The Iron Bridge

The Iron Bridge gave its name to the small town where it still stands today – Ironbridge.

When was the Iron Bridge made?

The Iron Bridge was first constructed in 1779 and completed in 1781.

Thomas Pritchard

Who built the Iron Bridge?

The bridge was designed by architect Thomas Pritchard and built by Abraham Darby III.

The first cast iron bridge in the world

It was the world’s first cast-iron bridge and is a recognised symbol of the Industrial Revolution.

The Iron Bridge

Why was there a need for a bridge to be built?

People needed to cross the river but the nearest bridge was two miles up stream.

All the industrial activity around Ironbridge meant that huge quantities of raw materials had to be transported across the river to ironworks and factories in the valley.

‘View of the Cast Iron Bridge near Coalbrookdale’ by Michael Angelo Rooker and William Ellis painted in 1782.

Before a  bridge was built boats (ferries) were used to transported people and goods from one side of the river to the other. By 1750 there were at least six ferries operating on this stretch of the Severn.

Terrible weather conditions and frequent flooding of the river made travelling by boat sometimes impossible. Even everyday journeys could be unpleasant and very dangerous:

“The journey normally was no more than a ten minute episode but we were pushed hither and thither (side to side0 by the wind tossed waves. I clung to the sides as the little vessel was swept downstream … after a full three quarters of an hour we reached the shore” – Shadrax Fox, 1704

On 22 October 1799, 27 people drowned when a boat overturned.

Why was a iron used to build the bridge?

Iron is a lot harder wearing than timber and would be able to withstand the terrific currents of the river.

Building the bridge of iron advertised to the world that Abraham’s way of making iron made it possible to not only make iron cheaper but also the iron could be easily molded to make bigger structures.  Iron founders (makers) and industrial spies flocked to see this magnificent bridge. Artists and travellers all round the world came too.