The East Shropshire Coalfield

A MAGNET FOR MIGRANTS

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Shropshire, ironically, was not only a magnet for migrants as the Industrial Revolution got underway, but was the chosen location for a visionary New Town some two hundred years later, created to alleviate the urban over-crowding created by industrialisation.

In February 1955, an article appeared in The Birmingham Gazette entitled, ‘Here's a place for overspill’, in which the journalist A. W. Bowdler wrote about the potential of the area underpinned by the East Shropshire coalfield to ‘offer the solution to the overspill problems of the

Midland cities’. The area in question was the collection of small, industrial communities that had, together with their more well-known neighbours, Ironbridge and Coalbrookdale, been at the heart of the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The problem to which Bowdler was referring was that Birmingham's industrial base had pulled in so many workers that its population had long outgrown its infrastructure and high-density living in slum conditions was an ongoing problem. The combination of the ‘new town’ approach to town planning after the Second World War, embodied in the New Town Act of 1946, and the rejection of Birmingham's plans for growth, led to the consideration of other locations for an ‘overspill’ population, not only from Birmingham but also from the Black Country.

Bowdler helpfully identified a place approximately 30 miles from Birmingham that offered ‘a far better solution than going 'up and up' in an area almost choked for lack of breathing space’.

KEYWORDS: Shropshire, Coal, Industrial Revolution, Telford, Overspill, Housing, Bowdler, Black Country

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