Wellington 2023: 100 year-old George takes a tour
Life-loving, peace-loving, Wellington-loving George Evans turns 90 this week. Many people will know him as a local historian, but did you know he’s also a local futurist? In this first of an occasional series of guest blogs from different contributors, George takes up an invitation to show us around the town as it might look ten years from now – and he’s just received a special telegram…
Here we are in Wellington on 24th June, 2023 – my 100th birthday! Wellington has changed a lot over the past ten years. This is quite normal of course; it’s no longer the 13th Century market town, nor the 19th Century railway junction. Like any other settlement worth its salt, Wellington has always changed to adapt to fresh situations and fashions. Most recently, our town centre has reversed the decline caused or at least exacerbated by the Telford Development planners I remember from my younger days, and their successors.
So, let’s go on a walk and spot ten years of changes.
We start at the Civic and Leisure Centre which began the move of emphasis from shopping to community use here in the middle of the town. The library is now having to increase staff to cope with extra numbers of readers and the use of the swimming and exercise facilities has rapidly expanded. Regular events at the flourishing Peace Garden just outside have meant more business for the café. What’s more, the new Wrekin link has enabled walkers to park in town and be magically transported to the start of their walk.
And what of the old library, empty ten years ago and waiting for a new life? It is now an exciting Museum of The Wrekin, with user-friendly exhibits on The Wrekin Forest and the towns and villages of East Shropshire. A decade ago people asked whether a Museum of The Wrekin would ever be much of an attraction – now none of us can believe we didn’t have one sooner.
The move of further education into the centre has also increased use. New College has moved its Arts and Music departments into the old YMCA and Post Office buildings, making adult classes more popular. Frequent concerts in Market Square provide entertainment for all and performance practice for musicians and other artists. Many more people are now living above the shops, further increasing the footfall for the small specialist shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants.
Looking from Church Street we see the pedestrian link between Bus Station and Railway Station and the multi-storey car park accessed from the Parade that now occupies the old bay’s site and its platforms. Barclays Bank has been demolished (it now occupies a much nicer building in New Street), giving access to the wonderful gardens and pool created on the site of the old bus garage, where the medieval town pond used to be. This is yet another attraction for visitors, who are greatly helped by the new Information Centre on the site of WH Smith’s, which closed back in 2013.
We now go down Market Street, where the fine old market continues to flourish and has joined in the town’s increased prosperity. Across Bridge Road is The Clifton, a thriving arts centre with well-used facilities featuring a small cinema and a theatre, which hosts local schools and colleges during the daytime and both amateur and professional performances in the evenings. Many of those who doubted its use now complain of their difficulty in getting tickets.
So now we’re back at the Civic Centre and wondering which of Wellington’s new developments to investigate first. More investment has resulted in increased prosperity, benefiting everyone except pawnbrokers, charity shops and money-lenders, all of whom have now become specialists in other fields. ‘To Let’ signs are now rare.
Standing here at 100 years of age, I’m happy to say that my home town has undergone a mini-revolution. Hurrah!
What do you think of George’s tour of Wellington ten years from now? What else would you want to see in 2023?