Wellington's Lost Medieval Street
The area now occupied by the approach road to Wellington Leisure Centre and its adjoining car parks was, until the 1970s, the site of Foundry Road. This thoroughfare, which ran from Tan Bank to the junction of Union Road, originally formed part of the town’s medieval grid plan, when it was known as Newhall Street. After the Lord of the Manor, Giles de Erdington, received a market charter for Wellington in 1244, he extended Church Street towards the current Market Square and may have built a new house in the area that gave the road its name. It is not clear exactly when or why Newhall Street became known as Foundry Road, but it has been suggested that the establishment of a bell foundry by the Clibury family, during the late Sixteenth Century, was responsible for the name change. They supplied bells to over 70 Shropshire churches, the earliest known examples of which date from 1590 in Condover Parish.
Into the Victorian Age
During the Victorian period, Foundry Road was an important centre for the engineering industries that helped to contribute to Wellington’s growing economic prosperity. Half way along the street, on its north side, lay the Wrekin Foundry, which was situated in the area behind what is now the Library and Larkin Way. The business appears to have had a number of owners in the Victorian era, including William Mansell, who in 1861 employed 7 men and 4 boys in the manufacturing of brass and iron products. Another large iron foundry stood directly opposite The Wrekin site and became known as the ‘Panification Works’ in the 1890s, when bread ovens were produced there. Richard and Thomas Haynes (later Haynes and Bromley), Agricultural Engineers, were also based in Foundry Road but relocated to Bridge Road in the 1880s, which became the centre of large-scale Industry in Wellington by the end of the Nineteenth Century, thanks to its location next to the railway. Incidentally, Haynes and Bromley eventually became John Bromley and Son, who by 1970 were reputedly the oldest agricultural dealers in Shropshire.
The End of the Road
Foundry Road continued to play an important role in Wellington’s life as a town in the 20th Century. The Wrekin Foundry eventually became the home of James Clay (Wellington) Ltd., who manufactured agricultural machinery and implements on the site until 1924, when the company moved to Ketley. At this time, the town’s fire brigade also left their old premises in Walker Street for a new station in Foundry Road, while the Council Depot that once existed here also served as a Civil Defence Rescue Training Centre during the Cold War. However, the street had already become an object for the local town planners’ ire by the late 1930s when plans were drawn up to demolish some of its houses as part of the Council’s slum clearance programme. This process sped up dramatically by the 1960s and a decade later Foundry Road was wiped off the map altogether to make way for the new ring road around the town centre, bringing to an end over 700 years of history in the life of one of Wellington’s oldest streets.
Primitive Methodist Chapel
Former Primitive Methodist Chapel
The Mosque on the corner of Tan Bank and Victoria Road was, until 1966, a Primitive Methodist chapel. The movement began in The Potteries at the turn of the Nineteenth Century and a ‘camp meeting’ was recorded on The Wrekin as early as 1808. Initially, Primitive Methodism was more prominent in rural areas, but an economic downturn in the east Shropshire coalfield at the beginning of the 1820s led to general revival in Methodism, allowing its various branches to establish a permanent foothold elsewhere.
According to the records of the Court of Quarter Sessions, a private house (which also contained a schoolroom) in Tan Bank was licensed for Primitive Methodist worship by 1822, while meetings also took place in Watling Street, at the home of Reuben Owen, a local miner. A chapel was first erected on the corner of Tan Bank and Foundry Road during 1826 and it stood on the opposite side of the road from the building that exists today. A new building replaced this edifice in May 1835, costing just £235 to build and measuring only 27 feet by 21 feet. It is highly likely that the congregation would largely have been a working class one and this is reflected by the chapel’s location in Tan Bank. As the former site of a Tannery from which the road takes its name and given the proximity of the town’s gasworks, land in the area would have been inexpensive and easy to acquire. However, the relatively small number of worshippers ensured that the members of the congregation were still saddled with a large debt because of the building work.
The onset of the early Victorian period brought about a revival in the fortunes of Methodism in Wellington, reflecting the important role that religious observance played in the lives of people from all classes during the Nineteenth Century. The Ecclesiastical Census tells us that the chapel had afternoon and evening congregations of 160 and 260 people respectively in 1851, while its Sunday School was also healthily attended, having at that time 50 pupils. The cramped conditions at the chapel eventually led its leaders to look for a new site on which to build a larger place of worship and, in 1888, some land was acquired in Glebe Street (then known as Jarratt’s Lane) for this purpose. Eight years later, the opportunity to purchase an adjoining plot on Tan Bank arose and it was here that a new chapel, designed by Elijah Jones of Hanley, was constructed in 1898, at a cost of £2000. After the new facility had opened, the old chapel was used solely as a Sunday school until it too was replaced in 1906, by the building that stands adjacent to the modern day Mosque. It is now occupied by the First Church of Jesus Christ Apostolic.
The Old Gas Works
The entrance to the Belmont car park off Tan Bank marks the site of Wellington’s first gas works, which were opened by William Edwards in 1823. At the start of the Victorian period, his company enjoyed a monopoly on the town’s gas supplies, which was broken in 1851 by TC Eyton, a naturalist, author and prominent local businessman who also established a waterworks company for the town around the same time. Following a dispute over Wellington’s street lighting (in those days, lit by gas) Eyton formed the Wellington Coal and Gaslight Company and it absorbed Edwards’ business in 1863, after his death. Eyton’s firm, which was also based on Tan Bank, had left for new railside premises on Bridge Road by 1870 and later became known as the Wellington (Salop) Gas Company, surviving as a private concern until nationalisation in 1949. The gasometers on Bridge Road were a familiar landmark for many generations of Wellingtonians until their demolition in the 1970s and the site is today occupied by housing.