Explore The Trail

Discover the Nine Men of Madeley and the places that make this story an important part of history for Madeley.


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Point of interest
POI with plaque

The ‘Nine Men’ of Madeley

The trail starts at the grave of the nine men at the top end of the graveyard to the rear of St. Michael’s Church, Madeley 1.

On Saturday 1st October 1864 nine Madeley miners, six of them only boys, were buried in individual coffins in a communal grave in St. Michael’s graveyard. They had died four days earlier in a horrific accident at a local pit. The funeral procession included about 100 relatives and friends and over 400 miners (the local pits had been closed for the day). A further 2,000 are estimated to have attended the Church service. The Madeley Wood Company, which owned the pit, covered all the funeral expenses and provided financial assistance to the dead miners’ families.

To follow the trail you need to leave the graveyard and, at the Church gates, turn left into Church Street which has changed little since the mid-19th century. Follow the road round past 17th century Upper House and barns 2 on the left then 18th century Madeley Hall 3 on your right. At the roundabout turn left up Park Street 4. On the left, about halfway up the hill at the corner of New Street, is a private house (No. 77A) which was built in 1859 as a Bethesda Chapel 5 for the ‘New Connexion’ Methodists and served many in the mining community. Many miners, including at least one of the nine, Francis Cookson, lived in this area, with Cookson’s home being on adjacent Park Lane. Continue along Park Street, as it becomes Ironbridge Road, to the Lees Farm roundabout and, after crossing with care, continue along the Ironbridge Road (B4373).

Keep on the left-hand side and about 250m down the road is the Abraham Darby Sports and Learning Centre. Opposite is the site of the Madeley Wood Company’s Brick Kiln Leasow Pit 6 (now just a treed pit mound) where the accident happened. This was a very old ironstone pit, probably sunk in the 1790s. It was over 200m deep and often called ‘Lane Pit’ after another local (and even older) pit with which it was connected. Another local name was ‘The Crawstone’ after the type of sandstone from which the ironstone there was recovered. The ore was mined to feed the furnaces at Blists Hill (also owned by the Madeley Wood Company). The ore was taken to the furnaces in small horse-drawn trucks running on light, narrow-gauge, iron rails – part of an extensive transport network linking several local pits, furnaces and foundries. Brick Kiln Leasow closed in the 1890s.

The accident happened at 5.40pm on Tuesday 27th September. The nine miners were being raised, at the end of their shift, by means of a crude apparatus known as ‘the doubles’ which was designed to carry no more than eight people. It consisted of a central chain about 3m long to which were attached four chain circles, one above the other, and each providing two ‘seats’ one on either side of the central chain. At the top of the chain was a hook with a safety catch and, between it and the topmost pair of seats, was an iron canopy - the ‘bonnet’ – designed to protect the seated men from falling debris. The upper end of the main chain passed through the bonnet and its hook engaged with a ring attached to the end of a winding chain which connected to a winding engine at the pithead.

When the men were about half-way up the engine-man, who was winding them up, felt the chain slacken and knew they had plunged to their deaths. One of the first on the scene was William Wallett, the ‘banksman’ in charge of surface activities at the pit. He was almost certainly the 22-year-old son of Edward Wallett who was one of the victims. A group of men descended the shaft but knew there would be no survivors. The base of the shaft was covered by 15cm thick oak planks. Below these was a sump in which water collected. The planks had broken because of the force of the fall and the bodies had to be recovered with the help of a drag from the 4m of water accumulated in the sump.

The dead were taken from the pit down Ironbridge Road / Madeley Road. Travelling along this route, in about 820m, you will pass Orchard Lane on your right and, just beyond, the former Madeley Wood Wesleyan Methodist Chapel 7. Now a private house, this was built in 1837 to replace the old Meeting House on Jockey Bank which had been outgrown by its congregation. Many miners worshipped here. On the opposite side of the road a little further down is the original Madeley Wood Meeting House / Sunday School 8 built in 1777 by Revd. John Fletcher to serve as a chapel and Sunday School which would cater for the spiritual and social needs of his flock. It ceased to be a chapel in 1837 but continued to be used as a Sunday School. From 1853 it was used as a day school as well and, in 1858, the irregular ‘Gothic-style’ Madeley Wood Wesleyan School 9 just beyond (on the corner of Wesley Road) was built to provide accommodation for a teacher and teaching facilities for younger children. In 1864 part of this building was also being used for older children. Collectively this group of buildings was known as ‘The Green School’ because of its location on Madeley Green and remained in use as a school until 1969. Several of the nine miners may well have studied there.

Opposite the school, on the far corner of Belmont road is the former George and Dragon pub 10 now Dane House, a private residence. This had been licenced since 1812 and the inquest began there on Wednesday 28th September. However, it was postponed to allow the funeral to take place.

The main trail now turns down Wesley Road to the Golden Ball Inn 11, first licenced in 1728. This is one of the oldest pubs in the area and probably frequented by many miners. In 1864 the upper part of Wesley Road was called Thieve Street and one of the nine miners (Edward Wallett) lived there with his wife and young children. The trail continues down Newbridge Road (formerly Ropers Hill). Another of the miners (Benjamin Davies) lived with his father in a row of cottages ‘Tups’ Rowe 12 which probably stood at the junction of Thieve Street and Ropers Hill.

Towards the bottom of Newbridge Road take the footpath leading to Ironbridge (signposted shortly after No. 42). This goes round the back of the Bedlam Furnaces 13, just beyond which is the site of Bedlam Hall 14, a 17th century Jacobean Mansion where the Anstice family lived before moving to Madeley Wood Hall (q.v.). After suffering serious landslip damage Bedlam Hall was demolished in 1839 and the site used to build Ironbridge Gasworks. However one end survived as a cottage and it is possible that this was the home of John Jones one of the nine victims.

The footpath joins Waterloo Street shortly after passing the site of the hall. The trail continues down the street, towards Ironbridge, where, just before the roundabout, is number 57 Waterloo Street which had been built in 1862 as a Police Station and Court House 15.

The inquest into the pit disaster reopened at this Court House on Monday 3rd October 1864. It seemed clear that the equipment had been in good working order and it was concluded that the hook and ring had not been engaged properly so a verdict of Accidental Death was returned. It seems likely that human error on the part of the ‘hooker-on’, Benjamin Davies, who died in the accident, played a part but perhaps the overloading of the hoist – with nine miners rather than the permitted eight – was another factor. Edward Wallett and John Tranter, who were responsible for management of the underground workings, were also among the dead.

From the corner of Waterloo Street, if you look across the roundabout, you will see Church Hill 16 where William Jarratt lived with his parents and two brothers. Now turn right and walk up Madeley Road. to your left was the area known as ‘Foxholes’ 17 where Joseph Maiden lived with his parents, brothers and sisters. Just past Dane House, turn left up Belmont Road. In 1864, this was part of the ‘Brockholes’ area 18 where John Tranter and his family (along with many other miners) lived. Farther up, numbers 12-14 Belmont Road are on the site of the former Brockholes ‘House of Industry’ or workhouse 19. This had been built in 1796 but was seen as ‘not fit for purpose’ by 1864 and was converted into housing in 1874.

This is the end of the trail and you can now either retrace your steps back onto Madeley Road and then back into Madeley centre or visit some of the other sites associated with the story of the nine miners. There are tourist information points at Madeley Library and at the Ironbridge Visitor Information Centre, The Museum of the Gorge, The Wharfage, Ironbridge.

Other points of interest include the site of Madeley Wood Hall 20, the main home of the Anstice family in the 19th century. It was built in 1805, but suffered from subsidence and was demolished in the 1920s shortly after the family left the area. A restored brick structure, once thought to be an ice-house, but more likely used for storage, is all that remains of the hall. There is an interesting leaflet on Lloyds coppice produced by the Severn Gorge Countryside Trust that includes the Hall on its guided walk.
There is also the Lincoln Hill area 21 where two of the youngest of the nine miners lived and which was later (1874) the location of a new ‘purpose-built’ workhouse.

In Madeley town centre the Anstice Memorial Workmen’s Club and Institute 22 was built in 1868-9 and named in memory of Madeley Wood Company owner, John Anstice. It was financed by a mixture of public subscription and donations from the family. Just around the corner from the Anstice is the Fletcher Methodist Chapel 23 in Court Street. It was named after Revd. John Fletcher, Anglican Vicar of Madeley 1760 – 1785 and one of the founding fathers of Methodism. It was built in 1841-2 with money largely provided by miners and chartermasters (sub-contractors who acted as middlemen between the owners and the workers). It was often known as ‘Chartermasters Chapel’.

The trail map and leaflet guide you around the key locations involved in the Nine Men of Madeley pit disaster. Six new plaques have been commissioned by the project, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Madeley Town Council.

The trail should take about 2 hours, starting and finishing at St. Michael’s Church in Madeley. Public parking is available in Madeley centre. Alternatively you could park in Ironbridge centre if you wished to cover only part of the trail.

Most surfaces along this trail are generally level. Following the suggested trail will require crossing busy roads and it is the responsibility of members of the public to ensure their personal safety. We recommend the use of pedestrian crossing points where available. All the plaques are visible from public areas, but please be aware that some are located on private property.

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