A COMPLETE suspension of the coal trade by the Severn has taken place in consequence of the lowness of water in the river, and the high price of coals as compared with those of South Staffordshire. The water in the river has been remarkably low for some time, so low that vessels could not take anything like a sufficient cargo to defray expenses of the voyage, even if the remuneration for freight per ton was as reasonable as formerly. As an instance of the shallowness of the river, I may mention that horses with carts and wagons now cross the fords. But the great complaint on the part of carriers is on account of the high price they have to pay on the wharf for coal, and the competition they meet with at Stourport and Worcester. Since the reduction of colliers' wages and that of the selling price of coal, in South Staffordshire, the Shropshire owners have had additional disadvantages to labour under, inasmuch as no similar reduction of price in coals has followed that of wages.
The fact is, the Shropshire iron and coal masters are under no great temptation to sell at a reduction, seeing that the stock yet unworked is by no means in proportion to the amount of iron ore they have in store. The south bank of the river affords a sufficient warning to iron masters in this respect. The coals, excepting some containing a large proportion of sulphur, whereby they are totally unfit for iron making, have long ago been exhausted. Although iron ores still abound, and their extraordinary richness pays for them being now worked and sent in large quantities by river and canal into South Staffordshire for use; the absence of coal threw out of blast the iron furnaces all along that side of the coal-field, as at the Calcuts, Barnets, Leasow, Benthall, the Cuneberry, Broseley, and Willey, depreciating the value of property, causing great migrations of labourers and considerable displacement of capital. Had the Severn Valley line of railway, now on the eve of accomplishment, been constructed a few years back, coal might have been carried, as it now is in other places, to supply the deficiency, and to work up the ore on the spot. Indeed, it is not improbable that when the means of bringing down coals exist, smelting operations may again take place on the spot.