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Museum team appeals for help to create "people's history"

By Toby Neal | Nostalgia | Published:

Archivists striving to record information about life and industry in the Ironbridge Gorge have issued an appeal for people to come forward with their memories.

The team at Ironbridge Gorge Museum is painstakingly putting together a comprehensive history of the area – which also involves the "new historic eras" of the 1960s, 70s and 80s with information and pictures being keenly accepted from as recently as 10 years ago.

The appeal comes as the museum trust works to raise £1m through its Fund for the Future campaign which has a 2021 deadline to take full advantage of match funding in the form of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Joanne Smith, museum registrar, said: “Memories continue to be made and the fund will ensure Ironbridge and its heritage will be in the minds and memories of many generations to come. We want to hear from anyone who can provide details, stories, memories and pictures to help us in getting as complete a record as possible.

“Quite often we receive images featuring individuals, but there is no information with the images, explaining who the people are. Sometimes we are able to find out the names of the people, but in many cases the people in the photographs remain unidentified.

“If we are able to put a name to a face then this can help us as we try to track down more details of the life of those people featured, sometimes from local newspapers, but also from historic local trade directories, as well as other photographs within our collection.”

The team aims to build up a life story of the people featured, which, as well as being of great interest and use to their own staff, becomes another potential resource for people researching local history.

“We are eager to try and find out as much as we can about all the employees of the Coalbrookdale Company, as well as the other industries of the Gorge, whether they were people actually working on the ‘shop floor’ or the people designing the products for others to manufacture, and this continues to the more recent history of the area,” adds Joanne.

“We want to try and find out how many generations of families were associated with a company. Who moved away and why? Where did they move to? Were there many accidents? How did people spend their leisure time? How many people were given the opportunity to study at the Coalbrookdale Literary and Scientific Institution and so on.

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“There is still so much to try and find out, and this information can help us to interpret local history so we can try to include as many people as possible in the story of the Gorge and beyond.”

Snapshots, like one of Edith Lloyd at Nailer's Row – a long disappeared row of homes near the river – can yield important clues to the changing scene in the Gorge, such as when buildings disappeared.

“Portrait photographs of people are also of interest to us, as it is so useful being able to put a name to a face. We do have historic studio portraits in our collection, but also more informal photographs, which, again, are useful as they tell us about costume, leisure activities, and family or friend connections.

“As time moves on more ‘recent’ history becomes more interesting and certainly more important. Even in the past 10 years there have been changes to the local area, so it is always important to try and capture these changes on film, or, more recently, digitally.

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“We are now certainly interested in finding images from the local area from the 1970s onwards, but we are always keen to see any images from the ‘family album’, as you never know what useful images might still be out there, waiting to be discovered.

“Also we are able to make digital copies of any images, so originals can remain within a family album for future generations of the family to enjoy, and the digital copy can be held on file at the museum library, for researchers to access.”

Anyone with memories to share can contact Joanne on 01952 435900 or email library@ironbridge.org.uk

For more about Fund for the Future visit https://www.ironbridge.org.uk/our-story/support-us/fund-for-the-future/

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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