Ironbridge Gorge – UNESCO World Heritage Centre – England

Ironbridge is a settlement beside the River Severn, at the heart of the Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire, England. It lies in the parish of The Gorge, in the borough of Telford and Wrekin.

The village grew up beside, and takes its name from the famous Iron Bridge, a 30 metre (100 foot) cast iron bridge that was built across the river there in 1779.

The area around Ironbridge is described as the “Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution” because it includes Coalbrookdale and Broseley, where Abraham Darby I perfected the technique of smelting iron with coke, allowing much cheaper production of iron. The grandson of the first Abraham Darby, Abraham Darby III, built the famous bridge to link the two areas in 1779. Soon afterwards the ancient Madeley market was relocated to the new purpose built Square and Georgian Butter Cross and the former dispersed settlement of Madeley Wood gained a planned urban focus as Ironbridge, the commercial and administrative centre of the Coalbrookdale coalfield. The Iron Bridge proprietors also built the Tontine Hotel to accommodate visitors to the new Bridge and the industrial sights of the Gorge. On the hillside above the river are situated, the stone-built 16th century hunting Lodge at Lincoln Hill, many 17th and 18th century workers cottages, some imposing Georgian houses built by ironmasters and mine and barge owners, and many early Victorian villas built from the various coloured bricks and tiles of the locality.

St Luke’s Church (1837) in simple commissioners’ gothic by Samuel Smith of Madeley, has stained glass by David Evans of Shrewsbury. The living was endowed as a rectory when the parish was created from Madeley in 1847 and is now a united with Coalbrookdale and Little Wenlock, in the Diocese of Hereford.

The former Iron Bridge and Broseley railway station, on the Severn Valley line (GWR) from Hartlebury to Shrewsbury, was situated on the south side of the Iron Bridge until 1966.

The Iron Bridge By the 19th century, Ironbridge had had many well-known visitors including Benjamin Disraeli, but by the mid-20th century the village was in decline. In 1986 though, Ironbridge became part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site (which covers the wider Ironbridge Gorge area) and has become a tourist attraction. Most industries in Ironbridge are now tourist related; however, the Merrythought teddy bear company (established in 1931) is still manufacturing in Ironbridge.

An annual Coracle Regatta is held in August on the River Severn at Ironbridge, along with many other events throughout the year.

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