Memories of The Beeches for historian Graham

Childhood memories came flooding back for Ironbridge historian, Graham Hickman, when he took a stroll around an exciting new Shropshire Homes development.

Work at The Beeches in Ironbridge is seeing 35 new homes constructed within the former 19th Century workhouse, which later became a hospital. The award-winning housebuilder is preserving the Grade Two listed building, and Graham said he was pleased to see how the work at the Lincoln Hill site was progressing.

the beeches graham hickman

Luke (left) and Graham (right), assistant site manager and local historian

“I was totally amazed when I was shown around the development as the buildings are being restored sympathetically and Shropshire Homes is keeping the existing fabric of the buildings,” he said. “It is great to see the developer breathing new life into these wonderful buildings, which would have eventually decayed and been knocked down.

“It is also great to see the use of bricks from the original building, as they would have probably come from the Woodlands Brick Works, which was adjacent to the hospital. There were several different brick works around Ironbridge, and the bricks were different colours – blue, white and red depending on the type of clay they found when they were digging.”

Graham, who grew up in Ironbridge and worked at Coalbrookdale Foundry for 40 years, said The Beeches was once a popular place for local children to meet up.

“At the front of the buildings was a pond and meadows, and that was where we used to go fishing and play games,” he said. “Games we would play included British bulldog, hide and seek and tug of war – we would also climb trees and go scrumping in the hospital orchard. It was a completely different way of life then as you could play out from 9am until dark and you grew up appreciating and getting to know the area you lived in.

“I was in St Luke’s Church Choir and at Christmas we would perform in the wards at The Beeches, it was wonderful to sing for the patients.”

Graham, who set up the popular Facebook page Memories of Coalbrookdale Iron Foundry, is now working on a book of photos that he and his parents took from the 1950s onwards showing Ironbridge at various times.

He said: “Ironbridge was a great place to grow up and live, and I’m pleased to see that more people are being given a chance to have their home here thanks to Shropshire Homes.”