During the 1970’s, Angling was often billed as the largest participative sport in the United Kingdom. It seemed as if everyone, everywhere, was going fishing. Tackle had improved & there were more shops stocking it, books about fishing were on every young child’s Christmas wish-list & fishing clubs were springing up in every village, town & large place of work all over the Country. In Ironbridge, with one of the most beautiful & prolific stretches of the River Severn in their backyard, the committee of the Angling Society knew they had to increase membership to keep the club solvent enough to pay for its waters, as increased demand led to ever-rising rents.
One initiative taken was to form a Junior Angling Section.Juniors fished alongside adult members in the Society’s competitions for overall honours,but they also now fished against each other in competition for the IronbridgeAngling Society Junior Challenge Trophy, which was awarded to the most successful Junior Angler,at the annual prize-giving dinner held at the end of each Season. This Trophy was first awarded in 1974, to Jeremy Thomas, a local Angler, introduced to the sport by Bert Wilcox,who remains an active member of the Society to this day.
The increased Angling activity along the banks of the River Severn,prompted, in July of 1978, The Telford New Town Development Corporation,who had been given responsibility by the Government,for regenerating the whole area of the former East Shropshire Coalfield, including the Ironbridge Gorge, to consider the provision of an “Angling Lodge” on the Wharfage at Ironbridge.
In their document aimed at canvassing support for the project,the Development Corporation cited:”Upwards of 1200 Anglers are to be found on the banks of the River Severn,between Shrewsbury & Bridgnorth,on an average weekend day during the Summer months”. They further proposed that:”The Lodge would be catering for 20 Anglers on a self-catering basis,with parking for 12 Vehicles”.
The increasing number of Anglers on the Riverbank seems to have had a beneficial impact on the fish in the River themselves, as throughout the later 1970’s, match catch weights continued to increase & so did the size of the fish that were being caught. In 1980, the G.Upton Rose Bowl Trophy,which was awarded annually by the Society for the best specimen fish weighed in during the Season,went to Mr G.E.Bates,with a Barbel of 10lb 8oz!.
It was a regular occurrence during these times to have a turnout of 30-35 Anglers at a Society match. On 15th July 1979 30 Anglers fished the 3rd Contest of the Season at Leighton. The match was won by a Pensioner, Mr T.Biddulph,with a weight of 32lb,9oz,0dr. There were some dry nets, but over half the field caught fish & the species recorded as being captured range from Barbel & Chub,to Roach, Dace & Perch.
By now,the Society had been in existence for close on 100 years. It had survived two World Wars, the Great Depression, several changes of Landlord’s & even an outbreak of Foot & Mouth, but the 1980’s were to bring it some of its toughest years.
The sale, by the executors of the Cope-Darby Estates,at an auction in Kidderminster on 9th May 1984 of the middle sections of its waters,on the edge of the Regatta & Strethill fields in Dale Park,to Mr D.T.King of Wolverhampton & the Tuckers Fastener Company of Birmingham,focused attention in the club on its vulnerability to the new emerging forces in Angling.