in the few lines that mention this poor, unfortunate family. Another woman with a tale to tell would be Mary Turner, late of Madeley, and now lodging in Rough Lane; her husband was transported. 

Migration patterns were the final analysis that we undertook from the census. Although sixty-five per cent of the population was born in the same parish i.e. Broseley, and eight per cent in neighbouring coalfield parishes such as Benthall, Madeley and Wellington, migrants to Broseley came from many places. Shropshire migrants to Broseley were 16.11 per cent. Staffordshire's ceramic industry lost three per cent of its own thriving workforce to the ceramic industry of the Jackfield area. Among them was Peter Stevens, artist and modeller, who went to work at the China Manufactory. He must have settled happily enough, for he picked a Madeley woman for his wife and settled with her and his four children at Lloyds Head. Most other English counties were recorded, including Middlesex, Yorkshire, Devon and Leicestershire; also some migrants from Wales and Ireland.  A question that arose from this part of the analysis was why did more women than men come to the area ? But perhaps some of the Jackfield watermen have already answered part of the question, as quite a few of them took their brides from various ports of call, namely Bewdley, Stourport, Worcester and Gloucester [4].



[1] As members of the Social History of the Telford Area research group (Salop County Council Adult Education Service). 

[2] H.E. Forrest, The Old Houses of Wenlock (Wildings, 1914), p.89.

[3] The Children's Employment Commission (1862) 5th Report.

[4] A comprehensive list of the statistics used for this analysis can be seen at the Wilkinson Society Museum, Broseley.






A s t.