Shropshire Routes to Roots
|Routes | Industrial development | Shropshire's industrial heritage|
1. Introduction to industrial Shropshire
Shropshire is often considered as a rural, 'forgotten' county, on the way to somewhere else. Nowadays, it is hard to believe that it was once at the fore front of many industrial innovations and applications. It owed its central position in industrial England to many factors, but chiefly, they were geographical and geological. Shropshire was rich in coal and minerals and had the great highway of the River Severn.
What's under the ground?The bedrocks of Shropshire comprise some of the oldest Pre-Cambrian rocks, overlaid with much younger beds. Where the older rocks rise above the plain, they form the hills of South Shropshire, the Wrekin and the hills of the Welsh borders. These rocks contain the coal, minerals and quarry stone that put the county to the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. Apart from the North East Shropshire coalfield, there were coalfields in Shrewsbury, Morda and St. Martins. Some of these were mined as far back as Roman times, as were the Lead and Barites mines in the Stiperstones area, and the Copper mines at Llanymynech hill, near Oswestry.
Where did it all go?
During the 18th and 19th centuries, as industry increased, there was a corresponding increase in the amount of traffic and the necessity of transporting goods. Railway and canal building went ahead at great speed with such undertakings as the Shropshire Union and Ellesmere canals linked the River Severn to the River Dee, which opened up northern markets as well as the more traditional downstream markets of Gloucester and Bristol. This large type of building project was one of the main factors in changing the county from a purely rural economy to one of paid, travelling labour, allied with the necessary supply industries of materials and manufactured goods. Factories began to appear supplying anything from hair shirts to a good pint of beer, or from writing paper to iron girders.
'Forgotten' Shropshire was now at the forefront of the new industrial world and exporting many of its products.
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Page created May 2004 and last updated 13 July 2007