The Grange Museum

Welcome to The Grange Colliery Museum

[Founded 1985]

Grange colliery, now called  ‘The Windings’, was once part of the Lilleshall Company, formed in 1802. The earliest  known date for mining on this site is 1764, when it was part of Earl Gower & Co. estates.

This museum is in memory of the miners that worked at this colliery from 1764 to 1979

  • Problems with the Lilleshall company transport system was two main lines come from Shropshire in 1849
  • Lilleshall Company plans it’s own railway
  • Construction of the Lilleshall company railway starts 1851
  • Railway eventually extends for 26 miles.

With the expansion in the iron and coal departments the company was having problems with it’s transport system The canal had served the old partnership very well and continued to have there uses for the Lilleshall Company.

So with the coming of two main line railways into the area in 1849 and by 1850 the companies mining and iron making properties were partly enclosed on two sides by public railways.

It is thought that the company applied to build it’s own railway in about 1849

And was authorised by an act of parliament to build it’s own standard gauge railway using it’s considerable engineering resources, to connect all it’s major properties with each other and two main   lines, construction started in 1851.

Four years later the Lilleshall Railway Company extended over a large part of the company area.

It came eventually to connect the freehold and Granville pits, lodge blast furnaces, and a retail coal wharf near Lodge, and the Humber arm on the Shropshire union canal, at Lubstree wharf, was one of the first lines to be constructed.

Grange and Woodhouse pits in the East, Snedshill Bar iron works and brickworks in the West, Priorslee blast furnaces and Woodhouse, Lawn, and Stafford pits in the South.

In the centre of the network the company was soon to build   a new engineering works and foundry. The new yard at St.Georges, Oakengates, and the railway was connected there as well in due course.

It was not the first use of railways as for many years they had been using narrow gauge horse operated plate ways and tramways in the Donnington Wood area, to connect with the canal, the Limestone workings, coalmines, blast furnaces and brickworks, but it was the first standard gauge locomotive hauled system, connection was made with the main lines, at Donnington, and Hollinswood, the system came eventually to extend 26 miles.

The railway communication revolutionised the company’s transport system, and hastened the demise of the canals, though they did not fall into disuse immediately

The rail connection to the Humber arm of the Shropshire Union Canal, was an important goods carrier. The Lilleshall Company was still making use of it for iron and limestone traffic inwards, and pig iron outwards, towards the end of the nineteenth century

The railway connection from Lilleshall to the Humber arm was abandoned in 1922, and soon afterwards the land adjoining it was sold for agricultural use. The narrow gauge tramways were properly used to carry materials for the construction of the standard gauge railway.

  • Granville Leveson-Gower                               1720-1803
  • John Gilbert Agent to the canal DUKE         1764-1795
  • Thomas Gilbert                                               1764-1795
  • The Earl Gower & co Partnership formed      1764

Granville Leveson-Gower 1720-1803 succeeded to the title and estates as second Earl Gower on his death of his father in 1754.After his succession to the Title in 1754, It did not take long for Lord Gower to realise the wealth of his estate. His properties in the parishes of Lilleshall, Sherifhales, Donnington   Wood, St Georges, Priorslee, Wonbridge and Snedshill were extensive.

There were two other land owners in the area Lord Shrewsbury and Sir John, so by 1760 Lord Gower was the largest land owner in the district. Mining was already well established with a multitude of small pits probably 250 – 300 worked by Chartermasters.

In 1755 Lord Gower leased land at Ketley to Abraham Darby II who built 2 blast furnaces there. In the following year James Barber took a lease of the Lilleshall collieries for 21 years.

The Kettley operation was success Darby and his successors continued to run it for many years.

The Barber lease ran into trouble, so Lord Gower paid Barber for his interests and Rights, took back the properties, and went into business himself. Though at first he concerned himself with the Limestone and domestic coal trades.

Then trough marriage in 1754 to Lady Louisa Egerton, sister of Francis 3rd Duke of Bridgwater, his attention was drawn to the Gilbert brothers.

Then in 1764 The Gower/Gilbert partnership formed The Earl Gower and Co,  about this time it is thought the mining started at The Grange Colliery.

There was one thing that needed urgent attention of the partners and that was transport, at the time the obvious answer was to build a canal.   So John Gilbert who knew a lot about mining and canal building, When he entered the Duke of Bridgwater’s service on being introduced by his elder brother Thomas in 1757.

So John Gilbert, with the associations with the engineer James Brindley was the ideal man to undertake the work. No   time was lost in building this The Donnington Wood network of small canals, that were connected to the river Severn, the Shrewsbury canal, and to the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction canal at Norbury junction, though at first it was isolated, the canal ran North-easterly direction from the collieries at Donnington Wood, past   Lilleshall Abbey to Pave lane, on the Wolverhamton Road, where a wharf was built for the sale of coal.

  • Lilleshall Company’s private railway completed 1855.
  • Snedshill Bar Iron company formed 1855
  • Henry Bessemer invents mild steel in 1856
  • Limestone mining moves away from Lilleshall after 1860.

By 1855 the Lilleshall Company’s private railway was connected to most of it’s industrial properties and was in use. Their first locomotive to be used is recorded as being an 0-4-0 outside cylinders built by Nelson & Co. Springburn works Glasgow, in 1851, and was proberly used during the construction of the companies railway, The locomotive lasted until about 1948, when it was sold for scrap.

During 1855, the Snedshill  wrought iron works, though independent it worked in close association with the Lilleshall company and took a reasonable tonnage of Lilleshall pig iron as it’s raw material. Was having management problems so in 1855 the Lilleshall company took action and a new Snedshill Bar Iron Co. was formed.

Then in 1856 Henry Bessemer invented the process for making a new kind of steel, it is what is now called ‘mild steel’. It could take the place of wrought iron for many purposes and since it could be make in bulk it was cheaper.

There were problems at first with the Bessimar process although the Lilleshall Company was interested in the process, it knew it could not make use of it as the Shropshire ores were unsuitable.

Then in 1860 the company’s only source of limestone were at Lilleshall village and Church Aston, and they were having trouble with water in the lower workings.

The pits had been worked since before 1800 at the time they were working on a contract drawn up by Earl Gower & Co. in 1799 to supply 9000 Tons of limestone a year to Thomas Botfield , of  Old Park. The price was four shillings and six pence per ton and the stone was to be delivered to the canal   at  Donnington Wood the contract was for a period of 30 years. Limestone was essential for the company’s blast furnaces and there was a local market as well, and no time was lost in dealing with the situation. It may have been possible to install pumping machinery, but the chosen solution was to secure supplies elsewhere.

It’s thought that after several serious accidents had occurred at Church Aston, was the reason for this decision. However the Lilleshall limestone pit was not abandoned, and carried on for some years though on a reduced scale, work at this pit finally ceased in 1882. From 1860 The limestone mining moved away from the Lilleshall area, where it had been concentrated since the start of the Partnership.

The Company negotiated a lease of land at Much Wenlock with the Earl of Shrewsbury and a further lease at Nantmawr near  Oswestry, both these properties were some distance from the lodge, and Priorslee furnaces where the limestone was needed and Whenlock was on the wrong side of the river Severn.


When Earl Gower formed his partnership with John and Thomas Gilbert for the development of the Lilleshall estate in1764

Among the powers he granted was that to make railways navigable cut and sluices. By February 1765 construction of a waterway from Donnington Wood to Pave Lane on the Newport Wolverhampton Rd. Where a land sale Warf was set up, was started. To take coal to the limekilns at Lillishall a change of level was needed, which was achieved by a junction a Hughes Bridge, where a tunnel took a low level canal from the lime workings into the side of the ridge on which ran the main line canal.

Two shafts 42 feet 8inches deep was sunk linking the tunnel with the bank of the main line canal. Goods in containers were hoisted up and down by a winch, similar to one employed at the Duke of Bridgewaters Castle fields terminus in Manchester. The Lilleshall branch descended 35 feet by means of 7 small locks below the mouth of the Hughes Bridge tunnel and there were 5 branches to it’s far end and, servicing various quary’s and mines.

At the opposite end of the canal in Donnington Wood underground navigable levels connecting with the mainline canal were carried right up to the coal faces.

Both the Pave lane and Lillishall canals were completed by the autumn of 1767.

The canal was best  known as the Donnington Wood canal, but after Earl Gower was created Marquis of Stafford in1786, it was sometimes called the Marquis of Staffords canal, and when the second Marquis became Duke of Sutherland it then had a third name.

In 1786-88 A William Reynolds was responsible for the construction of three short private canals in East Shropshire.

In 1786 his miners began to cut an underground canal from a point on the North bank of the Severn in Madeley towards the shafts of the mines in the Blisthill area, after driving the tunnel for 300 yards the men struck a spring of natural bitumen which was diverted into a stream, processed at the tunnel entrance, and sold as British oil for medical purposes, or as pitch.

This tunnel was known as the Tar tunnel and can be visited at Coalport a short walk from Coalport China pottery Museum.

At the opposite end of the coalfield Reynolds then built a canal one and a quarter miles long linking the blast furnaces at Donnington Wood with the mine workings near Wombridge Church, at the opposite  end a junction was made with the Donnington Wood canal.

in 1878 work also began on a canal about one and a half miles long linking Ketley ironworks with mines in Oakengates, the canal passed through a short tunnel, but it,s  most important engineering feature was the inclined plane, by which William Reynolds carried boats 73 feet down into the valley where the ironworks stood.

In 1788 a meeting was held in Ironbridge to consider a plan, a canal to carry coal, iron, and lime from Oakengates area to the river Severn.

The line of the canal had been surveyed by William Reynolds during 1787 and an act of parliament was obtained and in June 1788 The Shropshire Canal Co. was formed.


With the coming of the railways the transport of the limestone, was no longer a problem.

A line was opened to Oswestry in 1848 and a direct connection, bridging the Severn, was opened to Wenlock in 1864, the Company sent it’s own men to work both properties That were developed on a large scale, and sold agricultural lime as  well as industrial limestone, both properties served the company for many years.

In 1861 Edward Jones, The principal mining manager since 1836 died, and was succeeded for a time by a man named Cranage.

but the mining department which Jones had built up from a large number of small Chartermaster pits to a modern group of deep collieries was considered to large to be run under a single manager.

So in 1862 John Horton divided the department into what was geographical units each with it’s own general manager an Wooodhouse and Stafford Pits, These made up the Priorslee Unit. In the north the Donnington Wood unit took in freehold Grange and Granville pits.

Also in 1861 The Newyard engineering works was started and the Oldyard at Donnington Wood which had started building boats for the Company’s canals had gone on to perform a wide range of manufacturing duties was closed.

The Newyard Engineering works at Oakengates was first known as The Phoenix Foundry and from it’s early days it went on to manufacture engineering products including Railway locomotives and within a very short after starting the Newyard and the name Lilleshall was as well known for engineering as it was for bricks, iron, and coal.

Just a year after the new yard opened they produced a railway locomotive a second won a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition in 1867, and the same year the works turned out two more for Thomas saving the railway contractor Newyard, not content with building winding, pumping and colliery ventilating engines and locomotives, went in for blast furnace modernisation and construction.

Starting with the Company’s own property the Newyard raised the height of the Lodge furnaces from 50 to 71 feet in 1879 and erected new calcing kilns 40 feet high by 26feet diameter behind the furnaces.

A pair of blast engines was also built for Lodge , these engines had steam cylinders with a stroke of 8 feet6inches and worked at a steam pressure of 35lbs/inch each of the Lodge furnaces was then producing 131 tons of Lilleshall cold-blast iron a week.

Donnington wood to river Severn canal, surveyed during 1787 act of parliament obtained 1788 Shropshire canal company formed.

Canal built to Hay incline plane and Coalport by 1793

Canal network completed by Isleworth terminus at Lubtree.

The Shropshire canal Company then began the construction of the canal in the autumn of 1788, with the section from Donnington wood to Hollinswood followed  by that of Hollinswood  to Southhall bank.

In 1789 the third section from Southhall to Briarly hill was constructed, The line along Lincoln Hill and down to the Severn at Styches Weir was abandoned, as it would have involved the building of two inclined planes with a total fall of 330 feet.

The Eastern branch below the Windmill incline was being built by May 1789 and a year later was complete as far as broad meadow in Madley

Work on the section to the Hay incline went on rapidly until the summer of 1790, and in July the short section below the incline below Watt and Sheepwas meadows was begun.

By October 1790 traffic was being carried for short distances although the Hay and Windmill inclines and Southhall Bank were not completed.

The canal became full operational in 1793, A surviving length of the canal that once joined to the Donnington Wood canal by 1792 and a tub boat, and the Hay incline plane can be seen at the Iron Bridge Gorge Museum Blisthill

The Shrewsbury canal was authorised in 1793, The new company took over 1 mile 88yds at the Donnington wood end of Renolds Wombridge canal, and at the south end they built an inclined plane which descended 75 feet in the direction of Wellington-Newport road at Trench.

The first section of the canal to be opened was that from Trench to Long Lane, which was operating from December 1794. It was open to Berwick Wharf at the eastern end of the 790 Yd. Berwik  tunnel in March 1796, but it was not until November 1796 that a cutting at the Shrewsbury end was completed, and it finally opened to Shrewsbury in February 1797.

The next canal to be built, Promoted by the Marquess of Stafford, The act for the canal was obtained in 1826.

This new route was from Staffordshire to Worcestershire canal at Autherly near Wolverhampton to the Ellesmere and Chester at Nantwich.

In 1827 A second act was obtained and authorised a branch from the main Autherly – Nantwich  at Norbury  through Newprt to a junction with the Shrewsbury canal at Wappenshall. Three transhipments centres were set up one at Trench the second at Warf set up at Wappenshall junction, the third a terminus a mile long branch from Norbury-Wappenshall line at Lubstree opened in 1844 from which at first a tramway and later a standard gauge railway ran to Donnington and various works of the Lilleshall company

The New Yard engineering works also built for the Lodge furnaces in 1869. Two narrow gauge locomotives for use on the narrow-gauge railway system there.####

Improvements were also made at the Priorslee blast furnaces were 42 round coke ovens were built and a vertical steam operated hoist provided lifting charge materials to the tops of the furnaces.

A new range of Lancashire boilers was also put down, and steam was raised largely   by waste gases from the furnaces, Priorslee furnaces were then capable of making 230 tons of hot blast iron each week.

By 1840 the Lilleshall company had steam-wound deep pits at Muxton,Waxhill   barracks the cockshutts, and the Lawn,

Priorslee coal was the main product at all the pits but smaller quantities of Ironstone were found with the coal seams, and this was mined at the same time as the coal.

Wood house pit had a winding engine built at new yard to the design of John Lloyd, The manager of the Newyard Oakengates, Who also invented a new idea for mine ventilation. A steam-driven fan 16 Feet in diameter and 5 feet wide, The first on being installed at Woodhouse pit, up till then many of the deep mines were ventilated by a furnace at the bottom.

Stafford pit was the next major development along with Granville and Grange During the 1860’s

Granville pit new deep shafts was down to 409 yards by 1860, and had a vertical cylinder steam winding engine of what was called the ’Crank-overhead’ type, and a Cornish   type beam pumping engine with a 74inch cylinder of 10 feet stroke and a 20 foot diameter steam powered guibal fan was in use before 1890 and replaced a furnace in the shaft bottom.

The sinking of the new deep shafts at the Stafford pit started on 24 November 1862 but the sinkers had some problems and it was not until 8thDecember 1866 that the planned depth of 225 yards was reached.

This pit grew to be one of the biggest in Shropshire coalfield and by early 1900’s was employing over 400 men to produce coal and ironstone.

Stafford pit had a two beam-type winding engine built by the Lillishall Company but one was removed later and a horizontal engine was installed in it’s place.

The other beam engine with a cylinder 36 inches in diameter by 6 foot stroke and a flywheel of 18 feet diameter and a 15 feet winding drum survived until the mine closed in 1926.

The pumping engine at Stafford pit was Lillishall built but it was of a type invented by Edward Bull in 1792.

The Bull engine had a cylinder of 45 inches diameter and a stroke of 7feet 6 inches. Although production ceased in 1926, the pit remained open until 1937 for drainage.

  • The Earl Gower & Co.  coalmines from 1764.
  •  The Chartermaster system, miners wages.
  •  The Earl Gower & Co. blast furnaces built 1783.
  • Lord Gower created 1st Marquis of Stafford in 1786.

In 1764 when The Earl Gower & Co. was formed, mining was a well established and extensive with a large number of very small shallow pits, all individually managed under agreement with the landowners.

So when The Earl Gower & Co.  took over a typical pit was no more than 60 to 100 feet deep and employed only a few men   who worked the coal entirely by hand.

Even the hoisting of the coal to the surface was usually done with a simple manually operated windlass, though as the pits grew bigger, a horse or donkey driven gin took over this work a few of these hand worked pits survived into the present century #####

The method of working was difficult to supervise and at worst open to abuse to those so inclined. This did not appeal to the partnership, so in 1765 the ‘Partners’ introduced a ‘Charter masters’ ledger for the proper regulation of the pits.

The No 1 Charter master was the Earl Gower & Co. who then made the best advantage of the rich mineral resources on his Lordships estates and paid the wages fortnightly, and also provided buckets, shovels, candles, chains, ropes, for the miners working in their pits.

The No 2 Charter master was appointed to a small group of pits, and he was responsible for the working the coal the payments, safety and discipline of the men, a fortnightly wage, and in addition took the balance of the monthly account which was based on the selling price at which he undertook to produce the coal.

The partnership took as much of the output as they needed for their market commitments, and the balance was sold locally to small merchants and householders at a Penny or Tuppence a bucketful. He was a sort of minor managing agent for the owners.

Wages averaged 15 shillings a fortnight for the men, and 21 shillings for the Charter masters, this was said to be the average for the area and the period.

The small pits survived if only on a reduced scale and the Charter master system continued to operate for a surprisingly long time being transferred to the bigger pits.

The Granville pit was the last in the coalfield to be worked by the Charter master who gave up in 1913

The Earl Gower & Co had built two blast furnaces at Donnington  Wood by 1783, a third furnace was added in 1802.

Lord Gower was then created 1st Marquis of Stafford in 1786, and the partnership became The Marquis of Stafford & Co. but change came as the partner John Gilbert died in 1795, and Thomas Gilbert in 1798.


truck from TNC

IT’S HISTORY FROM 1564 – 1979

Here at the Grange Colliery Now called The Windings. The Lilleshall Company started work on sinking the new deep shafts in 1864, and eventually reached the depth of 320 yards.

The winding engine had a single horizontal cylinder 45 inches in diameter connecting to a flat rope drum, this single engine replaced earlier engine in 1871.

The pump was similar to that at Stafford mine, it was a Bull-engine type 42inch cylinder stroke 9feet 40 pounds per square inch, steam pressure and was non-condensing, the engine was built at the Company’s works.

In 1891 the mine also had a steam powered Guibal fan of 20 feet in diameter to ventilate the mine workings underground. It’s thought that during 1864 re-building at the mine the twin wooden head frames were constructed facing the opposite way to the present day steel head frames, so that the steam winding house was in the area, now along the edge of the car park.

What is now the G2 building may have been part of an original steam winding house, properly built in the 1800s. At the rear of this building along the brick paved path, G3 is know to have been an office and G4 is known to have been the miners lamp room, and was probably still in use until the mine closed in 1952.

Along the far corner, by Grange was a cottage probably used   by the mine manager, and up until the mine closed, it housed the Chief fitter, and alongside was the main entrance to the mine. The reception office building is thought to have been the mines blacksmith’s shop as it’s know that a blacksmiths fireplace was in there, this building got altered over the years, and was changed into a weighbridge office, and is thought to have been in use until the mine ceased coal production in 1952.

To the left of the steam winding house thought to be in the area of the wind tunnels, three Lancaster boilers were put down, two in steam, one standby to provide steam for the winding engine, endless chain haulage engine, and pumps, and in the corner at the rear of the wind tunnel where the low wall is now, is thought to have been the building that housed the steam pumps. In the area where the large wind tunnel is now opposite the number two shaft, was situated a building that may have housed the 20 foot diameter steam powered Guibal fan, to the rear of this was a tall chimney, it’s thought that this was used for the methane gas drawn up from the mine workings by the fan to be sent up into the atmosphere, a separate chimney being used for the smoke from the Lancaster boilers. The steam from the Windings house engine, the endless chain haulage engine and it’s thought the coal screening plant used a small separate chimney.


A plate way railway was laid from Donnington Wood canal to the Lilleshall Limekilns in 1795.

The exploitation of the Lilleshall Limestone was one of the chief purposes of the partnership formed between Earl Gower and the Gilbert brothers in 1764 and one of the partners objects in building the Donnington Wood canal was to carry coal to fire the limekilns.

The white stone from Lilleshall was used extensively in local blast furnaces Lilleshall lime was also being used as a hydraulic cement as early as 1767.

The workings of the Lilleshall and Church Aston were a complex mixture of mines and quarries the deepest of the mines had a 248 foot shaft. In December 1805 3-700 tons of limestone was produced at Lilleshall. Between 1712 and 1800, steam engines were being developed and in 1779  the brothers Gilbert obtained from Boulton and Whatt an engine with 30 inch X 8 foot cylinder for pumping mines at  Donnington Wood.

In 1798 The Marquis of Stafford and Co had six engines in the Donnington Wood.

Colliery probably winding engines and tree in Lilleshall  and Church Aston lime works.

Many of the collieries which employed steam engines had boilers manufactured at the Horsehay Ironworks. The Earl Gower & Co. and later the Lilleshall company were regular customers for Horsehay boilers. One was supplied to the Lilleshall limeworks in 1796, one to the Hugh Bridge inclined plane in 1802, a second to the limeworks in October of that year, two pits in Donnington Wood. Early in 1803, and another to the Limeworks in 1805.

Brick making was also being developed in the area, when William Renolds and Joseph Rathbone leased land for the Donnington Wood.

Blast furnaces in 1783 from the Gower family they were given the right to dig clay and make bricks.

The colliers working the ore mines in Donnington Wood were supplied with locally produced bricks throughout the 1760s and by 1766 some bricks were being sold to the outside customers. In 1783-85 vast quantities were made in the area for the Donnington Wood Blast furnaces. From the start of the partnership there had been kiln on ____ at various sites on the estates, some would originate for the companies own needs for bricks to build it’s houses workshops and other properties. So by 1800 brickmaking was still developing in the Donnington Wood Area, though works were also in operation at Wrockwardine Wood and Snedshill.

Coal slack from the coal screening plant was used as fuel for the Lancaster boilers, the coal sorting and later the screening plant, is thought to have been in the area at the rear of the head gear where the electric winding house is now. The slack being moved from there to the boilers by means of a narrow gauge tramway and tubs pushed or horse drawn a round to the slack stocking ground by the side of the boilers.

By 1891    when the mine had the steam powered guibal fan installed, the ventilation system worked like this. Over number two shaft was a hood in order that the air could be drawn down number one shaft, around the workings then back up number two into a fan drift this being a small shaft that connected the fan house to the main shaft a short way below the surface, then the fan sent the air and methane gas up the chimney where it exhausted into the atmosphere The hood being a seal to prevent the air being sucked down or short circuited down the shaft.

During coal winding the hood was lifted as the cage came to the surface, this allowed a short circuit to take place, but this was only for a short time while empty tubs were pushed on, and full tubs taken off.

When winding was not in progress the cages were then suspended below the surface level to maintain ventilation. This ventilation system remained in use until the mine was modernised in 1951.

After the full tubs were taken out of the mine cages at the surface, they were then moved around the area where the coal was sorted and later screened. In the early years of the mine properly from 1764 to the 1850s once the coal had been raised to the surface it was sorted by girls who were employed as pit bank coal pickers. At the time ironstone was being mined  at the same time as the coal. The ironstone would be loaded into the tubs to be taken to the lodge furnaces, the coal would then be sorted over, some would then loaded back into tubs and sent to the Lilleshall owned industrial sites as it’s known that by 1850, coal from the Grange and Granville collieries was used at the Donnington Wood brickworks and sold locally.

The remaining coal waste would be loaded back into tubs and horse drawn up inclines and over the main double track incline to the waste tip that was being formed on it’s present site, this narrow gauge track probably went from the area near the electric winding house curved round and went over the main incline and onto the waste tip near where the children’s play area is now.

However in later years the coal screening was done by mechanical means and as the tip built up a double track chain haulage incline was put up the tip on the site of the present day tip roadway.

Granville Leveson- Gower 1773-1846, becomes a partner

  • The Lilleshall Company formed 24 June 1802
  • New partnership formed from local enterprise partner
  • The Marquis of Stafford dies 1803

By the year 1800 the Earl Gower & Co. partnership as it had become, The Marquis of Stafford & Co. was firmly established and prosperous, but changes were to take place. To of the original partners had died John Gilbert in 1795, Thomas Gilbert 1798, the third partner The Marquis of Stafford until 1786. Lord Gower was 79 years old and still planning further development, but it was time for him to reduce his personal involvement in the business and to seek new partners.

First of all Lord Granville Leveson-Gower, a younger son of the Marquis of Stafford, by his second wife Lady Susannah Steward, Daughter of the 6th Earl of Galway, acquired the Gilberts holdings in the old partnership, in February and March 1802, and in the following month his father transferred to him a further half share of the coal, iron and limestone undertakings an Lilleshall and the adjoining parishes.

Then on 24June  1802 a new partnership agreement was signed, using for the first time the name that was to become well known in this area, right up until recent times, The Lilleshall Company.

The Marquis then set about finding new partners, and he had been impressed by the success of another local enterprise coal mines and ironworks at Snedshill Wrockwardine Wood and Donnington, run by a partnership, consisting of John Bishton, James Birch, John Onions and William Phillips, and it was to these men he turned.

The new partnership was just under way in 1803 when the Marquis of Stafford died, and the last link with the old enterprise severed. John Bishton was immediately appointed manager , and for the next four years he ran the business. At the same time  John Bishton and his family continued to manage the Snedshill works, which did not a first come under the Lilleshall partnership.. By 1806 John Bishton had died and he was succeeded in the Lilleshall Company by his sons, first John Bishton Jr. and then by George Bishton  in 1807 a member of the Horton family. William Horton who had been previosely associated with William Reynolds, a partner in the Coalbrookdale business, joined the Lilleshall Parnership, so began a Horton family connection with the Lilleshall Co. for much of the nineteenth centry. For some years there were no further changes in the partnership and the business developed steadily.

In 1809 Lord Granville Leveson-Gower married Harriet Cavendish niece of Lady Bessborough and devoted himself with a political career, being appointed Ambassador to France, and continued in the Lilleshall partnership and made valuable contributions to it’s success .

In those early years of the Lilleshall Partnership their iron making, mining, and brick making was developing.

On the right-hand side of the wooden headgear of number two shaft was a building going at a right-angled, across what in now our club house roadway It’s known that at the end nearest the shafts in a partly open part of the building was housed the steam engine that worked the inclines endless chain haulage system, it’s not know what the rest of the building was used for. It’s not know what this steam engine was but it could have been a Lilleshall bought single cylinder horizontal engine adapted for chain haulage instead of winding.

The double track narrow gauge incline is then thought to have it’s head end at the rear of the building, then gone straight across to where Sid’s steps are now. Then the incline was made of wood and iron supported on trestles of decreasing height until it reached Dawes Bower, now our lower sunbathing area, where it connected with the standard gauge sidings that finished in that area at the time.

This type of incline is know to have been in use at the Donnington Wood brickworks in 1850, so the one at Grange could have been installed at the same time and were to be seen in many brickworks around the country until the 1950s. The brick pillars at the footpath side of the loading dock and on the bank at the back of the stream may have been the supports for the wooden trestles.

At the lower end at the end of the incline a horizontal wheel about 6 feet in diameter standing on a pillar at the end of the two narrow gauge tracks, carried the continuous chain and as the full mine wagons came off the incline they were pushed along a line to the standard gauge sidings, where the coal was off loaded and probably shovelled into standard gauge wagons.

With it being a long incline it could probably handle six wagons down with six empty ones going back up to the mine. At the end of the incline one standard gauge siding ended in a shallow cutting to the left by the stream, and the two standard gauge sidings ended in the cutting to the right, that went to the rear of the waste tip.

This incline was in use in 1882 and was still in use in 1889, then by 1900 for some reason the wood and trestle was taken down or destroyed, and the two narrow gauge tracks were take directly down the steep bank to where the old loading dock is now.

The incline in it’s modernised form is know to have been in use until 1905, and still in use in 1938 and was still being used when the mine ceased production in 1952. With the angle of the incline being altered in 1900 an extra return track for the empty mine wagons was put in. The siding and along where the new footpath is now, then it curved round across to where the headgear is now.

  • Lilleshall Company is the biggest single owner of blast furnaces
  • Furnaces at Snedshill, Wrockwardine Wood Donnington Wood, Old Lodge.
  • New blast furnace plant at Priorslee. Coal consumed for every ton of best pig-iron

It was said that the Lilleshall Company is the biggest single owner of blast furnaces by 1815. The Company had 3 furnaces at Snedshill, two at Wrockwardine, and three Donnington Wood, all were in blast but some were old and there were to be changes. Snedshill blast furnaces had been originally built in 1780 by John Wilkinson and came into the possession of the Bishtons in about 1794. Wrockwardine Wood furnaces   were built by Bishton in 1801 and Donnington Wood  furnaces were built by Ear Gower & Co. in 1783 a third furnace was added to those at Donnington Wood  in 1802. Snedshill forge was in trouble in 1818, with unsold stocks of wrought iron and it ceased operation, but the blast furnaces continued to work until about 1830, when they closed down, at this time the forge was revived ?????

Donnington Wood furnaces had quite a few years of life left the last two were blown out in about 1859, but the furnaces at Wrockwardine Wood though not as old as the others were blown out when the Lilleshall Company’s new furnaces at the Old Lodge in Donnington Wood Parish were built to replace them. Lodge furnaces were built in 1824, and came into blast the following year. For a time Lodge and Donnington Wood furnaces were all kept in blast but in 1846 a new furnace was built at Lodge to replace the one at Donnington Wood, then in 1859 two more were built at Lodge, and the Donnington Wood two remaining furnaces were blown out. The Lilleshall  Company had another new blast furnace plant built in 1851 at the Priorslee Lodge. The blast furnaces eventually five in number became world famous for their quality of iron…

The furnaces were of brick construction with iron bands every few courses for strengthening, and had a wrought iron plate bridge at the top for access, for charging.

Raw materials were hoisted to the bridge by a steam operated lift and there was a group of three calcining??  kilns at the back of the furnaces. There was no hot blast when the Lodge furnaces were built and they established their reputation on cold blast, they went on to the end in 1888, as a cold blast plant.

In 1823 it was said that the Snedshill furnaces could make in the region of 35 tons of iron each week. It was quoted that the ballast furnaces of that period consumed 7 tons of coal in the form of coke for every tone of best pig-iron made, and rather less for common iron, that was said to be high but a fair average for the period.

In between 1889 and 1905 Grange colliery was modernised and the railway track was extended along the cutting, and as you come along the stone and brick wall on the right, this is the remains of the coal screening plant, and wagon loading platform. Built over two tracks a third track also went alongside the platform, and all three sidings continued on down into the cutting, to the rear of the waste tip, ending just short of the kennels.

As the mine wagons came down the incline full of coal and worked their way along the old loading dock, they came to the end of the endless chain.? And passed under a horizontal wheel where they unhooked themselves and ran by gravity onto the top deck of the screening platform. The coal was tipped out of the mine wagon down a chute on the top platform of the screening plant. Where it landed on the shakers that were eccentrically driven, this gave a shaking action backwards and forwards.

The shaker consisted of two or more decks and on these deck were ______ or screens of plates with various sized holes as the coal shook over them it fell through the holes into different grades, large coal, cobbles nuts and slack. There were openings in places to allow the screened coal to load onto picking belts, where the workmen handpicked pieces of rock and shale out of the coal to make sure of the quality. The coal would be run off the belts into the railway wagons below, the slack being run off into a wagon on the outside track, as the wagons filled up the brakes were released and they moved down the slight gradient going down to the rear of the waste tip.

Then as the wagons filled up a Company locomotive was sent for and the full wagons were moved out of the way. The main line wagons were moved to the grange crossing where they were formed into trains along with the wagons from the Granville colliery to be taken to the Donnington exchange siding of the Wellington to Stafford line or to be taken to the Hollingswood ______   via St.Georges and Oakengates.

The internal wagons then went over Grange crossing to the Lodge wharf for further sorting and coal stocking.

Then some of the coal went to other Lilleshall industries.

The slack wagons were moved to the old loading dock and empty coal wagons were brought along the branch line from Grange crossing, and shunted up to the screening plant ready to start screening all over again, properly ready for the next shift to working.

If you notice while you are at the end of the cutting at the rear of the tip, standing on a short length of track is the wheel set and remains of a slack wagon that ran away

  • The Company expands into deep mining in 1818
  • Industrial houses built by the Company in 1809
  • Snedshill Partners join Lilleshall Company 1833
  • Granville Leveson-Gower created 1st Earl Granville 1833.

It was not for many years that the fuel consumption was really improved and shows where a lot of the companies coal went, and added to this was a considerable tonnage used in puddling and re-heating furnaces under boilers, and other works purposes. The Iron works were good customers for the collieries for the coal tonnages. The large companies like Lilleshall needed mining on an industrial scale was essential, so for the Company it was the expansion of deep mining, and in 1818 the Waxhill Barracks pit was sunk, this was followed by a sinking at the Lawn near Priorslee village on land which had been leased for 21 years by Earl Gower& Co. in 1788, and purchased freehold in 1809 when the lease expired, about the same time industrial housing was being built by the company Waxhill Barracks was the first followed by houses at Donnington Wood, Priorslee, Oakengates, houses were also built at Old Yard,Ivy Row, Mechanics Row, some were two story back to back others were single storey in rows of ten.

An act of parliament was authorised in 1827 to build a mile long canal branch, from Birmingham and Liverpool junction canal to Lilleshall, that ended at a terminus at Lubtree from which the first tramway and later a standard gauge railway ran to Donnington and the various works of the Lilleshall Co. Lubstree opened in 1844.

A change in partnership took place in 1830 when the Snedshill partners joined the Lilleshall Co., these were W.Horton, W Blount, and J Hambersley. At this time the Snedshill forge was re-started to make wrought iron. It was operated by an Independent partnership under the name Horton, Simms and Bull, but was regarded as part of the Lilleshall Co.

The Duck of Sutherlands surveyors listed it as such in 1846. In  1833 Granville Leveson-Gower was created 1st Earl Granville.

In 1836 Lord Granville appointed Edward Jones as the colliery manager, it was a good appointment, and Jones was what we should now call a ‘General Manager’ of the Companies coal business, expansion was the order of the day, and Jones was the man to get thing going. By 1840 the Company had steam wound deep pits at Muxton,Waxhill Barracks,The Cockshutts, and The Lawn Priorslee. Coal was the principal product of all the pits, but smaller quantities of ironstone were found with coal seams, and mined at the same time as the coal. A horse operated plate way railway was built to take coal from Cockshutts pit to the Lodge furnaces, about this time it’s thought that the freehold mine and Woodhouse mine were in production though the actual dates for sinking these mines is not known.

This wagon built by the Birmingham Midland Carriage and Wagon Company, about 1905, going by the brake gear, properly came to the Lilleshall Company in 1918, second hand for internal traffic use. Going by the very little wear on the flanges and axel boxes still full of grease it properly spent it’s working life just being shunted from the screening plant to the old loading dock and back again.

At the loading dock the slack was shovelled into the narrow gauge mine wagons that were then hooked on to the endless chain. Hauled up the incline and worked around the slack stocking ground by the Lancashire boilers, also maintenance materials and pit props were brought up to  the mine in the same way. So this wagon may have been one of the last in use at the screening plant, then when Grange colliery ceased coal production in 1952 it properly stayed there for a while , then for some reason properly when the last coal wagons were moved it may have been rough shunted and ran away down the  mine gradient and jumped the stop brakes that were in place where the sidings finished at the time.

As it came to rest it scattered it’s load of slack along the track, jumped the stop block with it’s brake gear resting on it. The front wheels came to rest in the mud and spoil that had been dumped over the rest of the sidings. The rear s were taken away for wheel set broke away and the end of the wagon fell apart, then when the track was lifted, the rear wheel set and buffers were taken for scrap. So from the 1950’s the remains of the wagon, lay rotting away and the area became overgrown and waterlogged, until it was discovered  in the 1980,s by TNC members who had taken over the site. However, it was around 1988 before the woodland gang cut a footpath into the area and drained off the water. Then the short length of standard gauge track was discovered and dug out as drainage work continued. After examining the remains of this wooden bodied wagon it was found that most of the wood was to rotten to save, so it was decided to save the metal parts and burn the rotten wood, so that was done. Many of the metal fittings were moved to the museum and the rotten wood was removed and burnt. Then the top of the wheels and the springs and buffers were discovered, and the brake gear and couplings were dug out. The workers carried on digging the wheel set out of the mud, and it was decided to get them back on the track.

Then in August 1991 many thanks to the members and a single outdoor member who hauled the wheel set back on track.

  • Lord Granville Dies in 1846
  • Granville Leveson-Gower 2nd Earl Granville 1815-1891, Takes over.
  • First main line railways in Shropshire in 1869 ##
  • Brick making in Donnington Wood area by 1850.

The Humber arm of the Shropshire Union canal to Lubstree Wharf was completed and came into use in 1844. The Lilleshall Company then used the iron ore and limestone traffic inwards, and pig iron outwards. While all the developments were in progress, there were changes in the partnership, Lord Granville died in 1846, and his son, Granville Leveson-Gower 2nd Earl Granville 1815-1891 took over as senior partner. He once again followed the family tradition of public service,  but like his predecessors in the company found time to take an active part in the management of the Lilleshall Enterprise, he later became Foreign Secretary in Lord Melbourne’s Government .

His industrial interests were properly the reason he took an active interest in the ‘Great Exhibition’ of 1851. Granville’s brother The Rt. Hon. Fredrick Leveson-Gower joined the partnership in 1852. However expansion in the iron and coal departments soon showed up problems with the transport system.

The canals had server the old Partnership well and continued to have their uses for the Lilleshall Company, but by the middle of the nineteenth century something better was needed, railways were the answer. In 1849 when the Shrewsbury and Birmingham railway was opened, the line, as it passed through Shifnal and Wellington, skirted the southern edge of the Lilleshall Company estate, and the Priorslee  blast furnaces were built close to that main line. Also in 1849 another mainline came into the area. This was the Shropshire Union railway from Stafford to Wellington, where it joined the Shrewsbury and Birmingham railway.

As the Shropshire Union railway passed along the northern edge of the Lilleshall Company estates their mining and iron making sites were by 1850 partly enclosed by public railways, but it was another matter to be connected to them, and only Priorslee furnaces were so sited, to be connected easily.

By now Donnington Wood had become the sole works of the brick making department though in 1850 brick works were also in operation at Wrockwardine  and at Snedshill.

However Donnington Wood area was by 1850 an important producer of Red building bricks, and a siding was put in off the Companies private railway to bring coal for brick making, from Grange and Granville collieries.