Along The Moors
Lubstree Park takes its name from a long-lost strip of medieval parkland that once formed the largest fenced area in the whole of the Weald Moors. The park was first enclosed out of Lubstree Moor during the late 11th Century by Godebald the Priest, the Norman Lord of the Manor, and was said to have measured a league in circumference (about 3 miles). It appears to have continued in ecclesiastical ownership for several hundred years and was confirmed in the possession of Lilleshall Abbey around 1220. At that time, the Abbot was keen to secure command of the Humber Brook for the foundation and was granted land and easements by the lords of Preston and Eyton manors respectively, enabling him to construct stank for a water mill at Lubstree Pool.
After the dissolution of the monasteries, local landowner and fledgling industrialist Sir Walter Leveson, whose family had purchased the Abbey’s estates, established a forge on the site of the Abbot’s Mill, where a set of water-driven hammers used in the iron-making process were in operation by 1580. Just over a century later in 1678, these hammers had lent their name to the entire neighbourhood, which eventually became known, by derivation, as The Humbers. While local iron-production would eventually become centred on Donnington Wood, The Humbers area went on to acquire important status as a transhipment point for goods and raw materials travelling to and from the east Shropshire coalfield and by the mid-19th Century Lubstree Pool was a hive of activity once more.
The Humber Arm
The reason for this surge of activity had its origins in the arrival of the Newport Branch of the Shropshire Canal, which was driven across the Weald Moors by Thomas Telford during the early 1830s. While the new waterway provided the east Shropshire coalfield with unprecedented access to the national transport network, the Duke of Sutherland was keen to establish a more direct point of access with the canal for his industrial interests in the north of the coalfield, which were inadequately served by existing facilities at Wappenshall.
The Humber Arm was opened in May 1844 and ran for just over three quarters of a mile from Telford’s aqueduct on Kynnersley Drive to a purpose-built wharf in Lubstree Park. The Act of Parliament which sanctioned the new canal contained a proviso allowing for it to be completely or partially replaced by a tramway and a number of lines were constructed which linked the site to the Lilleshall Company’s various works around Donnington and Lilleshall; from which coal, pig iron and fluxing limestone were all sent for carriage on the waterway.
Consolidation and Decline
The Duke’s venture proved so successful that in 1870 the Shropshire Union Canal Company leased the wharf with the intention of diverting all local traffic from the Shrewsbury Canal at Trench to Lubstree, providing a fleet of 30 boats for the task. A standard gauge railway running from the Wellington to Stafford mainline and terminating alongside the waterway was constructed at the same time, to replace the existing tramway to the wharf.
By 1880, the Humber Arm was carrying in the region of 300-400 tonnes of Lilleshall Company limestone a week, while an extra rail siding was provided in 1891 — presumably to increase capacity at the site still further? Despite traffic levels remaining healthy in the early years of the 20th Century (the Shropshire Union Canal Company renewed their lease on Lubstree in 1905) the Duke of Sutherland decided to close the wharf in 1922, with complete abandonment of the Humber Arm, the Newport Branch and the Shrewsbury Canal following just over 20 years later in 1944.