• Wendy Percival

Floods of dismay

It's been distressing to watch the news reports over these past couple of weeks concerning flooding in many areas of the UK, and particularly in Shropshire where some of my ancestral roots lie. The footage from Ironbridge has been particularly upsetting. It's a favourite location of mine, not least because I have ancestors who worked in the pottery industry a short way down river.

The photograph above was taken the last time we visited, standing on the iron bridge which gives the town its name, looking south. The cottages on the right have been completely flooded, as you can see on the BBC News report in the video below.

Coalport bridge

My 2x great-grandmother, Sarah Ann Benbow, was born in 1838 in Coalport, a mile downstream from Ironbridge.

The photograph below was taken in Coalport a few years ago. I'm fairly sure the bench I'm sitting on will be currently under several metres of water!

Sarah was a china burnisher - someone who polished pots after they'd been glazed. It wasn't a healthy trade. The incidents of respiratory diseases were much higher in the pottery industry than in the wider population. Sadly, Sarah's elder sister Henrietta died of consumption aged only 22.

Sarah only spent a few years working in the industry. In 1864 she married James Baugh and moved to Wolverhampton, where the couple had 6 children. Sarah died in 1912, aged 74.