Ironbridge Gorge - The World's First Arch Bridge
As the River Severn starts its journey from the source in mid Wales to its mouth in Bristol it passes through the Shropshire countryside. In a small town, now known as Ironbridge the river has cut a deep gorge. In 1779 the Industrial Revolution was in full force and the small town of Coalbrookdale was at the heart of this development. Seventy years earlier in 1709 a quaker pot maker from the town started using coke instead of charcoal to make iron, a massive step in the production of iron which changed the way furnaces worked. This meant that vast quantities of iron could be made.
Coalbrookdale continued to be at the forefront of developments but as with everything there were issues. For Coalbrookdale this was the lack of a year round river crossing. At times the river was too shallow for the ferries to run and with over 6 ferries running up and down a small stretch of river with hundreds of crossings each day it was decided that a bridge was needed.
This bridge became known as the Ironbridge, the worlds first arch bridge made from cast iron. The significance of the whole area in the industrial revolution was recognised in 1986 when it was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site
Even today its iron work is impressive. The shapes of the arches and the ornate patterns hold the attention and its harsh industrial feel against the gentle hills surrounding the gorge is a reminder of the harsh realities of life in Georgian England.
Ironbridge and the associated museums are located just outside Telford. There is so much to do that you really need a couple of days to really experience everything.
Lots of information is provided by Tracy Travels in Time about all the museums in her great article.
A car is useful for visiting all of the attractions including the Ironbridge. The bridge is free to visit and cross but all of the associated museums are part of a pass that is valid for a year. Ironbridge is maintained by English Heritage and the pass can be used towards the cost of museum entry.
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