The 1779 cast iron bridge over the Severn was the world’s first iron bridge. It became a symbol and symbol of the early industrial revolution in England. Other industrial monuments include the world’s oldest coke oven, workshops and museums.
Industrial Monuments in the Ironbridge Valley: Facts
|Official title:||Industrial monuments in the Ironbridge Valley|
|Cultural monument:||Industrial plants and workers’ settlements from the 18th century on an area of 15 km²|
|Country:||UK, West Midlands|
|Location:||Ironbridge in the Severn Valley, northwest of Birmingham|
|Meaning:||worldwide symbol of the beginning of industrialization in the 18th century.|
Industrial Monuments in the Ironbridge Valley: History
|1708||the Bristol-born Quaker Abraham Darby I leases the blast furnace in Coalbrookdale|
|1717||Construction of Dale House|
|1779-81||Construction of the iron bridge from 384 tons of cast iron|
|1780||Construction of Carpenters Row, terraced houses for the workers of the Coalbrookdale Company|
|1786||Construction of the Tar Tunnel, the connection between the Blists Hill mines and the Severn|
|1796||Establishment of a modern porcelain factory in Coalport|
Industrial revolution day nursery
The Severn flows calmly along its upper reaches. For many miles to the south it will open into a stream that separates south-west England from Wales. South of the post-WWII rebuilt town of Telford, the silent river is forced through a picturesque tree-covered gorge as it speeds up its course. If you drive towards Ironbridge today, you will hardly assume that one of the hearts of European industry beat here 200 years ago.
According to aristmarketing, the industrial revolution began in England towards the end of the 17th century. Medical advances and the desire for more children as workers had skyrocketed the population; Trade with the new colonies also required more goods, especially textiles that could no longer be made by hand. At the same time, considerable wealth had accumulated in private hands through the colonial wars, capital that was now looking for investment. Then there was the technical development. Resourceful spirits worked on the first simple machines that mechanized spinning and weaving. If the gears of a development mesh so smoothly in such a historical situation, then developments accelerate to a previously unknown extent.
But machines need energy. This was first found in hydropower, which is why practically all of the early factories are located in river valleys. But hydropower is dependent on the seasons, which is why it was the steam engine that really ignited the fire of the revolution. The English and Welsh forests were first blazed in this fire, and with them the green of the Ironbridge Gorge also disappeared. In 1708 Abraham Darby settled in the valley, a Quaker who wanted to invest his wealth in pioneering industry. A year later he succeeded for the first time in smelting iron ore with coke instead of charcoal, a process that saved considerable energy and made iron production much cheaper.
And iron would prove to be the flywheel of industrial development. Not only the machines were made from it, but, after engineers made it manageable and cheaper, also the ships that transported the products all over the world, and a whole new type of building made of thin iron columns and girders that were bright and could be airy. Mass production called for transport routes for which canals, railways and bridges had to be built, which themselves devoured tons of the material that was to be transported on them: iron.
In the second half of the 18th century, for example, the first large iron bridge in the world was stretched over the Severn Gorge. Although there are supposed to have been iron bridges in China and one in Kirklees in Yorkshire, these were rather small footbridges compared to the towering bridge that now connected the two banks of the river and gave the place its name. Iron was suddenly the material of the future: in 1720 the Darby’s smelter produced cylinders for steam engines, nine years later the first wheels for locomotives, and decades later the first rails and an iron canal boat. After all, the first multi-story, all-iron building was in nearby Shrewsbury, a textile factory.
The valley, which is so green today, but smoking and smelly at the time, in which women and children worked in the factories because of the lower wages and men only did the hard work, has attracted other industries over the years. With Maws and Craven Dunnill, two of the largest tile factories in the world were located in Jackfield, and porcelain of the finest quality was still produced in Coalport until 1926. Today the furnaces and iron buildings, the clay-processing factories and the bridge are one large open-air museum of an industrial revolution that, in the face of new revolutions, seems like a distant past.