Y’Olde Salopian Memoirs

1. Trip to Trench
by old Trenchonian Hadleyite Keith Harris

These days I spend my time trying to slow down. The madness of the world can take over yer life like a sneak thief, unseen and unnoticed.
But its effects can be disastrous.

I used to live in a small space. A very small space, something I knew I could never really get used to. Odd, being as I have spent something like 12 years in a jail cell. Some might put me down for that. Hell, I don't care. My initials are scrawled in the brick of a good many exercise yards and it was a place where people couldn't hide. You could try though.

There was no space to pace in the place I was in. The little space there was had a creaking floorboard. Creaking floorboards are not good when you are pacing. They distract.

I need to live in a place with space. I know that. The Empire State, well, don't know about that. The creaking is replaced by swaying. Same thing, only different.

A tree house now, well. Whenever you get bored you can climb up and down. Then there is the added extra of putting on weatherproofs or not in bad, or possible bad weather. But then again, climbing up wet trees in weatherproofs might not be everybody's thing. The chances of falling are considerably higher.

Did I die and forget? I mean, who knows? Maybe The Wrekin does.

You are right. I should get some vitamins.

I come from a place of space. Rooms you could move in. Not Ocean Boulevard size, but you could move about. I was smaller then though, so that makes a difference too, just like the Milky Way bar seems considerably smaller as the years go by. I also lived in the picture to the right, where the X is, a place with the 60s pop group sounding name of Slade Green. It is about 20 minutes’ walk from Erith in Kent, the tower blocks visible in the distance. The people I met in pubs there were fascinated by my tales of Trench.

Still, I've known space. Outside the rooms of the converted stable homes in which I lived to the age of 10 was a large orchard, with a postal address of The Old Orchard, Trench; about the size of a full soccer pitch, surrounded by high fences all around. In a way it was like a free prison. Few outsiders came in other than those invited, and once some runaway horses that were later taken away by the tinkers who’d lost them.

It was a grand place to grow up as a youngster, with the very final existing section of the Shropshire Union Canal literally just yards from my front door before it dried up a few yards past the Blue Pig pub, so named because of the dust that coated the workmen who used to drink there from the nearby brickworks and smelting foundries.

There is some confusion over the old boundary of Trench and the adjoining village of Hadley. Some believed Hadley began after the Coalport Bridge and you were in Trench until then, others thought that Trench and Hadley were divided by the Trench Lock. Likewise it was hard to know at just which point Trench ended in the other way to Hadley and the next village of Donnington started.

In short I was born into a kind of paradise muddle, looking back. But perhaps everybody thinks that way for a while, until you see things differently.

There were five other kids living in the orchard, and a few dozen more in the surrounding rural neighbourhood. I have been unable to locate or trace any surviving pictures of The Old Orchard, which was bulldozed in the development of Telford, so I must describe it.

In the centre of the orchard was the big white brick manor house, where Mr Otto Schalsha, the manager of the local Somerfeld steel factory lived with his wife and children Peter and Vivienne, and Michael—who tragically died on a school holiday outing. Mr Schalsha kept a huge model electric railway in the big attic of the house. It was his obvious pride and joy. A trawl of the Internet produced the following: Philip Gough was a Ludlow schoolboy who won the individual [chess title – ed's brackets] in 1952, beating Otto Schalsha in the final. This was quite a feat as Schalsha (born Upper Silesia, died in Trench, Telford 1975) was a real force in the fifties and won the championship himself in 1951, 1953 (shared with Gough) and 1963. (link)

Beyond the manor house was the rear of the orchard, a grassy area with a variety of apple trees split by a short concrete road that ended at tall, wide gates that were almost always locked.

                            The Old Orchard, Trench

Our home was one of several converted stables that lined one end of the orchard, comfortable to me, and interesting. We were there because my father was the factory foreman at Somerfelds, a job he secured after leaving the RAF after the end of world war two. For a while we lived in a separate gatehouse cottage at the entrance to the orchard with our cat Tibbs and budgie whose name now escapes me but was probably Joey. We lived in two homes in the orchard over the years, the gatehouse and then number 4, and previously had lived a few hundred yards away in a delightful tree shrouded cluster of homes next to another manor style house by the Trench canal. It was known to me as the New Orchard, close to the famed Oakworth's greenhouse and shed manufacturing factory. Such can be the stuff dreams are made of. Maybe it was a dream, but if it was it was a damned good one, as far as good ones go.

I know. I have a wealth of dreams, many more fascinating than the most fascinating movies I've ever seen. Yet, anyhow. You can’t put me down for that, can you?

The orchard was surrounded by open space on three sides, but there was the Somerfelds factory, a rail siding, and a little further away the old Shropshire Union Canal. Victorian terraced houses lined the roads nearby, and there were three pools within walking distance – diminishing in size from the largest, the Trench Pool, the size of several soccer fields, to the Middle Pool and the smaller Valley Pool, which had formed in an old brickworks quarry.

It was a world more full of mystery and fascination than even old JRT conjured up, and even more abstract than Peake's Gormenghast. I took to wandering about the area from a very young age, exploring its mysteries and its Mordors. Peake's room of roots was eclipsed by what we called the Ochres – a small flooded area of weed filled ditches, tall rough marsh grass and bright ochre coloured, sticky mud that could swallow a leg. The discoloration was the result of an old brick factory nearby, later replaced by Russell’s rubber works that backed onto the swampy area. Peter Russell, a son of the owner, was at my school but much older.

I had a morbid fear of the Ochre. There was a shortcut across the mud and weeds, but I'd avoid using it, fearful of the place and of getting stuck there. Few people wandered by these parts and at times I imagined being lost in there forever.

One day I chanced the shortcut though. No foul smelling green monsters emerged from the mud to drag me under, though it did take me a long time to negotiate a way to escape after I stupidly went and lost the path. It was a good lesson for me in panic control.

Anyway, after such a kind of lucky start in life you get to notice the madness of pace. Not pacing up and down, but the pace of craziness that can blind you sure as blinkers. Too much pace can twist your brain and there are those who will make you pace to suit their demands. They get away with it too, until you wise up.

I still consider myself a Trenchonian, although I grew up mostly in Hadley and so became a Hadleyite.

Since this page was published, old Trenchite Ian Jones came across it and wrote:
“Hmm, I do remember Wesley Dodd (slighty fuzzy hair?) from the Hadley schools but I thought he lived in Hadley. I do know that the local tough guy and bully, Trevor Fletcher, lived at the corner by the Barley Mow. On a sad note both my parents are buried in the Hadley cemetary in Leegomery and old names from school are beginning to crop up. I think Wesley Dodd was there last time I visited along with Philip Phazey? and a chap called Archie (Arthur) something or other. Sort of brings your age home to you with a bang. One long and interesting entry in your guest book certainly brings back memories – Peter Barclay and the chap named Vincent of a similar age, Vince almost certainly knew my older brother, I think Peter died relatively young. We lived in Jubillee Terrace in the 50's at a time when relative poverty was a great leveller. If you had a 'phone you were a toff, if you had a car you were rich. I could ramble on forever, as I said all this is compressed into a very short period of our lives but we seem to remember every detail..”

The cottages below would have been located at the spot marked 1 in the modern picture of Trench Pool below and the Old Orchard is visible in the 1960's map beneath

Trip to Hadley ...
Slideshow of old Hadley and Trench

Paradise Lost – an article by Hadley old boy Derek ‘Gash’ Gambie

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Recollections from the Hadley, Donnington, Oakengates, Wellington areas?
Mail them to stories

Where is Boreatton Park?

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