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Bid to unlock Telford picture treasure trove

By Toby Neal | Telford | Features | Published:

A treasure trove of nearly 15,000 photos charting the development of Telford could be opened up to public view online if a funding bid for a digitisation project is successful.

A photo from the collection showing the unveiling of the Thomas Telford sculpture in Civic Square, Telford, on April 8, 1988.

Wrekin Local Studies Forum, which comprises several local history groups in the area, has launched a major initiative to get the Telford Development Corporation photo collection made available online.

It is calling its project "Picture That: Telford's Story," and has linked up with Shropshire Archives – which holds the collection – and Telford and Wrekin Libraries in making a Heritage Fund bid of £55,000.

Telford Development Corporation was the government-appointed body formed in 1968 charged with creating the new town of Telford.

Lord Northfield, as chairman of Telford Development Corporation from 1975 to 1987, steered the town's development through a crucial period.

It was the successor to Dawley Development Corporation, formed in 1963 when the original vision was to create a smaller new town based on Dawley.

During TDC's life – it was wound up in 1991 – it amassed a huge photographic collection of fascinating images showing the area both before and during the town's development, most of which have never been seen by the public.

The forum is holding a number of drop-in sessions to drum up public support for its funding bid.

Darren Blackburn, who chairs the forum, said: “Picture That: Telford's Story will open up the history of our town and also provide opportunities for volunteering and learning new skills.

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TDC even published its own newspaper – this is the first issue of "Telford New Town News" from February 1969.

"We are looking forward to working in partnership with Shropshire Archives, and making this important collection available for all local people and historians.”

The project also has support from Telford & Wrekin Council.

Councillor Carolyn Healy, who is cabinet member for visitor economy and the World Heritage Site, said: “The Telford at 50 celebrations have ignited a growing interest in the history of the new town and several Facebook groups are used to share photographs of the town's development.

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"Telford & Wrekin Council is delighted to support this project.”

The last day of Telford Development Corporation, September 27, 1991. Head janitor Doug Brayne was about to lock up its town centre offices for the final time.

Darren added: "As part of the bid, we need Telford residents, and those who have any connection with the town, to show their support. The forum would like not just those already interested in history to take part, but also people, families and diverse ethnic communities in the town to enjoy the collection if the bid is a success."

A public consultation runs from February 17 to March 7. One aspect is a questionnaire, at http://www.wlsf.org.uk/picture-that-project/picture-that/ and the other is a number of drop-in sessions at various venues.

They are: The Anstice, Madeley, February 17, 10am to 4pm; Southwater Library, Telford Town Centre, February 22, 10am to 2pm; and a Community History Day/ Charter Day at Wellington Library, March 7, 10am to 1pm.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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