Victorian houses in Highley
Highley is listed in the Domesday Book. During the Middle Ages it became a significant quarry village, which provided some of the stone for Worcester Cathedral. Coal mining began in the area in the Middle Ages too, it was only in the late 19th century that the village was revolutionised by coal mining, when in 1878 large scale operations began.
A period of intense house-building followed the opening of the new mine, giving Highley its distinctive red-brick terraced miners' houses. In the 1930s, during the mine's peak production period, the mine was extended to the neighbouring village of Alveley across the River Severn. Both an underground tunnel and a bridge (known as 'the Pit Bridge') were constructed between the two villages.
Two historical bridging points exist at Bridgnorth to the north and Bewdley to the south, and whilst the bridge belonging to the former National Coal Board was deemed unsafe for general vehicular traffic there exists in Hampton Loade a private bridge used by the emergency services.
The mine closed in the late 1960s due to subsidence and waterlogging. The bridge remained open to bridleway traffic only, again due to subsidence from the steep valley sides. The mine area on the Alveley (east) side was converted into an industrial estate in the late 1960s as coal mining ceased, and then was subsequently landscaped into the Severn Valley Country Park in the late 1980s. Initially this was as an exercise to use trees to shore up the coal spoils, and later as a tourist destination which now includes public artwork and a sculpture trail, The Seam Pavement Trail.
The trail is a series of seven bronze plaques depicting Highley's past and incorporates the designs of the artist Saranjit Birdi. He included many miner's nicknames into the artwork, gleaned from archive information and research within the local community. Nicknames of the miners, such as 'Dick the Devil', 'Joyful Clappers', 'Cider Biscuit', 'Flaming Heck' and others, are incorporated into the work. Birdi calls it "a seam through time", echoing the skilfully mined coal seams being laid down and later extracted over time. One plaque, 'Plough and Lady', depicts Lady Godiva, who owned Highley Manor in the 11th Century. Birdi is also responsible for another sculpture entitled 'A Song of Steam' at Highley station.
Shortly after 2000, the bridge was declared unsafe and a new footbridge began to be constructed (completed 2006).
The village had a grim appearance in national consciousness in 1975 when a mass murdered nicknamed 'the Black Panther' kidnapped 17-year-old Lesley Whittle from Highley and murdered her, leaving her body on an underground ledge near Kidsgrove in Staffordshire. The murderer was convicted of this and three other murders on 7 March that year.
Culture and community
There is also a golf course alongside the River Severn and Country Park, the sculpture trail plus several restaurants and pubs. A Steam Heritage Centre has been proposed.
The Severn Centre in Highley is the local sports and leisure complex complete with a heated open-air swimming pool, and the local library.
The Highley Colliery Brass Band is a local brass band which existed from the turn of the 19th Century until the closure of the colliery in 1969. It reformed in 1993 when a handful of brass band musicians met at the Bache Public House in Highley. The band grew over the years with regular performances, under the name of the Highley Band. In 2000 to coincide with the new uniform, the band adopted the now familiar Pit Head Wheel emblem and renamed the band to Highley Colliery Band, to reflect the mining heritage of its home village.
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- Highley Colliery Band
- Highley Village
- Highley Shropshire
- The Severn Centre
- The Engine House
- Highley Station Site
- Highley RFC