Ketley Wagonways / Tramways

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An artist’s impression of a wagonway / tramway (Image credit: GWYN, D. and COSSONS, N. (2017))

In and around Ketley, there are some interesting remains of early, pre-locomotive railways known as wagonways or tramways. These transportation systems have been in use around the world since at least Roman times and, in Georgian times, these lines were used with horse-drawn wagon trains on the East Shropshire coalfield (now Telford) to transport coal, iron ore and other industrial materials between mines, ironworks and other key locations. The first recorded use of iron rails rather than wooden is in 1767 at Coalbrookdale and, less than a century later, this led to the Victorian railway revolution.

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Early iron rails, known as a plateway, on display at the Museum of Iron in Coalbrookdale (Image credit: Author)
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A timber plateway wagon with iron wheels from c1800 on display at the Museum of Iron in Coalbrookdale (Image credit: Author)

Back in Ketley, you can see the remains of two tramway bridges. One is over the Red Lees to Red Lake footpath and the other is over the Ketley canal section that runs behind Ketley Hall. In both cases, the stone abutments to both sides of the bridges are remaining and it’s easy to imagine the tramway going over the top.

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The remains of the Red Lees to Red Lake tramway bridge today (Image credit: Author)
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A similar view in 1906 (Image credit: LOWE, T. (2000))
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The overgrown remains of the Ketley Hall tramway bridge stone abutments today (Image credit: Author)

Behind the Victorian school building that is now Ketley Community Centre, there is a footpath that leads down to Red Lees and this is also the line of a tramway, probably to serve the coal wharf that was situated on Ketley Canal where School Lane meets Reed Lees now. It’s worth mentioning that Acts of Parliament allowing the construction of canals often permitted the laying of feeder railway even without the landlord’s approval.

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A footpath behind Ketley Community Centre follows the line of the coal wharf tramway (Image credit: Author)

Finally, just over the Ketley boundary in Newdale, there is a beautifully preserved Grade II listed c1759 tramway bridge that carried the wagons over Ketley Brook on a route that led from Donnington Wood via Ketley and Horsehay to Coalbrookdale.

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The beautifully-preserved Newdale tramway bridge (Image credit: Author)

Bibliography

  • LOWE, T. (2000) A Ketley Mon. Wellington, Shropshire: British Bus Publishing Ltd.
  • GWYN, D. and COSSONS, N. (2017) Early Railways – Review and Summary of Recent Research. England: Historic England