Industrious Sam re-writes history as Oswestry book gets charity reprint

A book throwing a fascinating light on Oswestry’s industrial past has been reprinted in aid of Hope House children’s hospice.

Sam Evans with the book
Sam Evans with the book

The Industries of the Morda Valley was first published nearly 80 years ago as a series of extracts from the local weekly newspaper, charting the history of the many fledgling industries that lined the banks of the River Morda at the start of the industrial revolution.

In 1979 Shropshire County Library issued a reprint which quickly sold out, but since then the book has been out of print.

The man behind the republication is a former newspaper editor, Sam Evans, whose predecessor, the late Henry Jones, rated the book as the best ever chronicling Oswestry’s history.

Mr Evans said: "As a former borough librarian Henry knew what he was talking about, and he was forever moaning that the book was out of print, because he preferred it to both Isaac Watkin’s and William Catherall’s histories of the town.

The 1979 publication came after Henry’s death, but it was almost illegible in parts, so I decided to retype it from start to finish and republish it as a fund raiser for Hope House.

“This hospice stands in the very area, described in the book, where children once suffered great cruelty and deprivation. Today, in a society improved out of all recognition, the hospice goes about its valuable work relieving a different kind of child suffering. So it was a happy choice as a target for the clear profit the book will make.”

Oswestry Town Council’s Treble Niners fund-raising group, Andrew Faulks of Stan’s Supermarket in St Martins and Warren Howell of Pinnacle Roofing underwrote the cost of an initial print run of 800 copies, and several retail outlets have agreed to handle the book foregoing any profit.

"This means that every penny of the £5 selling price will go straight to Hope House, potentially raising £4,000 with an immediate

reprint planned if the booklet sells out quickly.

“Although the book names Morda in the title it is, in fact a book about Oswestry because it charts the way many minor industrialists, some of them no better than slave drivers, took advantage of the cheap labour available in the area to exploit both people including children and the one source of free power – the River Morda.”

During the same period a huge demand for coal both locally and further afield led to the opening of many short-lived coal pits in the area between Morda and Trefonen, with coal shipped down to the Shropshire Union Canal at Maesbury Wharf.

"The book is full of anecdotes about the shocking conditions in these dangerous mines, with flooding an ever present threat to life. It also describes the founding of schools and other local amenities to cope with the population explosion resulting from the building of mills and other water-powered industries along the course of the small river. "

The book also contains graphic descriptions of life in the formidable House of Industry, more recently relabelled the Workhouse, where it reveales inmates were forced, during meals to witness the brutal thrashing of people convicted of often petty offences.

For details of the nearest stockist of the book, telephone Sam on 01691 654136 or email him on samandtibsevans@gmail.com

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