Dean Evans Family History
Holywell lane, Dawley


Holywell Lane, in Little Dawley, is the site of one of the many squatter communities that grew up in the Shropshire coalfields and elsewher in Britain during the Industrial Revolution. More than 30 cottages were thought have been built in Holywell Lane from the 1700's and the majority of these existed up until the late 1970's, many of the properties remaining in the occupation of the same families throughout. The history of the cottages and the people who lived there is well documented in "Holywell Lane: A Squatter Community in the Shropshire Coalfield" written by Ken Jones, Maurice Hunt, John Malam and Barrie Trinder and published in Industrial Archaeology Review, VI, 3, Autumn 1982. The information contained here is primarily from this source and from oral history transcripts held at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum..
Initally the residents were fined at the Manor Court for encroachment on the Earl of Craven's land but by the late 1700s the residents were being placed on the Manor rent roll.

A map of 1825 shows 26 cottages in the Lane, afew more being added in later years and some falling into neglect and being demolished. Many of the cottages were sold to the families during the 1920s and 30s. The local authority placed a Compulsory Purchase Order on the surviving cottages in Holywell Lane and alternative accommodation was found for the occupants. The cottages were demolished despite some protest in 1978.

The Franks families resided mostly at the top end of the Lane, with the Baileys in the centre and the Evans's at the bottom of the Lane The information given here relates only to the cottages occupied by those families to which I have been able to make an EVANS family connection.

Cottage No 27 In 1772 this cottage was occupied by Francis Evans, son of Thomas Evans my ggggg grandfather. By 1838 it was being sub-let by Beriah Barker, and by 1854 it was in the hands of Thomas Dixon tenant of Manor Farm, Little Dawley. It was still standing in 1882 but appears to have been demolished soon afterwards
Cottage No 26 was situated at the rear of No 25, and was built between 1825 and 1841. In 1871 the cottage was occupied by James Morgan, his wife Zillah, and their seven children. Their eldest daughter, Mary Morgan, married Robert Evans and went to live at No 22. The Morgan family had left by 1885 and during the 1890s the cottage was used as a workshop for making coffins and was demolished about 1912. Adjacent to the cottage was a stable used by the Evans family of No 25, and a blacksmith's shop built by Harry Evans when he took over his father's haulage business.
In 1771 Thomas Evans was fined 1s.for building Cottage No 25. Thomas was my gggg grandfather. In 1841 his grandson, Benjamin Evans, was living there, with his wife Ann, nee Bailey, and their seven children. Following Benjamin's death, sometime between 1840 and 1951, his widow remained at No 25 until her death in 1877. Her son, Benjamin, and his wife, Jane, remained as the tenants of No 25.Benjamin, like many in that time, kept a few pigs, and later aone or two cows, and there was a "cistern" set into the ground opposite number 25 where he would tip old potatoes, cabbage tops and other food waste to make "pigs swill".When Benjamin Evans died in 1908 his son Harry became the tenant. After working as a blacksmith for the Coalbrookdale Company he took over the family coal haulage business and building the balcksmith shop adjacent to No 26.Harry was killed in an accident in 1926 and his widow remained in No 25 with her children. One these, Ruth Evans, was the last tenant of this cottage remaining there until it was demolished in 1977. The Evans family had lived there for more that 200 years.
Number 25 is described in "Holywell Lane: A Squatter Community in the Shropshire Coalfield". Its internal plan was 12ft 2in by 11ft, and the eaves height 10ft 6in above ground level. It was built mainly from stone, although by 1902 it had a facing of brick on the elevation to the Lane. A surviving foof rafter indicated a roof pitch of 40 degrees. The chimney was heavily and clumsily built , and arched over with an oak lintel to form a fireplace opening on the ground floor.
Cottage No 24 was occupied by successive generations of the Baugh family from at least 1788 and up until the 1880s after which it became derilict. From about 1910 until the 1920s Harry Evans of No 25 used it to store coal, and it was demolished between 1928 and 1930.
Cottage No 22. This cottage was first lived in by by my ggg grandfather, John Evans, and his wife Sarah (Burroughs) after their marriage in 1788. It was to remain the residence of the Evans family for another 190 years.
After John's death, in 1825, Sarah remained as tenant, paying an annual rent of £1 in 1838.. By 1841 her son Thomas was the householder, although Sarah still lived there.By 1851 Thomas Evans and his family had left Holywell Lane, and had been succeeded at No 22 by his nephew, also Thomas, the son of Benjamin Evans of No 25, with his wife Sarah and their baby daughter.Thomas and Sarah Evans left the cottage between 1861 and 1871, and had been replaced by Thomas's younger brother Robert who had married Mary, daughter of James and Zilla Morgan of No 26. When Robert died in 1919, two of his granddaughters moved to No 22 to live with his widow. Margery the elder daughter remained in residence there until the cottage was demolished in 1978.
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