Shropshire – The Face of Industry

Shropshire – The Face of Industry

Shropshire - The Face of Industry

Shropshire – The Face of Industry

Shropshire is also noted for being the scene of a remarkable industrial breakthrough, and Ironbridge was the iron capital of the country. Abraham Darby, a brass-founder, Quaker from Bristol, took over a derelict furnace in Coalbrookdale and experimented with smelting iron ore with coke, and revolutionised the nation’s industry, producing iron wheels, rails, steam-engine cylinders, and eventually iron aqueducts and cast-iron bridges. The smelting declined and the once derelict works have now been turned into one of the best industrial museums in the world spread over a number of sites along 6 miles in the valley.

The Iron Bridge itself is best first seen from a distance. Erected by Abraham Darby III, it was cast in Coalbrookdale and erected, the first iron bridge in the world, in 1779. 196ft long with a major span of 100ft it weighs 380 tons. Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron and the Old Furnace has Darby’s first furnace, and a working foundry is here together with a museum which tells the story of the iron-makers, but it is best to start at the restored Severn Warehouse which has a good audiovisual introduction to the gorge and its past. Coalbrookdale Institution, now a Youth Hostel, was built originally for workers and their families. Rose Cottage and Carpenters Row are retained as examples of ironworkers’ homes. Busts Hill Open Air Museum is a marvellous reconstruction of a Victorian community which has railway sidings, gas-lit streets, shops, offices, pub, pie shop, pharmacy, carpenters’ shops and a small mine. Coalport China Museum. The works have now been restored and you can buy Coalport china here. Jackfield Tile Museum – Tile display and conservation workshop.

The whole of Ironbridge has a marvellous atmosphere about it which is unique; the Craft Workshop in the old Police Station, the local school named after Darby, new shops fitted into old facades, and the Buildwas Power Station cooling towers heavily breathing clouds of steam adds, I suppose, to the effect. A very good day or half-day out.