#buildingconservation

Heritage in the Community – The Iron Bridge

The Iron Bridge is a bridge that crosses the River Severn in Shropshire, England. Opened in 1781, it was the first major bridge in the world to be made of cast iron, and was greatly celebrated after construction owing to its use of the new material.

Belonging to to Telford and Wrekin Borough Council, the bridge, the adjacent settlement of Ironbridge and the Ironbridge Gorge form the UNESCO Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site. The bridge is a Grade I listed building, and a waypoint on the South Telford Heritage Trail.

IronbridgeGorge.jpg.gallery
The Iron Bridge prior to refurbishment. Image credit – https://www.warringtonguardian.co.uk

History

Abraham Darby I first smelted local iron ore with coke made from Coalbrookdale coal in 1709, and in the coming decades Shropshire became a centre for industry due to the low price of fuel from local mines. The River Severn was used as a key trading route, but it was also a barrier to travel around the deep Severn Gorge, especially between the then important industrial parishes of Broseley and Madeley, the nearest bridge being at Buildwas two miles away. The iron bridge was therefore proposed to link the industrial town of Broseley with the smaller mining town of Madeley and the industrial centre of Coalbrookdale. The use of the river by boat traffic and the steep sides of the gorge meant that any bridge should ideally be of a single span, and sufficiently high to allow tall ships to pass underneath. The steepness and instability of the banks was problematic for building a bridge, and there was no point where roads on opposite sides of the river converged.

The Iron Bridge was the first of its kind to be constructed, although not the first to be considered or the first iron bridge of any kind.

Take a look at our Blog about the Coalbrookdale Furnace here.

The Proposal

In 1773, architect Thomas Farnolls Pritchard wrote to his ‘iron mad’ friend and local ironmaster, John Wilkinson of Broseley, to suggest building a bridge out of cast iron. Pritchard had previous experience with the design of both wooden and stone bridges, and it is possible that he had integrated into these designs elements of iron.

During the winter of 1773–74, local newspapers advertised a proposal to petition Parliament for leave to construct an iron bridge with a single 120-foot (37 m) span. In 1775, a subscription of between three and four thousand pounds was raised, and Abraham Darby III, the grandson of Abraham Darby I and an ironmaster working at Coalbrookdale, was appointed treasurer to the project.

The Bridge Today

The famous Iron Bridge has survived for an astonishing 238 years. As you can well imagine, after that length of time came to require some tender love and care! During early Summer last year, English Heritage announced that Shropshire’s beloved bridge was going to receive the must needed refurbishment it deserved.

The future of the world’s first Iron Bridge was secured on 7th January 2019, as the famous bridge fully re-opened to the public on the first Monday of 2019.

Painting-the-Iron-Bridge-©-English-Heritage
Work in progress. Image credit – https://www.shropshirelive.com

The charity declared that the Bridge would be returned to it’s original colour, following from their extensive research. English Heritage’s senior property curator, Dr Heather Sebire, said: “Uncovering the original colour of the Iron Bridge has been a fascinating mix of both archive research work and detailed forensic investigation. We had already found some clues in the archives but the decider was the results of our analysis of the historic paint, revealing a red-brown coating beneath centuries of historic dust and paintwork.”

EH-Iron-Bridge
English Heritage installed a temporary conservation in action visitor walkway. Image credit – English Heritage

At £3.6m, Project Iron Bridge is English Heritage’s single largest conservation project since it became a charity in 2015. Last year, the charity announced a €1m donation from German funder the Hermann Reemtsma Foundation and launched its first ever crowdfunding campaign to coincide with the start of works, with members of the public giving £47,545 to support the project.

Thanks to BBC UK for providing us with this excellent video of the completed work:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/embed/p06jc3ms/45298269


Whats on?

February 2019
15-16 Disaster Management and Heritage
Birmingham City University
18-22 Intensive Training Assessment and Accreditation in Construction Masonry
Merryhill Training Centre, Fife
18 Conservation of Timberwork
The Engine Shed, Forthside Way, Stirling
19 Historic Concrete and Cements Conservation
Forth Valley College, Falkirk
19-20 Understanding Building Conservation
Swansea
21 Conserving, Repairing and Maintaining Traditional Windows
Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire
22 Lime Pointing Training Day
Bodmin, Cornwall
25 Secret Spaces: Medieval Sacristies, Vestries, Treasure Rooms and their Contents
Society of Antiquaries apartments, Burlington House, London
26 Wolds Welcome: Walking Lincolnshire’s Churches
St Peter & St Paul, Belchford

Thanks to Building Conservation for sharing these key days with us.


The services we provide for you at

aura conservation

Roofing

Roof Tiling, Steeplejacks and Lightning Protection, Roof Drainage, Lead Protection, Roof Features.

Masonry

Stone, Brick, Cast Stone, Terracotta, Sculpture, Statuary, Bronze Statuary.

Interiors

Painting & Decorating, Plasterwork, Tiling, Timber Flooring.

Services & Treatment

Protection and Remedial Treatment, Paint Finishes, Mortars & Renders, Pointing, Paint Removal, Masonry Cleaning, Structural Repairs, Epoxy Resin Repairs.

Metal, Wood & Glass

Fine Joinery, Wood Carving, Windows and Doors, Secondary Glazing, Metalwork.


Incorporated in 2006, Aura Conservation have existed for over twelve successful years. We have a sound and experienced management team. We can assist you in any of your conservation needs and have a body of long standing and experienced tradesmen we can call on with specialist knowledge of the conservation world. Along with prudent financial management, we have a sound financial foundation that will see us prosper in the coming years.


You can contact us at:

Dunham House, 181 Wellington Road North, Stockport, Cheshire, SK4 2PB.

Tel: 0161 442 9850 / Fax: 0161 432 8478

Email  enquiries@auraltd.co.uk
Web    www.auraltd.co.uk

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