Telford is a large new town in the borough of Telford and Wrekin and ceremonial county of Shropshire, England, about east of Shrewsbury, and west of Birmingham. With an estimated population (for the borough) of 170,300 in 2010 and around 155,000 in Telford itself, Telford is the largest town in Shropshire, and one of the fastest-growing towns in the United Kingdom.
It is named after civil engineer Thomas Telford. The town was put together in the 1960s and 1970s as a new town on previously industrial and agricultural land and smaller towns. Like other planned towns of the era, Telford was created from the merger of other, smaller settlements, most notably the towns of Wellington, Oakengates, Madeley and Dawley. Telford Shopping Centre, a modern shopping mall, was constructed at the new town's geographical centre, along with an extensive Town Park. The M54 motorway was completed in 1983, connecting the town with the West Midlands conurbation.
Telford now includes Ironbridge Gorge, a scenic tourist destination and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town advertises itself as "The Birthplace of Industry", due to its proximity to Coalbrookdale and other places in the Ironbridge Gorge area, which are internationally recognised as being important to the Industrial Revolution, and being to a large extent constructed on the Shropshire Coalfield. The River Severn flows along its southernmost boundary.
Early settlement in the area was thought to be on the land that sloped up from the Weald Moors (an area north of the town centre) towards the line along which the Roman Watling Street was built. Farmland surrounded three large estates in the 10th century, namely Wellington, Wrockwardine and Lilleshall.
From the 13th century there was urban development in Wellington and Madeley, where Wenlock Priory founded a new town. Six monastic houses, founded in the 11th and 12th centuries, had large interests in the area's economic growth. They collectively acquired almost half of the area, and profited from coal and ironstone mines and iron smithies on their estates.
The New Town was first designated on 16 January 1963 as Dawley New Town, covering of Dawley, Wenlock, Oakengates, Wellington Rural District and Shifnal Rural District. Development started, guided by the Dawley New Town Development Corporation, with the first homes on the new Sutton Hill housing estate being occupied in 1967. Initial planning and design concepts for Dawley New Town were produced by the Birmingham-based John Madin Design Group.
The Minister proposed an extension of in 1968 (taking in the historic area of Ironbridge Gorge), which saw objections and a public inquiry take place. The Dawley New Town (Designation) Amendment (Telford) Order was made on 29 November 1968, extending the New Town area by of "land lying within the urban districts of Oakengates and Wellington and the rural districts of Shifnal and Wellington". This Order also renamed the new town Telford, after the Scottish-born civil engineer Thomas Telford who, in 1787, became Surveyor of Public Works for Shropshire. Other suggested names at the time were Dawelloak and Wrekin Forest City.
Most of the infrastructure was constructed from the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s with the major housing and commercial development occurring over three decades up to the early 1990s when the Development Corporation was wound up to be replaced by Commission for the New Towns, later English Partnerships, and most of the property was handed over to the then Wrekin District Council. In 1983, after fierce opposition and three public enquiries, the M54 motorway was completed, connecting the town to the M6 and thence the rest of the UK's motorway network. Other major roads are the A5, A518 and A442, which is commonly known as the Eastern Primary or EP, and is officially branded Queensway.
Many of the new town's residents were originally from the West Midlands conurbation, which includes Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Dudley and Walsall. The vast majority of the council house tenants in Telford were rehoused from inner city Birmingham. Some individuals still refuse to put Telford in their address, instead using the original local name (such as Wellington or Dawley) and often citing the existence of Town Councils as support for the argument "you can't live in a town in a town," e.g. Wellington(Town) Telford(Town).
In 2007, a £250 million regeneration plan for the town centre was announced, which will include the pedestrianisation of the road surrounding the shopping centre, and the creation of new cafés, bars and shops which will lead to 1,750 new jobs. The reason for this expansion is that the original "centre" was only ever a shopping place with no real heart (See Shropshire Star 3 June 2004). Since the "centre" closed early evening, there was no nightlife at all in the area, the only major local entertainment areas being in Oakengates and Wellington.