Ironbridge is a small town on the River Severn in Shropshire, with a serious claim to being the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. The Severn here flows through a wooded valley now known as the Ironbridge Gorge, which is now a World Heritage Centre.
The actual Iron Bridge itself is a most graceful structure over the Severn, and was the world’s first bridge to be made from cast iron when constructed in 1779. It can still be used by pedestrians.
The ironmaster Abraham Darby had come up with new ways of smelting iron with coke at Coalbrookdale, just uphill from the river, and it was this that led to a surge of productivity.
It was here that the first iron wheels were made, as well as the first iron rails and the first steam reailway locomotive.
Today, the area contains, apart from the fascinating little riverside town of Ironbridge, a collection of outstanding museums, including the Museum of Iron at Coalbrookdale (with Darby’s original 1708 furnace) and museums of china at Coalport and tiles at Jackfield, as well as the Tar Tunnel and the recreated industrial town of Blists Hill.
Until the mid 20th century, many of the industrial artefacts were just lying about, unloved and unappreciated, before it was realised that industrial history is not only of great academic and educational interest, but also an excellent way of bringing in income from tourism.
Ironbridge was, until recently, a centre for the manufacture of coracles, made here for thousands of years.
The Ironbridge area, in the shadow of The Wrekin, is now part of Telford New Town.