Erected in 1779 and opened in 1781 this is the first arch bridge in the world to be made of cast iron and spans the gorge of the River Severn whose nearby settlement takes its name, Ironbridge. The area has a valid claim to be considered the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution for it is where Abraham Darby first smelted iron ore with coke in 1709 (rather than charcoal or coal) meaning it could be produced in large economic quantities. The bridge was closed to traffic in 1934 although tolls were still collected at the toll house until 1950 when the council took over its upkeep.
The steepness and instability of the gorge was another challenge for the original constructors, they also had to make the bridge high enough to allow sailing boats through and its 100 ft span is supported by 5 cast iron rib members. Both beautiful an functional it is thought that three forges provided the iron one, one of which is the nearby and aptly named Bedlam Forge.
The view from the bridge today is very peaceful but I imagine in the past it would have looked very different with the rising smoke and fire of the furnaces.
"Coalbrookdale by Night" by Philip de Loutherbourg 1801.
An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet this week sojourning at I here