Contributed by Alan Powell
Parkend owes its existence to the 1612 ironworks, but it was the construction of a coke-fired ironworks, in 1799, that triggered a major industrialisation and expansion of the village.
The need for improved transportation links led to the construction of a horse-drawn tram-road through the village in 1810, while demand for coal at the ironworks resulted in the appearance of several coalmines in the village during the early 1800’s.
As Parkend began to grow, so too did the needs of villagers. Parkend school and St Paul’s church were built in 1822 and Henry Poole, who had designed both, became the first vicar. The school developed structural problems and was largely rebuilt in 1845.
In 1827 the ironworks was rebuilt and a second furnace added. A 51 feet diameter waterwheel was used for power; at that time the largest in Britain, but it soon became clear that waterpower alone was not sufficient and an engine house and beam engine were added the following year.
A stone works opened in 1850, and a tinplate works was constructed in 1853. It stood to the left of the ironworks, and further along was built a row of terraced houses, known as ‘The Square’, which were used to accommodate the workers there. A saw mill also opened in 1859.
In 1864 the Severn and Wye Railway Company began operating mineral trains through the village. A branch line and loading wharf were added around 1872, and the station was built in 1875. The level crossing gates by the station are reputedly the longest in Britain.
In 1871 a third furnace was added at Parkend Ironworks. Business must have been good, as in 1875, the owner also bought the tinplate works, next door. That same year, however, the iron industry went into deep recession.
A loss of markets and a general industrial decline saw the ironworks and the tinplate works close in the late 1800’s. They were demolished soon after, although the ironwork’s engine house survived to become the country’s first Forester Training School, in 1910.
The mines went into voluntary liquidation in 1880. They reopened several times over the next 50 years, but were to finally cease production in 1929. By now the railway was also in a state of decline, and the station closed the same year, although freight trains continued to operate on the branch line and loading wharf. The sawmills are still trading.