The Jockey Bank or Madeley Green area in the Ironbridge Gorge is one of the most interesting and earliest worked areas of the Coalbrookdale mining field. References to mines go back to at least the 14th Century and there are several fascinating descriptions of underground visits in the 18th & 19th Centuries in existence.
There are four important geological features in the area:
1. the presence of several competent sandstone beds or 'rocks'
2. the effect of 2 large geological faults (there are others present)
3.the unconformable Upper Coal Measures
4.the twin valleys in this part of the Gorge
All of these led to easy and very early access to good seams of ironstone, coal and clay, probably in that order. Sandstone was also mined underground and on the surface for building purposes, including blast furnace construction.
The Big Flint Sandstone immediately below the unconformity, the Vigar and Best Sandstones, and the Little Flint and Crawstone Sandstone (the latter outcropping near the Bedlam Furnace Adits and in the river bed) all provided excellent roofs for tunnels and workings.
The outcrops of Madeley Green were noted in an early Methodist History (the 'Chapel on the Rock' 1762-1776, now 52/53 New Bridge Road).
By 1750 a major tramway tunnel appears to have been driven through the rock beneath the road junction by the Old Fletcher Chapel and Schoo,l and down-bank of the new (recently closed) Chapel. There are certainly many more adits here than these mentioned here.
Wesley Road Tunnel
This tunnel was broken into during construction of a sewer in October 1976. The excavation showed that it was brick-arched on stone walls, 6ft. high and 6ft. wide and the top of the arch was about 6ft. below the road surface. A line of 1ft. diameter drainage pipes had been put in vertically at some time to give added support under the road. Local council workmen said that there had been a collapse in the 1930s or early '40s and that the pipes were filled with concrete.
In 1976 the tunnel could be followed for 1 yard uphill towards Madeley to a stone stopping, and downhill towards Ironbridge for 9 yards, at a dip of 1 in 15, to a collapse of rubble. The adit entrance must have been under the 'ruins' and wall supporting the roadway.
The entrance was not found despite digging but the whole length under the road was exposed and filled with lean-mix concrete (30 cu. m) before backfilling. The occupiers of the house on the opposite side of the road reported that they believed the tunnel passed their cellar - as it had an "irregularly shaped bit cut out" and it seems likely that the tunnel, although a longish one, served only to get under the road junction, but it was there in the 1750s!
Beyond the road junction there is evidence of an inclined plane.
This adit is marked 'Tunnel' on the Madeley Tithe Map of 1849, and it has a tramway leading from it. Its entrance is some 13 metres below that of the Wesley Road Tunnel and so it is unlikely to be connected to the above.
Exploratory digging with a JCB in 1976 located the top of the tunnel which was itself almost completely backfilled with rubble. The visible part indicated that it was blocked by a stone wall 0.6m in, but probably had been at least 1.5m high. It was arched with stone.
The area was later backfilled and the cover formed into a landscaped garden.
Also shown on the Tithe Map is a mine 'Spout', the local name
for a sough tail or drainage level. It has not been seen in recent years.
Bedlam Adit (or adits)
Situated at the foot of the high wall west of the Bedlam Furnace site, along the side of the River Severn. These have not been explored but are believed to be in the Crawstone Ironstone seam.
Any workings will almost certainly have been disturbed by the landslip which affected the Gasworks Site, further up the hillside, in the 1950s and they will also be contaminated by pollutants from operations on the site. Drill-hole investigation on the site in the 1970s showed much disturbance.
Stone Pit Tunnel
The mouth of a tunnel is shown on the 1883 OS Map, this had a tramway and a drainage channel leading from it. It is possible that this connected with the ironstone mine to the west of Harris' Lane and may have been covered later with spoil from Styches Pit.
This tunnel almost certainly played a major part in the flowslide that destroyed houses below this point in the 1930s.
No access to the tunnel has been found, but there was a boggy area present in the 1970s. The entrance was probably destroyed by the earth movement.
Lower Stone Pit Tunnel
A similar tramway to the one above, with drainage channel is shown leading from this point on the 1883 OS Map. Its history is probably similar to that of the Stone Pit Tunnel.
Possible Pennystone Adit
Located in the grounds adjoining the old Council Offices, this was destroyed by development before it could be fully investigated. It may or may not have been an adit because many properties on this horizon are partly built into the sandstone to produce a cool storage 'cellar', or have 'arbours' for pleasure and decoration in their garden. These can appear very similar to mine entrances (and elsewhere some have been shown to be adapted from actual entrances.
No adits have been found connected with any of the Brick and Tile Clay workings on this bank of the Gorge. These workings appear to have been worked by shaft or quarry. However there is (or was) an inscribed stone having the words "Imperial Clay Mine" built into a wall at this point. Almost certainly it is not in its original position and its history is unclear.
There is no known mine with the name "Imperial Clay Mine" in the Coalfield. The writer offers a prize for the first photo or drawing of this inscription received with description of present condition, location, grid reference etc..
Local residents have reported that the stone was lost recently when the wall was demolished by a car and then rebuilt. On a nearby gatepost there was a capstone marked "P.Cook, Madeley Wood". There was a brickmaker here in early 1800's (see Directory 1828) called R.Cook - was this the person who made both stones and his inscribed name has become worn?
In addition to those mentioned in the text:
Report & Sketch: Ivor Brown
Bad Air - Although all of these mines are now sealed bad air - mainly oxygen deficiency has been recorded in them in the past.
If you visit the area: DO NOT enter any workings or tunnels without proper precautions - people have died in tunnels in the Gorge through bad air, so BEWARE.