Shropshire History


Modern Roads


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We are lucky in this country that all of our roads have a firm surface of tarmac (short for tarmacadam).  John McAdam was an engineer appointed as surveyor to the Bristol Turnpike Trust in 1816, where he decided to remake the roads with crushed stone bound with gravel on a firm base of large stones. A camber, making the road slightly convex, ensured rainwater rapidly drained off the road rather than penetrate and damage the road's foundations. This construction method became known as "macadamisation".  Although such roads were adequate for use by horses and carriages, they were very dusty and subject to erosion with heavy rain. In 1834 John Cassell, owner of Cassell's Patent Lava Stone Works in Millwall, patented "Pitch Macadam". This method involved sealing the macadam surface with a mixture of tar and sand. However, it was not introduced on a large scale until the motorcar arrived on the scene in the early 20th century. In 1901 Edgar Hooley, road surveyor for Nottinghamshire County Council, was passing a tar works when he noticed that a barrel of tar had been spilled on the roadway and that, in an attempt to reduce the mess, someone had dumped gravel on top of it. The area was remarkably dust-free compared to the surrounding road and it inspired Hooley to develop and patent “Tarmac“ in 1902. This method involved mechanically mixing tar and aggregate prior to laying it down and then compacting the mixture with a steamroller.


Most of the county’s roads have developed from existing country byways. As can be seen from the map above, many of the main routes spread outwards from Shrewsbury like a spider’s web but others are trunk roads passing through the county. These are :–


A41 (London – Birkenhead)

A49 (Ross-on-Wye – Bamber Bridge)

A442 (Droitwich – Hodnet)

A454 (Bridgnorth – Wolverhmpton)

A456 (Birmingham – Woofferton)

A458 (Halesowen – Mallwyd)

A464 (Telford – Wolverhampton)

A483 (Swansea – Chester)

A488 (Shrewsbury – Knighton)

A489 (Craven Arms – Machynlleth)

A490 (Churchstoke – Welshpool)

A495 (Llanfair Caereinion – Whitchurch)

A4113 (Ludlow – Knighton)

A4117 (Ludlow – Callow Hill)

A4169 (Shifnal - Much Wenlock)

A4640 (Muxton – Stafford Park)

A5 (London – Holyhead)

A53 (Shrewsbury – Buxton)

A518 (Telford – Uttoxeter)

A519 (Newport – Stoke-on-Trent)

A525 (Rhyl – Newcastle-under-Lyme)

A528 (Shrewsbury  Wrexham)

A529 (Hinstock – Nantwich)

A539 (Whitchurch – Llangollen)

A5223 (Shawbirch – Horsehay)


During the 20th Century there was a massive increase in traffic and there was a gradual shift away from needing to get people from the outskirts into town, to people wanting to move from one town to another. In 1992, a new bypass was constructed around Shrewsbury to relieve congestion on the A5 which passed through the town.



In 1967, it was proposed to link the new town of Telford to the M6, a scheme considered essential if Telford and the rest of Shropshire were to compete commercially with the rest of the West Midlands. Construction of the M54 was not actually started until 1981 and it finally opened in 1983. The M54 runs for 19 miles from its junction with the M6 just south of Cannock, passing Wolverhampton and through Telford to end on the A5. The design and route initially met much opposition. Where possible, the 60 foot wide carriageway was built to pass below the natural landscape. Man-made hills were constructed which, along with the planting of 250,000 new trees, helped to screen the motorway from view and to cut down on the noise level.