For those who have never heard of Ironbridge it is not only the name of a town in Shropshire, but also of a bridge made of iron, the first ever constructed, which was cast in the local foundries and built across the River Severn by a man named Abraham Darby III.
Ironbridge can be found on the banks of the mighty River Severn, where today the houses and businesses cling to the sides of the beautiful Severn Gorge. It also a place where two centuries ago, events occurred which changed all our lives.
This unique industrial and natural environment was formed during the Ice Age when the original flow of the river was diverted and formed the now famous gorge and as it did so, it exposed vital ingredients of layers of limestone, coal, ironstone and clay. The river itself provided water, waterpower and a convenient means of transport.
It took a great man of vision in the shape of Abraham Darby I, born in 1677 at nearby Dudley, to put all of these vital ingredients together; he was the first, in 1709, to master the science of smelting iron with coke, rather than costly charcoal. He leased an old furnace in Coalbrookdale to do so. The son of a Quaker farmer, Darby was the first to use the cheaper iron, rather than brass, to cast strong thin pots for the poor.