One Day in : Ironbridge, Shropshire

Penny W-TStarred Page By Penny W-T, 5th Jun 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Europe>England>The West Midlands & The Peak District

Ironbridge is a small village perched on the banks and cliffside of the River Severn in Shropshire. It is a place I have visited frequently, and one which I always enjoy returning to, time after time. You cannot see all it has to offer in just one day so for now let us explore the village and see why this tiny place is a World Heritage Site . . . .

History of the Iron Bridge

First of all I need to explain to you why this quiet little backwater on this river is so important. The Iron Bridge that crosses the River Severn at this point, was the first arch bridge in the world to be made of cast iron, a material which was previously too expensive to use for large structures. The bridge was the first of its kind to built from cast iron, and is one of the few which have survived to the present day. It remains an important symbol, representative of the dawn of the industrial age. It is truly a breath-taking sight as you turn into the Gorge and find this bridge filling your line of vision.

How it all began

Local man, Abraham Darby perfected the technique of smelting iron with coke, in nearby Coalbrookdale, and the 18th century and this allowed much cheaper production of iron. However, this process was only one small part of what would become an ‘industrial’ revolution and other great iron-smelting areas began to develop. The grandson of the first Abraham Darby, Abraham Darby III, built this famous bridge, to link the two areas. Construction began in 1779 and the bridge opened on New Year's Day 1781.
The area around Ironbridge village is described by those promoting it as a tourist destination as the "Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution". So now we know what it is and why it is here, let us explore.

The Village

The village is scattered along the sides of the river, one side consisting of homes, and the other side comprising a multitude of little shops, cafes and hotels that cater for the villagers and for the ever growing band of tourists from all over the world who at some point make their way here.

Toll House

Originally the bridge was open to traffic, but motorised vehicles in the 20th century became a problem, so, In 1934 it was designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument and closed to vehicular traffic. It is possible to walk over the bridge, and Tolls for pedestrians were collected until 1950. The bridge is now owned by Shropshire County Council, so now we can walk across quite freely, stop midway to gaze both up and down the river that flows quite swiftly beneath it, and continue on to the toll house on the opposite side. This building is now a museum and quite intriguing. The bridge is a Grade I listed building.

Work of the Trust

The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust Ltd cares for 36 scheduled monuments and listed buildings within the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site and operates 10 museums which collectively tell the story of the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. In just one day it is not possible to explore all of the museums, but the Museums offer a year Pass that allows access to all the museums over the course of a year, so you can come back again and again to visit each part of the fascinating parts to this jigsaw.

Enormous number of museums to visit

This list shows all 10 museums, Coalbrookdale museum of Iron; Museum of the Gorge; Blists Hill Victorian village; Iron Bridge and Toll House; Enginuity; Coalport China Museum; Jackfield tile Museum; theTar Tunnels; Broseley Pipeworks and Darby Houses. Some are at a distance from the village, so for today when we have viewed the Bridge, walked across and explored the Toll House museum, we will concentrate on just one that is reasonably close by down the hill, the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron. This large building covers a large tract of land and has a range of other building structures around it.

Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron

There is a lot to see and do here, so allow as much time as possible. The museum itself suggests that visitors need around 2 hours but there is a lovely cafe that serves light meals and drinks, so there is somewhere to rest your feet between exploring the display areas.
There is a display of the original style cast iron Coalbrookdale Cooking Pots that launched Abraham Darby I into the iron trade, and a special building houses the remains of the water powered blast furnace where Abraham Darby I perfected the smelting of iron with coke instead of charcoal.
In the grounds you can see the Boy and Swan Fountain that was cast by the Coalbrookdale Company in 1851 for the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace, and glance upwards to admire the clock tower.
There should just be time to have a look around the shops in the village. These are not the usual ‘souvenir’ style shops, but quality goods, book shops, food shops and more cafes.
It should be a good day, where you will want to be coming back again to see more. I usually try to make at least one visit a year, as there is so much to see. I will take you around Blists Hill Victorian village on another day.


Cradle Of Industry, History, Industrial History, Iron Bridge, Museums, Travel

Meet the author

author avatar Penny W-T
Published articles on education themes, travel, history and writing techniques. Written a book on WW1 - Gallipoli, and travel books. Run a marketing network for small businesses.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
6th Jun 2013 (#)

I would love to visit all the world heritage sites. Thanks for this travel guide to Ironbridge.

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author avatar Penny W-T
6th Jun 2013 (#)

I agree with you Mark. I have been to some of them in Britain and find them all fascinating. I plan to do a day in Bath some time, and of course Stonehenge is another World Heritage site. Thnk you for commenting.

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author avatar Eileen Ward Birch
6th Jun 2013 (#)

Last time we were there there was a superb hostelry called the Golden Ball at the top of the hill.

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author avatar Penny W-T
6th Jun 2013 (#)

For a small village it has a number of pubs, hotels, cafes and restaurants, all catering for different needs of the visitors.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
8th Jun 2013 (#)

Sounds perfect, enjoyed the history..thank you...

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author avatar Penny W-T
8th Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you for your interest. Yes, there is so much history here, takes more than a day.

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