The only river in Shropshire wide and deep enough to require a ferry is the River Severn. It is likely that there were ferries in operation during the Roman occupation but the earliest actually recorded is Danesford in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 895, during the period of the Danish invasion. Although there is a present day settlement called Danesford, it is likely that the ferry was actually at nearby Quatford.
At one time, between Atcham and Bridgnorth there were 14 ferries and, even after the opening of the Iron Bridge in 1780, most ferries continued in operation. After the Coalport china works opened in the late 18th century, large numbers of workers had to cross the river daily from their homes in Broseley and Jackfield. Ferries were a more direct and quicker route than walking round via the bridge.
Most ferries survived until the 19th Century, when they began to be replaced by bridges. In the Ironbridge Gorge by 1840 there were only three ferries still operating, ie Jackfield Ferry, The Lloyds Ferry and Tuckies Ferry. By 1922 the last of these had ceased operating.
A few other ferries survived until the 20th Century but the ferry at Hampton Loade is now the only one still operating in Shropshire, although only during the summer season.
Due to the relatively short distances across the river, ferries in Shropshire used a fixed chain rather than an engine or sails. The most common mode of operation was the hand chain ferry. With this, a chain was stretched from shore to shore and attached to each end. It was long enough so that normally it was lying on the river bottom so it did not interfere with passing boats. The ferry (either a small boat or a raft) had rollers attached to its sides through which the chain passed. By pulling on the appropriate end of the chain on the ferry, it was pulled across to the other side. In later years some ferries replaced the chain with a wire cable.
A few ferries replaced manpower with a windlass on each bank. There was still a chain through rollers to keep it in position but the windlass pulled the ferry across. Some like at Hampton Loade Ferry, used the reaction chain method. This still used a chain through rollers but it had a rudder that used the flow of the river to push it across.
Ferries that only took passengers were generally referred to as foot ferries, whereas those big enough to take carts and later motor transport were referred to as vehicle ferries.
Gazetteer of Ferries
see Jackfield Ferry
Apley Lower Ferry
Of the two ferries at Apley, this one connected the parish of Stockton and Apley Park on the left bank with the parish of Astley Abbotts on the right bank. It was here that the tragic death of Hannah Phillips occurred on 9th May 1707. She had walked from her home at Newton and was crossing the river on the ferry boat to prepare St Calixtus’s church at Astley Abbotts for her wedding the next day. Unfortunately, she fell in and was drowned. The “maiden’s garland” (made for the funerals of unmarried women of blameless reputation) still hangs in an alcove of the church as her memorial. [Broseley Local History Society]
Apley Upper Ferry
Of the two ferries at Apley, this one connected the parish of Stockton and Apley Park on the left bank with the parish of Linley on the right bank. It dated back to the late 15th Century and provided access to Linley Station on the newly opened Severn Valley Railway in 1862.
There is documentary evidence that Atcham Bridge was opened in 1221 and that there had been a ferry prior to this. The ferry was owned by the Abbot of Lilleshall, who kept two boats on the river for ferrying purposes which brought him 2 marks per annum. [Discovering Shropshire’s History]
The ferry was at the point where the Benthall Brook enters the River Severn and was owned by Abraham Darby and his family. It was an important link between Benthall and Madeley but by the mid-18th Century it could not cope with the increased traffic. Abraham Darby's grandson proposed the idea of replacing the ferry with a river bridge made of iron from their foundry. A petition to Parliament for a bridge in February 1776 stated that those involved in local industries “frequently are put to great inconveniences, delays and obstructions by reason of the insufficiency of the present ferry over the River Severn, particularly in winter”. The ferry was still operating in the 19th Century, although it became uneconomical from the 1890s.It was still there in 1904 but probably closed soon afterwards.
Boathouse Inn Ferry
This ferry used a cable instead of a chain and transported customers to and from the Boathouse Inn. It used windlasses on each bank rather than pulling the chain on the ferry itself. The ferry ceased operation when the Porthill Bridge was built in 1910. There is a reference to a well at a Pengwerne Ferry. Pengwerne was the ancient name for Shrewsbury so it could be any of the ferries in Shrewsbury but there is a Pengwerne Road next to the Boathouse Inn so this is likely to be the site. [Notes Towards a Survey of Shropshire Holy Wells]
After being closed for many years, the Boathouse Inn Ferry had a temporary lease of life in 2012 when the Porthill footbridge, which crosses the river between The Quarry and Porthill, was closed for 5 months for repairs. During this time, the boat “Sabrina”, which normally ran tours on the river, ran a ferry service between The Quarry and the Boathouse Inn. Shrewsbury Town Council underwrote some of the cost of providing the ferry service with Sabrina making up the difference by charging people 50p per crossing.
A temporary ferry was in use when the medieval bridge at Buildwas was damaged in 1791 and again following destruction of the bridge in the Great Flood of February 1795.
Burr’s Field Ferry
The Tithe Map of 1843 shows a ferry crossing between Burr's Field on the south bank and Crescent Lane on the north bank. It was just upstream of the confluence with the Rad Brook and is believed to have been in existence since at least the 18th Century. This was known by several different names, including the Cann Ferry, Cann Office Ferry and Kingsland Ferry. [Discovering Shropshire’s History] It probably ceased when the adjacent Kingsland Bridge was opened.
see Burr’s Field Ferry
Cann Office Ferry
see Burr’s Field Ferry
see Tuckies Ferry
Cound Lane End Ferry
There was a ferry linking Cound and Harnage with Eyton on Severn, as recorded in Samuel Ireland’s lithograph of the 1790s. [Discovering Shropshire’s History]
The Greyfriars Bridge built in 1880 replaced a ferry boat crossing between St Julian’s Friars and Coleham.
Hampton Loade Ferry
Hampton Loade (SO746865)
The ferry linking the villages of Hampton and Hampton Loade was in existence before 1600 and is now the only reaction cable ferry in the UK, as well as being the only working ferry in Shropshire. In 2004 a new ferry was built by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum to the design of the previous boat, which had seen 38 years' service. The new craft is of wooden construction, measuring 20 feet by 9 feet and carrying up to 12 passengers plus the operator. The ferry is a reaction ferry, propelled by the river current. An overhead cable is suspended across the river and the ferry is tethered by a second cable, to a pulley block that runs on the suspended cable. To operate the ferry, it is angled into the current, causing the current to move it across the river. At one time it was pulled across by winches on either bank.
It is operated by the Hampton Loade Community Trust at weekends during the summer, provided the river level is suitable. The ferry was affected by the floods of 2007, which damaged the river banks and access roads and also affected the Severn Valley Railway, with a consequent loss of tourist revenue to the ferry. As a result, the ferry did not operate during the remainder of 2007 or during 2008 and the owner put it up for sale. Local people created the Hampton Loade Community Trust to reopen the ferry and this was achieved in April 2009. [Wikipedia]
see Uffington Ferry
There has been a ferry between Highley and Alveley since at least the mid-18th century. A ferry crossing is shown on the 1884 and 1903 OS maps. By 1926 the ferry had moved further downstream, although the original landing on the east bank is still shown. It was still in existence in 1960, again having moved a little further downstream, but has now ceased. [Discovering Shropshire’s History]
This ferry connected Ladywood and Ironbridge and was one of the oldest ferries in the Ironbridge Gorge. It was commonly known as Adam’s Ferry after Adam Crumpton, ferryman and miner, who in 1654 built the substantial timber framed building that became the Dog & Duck public house. It was being operated by William Crumpton by 1838. A short jetty led from the north bank, probably for use in summer during low water, and a slipway was shown in 1902, leading to the ferry.
A new ferry boat was built in 1894, being propelled across the river by its large rudder being angled into the current. It only had a short life and was made redundant when the Free Bridge was opened in 1909. By 1912 the ferry had ceased working.
see Burr’s Field Ferry
A court case, held on March 22nd 1834 at Shrewsbury Assizes before a special jury, was to determine whether “an ancient public road existed at the spot in question, by which the public could pass with carriages, horses, on foot to the River Severn from the Baschurch turnpike road, from which at this point the Severn is about 70 yards distant.” The road was known as Boat House Lane and is probably the track leaving the B5067 at NGR SJ458185.
The ferry linked an area called The Meadow on the north bank with a track on the south bank that lead to Benthall. It survived until the early 1950s and the ferryman’s cottage was demolished in the mid-1960s during construction of the cooling towers of the new Ironbridge B power station.
see Boathouse Inn Ferry
see Boathouse Inn Ferry
Potters Loade Ferry
In 1899 there was a petition for the repair of the footpath from Alveley to Potters Loade Ferry.
There was a track from Monkmoor leading down to the ferry crossing to Preston, which lasted into the 20th Century.
The land on the east bank was known as Preston Boats and belonged to Haughmond Abbey in 1578, so they possibly operated the ferry. It had closed down by the beginning of the Second World War. [Shrewsbury Local History]
Royal Hill Ferry
Paths converge on the ferry from Melverley and Ponthen. On the other bank a path leads to Coedway and the B4393 road.
Probably the earliest recorded ferry in Shropshire in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles when the area was occupied by Danes. Still working in 1883 but not known if it survived into the 20th Century.
A ferry linking Shrewsbury School with the town centre via the Quarry. On the south bank was the Ferryman's Cottage and the original School Boathouse.
A document dated 9th August 1744 records the surrender by Eleanor Ward, wife of Thomas Ward, wheelwright, and late wife of John Powell, deceased, of title to Shrawarden ferry. [Discovering Shropshire’s History]
The Lloyds Ferry
This was a horse ferry between The Lloyds and Jackfield, where the towpath switched from the left to the right bank and horses towing barges had to cross over. It had ceased operating by 1856.
This ferry (also known as Coalport Ferry and Werps Ferry) connected Jackfield with Coalport for 120 years and was owned by William Reynolds. It was mainly used as the river crossing by the workers of the tile works at Craven Dunhill and Maws and those of Coalport Chinaworks, who reached the Chinaworks via the towpath to the canal. On 23rd October 1799, the Tuckies Ferry overturned while carrying 41 persons on board, most of whom had just finished at 9pm at John Rose & Co China Works. Of these, only 13 escaped and the remaining 28 were all drowned. Many of the bodies were recovered the next morning downstream, some remained under water for a month and a few were never found. The type of vessel used 100 years later was a converted Severn trow. Concern over the condition of the ferry led to its closure and replacement by the Memorial Footbridge in 1922.
There was a track from Monkmoor leading down to the ferry crossing to Uffington, which lasted into the 20th Century. It was also known as Haughmond Ferry and may at one time have been operated by Haughmond Abbey.
Linked the area of Underdale with the centre of Shrewsbury. A photo dated 1907 shows that the ferry was worked with a steel cable and there were steps leading down to the slipway from the large houses of Underdale.
see Tuckies Ferry