Futuristic Telford 40 years ago

See mills turn to malls as six villages become a gleaming Shropshire new town.

Daniel Noall
Updated:

Footage from Media Archive for Central England

A new town for a new age. As Telford took shape in the 1970s it strove to provide all the conveniences of modern life while still upholding the heritage of the region. This film was originally made for school viewing, teaching children about the area.

1. Originally known as Dawley before being renamed, Telford was the result of a grand ambition to merge and develop six surrounding villages into one large town.

Telford (1977)

2. What distinguished Telford from the other new towns built after the Second World War was its preference to provide houses over tower block flats.

Telford (1977)

3. As the film states: “houses mean that everyone can have a piece of garden.” The downside of this was that houses had to be placed very close together.

Telford (1977)

4. The town’s industry also had to be factored in. The benefit of building the town under one plan meant that engineering plants could be built far away enough as to not spoil the residents’ view, while still being close enough for the workers to conveniently get to.

Telford (1977)

5. Local shopping centres were built around the area for the new population.

Telford (1977)

6. And pedestrian walkways were developed so that you could easily walk there without ever having to cross the road.

Telford (1977)

7. The inside of a new shopping centre. Food, fashion, post offices, medicine and more.

Telford (1977)

8. But the pivoting development was the huge mall, Telford Shopping Centre, constructed in the very middle of the new town.

Telford (1977)

9. The inside was built to contain every sort of retailer any shopper could ever hope for. In the 1970s it also housed one of the largest shops in the country – the Carrefour hypermarket (now Asda).

Telford (1977)

10. Large, multi-purpose grocery stores were still a fairly novel concept for the UK in the 1970s. The very prospect of browsing ‘glamor’ fashion products side by side with the crockery felt like a taste of the future.

Telford (1977)

11. You could even get your shoes repaired while you shopped for groceries.

Telford (1977)

12. But these homogenised stores came at a cost to the community.

Telford (1977)

13. Many felt they lacked personal service and the ability for social interaction, including – as the film mentions – “a place to gossip.”

Telford (1977)

14. A new town has to provide places for recreation, and equipment which may have been difficult to find before.

Telford (1977)

15. It also arises the opportunity to build sports facilities which may not have existed at all in the older villages. Not much chance of a whiteout on the slopes of Telford!

Telford (1977)

16. But building something new doesn’t mean the old should be forgotten. Indeed the town’s name is a tribute to the civil engineer Thomas Telford, who engineered many of the county’s roads and railways. Meanwhile, Ironbridge, the first bridge of its kind in the world, still stands as a proud reminder of when Shropshire was the centre of the iron industry in the 18th century.

Telford (1977)

17. The past itself was put on display at Blists Hill Open Museum (now Blists Hill Victorian Town), where visitors can revisit Telford’s bygone industrial past amid replica and relocated buildings from the surrounding area. Here, history too was turned into a site of recreation.

Telford (1977)

The film and stills on this page are taken from Britain on Film, a digital archive of UK places that mean the world to you. 10,000 film and TV titles from 1895 to now will be digitised and can be watched for free on BFI Player.

Britain on Film is funded by the National Lottery funding and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

 

The Media Archive for Central England is the public screen archive for the East and West Midlands. An independent charity and company based at the University of Lincoln, MACE acquires, catalogues, preserves and makes widely available moving image materials that inform our understanding of the diverse cultures and histories of communities between the Lincolnshire coast and the Welsh border.

MACE logo

Read more

  • Britain on Film

    Britain on Film

    1,000s of films, beautifully preserved. 120 years of British life, unseen until now.

Read more

Back to the top

See something different

Subscribe now for exclusive offers and the best of cinema.
Hand-picked.