The Coalbrookdale blast furnace and Ironbridge exerted great influence on the development of techniques and architecture. Ironbridge Gorge provides a fascinating summary of the development of an industrial region in modern times. Mining centres, transformation industries, manufacturing plants, workers' quarters and transport networks are sufficiently well-preserved to make up a coherent ensemble whose educational potential is considerable. The Coalbrookdale blast furnace perpetuates in situ the creative effort of Abraham Darby I, who discovered coke iron in 1709. It is a masterpiece of man's creative genius in the same way as Ironbridge, which is the first known metal bridge, built in 1779 by Abraham Darby III from the drawings of the architect Thomas Farnolls Pritchard.
Ironbridge Gorge is located in the county of Shropshire, some 30km northwest of Birmingham in the the narrow Severn valley upstream from its confluence with the Caldebrook River in Coalbrookdale. Ironbridge Gorge is an example representative of the main techniques of the industrial age.
It is an extraordinary concentration of mining zones, foundries, factories, workshops and warehouses, which coexists with an old network of lanes, paths, roads, ramps, canals and railroads, as well as substantial remains of traditional landscape and housing, the forests of the Severn Gorge, ironmasters' houses, workers' living quarters, public buildings and infrastructure equipment of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Since 1968, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust has coordinated actions in the areas of discovery, conservation and exploitation of the valley's heritage in addition to providing sound management of museums, monuments and sites and thereby acting as a pioneer in the field of industrial archaeology.
In the area there are five major areas of interest:
Coalbrookdale: This is where in 1709 the Quaker Abraham Darby I developed the coke-based iron production technique which began the great 18th century steel revolution. There still remains a high concentration of 18th- and 19th-century dwellings, warehouses, churches and chapels in the town. The Great Warehouse contains an iron museum.
Ironbridge: The locality where mining and metallurgical activity began in the 17th century draws its name from the iron bridge erected in 1779, which also serves to designate the entire region of the Severn Gorges.
Hay Brook valley: Downstream from Madeley in the low valley of this small tributary of the Severn River, a large open air museum was set up on Blists Hill. Extraction galleries, shafts with their head-frames and blast furnaces have been preserved.
Jackfield: A small town located on the south bank of the Severn made its living from coal mining, clay production and navigation. It was the valley's port of registry.
Coalport: This town is located at the far east end of the protected zone on the north bank of the Severn, which is spanned by a metal bridge from 1780-1818. The high point of this town is the porcelain manufacturing plant founded by John Rose at the end of the 18th century which closed down only in 1926. Today it is a porcelain museum.
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