IronbridgeCopyright: Richard Semik 123.ref


Ironbridge in Shropshire, England is a well known location and is commonly accepted as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution (1760 - c. 1820).

Early in the 18th century, Abraham Darby (14th April 1678 - 8th March 1717) perfected the process of using coke made from coal to smelt the local mined iron ore at nearby Coalbrookdale. This sparked the need for a bridge across the River Severn in order to expand the industry. Up until the bridge being built the only way across was a barge.

Designed by Thomas Farnolls Pritchard in 1773, the bridge was built by Abraham Darby III between 1777 and 1779. In 1781 on New Years Day, Ironbridge was officially opened, bridging the then split parish, The Gorge. Sadly, Thomas Farnolls Pritchard passed away just a month into construction. Abraham Darby agrees to continue and finish the bridge.

To pay for the construction, Darby attracted sponsors and he was able to raise the £3,250 that was estimated. However, the actual cost was far greater and is estimated to have been closer to £6,000, but the actual cost is unknown.

By the mid 1790's the tolls charged to cross proved profitable and it is thought that the sponsors received an annual dividend of approximately 8%!

Ironbridge toll plaqueCopyright:Rodhullandemu

It is interesting to read the notice above as even officers and soldiers are not exempt from paying the toll!

The iron used was cast into 5 sections and consisted of approximately 1,700 pieces with the heaviest weighting 5,500kg (5.5 t). The total weight being around 384,500kg (384.6 t) was an important factor in regards to the footings. The weight of the bridge actually solved the problem of flooding that the Severn was prone to. One such flood in 1795 left the Ironbridge as the only crossing point for miles. A major concern though was that the sides of the gorge were prone to landslides and it was thought that the sides were moving closer to the water.

On 24th August 1902 a 9m (39ft) section of the roadway collapsed and then in 1903 a large plate of iron also fell away. In 1909 the bridge was repaired using concrete and the toll which was a major income for sponsors and trustees was removed.

After a number of concerns regarding safety, the bridge was finally closed to all motorised vehicles on 18th June 1934. That same year, the site was designated an Ancient Monument and ever since it has been a focus for conservation and remains as one of England's finest structures.

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