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Apley Holiday Cottages - sitting on a significant industrial archaeological site (3rd April 2014)

Following a series of chances, an exhibition of archive photographs has led to two historically significant discoveries: The first is that the site of three Shropshire holiday cottages was the site of ironworks & furnaces, making it of industrial archaeological importance. The second is a unique 1860 sketch of an industrial landscape long since gone.

Just down the River Severn from the World Heritage Site of Ironbridge, the hamlet of three Apley Holiday Cottages are set in what is now an idyllic rural holiday location, but which was once a hot & busy site ironworks & furnaces, as early as the 1630s.

Earlier this year, Lady Harriet Hamilton organised the First Apley Archive Exhibition in The Creamery Café Restaurant at Apley Farm Shop, on her husband’s Apley Estate near Bridgnorth in Shropshire. She invited some local historians, one of whom indicated on the Estate map the location of the former ironworks. “Stephen Dewhirst then took my husband & I on a guided walk near the holiday cottages & explained the site’s significance. I’ve been linked to the Hamiltons & the Apley Estate for 19 years & no-one has ever mentioned this. One of the cottages is called Forge Cottage, but it was always presumed to be an old blacksmith’s forge”explained Lady Hamilton.

In addition, on the same evening, Mr Dewhirst identified some landscape drawings in a sketch book as being unique records & therefore of historical importance to Ironbridge’s history. The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust’s Museum Archaeologist, Shane Kelleher, has been since studying the sketches, drawn around 1860 by Albert Way (1805-1874). They include one of the Horsehay furnaces, of which there’s now little evidence.

The sketch book was found by Lady Hamilton amongst photo albums belonging to the Foster family, which the Hamilton family acquired on inheriting the Estate in 1980. “At the very last minute, when preparing for the exhibition, I decided to include a small brown sketchbook. No-one had any idea until then of the importance of the drawings.”

The sketches will be included in relevant specialist journals &as well as in the Second Apley Archive Exhibition, which will be launched on 28 May 2014, 6-7.30pm at Apley Farm Shop. The three Apley Holidays Cottages can sleep 4-18 people & can be booked online at or by calling 01746 762 110.

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