Ironbridge, seen from the Iron Bridge
|OS grid reference|
|• London||126 mi (203 km) SE|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
Ironbridge is a settlement on the River Severn, at the heart of the Ironbridge Gorge, near Telford, Shropshire, England. It lies in the civil parish of The Gorge, in the borough of Telford and Wrekin. Ironbridge developed beside, and takes its name from, The Iron Bridge, a 100-foot (30 m) cast iron bridge that opened in 1781.
The area around Ironbridge is described by those promoting it as a tourist destination as the "Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution". This description is based on the idea that Abraham Darby perfected the technique of smelting iron with coke, in Coalbrookdale, allowing much cheaper production of iron. However, the industrial revolution did not begin in any one place. Darby's iron smelting was but one small part of this generalised revolution and was soon superseded by the great iron-smelting areas. However, the bridge – being the first of its kind fabricated from cast iron, and one of the few which have survived to the present day – remains an important symbol representative of the dawn of the industrial age.
The grandson of the first Abraham Darby, Abraham Darby III, built the bridge – originally designed by Thomas Farnolls Pritchard – to link the two areas. Construction began in 1779, and the bridge opened on New Year's Day 1781. Soon afterwards the ancient Madeley market was relocated to the new purpose-built square and Georgian Butter Cross. 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 sites of the Severn Gorge. Across a square facing the hotel, stands the town's war memorial, which was erected in 1924. It is a bronze statue of a First World War soldier in marching order, sculpted by Arthur George Walker, whose signature appears as does that of A.B. Burton, the foundry worker who erected it. 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 river 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. Its design is unusual in that the sanctuary is at the west-end and the tower at the east, in reverse to the majority of churches. This is because the land at the west-end was unstable and unable to take the weight of a tower. The bells in the church tower were installed in 1920 as a memorial to parishioners who died in World War I, and the external church clock was illuminated in memory of those who died in World War II. The living was endowed as a rectory when the parish was created from Madeley in 1847, and is now a united benefice 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. Ironbridge was the birthplace of England National Football Team captain Billy Wright.
By the 19th century, Ironbridge had had many well-known visitors, including Benjamin Disraeli, but by the mid-20th century, the settlements and industries of the gorge were in decline. In 1986, though, Ironbridge became part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site (which covers the wider Ironbridge Gorge area) and has since become a major tourist attraction within Shropshire. Most industries in Ironbridge are now tourist-related; however, the Merrythought teddy bear company (established in 1930) is still manufacturing in Ironbridge and has a small museum there too. Amongst other things, the town centre is host to a post office, pharmacy, various pubs, cafés and many small independent shops.
Ironbridge was struck by an F1/T2 tornado on 23 November 1981, as part of the record-breaking nationwide tornado outbreak on that day. On Thursday 10 July 2003 The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh made a visit to Shropshire which included a visit to Ironbridge, and a walk over the bridge itself.
An annual Coracle Regatta is held in August on the River Severn at Ironbridge, along with many other events throughout the year. This is mainly because the coracle-making family of Rogers lived in Ironbridge for several generations. Just outside Ironbridge in Coalbrookdale is the Ironbridge Institute, a partnership between the University of Birmingham and the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust offering postgraduate and professional development in heritage.
Ironbridge has an annually recurring problem of flooding from the River Severn, as do many other parts of Shropshire. Flooding has previously caused much damage and disruption to the Wharfage, which accommodates both The Swan and White Hart pubs, and various private homes. Starting in February 2004, DEFRA in association with the Environment Agency implemented a portable barrier which is erected at times of floods. At its peak, the flood water has reached a depth of one metre (3 ft 3 in) against the barrier.
- The Rogers Family (1778 - 2003) known for building and using coracles on the River Severn for generations
- George Sedgwick (1846–1934) was a British trade union leader.
- Billy Wright CBE (1924–1994) was an English footballer, who spent his whole career at Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. and the first footballer in the world to earn 100 international caps
- Roger Squires (born 1932) is a British crossword compiler who lives in Ironbridge and is the world's most prolific compiler
- Ian Blakemore (born 1965) was an English cricketer, left-handed batsman and left-arm slow bowler who played for Herefordshire
- Cancer are a death/thrash metal band formed in Ironbridge in 1988, which released five full-length albums, broke up, and re-formed at least twice
- Ironbridge Gorge Museums
- The Iron Bridge
- Ironbridge Power Station
- Coalbrookdale by Night
- Listed buildings in The Gorge
- "Civil Parish population 2011". Retrieved 30 July 2018.
- Peter Francis (2013). Shropshire War Memorials, Sites of Remembrance. YouCaxton Publications. pp. 135–136. ISBN 978-1-909644-11-3.
- "Royal visit timetable". 9 July 2003. Archived from the original on 11 March 2005. Retrieved 9 October 2009.
- "Ironbridge evacuated". 26 February 2020. Retrieved 27 February 2020.
- Ironbridge Coracle Trust website[unreliable source?]
- The Who's Who of Radical Leicester by Ned Newitt Retrieved 30 July 2018.
- "The Ironbridge Rocket". BBC Shropshire. 29 October 2014. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
- "Meet the Telegraph's cryptic crossword maestro". The Daily Telegraph. 30 April 2010. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
- "Ian Blakemore". ESPNcricinfo. ESPN. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
- "U.K. Death Metallers Cancer To Reform..." Blabbermouth.net. 12 September 2013. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
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