Map C: Madeley

Jackfield and Coalport Memorial Footbridge



A Severn Trow, Jackfield c.1880


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The name of the 28ton Trow, as can be read in the photo, was the 'William' and its Master was Thomas Beard, a local man, baptized on 13 Sep 1818 at Saint Leonard's Church in Broseley, his father was also named Thomas and his mother was (probably) Ann Richards from Leighton, a few miles upstream.

The UK Censuses and local records give us a fair picture of his life:

1841: Werps, Broseley. father:Thomas Beard 69, Barge owner; mother: Ann 55; Thomas 20; Richard 18
Later in 1841 he married Mary Anne Vaughan from Trewern, Montgomery
1851: not yet found
1861: Werps Inn, Broseley. Thomas Beard 43, Inn Keeper (Railway); wife Mary Annie 44; dau Drusilla Vaughan 14
In 1865, his daughter Drusilla, married George Stephan, she gave him twin boys and a daughter before she died in 1870 at just 24 yrs old. A few months after she died one of the twin boys after a fire in their bedroom.
1871: Werps, nr Woodbridge. Thomas Beard 53, Barge Owner; wife Mary Annie 54; son-in-law George Stephan 25 wid, China Potter; grandson George Edward Stephan 4 (the surviving twin. Baby Drusilla was put in the care of her other grandmother, later in life she married Alfred Potter and in 1911 emigrated to East Liverpool City, Ohio, USA).
The photo above was probably taken sometime in the late '70s and, no doubt, the young lad sitting in the trow is George Edward Stephan.
1881: The 'William', Gloucester. Thomas Beard 63 wid, Master; George (Edward) Stephan 15 bargeman
1891: "William Canal Boat", Lower Mitton, Stourport. Thos Beard 73 widr; George (E) Stephan 23
By this time, railway wagons had replaced trows for carrying freight and so both Thomas & George turn their hands to Inn keeping (again). George married Hannah Maria Haynes in 1900.
1901: 'The Gordon Inn', The Werps. Thomas Beard 83 wid, Publican (own account); gs George Stephan 34, Publican; George's wife Hannah 25, ggd Beatrice 5m

Thomas Beard died at the age of 84 early in 1902

1911: 160 Salt House, Jackfield. George Stephan 42, Ret Publican; wife Hannah 35; son Victor 5; son Leslie 4

George Edward Stephan died early in 1922 at the age of 54, leaving just under £500 in his estate to his wife Hannah.

Thomas wasn't the only Beard making a living on the water and by selling ale - his brother Richard also operated barges and in 1871 was running 'The Shakespeare Inn' at Coalport (still trading I think).

I have more details of this family in my on-line family tree at and I would like to thank George Edward's great grand-daughter, Penny, for some of the information and pointers she has given me.
Submitted by Clive Egginton, Wolverhampton on 05 September 2012 00:51
Thank you so much to whoever posted this. My great great grandfather, Thomas Heighway was a boat loader and water boatman living in Broseley from 1841 to 1851. It is so nice together an idea of what is life might have been. In 1861 he was a contractor for Lovie in Bilston. Does anyone know what this means?
Submitted by Bryan Heighway on 05 April 2012 19:14
This is a well known Broseley photograph of the Barge William, which probably shows Thomas Beard skippering it (see 1881 Gloucester census). However I have found other evidence which suggests all is not quite as it seems in the picture.
So to explain, one of my relatives John Cullis was a bargeowner of Lloyd's Head, Jackfield in the 1860's - 70's, where he was also the landlord of the Black Swan Inn. By 1879 John described himself as a Brick and Tile Merchant. Presumably, he used his barges (mentioned in his will) to transport the goods and it is likely that his friend William Jones, a brick and tile manufacturer of Jackfield, provided much of the merchandise. However, John died on 1st March 1880 and his business was broken up. I have found no evidence that any of his descendants worked on the river after 1880. John’s widow died on 3 March 1881, and the census of that year recorded their eldest daughter as Inn Keeper at the Black Swan. The Wenlock Advertiser and Ludlow & Wenlock Express of 9 April 1881 reported that a boat ‘carrying 16 tons’ and the well built 65-ton barge William, together with all her tackle and fittings, both of which were moored at Lloyds Head in Jackfield, were to be sold at auction, and the Gloucester Citizen of 20th April 1881 carried the following advertisement:

Mr. Rushton begs to announce that he is favoured with instructions from the executors from the late Mr John Culliss, TO SELL BY AUCTION, On THURSDAY, April 21st, 1881, ALL that well-built BARGE, William, to carry 65 tons, together with all Tackle and Fittings belonging to her : also a very useful BOAT, to carry 16 tons. Sale to commence at 6 o’clock. LLANTHONY ROAD, GLOUCESTER.

Thomas Beard, aged 63, was the Master of the William when it was berthed at Gloucester on census night of 3rd April 1881, and George Stephan, aged 15, was his Bargeman, so presumably they were employed to transport it to its place of auction. The William of Broseley was photographed around that time with a small boat attached to its stern against the background of the Coalport Chinaworks. The picture may have been taken for the auction, or shortly afterwards, and it was later sold as a postcard declaring it to be the “last Shropshire sailing barge”. It has been pointed out that, for some reason, a board was placed above the vessels name and port of registry to hide the name of the operator, which is consistent with the idea that it was either under new ownership or about to be. Writing in 1980, Ron Miles noted that one of the small children in the picture was George Harrington, who was born c.1875/76, so this fits with the idea that it was taken in 1881 (see The Journal of the Wilkinson Society No.9, 1981) . I am not sure whether Thomas Beard bought the barge, but whatever the origins of the photograph, the sale signalled the end of the Cullis’s connection with the Severn River trade, which had preceded it for at least 190 years.
Submitted by Nick Culliss, Hove on 17 February 2012 22:25


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