“His love for the beauties of nature amounted almost to a passion, and when living at The Bank, near Ketley, it was his great delight in the summer evenings to retire with his pipe to a rural seat commanding a full view of the Wrekin, the Ercall Woods, with Cader Idris and the Montgomeryshire hills in the distance, and watch the sun go down in the west in his glory.”

A passage regarding Richard Reynolds living at Bank House taken from the 1864 book Industrial Biography; Iron Workers and Tool Makers by Samuel Smiles

When I first read the passage above I immediately thought of the view from my study (Image credit: Author)

The area of East Shropshire known today as Telford is rich in industrial heritage to the point where the road signs on the approach to the new town proudly proclaim it to be the “Birthplace of Industry”. Whatever the arguments for and against that bold claim are, there is no doubt that this area was one of the key locations in kick-starting the industrial revolution in the 18th century. In the south of Telford lies the Ironbridge Gorge where the remains of 17th to 19th century industrial facilities have been incorporated and bought to life across the ten museums of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust. These are fantastic places to visit and tell the story of this period of history incredibly well but, off the beaten tourist track in the north of Telford, there are some equally fascinating remains of our industrial past that can be explored for free if you know where to look and what to look for.

A post card from Ketley Dingle which, judging by the dress of the girls on the spoil heap, is possibly from late Victorian or Edwardian times (Image credit: Internet)

One such place is Ketley, a town in the Borough of Telford & Wrekin and the ceremonial county of Shropshire and which now forms part of the new town of Telford. Ketley lies roughly in the centre of Telford between Wellington to the west, Oakengates to the east, Hadley to the north and Dawley to the south. Ketley is famous amongst industrial historians as the location of the fifth largest ironworks in the country during the late 18th and early 19th centuries along with Britain’s first canal inclined plane that served that ironworks. Census records show that between 1780 and 1910 at the height of the industrial revolution, Ketley was the most densely populated area of Shropshire due in large part to the success of the ironworks – a precursor of what was to come when the new town of Telford was designated in 1963.

A postcard from Ketley Town, possibly late Victorian or Edwardian, showing the location of the inclined plane, then long gone sadly, in the background (Image credit: Internet)

Iron is still produced in Ketley today at not one but two ironworks. PAM Saint Gobain operate on the site of the original 18th century ironworks making cast iron pipework and rainwater goods whilst AGA have had an ironworks in Ketley since the mid-20th century and today produce each and every AGA and Rayburn stove sold worldwide.

A post card from Holyhead Road, Ketley showing the Victorian and Edwardian schools on the left. Judging by the lorry in the background, the photograph is possibly from between the first and second world wars (Image credit: Internet)

The purpose of this web site is to consolidate my interest and research into Ketley history into one place. I have found generally that, whilst information is readily available about Ketley, it tends to be dispersed across different interest groups, e.g. – canal enthusiasts describing Ketley canal and railway enthusiasts writing about the Ketley branch line. I enjoy tracking these sources down but I wanted to bring all of my research together and at the same time bring the story to life with historic images, maps and photographs of what remains today. I hope that the result is something that can be enjoyed by both people with a casual interest in Ketley or those who want to see how this area fitted into the wider story of the industrial revolution and beyond.

Rob, Summer 2020

A Word about References and Images

I have included lists of all the source material I have used in the preparation of this web site both on individual pages and as a separate overall page in the Harvard Referencing System format. As stated above, my aim has been to bring the history of Ketley to life with historic images, maps and photographs of what remains today and, where possible, I have included credits to their source. In some cases, historic images may have been obtained uncredited from the internet but I would be happy to add a credit if a reader knows of the source. Similarly, if a reader feels strongly enough, I would be happy to take such images down but I must stress that I am making no profit from this web site and will have included the image purely for illustrative purposes. Finally, where I include images of what remains today, my preference is to use my own photographs but sometimes this is not always appropriate. For example, both Ketley Hall and Bank House are both still used as homes today and, whilst I have my own photographs of Ketley Hall as I had permission to take them from the owner on a Ketley History Group walk, I do not have my own photographs of Bank House.