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Discovery of 130-year-old explosive box sheds light on the history of Bridgnorth's Cliff Railway

Officials at a popular tourist attraction have announced the discovery of 130-year-old explosive box on the eve of its milestone anniversary.

Barry Evans, the cliff railway’s engineer examining the 130 year-old cordite box at the cliff railway’s office
Barry Evans, the cliff railway’s engineer examining the 130 year-old cordite box at the cliff railway’s office

The team at Bridgnorth Cliff Railway will celebrate 130 years since the official opening of the historic funicular on Thursday.

Originally opened in 1892, by Bridgnorth Mayor John Anderson, the railway has been transporting visitors between Low Town and High Town for more than a century.

The cliff railway was originally powered by a water-balance system devised by engineer Lord Marks of Woolwich in and managed by George Croydon Marks.

Since 2011, the cliff railway has been owned by the Tipping family and director Eileen Tipping’s grandfather was a cousin of George Croydon Marks.

Cliff railway chairman, Dr. Malvern Tipping, said: “Unfortunately, due to prior engagements we may not be present in Bridgnorth on the day to celebrate the cliff railway’s 130th anniversary.

"However, we are very pleased that somehow the cliff railway managed to survive the challenges posed by the Covid pandemic and that since the end of February passenger numbers have been buoyant.

"This support from our passengers means that we shall now be in a position to invest sums of money in upgrading and renewing parts of the engineering.

"It has been a great pleasure and delight for my family and me to operate and support this wonderful piece of Victorian transport heritage for the past eleven years.

"We and our team of enthusiastic and supportive staff are pleased to be working to secure the cliff railway’s next one hundred and thirty years linking the two halves of the town.”

Now, the managing team have taken the opportunity to announce the discovery of a 130-year-old explosive box at the cliff railway.

The box had once contained cordite, which had been used to blast the cutting through the sandstone cliffs for the construction of the cliff railway during late 1891 and early 1892.

“I was aware from extant literature that during the blasting there had been concern to avoid damage to nearby buildings and that a suitable explosive had to be used.

"Until now, it had been a mystery as to which type of explosive had been used. I had assumed that the engineers had probably just used traditional gunpowder. We now know that not to have been the case.

"Due to the dates the cordite would have been manufactured at the Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills.

"This is an exciting find for us and completes yet another part of the jigsaw of the cliff railway’s history.

“Coincidentally, I had been due to go on a group visit to the Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills last year. However, the visit was cancelled due to the pandemic.

"Should the visit be reinstated, I shall take the box with me to ascertain what further light can be thrown on the matter.”

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