History of Club and Hotel
In 1758 half of the Hay Farm was purchased, as an investment, by Abraham Darby II and, in 1771 his son, Abraham III, purchased the other half. It was leased to a tenant (Thomas Sparrow) but Darby planned to move there himself which he did in 1780. In the intervening period he embarked on an extensive programme of rebuilding and alteration of the house and stocking of the garden. A number of accounts survive from this period and we know that his some of his expenditure covered wages and involved sawing, smithing, tiling and work to masonry and limestone. Some of these sums may have related to the building of the stable block which has a circular cast-iron plaque, in its end gable, bearing the date AD 1775. Abraham Darby III involved himself in the farming of the Hay which provided grazing and fodder for the horses used in his Coalbrookdale operations in addition to allowing him to have some control over the local grain trade.
Abraham Darby III died at the Hay in 1789 following an attack of scarlet fever. Shortly before his death he sold some of the farm’s Severnside meadows to Richard Reynolds whose family had recently driven through a canal to serve the East Shropshire Coalfield and had connected the canal to the River Severn by building the Hay Inclined Plane. This created an important transport hub and, by 1793, new industries were being established in the meadows and were soon followed by housing. The new settlement became known as Coalport in recognition of its importance as a junction where coal was transferred from canal to river.
The Hay continued to be occupied by Abraham Darby III’s widow Rebecca for some time and then by his son, Francis, until 1805 when it was taken over by Francis’s sister, Anne, and her husband, Barnard Dickinson, who remained there for five years. The Hay remained the property of the Darby family until 1858 when it was sold by Henry and Adelaide Whitmore (the heirs of Francis Darby) to Joseph Reynolds. For much of the 19th century the house was tenanted with its most famous tenants perhaps being John and Thomas Rose.
Later History of Great Hay
Joseph Reynolds bought Great Hay in 1858 and enlarged the farm leaving it in his will to the Anstice family, owners of the Madeley Wood Company. In the early years of the 20th century it became the property of private farmers before being sold in the 1970s to Telford Development Corporation who developed much of the land as a golf course at a cost of £150,000. The course opened in 1976 and became a private club in 1980. Since then it has changed hands a number of times and is now owned by Q hotels who operate the site as a Spa Hotel and Golf Resort with the original buildings forming part of the hotel complex.