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The Ketley Inclined Plane 1792.

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Shropshire 1792 halfpenny trade token. D&H#14.

Coalbrookdale, the first Iron Bridge & the Ketley Inclined Plane.


The obverse depicts a boat, possibly a Severn trow, passing below the famed world's first iron bridge at Coalbrookdale. The wording above the bridge states, ‘ERECTED ANNO 1779. SPAN 100 FEET.’ Around the periphery it is worded, ‘IRON BRIDGE AT COALBROOK DALE. 1792’. The reverse depicts the top of the inclined plane on the Ketley Canal and below it is worded, ‘INCLINED PLANE AT KETLEY 1789’.


Three main types of canal were developed in Britain in the second half of the 18th century, namely broad canals, with locks 14 feet wide, narrow canals, with locks 7 feet wide, and tub-boat canals. The latter type of canal was developed to pass through land where the gradients were particularly steep and they were principally built in Shropshire and the South West. The boats used on these canals traversed steep gradients by way of inclined planes carried in cradles or caissons running on rails, those in Shropshire being fitted with cradles.


Tub boats in Shropshire were rectangular in plan, 19 feet 9 inches long x 6 feet 2 inches wide made of wrought-iron plates rivetted together. An inclined plane consisted of two rails laid parallel to each other, on each of which ran a cradle raised or lowered by a wire rope and capable of carrying one tub boat at a time. The descending cradle assisted in balancing the weight of the ascending one and the extra power required was supplied by a stationary winding engine. A boat descending an inclined plane entered a chamber where it was manoeuvred over a submerged cradle. Once in place, the boat was secured to the cradle in readiness for its journey down the plane. The cradle was then hauled up over a sill and onto the plane, at which point it was still inside the chamber. When everything was ready it commenced its descent, which required just a few minutes, and a small number of workmen were able to complete the whole operation.


The reverse of this token shows the chamber where a tub boat, either from the plane or from the canal, was manoeuvred off or onto the cradle, depending upon which way it was travelling. On the left an empty cradle can be seen at the top of the plane and on the right a workman seems to be operating a brake lever. This inclined plane was self acting where a descending loaded boat was counterbalanced by an ascending empty or lightly loaded boat. The movement of the cradles over the plane was regulated by a brake and it is possible that the large vertical wheel was a band brake.


William Reynolds, a Shropshire ironmaster from Ketley, surveyed and oversaw construction of the Ketley and Shropshire Canals but the exact date of their opening is uncertain. However, the trade token shows that the Ketley Canal was operational by 1789. Although this canal was only 1½-miles long the fall in height over its length was 74 feet. As a result of this, Reynolds' built what is believed to be Britain's first inclined plane with a difference in height of 73 feet. To accommodate the remaining 1 foot difference a lock was built above the plane. The purpose of this canal was to supply ironstone to Ketley Iron Works. In 1816 this works closed and thus the Ketley Canal became unused. It is believed that the inclined plane remained operational for another two years before it too closed.


Info from [url=" http://www.pittdixon.go-plus.net/index.html"[/url]

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That token issue is my favourite Conder issue for many reasons, design, significance of what was on it, coupled with the history that would result in those nascent stages of the Industrial Revolution as a result of what was going on in Shropshire. It is one of those places in England that I would love to see so much more than even stuff in London. There is a wonderful museum there dedicated to that era of history, and they even have token coinage for use in the shops that is pre-decimal pennies, threepence etc.


I also want to collect the early Conder, and of course the modern token coinage from Coalbrookedale.

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Great piece and great history. Pieces and stories such as these are the heart of what makes collecting fun.

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