The Ironbridge, Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire
Built in 1781 this bridge was the first ever Arched Bridge in the World built from Cast Iron. It was built to span the River Severn then an important waterway for the movement of goods and materials…..so the height of the bridge was to allow for sailboats to pass unhindered.
The appropriately named Ironbridge became famous….. so famous that it soon gave its name to this Gorge through which the Severn passes.
Just downstream from Ironbridge is Coalbrookdale which many suggest was the heart that created the Industrial Revolution. Rich seams of Coking Coal and an area rich in minerals resulted in a Blast Furnaces being built as long ago as the 1650’s. It became the centre for the supply of quality Cast Iron. Demand increased and in 1709 Abraham Darby rebuilt the furnaces and rapidly developed the industry.
When the bridge was conceived one would have though that local Cast Iron would have been the natural choice and indeed the first designs incorporated Iron in the plans. But there were many doubts expressed that as Cast Iron had never been used for Arch construction it would not be safe. After years of prevaricating the choice was made and the design of Thomas Pritchard and builder Abraham Darby III was agreed….the result is what you see today a site listed as a World Heritage Site.
It is also this construction of what was then a revolutionary bridge that resulted in the village , now know as Ironbridge, being built complete with Hotel, to cater for the Tourists that flocked to see the dramatic span over the Severn.
Today the Gorge is the home of several varied Museums that all tell, a linked, history of the industrial revolution and now providing even more interest for the Tourist.
(C) David Oakes 2016