Ironbridge Shropshire

The Valley That Changed The World

Variously described as "the most extraordinary district in the world" and "the birthplace of industry", Ironbridge Gorge is uniquely placed to bridge the past with the present.

A place of pilgramage for more than two centuries, the Iron Bridge which spans the valley of the River severn is both a lasting legacy to the enterprise and vision which helped to shape it, and a magnet for the modern day visitor. Arguably the country's most famous landmark, and one of only a handful UNESCO World Heritage Sites in England, it has become an icon - a living reminder of the impact which this remarkable valley had on the rest of the world.

More than 200 years ago, about a quarter of all iron in Britain was being smelted in and around the Ironbridge Gorge. Even then, it was one of the most visited places in the whole of England, with writers, artists, engineers and even industrial spies all adding it to their 'Grand Tour'.

Times have changed. Most of the furnaces, forges, factories and coal mines are now quiet. And the fiery impact of the Industrial Revolution has been replaced by a green and pleasant landscape.

But everywhere you look, there are reminders of the past: monuments to the Valley that changed the world.

Today, the Ironbridge Gorge is 'home' to a series of unique museums, linked together by means of a special 'Passprt ticket', which visitors can use to marvel at the achievements of the men and women who made Britain the world's first industrial nation.

Abraham Darby's orginal furnace, where he made his breakthrough by using coke, rather than charcoal, is on today's Grand Tour, as is his former residence in Coalbrookdale, and the nearby Museum of Iron.

Elsewhere, the Jackfield Tile Museum and Coalport China Museum provide an insight into the history and manufacture of products still associated with the birthplace of the industry; while the intriguing Tar tunnel and aptly named Bedlam Furnace add to the district's undiluted atmosphere.

Today's crowning glory is the award-winning Blists Hill victorian town, where the past is brought back ti life in the form of a living town at the turn of the century, with craftsmen in shops, pubs, and of course, a foundary, giving demonstrations of their skills, and explaining to modern day visitors what life was really like at the end their Queen Victoria's reign.

A Visitor Centre at the water's edge, and a Visitor Information Centre in the town - which itself, clings picturesquely to the steep limestone cliffs - all to help to explain the history and heritage within the six square miles that changed the world.

And then, of course, there is the most important monument of all - the Iron Bridge at Ironbridge: so good they named it twice!

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