Coalford, Jackfield 1900s

Photograph: Rob Pooler

The Coalford brickworks c.1900 are pictured above. It’s difficult now to comprehend that this is Jackfield today. The little white building to the right of the frame is ‘The Black Swan’ public house.

Jackfield was a small settlement during the Industrial Revolution and now rather a niche place to live, full of cute little cottages overlooking the River. Jackfield grew as a river port for nearby Broseley and Benthall (which are situated high above the Severn)

1927 Map

The first railway in Shropshire and second in the whole of Great Britain was built in Jackfield in 1605, by the Lord of the Manor of Broseley, James Clifford. Back then it was a wooden railway and ran from his coal mines down to the River.

Jackfield Halt photo by Paul D France

According to local historians the last passenger train ran on the line 7th September, 1963.


Jackfield had a small pottery and corn mills and it’s deemed that these were in existence from at least 1634.

The potteries flourished and became known for their drinking mugs produced. The ‘Thursfield’ family from Stoke-on-Trent area (known as The Potteries) established their own Pottery known as Their Jackfield Ware (a highly vitrified black earthenware decorated with gold flowers and figures) became famous around the mid-18th century.

Early examples of Jackfield ware had Jacobite inscriptions and were popularised by Thomas Wheldon.


Jackfield ware covered jug on three legs, with scrolled handle and sparrow- beak spout. Circa 1765




Bridges / Ferry

Pictured below is a view of the Valley where the River Severn cuts through. The Freebridge connects Ironbridge / Madeley to Jackfield / Broseley.  You can clearly see the little cottages and brickworks littering the landscape.

The Ferryman

In the days before the bridge… This photograph was taken near the ferry crossing at the bottom of Bird in Hand Bank under Roper’s Hill.
A very interesting letter from April 1890, the proprietor of the Boat Inn at Jackfield putting in an offer for the running of the Coalport Ferry Boat for one Year 1890-1891, offering £63.00 for the rights to operate it.
Funds for the Free Bridge – originally intended to be a footbridge – were raised by public subscription. This dramatic presentation would have added to the sum needed.

A bridge spanning the Severn known locally as The “Free Bridge” was officially opened 26th June 1909. I must point out here that another name given to this bridge was “The Haynes Memorial Bridge”

This first bridge, used then revolutionary reinforced concrete, devised by Frenchman François Benjamin Joseph Hennebique. It was designed by L.S. Mouchel and Partners and built by the Hennebique company of Liverpool.

The Free Bridge with the Robin Hood Inn pictured above. The bridge was a three span open spandrel arch, ‘load-tested’ with a 14 tonne steam roller, and although narrow by present standards, it successfully carried traffic for many years.

The beginning of the end for the Free Bridge came in 1937 when the concrete was found to be decaying and the steel reinfocement began to rust.

The next 50 years saw a constant programme of repairs, including spraying of fresh concrete over the structure, but ever more stringent weight restrictions were imposed 12 tons – 10 tons – and then 3 tons in April 1986.

The same year, in spite of the bridge being designated a Grade II structure of architectural and historic interest, it was decided that it was no longer safe to carry vehicles. A Bailey bridge was erected with traffic lights controlling the flow accross the single-lane span – the beginning of eight years of frustration for motorists, but better than the 14 mile detour that HGVs would otherwise have had to take.

The Bridge was replaced and reopened on 18th October 1994

All that remains of the Free Bridge. The reinforcing rods are just visible. Click on the picture to read the inscription on the plaque attatched to the end.

The Jackfield Bridge as it is known today, in my opinion blends into the landscape, architecturally beautiful and pleasing on the eye. However, many still say that it is an eyesore.

the Jackfield Bridge is thought to be a thing of beauty by many, but soon after it was built, Ron Miles in a television interview said ‘It’s a monstrosity, it does not fit. It looks like the architect dropped two biros and the quiet end of a condom on the plan’.

Being located on the River Severn, Coalford and Jackfield was prone to flooding, recently a major £17.6 million stabilisation project was undertaken, holding back a hillside against the forces of nature

It was somewhat shocking at first seeing woodland being removed and great piles being driven into the ground to stabilise it, however, the whole area has been landscaped and nature is blooming, and Jackfield now looks so very pretty.

Jackfield is part of the UNESCO designated World Heritage Site.

1947 Flood at The Boat Inn

Jackfield is also the site of a historic landslip which has seriously affected residents, industry, rail and road transport since the early 1700s. As mentioned above, Engineers have undertaken a technically demanding and complex project to stabilise a 350-metre length of a moving hillside which could cause a landslip into the river, causing a blockage and upstream flooding. The project has averted this possible disaster allowing the construction of a new road and restoring full access to the area.

The Flood, 1923
The Flood 1925
Flood 1960. Photo Paul D France

In 1952, a landslide (National Landslide Database ID 4335/1) occurred in Jackfield, and destroyed several houses and causing major dislocations in a railway and road (Skempton, 1964). It was reported on Pathe News and several of the following photographs have been taken from the film.

Press Photograph Jackfield Landslip 1952

The Infamous Jackfield Landslide Of 1952.

The community was torn apart when great swathes of Jackfield, near Ironbridge, were destroyed during the infamous landslide of 1952.

The first sign of the problem came when workman on the Severn Valley Railway noticed that the line had started to move.

“They would be there every day with large crow bars, trying to move the track back,”

However, it was during the early months of 1952 that people started noticing cracks in their homes. By April Jackfield had become a virtual ghost village.

Dozens of people were evacuated from their homes, which became almost cut-off from the outside world as the roads heaved and buckled.

The problem was generally blamed on the clay mines which once dominated the area, but these days it is believed that the comparatively young geology of the Ironbridge Gorge was probably a bigger factor.

A total of 27 houses were lost and about 17 families were moved to council houses in nearby Broseley.

The pathe clip reporting on this tragic event can be accessed here.

An artists impression of the 1952 landslip. Below is an article about a conference to discuss the slip in the Express and Star.

All those chimneys are now a forgotten memory.


Now long gone, demolished in 1940 is the Dog & Duck, Jackfield. Built in 1654 for Adam & Margaret Crumpton. It became 3 cottages before it was demolished.

Directly behind the above flooded cottage was an Inn called The Tumbling Sailor.

The Boat Inn c.1900

An interesting tale passed down, I can remember my mother telling me this story when I was a child is that The Boat Inn was a Pub where the Devil played cards. The story goes …

“Many years ago the Devil is said to have visited the Boat Inn, Jackfield, just before Christmas to play cards with locals.

It was only when a card dropped to the floor that other players noticed his club foot.

No sooner was this discovered than a great gust of wind blew through the door to sweep the devil out”.

The General Gordon

Jackfield Iron Works

Artist: George Robertson

An ironworks is believed to have been in Jackfield, from an engraving dated 1788, and drawn from the Madeley side of The River Severn. A waterwheel is in the foreground, whilst the house high on the bank on the left is believed to be Calcutts House. Smoke appears from many chimneys, whilst down river, masts from sailing boats can be seen.

Calcutts House, today this Georgian style house built in approximately 1695 by an unknown ironmaster isa delightful B&B.





Milburgh Tileries

The above photograph dates back to 1924. Workers are clearing one of the Vertical Downdraught kilns at Milburgh Tileries. What they are doing is sorting the tiles as the leave the kiln into colours and identifying breakages and hairline cracks.

There is nothing at all left of this works now except for ruins of the stables and part of the bank of the clay mine.

The Ironbridge Gorge Museum acquired all the structural bricks in 1984 – they were reused on the construction of the back wall of the New Inn, the perimeter wall of the town garden and the wrought iron works at Blists Hill Victorian Town.

Craven Dunhill Works (pictured above).

There is another creepy tale, this is the Craven Dunnill Ghosts – The drowned children of Ferry Road, Jackfield

During the winter months the River Severn rises and becomes very treacherous.

It was at such a time that two young twins were playing on the spoil heaps from the Craven-Dunnill Tile Works when the bank collapsed into the river taking the two boys with it.

They were swept to a point below the footbridge at Jackfield where they were caught in branches from an overhanging tree.

Their bodies were spotted some time later and recovered, still holding hands, from the water.

To this day young children can be heard crying in the house where they were first taken. “

Now locals say that it wasn’t two twin boys but girls, a living relative named Margaret Griffiths says …

“There is no evidence of any twin boys being drowned in Ferry Road.. The road consisted of about 12 houses at the time. My two sisters were drowned in Ferry Road in 1939, they weren’t twins there was 12 months between them, they were on the banks of the river below our house when found by my father, still holding hands, the story about the boys has been published in a book, when I asked the writer he said that was the story he was told. Somewhere I feel that the two stories have been mixed up as none of the older Jackfield residents can recall two similar accidents .I would love to hear from anyone who can verify the story about the boys.”…Margaret Griffiths.

Nestled now in the refurbished Victorian tile factory are plenty of independent arts and crafts, antiques and a fantastic tea room which are worthy of a visit.

At one time, a long time ago that is, Maw & Co, was once the world’s largest tile manufacturer. The factory was built in 1883 and closed its doors in 1970.

The company was formed in 1850 by George Maw and his brother Arthur when they bought an ailing tile business in Worcester. They manufactured floor tiles and quickly gained a high reputation for their encaustic* “Mock-Mediaeval” tiles. However, they had to contend with the same problems as the company they had bought out– the local clays were unsuitable and materials had to be brought in at great expense from Shropshire.

In 1852 they relocated to Shropshire to the Benthall Works at Broseley where they could make use of the clay as well as coal. The brothers soon opened their own mines. At first the company barely covered its expenses and full commercial production did not begin until 1857. A few years later encaustic tiles became the height of fashion. Maw & Co were the first to use six and more colours. Mosaic tiles also formed a large part of Maw’s business. In 1862 a patent mosaic tile was introduced. At the same time George Maw was experimenting with majolica glazes and later on with faience. Transfer printed and hand painted picture tiles were produced as well as relief tiles and gilt ones with the entire design executed in gold.

Maw & Co tiles were used in buildings near and far. Above is a picture of St. Mary’s church in Jackfield

By the 1880’s Maw & Co had become one of the most influential and important tile manufacturers. To help meet the increasing demand Maw & Co made more and more mechanical improvements using steam driven tile presses for example and in 1883 moved to new premises at a more appropriate site at Jackfield covering five acres with every convenience in services and layout. At the height of the tile boom the company produced over 20 million tiles a year and published lavishly printed catalogues. Maw’s “lists of persons and establishments supplied” ran to five pages and included the Royal Family, Alexander II of Russia, two maharajas, nine dukes, twelve earls, the railway companies, thirteen cathedrals, thirty-six hospitals, fifty-three public buildings, nineteen schools and colleges, and five warships.

At the end of the century Maw & Co was the largest tile factory in the world. Art Nouveau designs were followed by unique Art Deco geometric styles. Unfortunately the recession at the end of the First World War and building restrictions and the closure of the railway in the decades following World War II were very detrimental for tile production in Jackfield and eventually the factory closed in January 1970.

A Midsummer Nights Dream
Alice in Wonderland Tile by Maws

Above an aerial view of Jackfield. Nestled amongst the village is St Mary’s Church Steeple.

St Mary’s Church, Jackfield. Note The Severn Valley Railway and pub behind the Church.

This little church was built in the village in 1863 and is quite an attractive brick building with an apse. It is a Sir Arthur Blomfield church and he makes effective use of red, yellow and blue bricks and stone dressings.

James Edward Hartshorne, 1841-1917. It is a watercolour painted about 1874.

The Red Church

The arrogance of the Middle Ages continued in these parts for a long time afterwards this church was built on the tip of an eminence nearer Broseley than Jackfield and the unfortunate parishioners had nearly a mile’s walk up a sharp hill to reach it.

If churches can be cursed, then maybe that is an explanation for the misfortunes which befell Jackfield’s old church. The demolished Red Church was reputed to be haunted by a young girl wearing a bonnet and flowing cloak and carrying a lantern.

The now demolished Chapel of Ease of St Mary at Jackfield is surrounded by a number of mysteries. Some well placed authorities attribute its building in 1759 to Francis Blithe Turner in memory of a female relative. Other say it was paid for by Mrs Mary Browne, and set a later date of 1766. There is a popular legend that the deceased lady did not want the church built on the conventional East-West alignment, and each night rose from her grave to push down the work completed during the day. Hence the church was built North to South.. “She asked for her body, which had been interred at Broseley, to be re-interred in the church when built.”

The building quickly became unsafe, and although it had been built to save those living along the Severn the journey to Broseley to worship, regular services ceased in about 1860.

The field fronting the church was called “the Cholera Piece” following a 19th century epidemic, with a number of victims buried there.

Superstition was rife, so those who died of cholera were, for the most part, not buried in consecrated ground, or if they were, it was at night and secretly. When they spirited away the bell from Jackfield church and put it into a new church, it created a real ding-dong among villagers.It was all part of a plan, they felt, to demolish the old church, and they held a well-attended protest meeting in the churchyard at which they resolved to send off their objections to the bishop and call him to put a stop to it.

That was back in July 1863 and the villagers won the day because not only did the church stand for almost another 100 years, albeit unused for most of them, but the bell was put back.

The building was abandoned after becoming unsafe through ground movement and was demolished in the early 1960s, with 1961 being given by one source as the date.

Photo from Jackfield Old Church, Shropshire. LC.Lloyd 12.3.49. Lantern Slide. Shrewsbury Museums



British Geological Survey

Broseley History


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