Shropshire History


in the 20th Century


to Index


The period of history from 1901-2000 was a time of great industrial development and decline, as well as global conflict in which Shropshire inhabitants got involved.



1901 – Edward VII becomes king.


1903 – Tanat Valley Light Railway opened.


1908 – Old Age Pensions introduced for everyone over 70 years old with an income of less than ten shillings per week.   Cleobury Mortimer & Ditton Priors Light Railway opened.


1910 – George V becomes king.


1911 - Sickness and unemployment benefits inreoduced. 


1913 – Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter) the author born at Horsehay.


1914 – First World War starts.


1916 – Easter Rising in Dublin by IRA.


1918 – First World War ends. Reform Act gives votes to women over 30.


1922 – British Broadcasting Corporation begins transmitting.


1926 – General Strike.


1928 – All women over 21 get vote.


1936 – Edward VIII becomes king but then abdicates. George VI becomes king.


1939 – Second World War starts.


1945 – Second World War ends.


1948 – National Health Service introduced with free medical treatment.


1950 – Korean War starts.


1952 – Elizabeth II becomes queen.


1953 – Korean War ends.


1956 – Suez Crisis.


1963 – Dawley New Town created.


1968 – Dawley New Town renamed to Telford.


1964 – Shropshire Star newspaper first published.


1971 – Decimal currency introduced.


1973 – Britain joins the European Community.


1974 – Miners Strike.


1975 – M54 opened.


1980 – Salop County Council changes name to Shropshire County Council.


1982 – Falklands War.


1985 – BBC Radio Shropshire starts broadcasting to Shropshire.


1987 – Beacon Radio starts broadcasting to Shropshire.


1989 – Poll tax introduced against great opposition.


1991 – Kuwait War.


1992 – Shrewsbury Bypass (A5) opened.


1994 – Channel Tunnel opened.


1998 – Telford & Wrekin Council created.


1999 – Virgin Train ceases direct rail services from Shropshire to London. Telford FM Radio starts broadcasting to the Telford area.




British History Online




Discovering Shropshire’s History




Telford Local Area Profiles


The Coming of the New Town


The Making of Dawley New Town



Telford New Town



Telford was one of a number of new towns in Britain that were planned following the New Towns Act 1946, with the object of dispersing population following the Second World War. It would not be completely new but developed around the historic cores of Dawley, Madeley, Oakengates and Wellington, with rural areas around these. At that time, the area was a depressing landscape of closed mines, ironworks and factories, with many people living in slum conditions. The timeline of the new town is as follows :-



Dawley Urban District Council had prepared a scheme to reclaim 30 acres of pit mounds for housing but, in the event, did not have the financial resources to do it. 



In June, the Minister of Housing Dr Charles Hill announced that a new town would be built in the area to relieve congestion in Birmingham.  He believed that a satisfactory new town could be built at Dawley for a population of 80–90,000, of whom he hoped 50,000 would come from slum clearance in Birmingham.



This new town was authorised on 16th January and called Dawley New Town, covering an area of 14 square miles. Construction was to be managed by the newly created Dawley New Town Development Corporation.



The first master plan for Dawley New Town was revealed on 22nd January in the Dawley Observer. It set out a zoned approach to housing, industry, office and retail linked by a network of roads.  Following publication of the West Midland Study Group Report, plans were commissioned to consider another overspill settlement based on Wellington and Oakengates, immediately to the north of Dawley New Town, with the intention of twinning the expanded towns of Wellington and Oakengates with Dawley New Town. In the meantime, work on the Dawley Plan was suspended and development only continued in the south of the Dawley area. It was eventually decided to discard the idea of twinning the two settlements and instead to have a single enlarged new town.




The first industrial estate was opened at Tweedale in the autumn and house building began at Sutton Hill.



Queen Elizabeth II visited the Dawley New Town Development Corporation's first tenants at Sutton Hill housing estate. Due to a national economic depression, unemployment in the new town was high. On 2nd May, a press conference was called by Dawley New Town Development Corporation to announce that the Government had given the go-ahead for development around Madeley, ie a new by-pass, redevelopment of the town centre and for the necessary compulsory purchase orders. Halesfield Industrial Estate was opened.



On 29th November, the Dawley New Town (Designation) Amendment (Telford) Order authorised an extension to the New Town of 19 square miles. The new area included land lying within Ironbridge Gorge, Oakengates, Shifnal and Wellington, proceeding despite local objections and a public inquiry.  The plan was for the extension to act as an overspill for Birmingham and Wolverhampton. At the same time, the Housing Minister Richard Crossman changed the name for the new town to Telford, after the famous engineer Thomas Telford. This change was strongly objected to by Dawley Council and local residents, who felt marginalised. Other rejected suggestions for the new name included Dawelloak and Wrekin Forest City. As a result of the name change, the Dawley New Town Development Corporation was renamed to Telford Development Corporation. The plans were that the population of the expanded area would reach 220,000 or more by 1991. Telford New Town was unique at that time since it was not solely for overspill from the West Midlands but also an attempt to reclaim and revive the old industrial areas of the East Shropshire Coalfield. It was thus an early example of urban regeneration. Since Telford contains within its boundaries a World Heritage Site in the form of the Severn Gorge, conservation and tourism have played a very important part in the development of the new town. The proposals were based on a robust primary road system, which took the form of a U-shaped urban motorway, capable of accommodating predicted large rises in vehicle numbers. Development was to be at points along the main routes.


The Development Corporation was given the authority to acquire extensive areas of land, as well as independent planning powers. Massive injections of funding were promised by the Government to make the land safe for development.  A particular problem (as can be seen from the map) was the number of open mine shafts and shallow underground workings prone to subsidence. The scale of the problem can be seen as follows :


-         5,230 acres of derelict land, scarred by intensive mining and industrial activity

-         2,820 acres of land covered by spoil and waste deposits

-         2,957 recorded abandoned mineshafts and adits

-         830 acres of disused quarries and opencast mines

-         120 miles of abandoned canals and railways

-         3,730 acres of underground shallow mineral working

-         7,140 acres affected by past subsidence from abandoned deep mine workings.


A good local perspective on the scheme at that time can be found on the websites of Madeley Local Studies Group and Dawley Heritage. Land and houses were bought under compulsory purchase and tenants were paid compensation for disturbance.  However, big areas of agricultural land and smallholdings were also acquired by the Corporation in preparation for development.  Much resentment remains to this day on the price paid for these under compulsory purchase arrangements.


Even in the early years, there was criticism of the separation of housing from industry, and therefore jobs, and the difficulties this would cause later on. The challenge facing the planners was to overlay and integrate a new settlement designed for the next 200 years, with its entire accompanying infrastructure, onto old communities developed over centuries with their equivalent housing and transport networks. To change a community’s way of life in this way required both radical and robust thinking but also the utmost tact and diplomacy in the debate to come. Dawley was the only local authority wholly within the designated New Town boundary and had given its name to the New Town.



Stafford Park Industrial Estate was opened, together with Phase 1 of Telford Town Centre.



Telford began to attract industries from the USA, Europe, and Japan. The foreign firms required larger factories, and they began to be built at Stafford Park. A number of these were high-technology firms and a service industry began to prosper in the Telford Town Centre area.



Hortonwood Industrial Estate was opened.



Phase 2 of Telford Town Centre was opened.



After fierce opposition and three public enquiries, the M54 motorway was completed. It connected Telford to the M6 and the rest of the UK's motorway network. Other major roads passing through the town are the A5, A518 and A442, the latter officially called Queensway but generally known as the Eastern Primary or EP. A big breakthrough came when the Japanese company Maxell decided to build a video tape factory at Apley Castle. Another 130 overseas companies quickly followed, many focusing on high-technology industries rather than the traditional heavy and metal-finishing industries. The new arrivals included the American company Unimation and two more firms from Japan. These were Nikon UK Ltd (warehouse at Halesfield) and Ricoh (office equipment manufacture). Ricoh took a 22-acre factory site at Priorslee next to the M54 and formed the first in Telford's new enterprise zone. Telford also attracted several large IT services companies, including EDS who supported the MOD and Inland Revenue. They also supported a vast array of clients around the world from the Plaza building. Capgemini and Fujitsu took over the EDS contract to support Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. By this time, Telford's population was just under 108,000, below the planned increase, so the target was amended to a population of 120,000 by the late 1980s. Part of this was due to high levels of unemployment and Telford Development Corporation faced several problems caused by constantly changing Government rules concerning housing and industrial development.



Telford railway station was opened.



Marks & Spencer opened with Phase 3 of Telford Town Centre.



Princess Royal Hospital was opened at Leegomery.



Telford campus of Wolverhampton Polytechnic was opened at Priorslee.



The Telford  Development Corporation was wound up to be replaced by the Commission for New Towns, part of English Partnerships.  Most of the property owned by them was handed over to the Wrekin District Council , Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust and Severn Gorge Countryside Trust.  The new Commission still retained an interest in the development and provided funding for projects.



Wrekin Council announced a £250 million regeneration plan for the town centre, which was locally regarded as only a shopping place with no real heart. Since the centre closed early in the evening, there was no nightlife in the centre and the only major entertainment areas were in Oakengates and Wellington. The new plans included pedestrianisation of the road surrounding the shopping centre and the creation of new cafes, bars and shops.



In December, English Partnerships became part of the new Homes and Communities Agency.



On 3rd March, the Central Telford Area Action Plan was adopted by Telford & Wrekin Council. This sets out a planning framework to guide future development and regeneration across the Central Telford area, which covers the town centre and surrounding areas of Old Park, Central Park, Hollinswood and Malinslee. In July, a £7m scheme was completed which transformed the Sutton Hill area with two new shops, four flats above, new road links and improved parking. The development was jointly funded by Telford & Wrekin Council and the Homes and Communities Agency.



The area of Lawley is being developed as a huge new housing estate with supporting services.


Telford may be somewhat short of its original target population but the town now has a thriving town centre of national stores and entertainment facilities, a district hospital, industrial estates and prestigious campus developments featuring multi-national companies from Britain and abroad. Unemployment is well below the regional average and Ironbridge Gorge is a thriving tourist centre of worldwide renown, attracting thousands of visitors each year. It is believed that the ultimate economic success of Telford can probably be attributed to three main factors :-


-         opening of the M54 link with the national motorway system

-         designation of part of the area as an Enterprise Zone

-         development of campus type development sites particularly favoured by overseas companies. Half a million square metres of factory space were provided between 1968-1983, making Telford an attractive investment area.


Throughout the development of Telford, the Development Corporation has laid strong emphasis on landscaping elements.  Housing and business estates have purposely been separated by areas of green belt to give a village feel rather than the concrete jungle that ruins other new towns. The area is a popular commuter zone, containing some relatively rural areas in the North and West of the borough. These are popular with commuters to the West Midlands conurbation, due to the good transport links provided by the A5/M54. About 20% of local jobs are on industrial estates. With a current population of over 170,000, Telford is by far the largest town in Shropshire and one of the fastest-growing towns in the United Kingdom.