It’s almost 4pm, and the day is over before it has begun. Over with a trip down Memory Lane to Telford’s Tesco store. Has my ancestral home of Dawley been subsumed by a supermarket’s bid to take over the world? I came to Shropshire to find traces of my Dawley DNA, and I’m here drinking substandard coffee in Tesco. Still, the DNA’s surely staring me in the face. Mother Cool is here with me, and some of Mother Cool’s ancestors were produced in Dawley. And Uncle Cool is here in the role of chauffeur!
“Well, the day’s nearly over!” remarks Mother Cool. “We’ll be off now!”
And my Dawley DNA is chauffeured away from me.
“Can we go back to our lodge in Myddle now? We’re bored!” complain the Sprogs.
“Yes, we’ll be on our way back soon!” I lie. “Pile back into the car!”
My own chauffeur chokes our Dacia back into existence. And we trawl on back through the busy highways of Telford.
“How much longer?” asks Sprog 2.
“Not long!” comes the second lie of the day.
“DAWLEY!” I screech. “That road sign says Dawley!”
The chauffeur groans, and knowing that there is no alternative but to follow my orders, turns in the direction of Dawley.
Dawley may have been eaten up by the new town of Telford. But, Dawley …
IS NOT DEAD!
And here is the evidence:
“Why are we stopping in this dump? I thought we were going back to the lodge! It’s dark and I’m hungry!” intercepts Sprog 3.
But, as I was saying … Here is the evidence:
But, I’m scared to be seen taking photographs of the monstrosity of the concrete block that looms over the parking space we’ve found. This is Universal Credit bedsit land. This is Dawley turned Telford, home of the Birmingham overspill. Still, I have plenty of ancestors in Birmingham. Whether this land still carries traces of the old Domesday settlement of Dawley or not, it will still be the home of some strands of my DNA.
“If you get out here, you’ll be mugged!” declares my chauffeur.
I get out. Why would any resident of Dawley mug their own DNA?
“Won’t be a moment!” I lie (third lie!).
Boldly, I step out. Boldly, I put one foot forward. Boldly, I venture around the corner, in search of a High Street. We are, after all, all of us – only one late mortgage payment away from Universal Credit.
I find the High Street – the hub of Dawley:
It’s not yet five o’clock, so the shops are most likely still open, but it’s hard to tell. Darkness is closing in and the shutters are mostly down. What’s more, there’s not a single piece of my living DNA in sight (bar myself, of course). Quite frankly, the whole outlook is a bit spooky. I find my sense of reason. If nothing’s living; nothing can mug me. I’ll be fine. I hasten on up the High Street to beyond. And I’m not disappointed.
The view ahead is dreary, and I see no sign of any church. No grave-digging to be done here. I’ve been gone a long time (about five minutes). Wonder if the Sprogs and my Chaffeur are missing me?
Another snap, and I re-trace my footsteps.
|Evidence that the gentry once lorded over the hoi polloi of Dawley!|
With my friendly Dacia in view, I linger a little longer to take some shots of a fine monument, with only small amounts of graffiti on its surface. I’m nervous about being seen taking a long-shot view, which might also encompass the concrete block of broken and boarded-up windows of bedsit land, so I go in for a more-subtle close-up shot:
And I enhance the whole with a long-shot, courtesy of a Creative Commons’ search on Google images:
A view of Captain Webb’s water fountain taken
in 2010, in cleaner days! (Google CC image)
My bravado now diminished, I take a look at the inscription – when back in my Dacia, snuggled up safely with my Motorola. And, I can’t believe it – Dawley was the home of Captain Matthew Webb, the first person to swim the English channel, minus a swimming aide. This man could well be another of my famous and great ancestors. I have the surname Webb in my family tree. And my Webbs were born and bred in Dawley-Magna. Could this swimmer be my cousin?
I think back to my own swimming career…
Second in swimming race in Felixstowe, Suffolk. Second at crossing the width of a primary school’s child-sized pool, aided by a polystyrene float. I recall the harsh words of my competitor – Jamie Ricicles – the one who came third.
“You cheated! I saw you put your feet down on the bottom of the pool! I’m going to tell!”
I said nothing. A wise decision, for little did he know, that I actually put my feet down three times!
But the teacher was busy.
I collected my badge – a blue badge for second place.
Matthew Webb? My cousin? Will have to check this out on Ancestry.com.
In the meantime, back in the Dacia, we proceed to stall our way away from Dawley and back to the highways of Telford.
“Turnaround, chauffeur! I’ve just spotted a sign for Dawley Cemetery!”
The Dacia hops off down a side road into a remote and spooky location.
The Dacia stops.
I get out.
“Won’t be a minute! Back in a jiffy!”
It is a bit scary, even scarier than Dawley’s high street, but I didn’t travel all the way from Suffolk to Shropshire, in a mis-firing 9 cc Dacia, not to see every last detail, every last remnant of my ancestral DNA.
And here it is:
Perhaps a dark and wet evening is not the best time to view the dead. But here I am, and I doubt there’ll be a second opportunity. I push forward:
It’s a bit squelchy underfoot, but nothing my New Look plimsolls can’t cope with. I tramp around in the quagmire. Things start to hot up when I locate some familiar surnames: Bailey, Webb and …
But, out of respect for my fellow-living descendants, I won’t mention all the names here – not until I’ve verified my own connections. I feel sad, though. Sad, that my ancestors are surrounded by some very dull modern-brick estate houses. Where is the church? Surely there was a church here once, wasn’t there? Was the church demolished to make way for Telford New Town? Was history destroyed in one fell swoop of a bulldozer’s wrecking ball? The back gardens of the surrounding houses are small, and edged close-up to the headstones of the Dawley dead. How much longer do my ancestors heads have, before they too are lopped off and bulldozed down to make way for another new housing estate?
My mind is made up. As soon as I return to Suffolk, I’ll be writing to Bovis, Wimpy Homes, Crest Nicholson, ……., etc. ‘For the protection of the deceased, all plans to build any more houses in Shropshire must cease … immediately!’
I’ve moved houses innumerable times, and given more than my fair share of business to every home builder that ever dared to breathe upon the planet Earth. They will listen to me! Won’t they?
“Mum, you were ages! We were scared! This place is haunted!”
“Well, I’m back now! I’m back, and we’re heading back to our holiday lodge in Myddle. Honest!”