Barber Street, Broseley



The Wilkinson Society.


3rd January 2000, revised to 5. 09. 01.


JR. Barber Street, from High St junction to Fox Lane, and Barber Row.

EP Pickens had their shop there, but not as a butchers. It was a butchers, then a bakers, in years gone by, where Simon Gibbons the butcher is now. It was Mr Cleobury's when I was a girl, and I believe it was also a bakers. I think you can see something still painted high on the wall now, as you come down from Broseley Wood. Rowe it says, and I think they were bakers.

JR So that was a bakers shop ?

EP Yes, and a butchers. Then Mr Molyneux had it, he was a plumber or something, then it reverted back to a butchers again in later years. But there was a shop further up, that the Credit Union have now. Before that it was called Thompson's. And then just beyond that, beyond Pickens' house, there was a wall with a sort of Gothic arch in it, where I remember my Mum telling me there was a Catholic church in days gone by, whether brick-built or tin or galvanised I don't know, but where the Catholic church is now.

JR So that was the Catholics' site.

EP Behind the wall Mr Cis Roberts kept his threshing box, and he had a steam roller as well. He was related to your family, Ron.

NM  Mr Picken's shop, you could go in, before they had Spar.

EP  Yes, they had another little shop, before they had the one there.

JR Was that the one that has been various things, like a fashion shop?

EP No, where the Credit Union is was Pickens'. During the Second World War Pickens had a shop just up the road from there. Do you remember, Mr Miles, a little shop on the left hand side, where you stepped right out into the road? They had a little shop and they lived in the house at the back.

DC That's all gone now, there's a modernised house there.

RM Opposite the hairdresser's, there's a gents' hairdresser's there as well.

EP Yes. Opposite there when I was a girl was Mr Embry, who worked on the Forester estate. Then there was a cottage, and then this other little cottage where Pickens lived at the back and had the shop at the front, during the Second World War. Then they moved to the one further down.

JR So these are all on the right hand side?

EP No. The first one that I can remember was on the left hand side.

DC This would be opposite the Catholic church?

EP Yes, but a little further up.

NM And there was Instone's in The Square, where my husband's aunt worked when I came to Broseley in 1950.

EP Yes, I remember her there, but we're going up Barber Street. There were other grocers as well. I was born in 1932, and I lived in Broseley until I was 23. Then I only moved four miles to Astley Abbotts, so I never really left Broseley!

DL Cis Roberts was a fascinating character.

EP Yes, he had the threshing box and the steamroller.

MT He mended clocks and watches. He was always stood at the top of the alley.

JR Was his house opposite Fox Lane?

EP No, further down, they've been modernised. There was the Catholic church, then two little houses with an alley between them, before you get to Dot Roberts.

MT  I think it might recently have been sold - Cobweb Cottage.

DC  We remember Cis Roberts, and we came in 1982.; he must have died in 1984 or something like that. He always stood at the top of the drive, in black clothes. The house was incredibly dirty. He would pass the time of day with anybody.

JR Didn't he have an enormous collection of newspapers? What happened to that?

EP Probably went in the house clearance.

RM There were a lot of treasures there - I have some photographs. I’ll bring them in. He told me he had the first commercial driver's licence in Broseley; I think he meant the first lorry driver's licence ever issued in Broseley; either the first car or lorry driver's licence. He also had some connection with John Onions, who built the Coalport Bridge. John Onions is buried in what is now the car park of the club, what was the Bladen Club and before that the Baptist church.

JR The Birchmeadow Chapel.

RM John Onions is buried there, either on the car park side or on the Birchmeadow side.

DL So was Cis a descendant of John Onions?

RM I don't know, but he knew a lot about him. He was a wonderful chap.

MT There were Roberts at The Fox that were related as well, and Roberts at the garage.

JR What, Tom Roberts?

MT Yes, there were two Roberts brothers living next to each other.

EP There was Tom Roberts, and Tom Roberts' dad's brother, and the other one that worked at the power station with my dad. Tom Roberts' dad lived where Tom lives and the other brother in the other end, and there was a sister; they divided it into three.

JR  So which was The Fox?

EP  The building right at the bottom of Fox Lane.

DC Laurie Hill lives there now.

FS  The history of the Pickens - their first shop, second shop and the Spar - I recorded Mike Picken talking about the development of the first supermarket. The original plan for the site was for six shops, but he approached the developers and asked to have it as one unit. He had nothing to do with the pulling down of the place.

DC Was that Mike or his father?

FS Mike, but he and his brother and his father were all connected with the business. NM There used to be a butchers in the main street as well.

EP  Yes, where the flats are, by the Victoria Hall.

FS  Gerald Instone had where the Butchers' Bar is, but Insones were not the butchers then. But there was another butchers shop. Gerald Instone had a picture.

EP Alan Jones's dad kept the butchers shop where the flats are now.

RM Wasn't it where the garage was?

EP No, where the flats are was shops - Mr Jones the butchers, and then Bill Parr's dad had it later on. Mrs Pee from The Lawns had it as a florist, and then Mr Parr lived there.

RM Wasn't there a Mr Lloyd?

EP A Mr Lloyd had the Town Hall garage.

DL So Mr Parr took over where the butchers had been and changed it into a coal merchant's?

EP No, Percy Parr lived there. I think Mrs Pee had the shop as a florist and Mr Parr lived in the house.

RM Then Percy Parr moved over next to The Elephant?

EP No, he went and lived at The Elephant where he died.

NM Was it still a public house?

EP No, it hadn't been a public house for a number of years.

DC What was in the shop that has been a wool shop and things like that? Between The Elephant and Simon Gibbons butchers.

EP It was a grocers when I was a girl - Mr Millward's. The house Margaret lives in next to Jack Millward's dad's was the fish-and-chip shop, Mr Millward's also.

DC There must have been lots of grocers!

EP Yes because, where Broseley Post Office is now, that was Miss Horbon's, and where Broseley News is was a branch of R. A. Instones. Then there was Instones in The Square, Instones down Church Street, three little grocery shops in King Street - Ivor Snow's, Mr Bower's and Mrs Harvey's - loads of places that are houses now.

JR What was in Fox Lane?

EP There was a little grocer's shop years ago - Mr Darlington, who used to work at the Coop. Then it was a hairdresser's, now its all incorporated into the house I think.

JR It's a wonder all these grocery shops could make a living, all competing against each other.

MT It was in the days of rationing, when you had to say which shop you were going to. The shops were not as big as today.

EP They were little shops, front room shops.

JR Did they weigh out all loose stuff, the butter and so on?

EP I don't think so. R.As did in The Square. They had to weigh your butter out, because you only had a tiny bit of it.

RM Then there was a ladies' milliners round the corner, Bon Marche. EP Where Downes's is

JR That was Bon Marche, a milliners?

RM Where the travel agency was, and the opticians, and the Chinese restaurant.; that was Bon Marche.

EP Mr Roberts had Bon Marche and lived in the house on the corner. Where the opticians and the insurance agency is now was Roberts' house. They had a ladies' department and a men's department.

DC Is that related to Cis Roberts?

EP I don't think so.

NM There were two old ladies who sold thread and wool and stuff, the Miss Taylors.

EP Where the Cantonese is now, next to the stonemason's, it had a projecting window where the restaurant door is now. She had hats on stands there, and baby clothes in the other part.

JM  Talking about Percy Parr, the Mayor of Wenlock. I came out of the Army in 1946, 1 was married to Sue Meadows, and lived in Queen Street. A knock came on the door. It was Percy. We invited him in. He had four buses then, and he asked me if I'd like to be a bus driver. I said well, I'd driven a tractor in the Army but I hadn't got a PSV licence. He said don't worry at all about that, can you start on Monday? Next day he came with a PSV licence, I hadn't passed a test or nothing! I had an old Bedford bus, and I used to take the workers down to the power station, then the children to school, then I had to wash the bus. I had this for three months, then there was a trip to Southport, but halfway up Jiggers Bank the bus broke down.

EP It was a boneshaker, I remember. Have you still got your PSV licence?

JM  No, Percy had it back when I packed it in and started at the power station. I talk to his son John; we often have a laugh about it. I never had an accident.

EP It's a good job.

DL It would be the little Bedford with a bonnet, like the one we had from Boultons when Eric Cox took us to Bersham.

DC It overheated by Shrewsbury, and we had to stop at Bayley's while it cooled down.

DL It gave us a chance for a chat, which was impossible on the coach because of the noise from the back axle.

RM A story about Barber Street - the Borough of Wenlock finished in 1965. Thirty years before that, in 1935, Barbers Row was behind the butcher’s shop we've talked about, where there was the public convenience, now gone. It became a terrible slum, with a problem family nicknamed the Stickies, who had to be rehoused because they were causing mayhem in the centre of Broseley. So in 1935 the Borough of Wenlock built them a council house midway between Broseley and Jackfield. Its called Holly Grove, across the New Road from the Summer House pub at the bottom of Ball's Lane.

DL  So the Stickies were some of the last inhabitants of Barbers Row, which Jack described as poor houses behind the High Street.

EP Mr Picken built a bungalow on the site. For Barbers Row you turned left at the public toilet. There were some very decent, respectable people who lived there. Then council houses were built and they were moved out.

DL Who owned the Barbers Row cottages before they were demolished? EP Mike or David Picken might know.

NM Who owned the house in Church Street, a very tall house with a big garden, opposite the church? Sometimes they have art exhibitions there.

EP Yes, there are two houses, Mr Boulton lives there. Mr Edge the registrar lived in one. It was a nursery.

DC There is a connection with John Wilkinson at The Lawns. He had a strongroom, from which we have the door, in the house nearest The Lawns, called The Mint.

NM When I came to Broseley in 1952 I joined a choir, and we gave a concert in the garden at The Lawns.

EP Was it Merrie England? Mr Yorke who was organist at the Church ran the Choral Society in Broseley.

RM What does it mean that the house was called The Mint?

DC I think that John Wilkinson struck his own coinage, his tokens there. Its strongroom shows that it was a place people could want to break into.

RM  In the early days of the Wilkinson Society we were asked to bring in items connected with Wilkinson. I brought half a dozen Wilkinson tokens, some with the Ironbridge on, some with the incline at Ketley, some with a forge hammer. I’d heard on Blue Peter that if you soaked old coins in Daddy's Sauce overnight they became like new again. So I did and took them along. Maurice Hawes was horrified.

NM When did Broseley first have TV ?

RM The first TV in the district was 1932 in Madeley. Eddie Lloyd had an electrical shop in Ironbridge. He had the first TV, on top of the hill at Madeley, in a place called Mawkin's Lane, also known as Fisher's Stinks, since Mr Fisher had a chemical works, opposite Abraham Darby school.

MT We always reckon my granny had electricity before the doctor.

EP It's possible, because your Uncle Bill wired our house for electricity when I was about sixteen. RM The first TV in Broseley would be about 1947, in Jackfield about 1948. You were a bit before us.

NM We were invited to go and see the Coronation on TV, which we didn't have. RM On second thoughts, say 1950 for TV in Broseley.

EP  The Cape of Good Hope had a TV; it would be between 1948 and 1950 - a tiny screen, but we thought it was marvellous. It wasn't a pub then - it hadn't been in my lifetime.

JR When did electricity come to Broseley?

DC The old power station was built in 1932.

NM In Foundry Lane in 1952 we had gas, no electricity.

EP We had gas in King Street, when I was sixteen or seventeen.

DL The power station was not built with the intention of supplying Broseley. It was for Wolverhampton and Walsall, the big consumers. There had to be a lot of arm-twisting before the smaller places got a supply.

NM When was electric street-lighting introduced in Broseley?

EP It would be after the second World War; till the War the gaslighter came round, and then there was the blackout, so no street lights.

? Where was the gas supplied from?

EP We had our gasworks, this side of the river.

DC Go down to the hairpin bend in Ironbridge Road, under the railway bridge and the gasworks was on the left. The base of the gasholder is still there.

RM There were actually three gasworks; one in Queen Street, Madeley; one behind the Bedlam Furnaces; and the third one in Barnetts Leasowe, by the river.

Can I just deviate a bit? It was Christmas night a few days ago, and I walked through the village of Jackfield and I found eight cottages abandoned, owing to the floods of nine weeks ago. I’ve lived in Jackfield for seventy years, and never has there been eight cottages abandoned.

EP I came by on the bus yesterday and I noticed that new house abandoned.

RM Seven abandoned in one street, and one behind the Half Moon.

If we return to the site of the Ironbridge gasworks, which is above the Bedlam Furnace, on the subject of floods - look for the Lakeset Tavern, which is a sunken residence four feet below road level, a black-and-white building just a little up the road from the Bedlam Furnace, two Rover cars outside. Look across to the other side of the river there, to Barnetts Leasowe and Ladywood - giant trees have been swept down, and I've never seen that before.

There's a connection with Caughley, because if you look right outside the Lakeset Tavern you can sometimes see a drop-off of three or four inches in the road surface. That's the geological fault that starts at Caughley, runs in front of Jackfield Rectory, or a bit this side of Jackfield Rectory, and then it runs straight across the road there.


JR Janet Robinson

EP Elsie Philpott

NM Neda Meyrick

DC Dot Cox

RM Ron Miles

DL David Lake

MT Mary Tipton

FS Frank Selkirk

JM John Mepham

Our thanks to all contributors. Please let me have corrections and additions - David Lake.






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