Project iron bridge: saving an industrial icon
Stretching across the River Severn, the world's first iron bridge is one of the greatest symbols of the Industrial Revolution. But the Iron Bridge is now suffering from cracking and in need of repair.
To save the bridge for generations to come, English Heritage is embarking on its largest conservation project to date. #ProjectIronBridge
Help save the Iron Bridge
We are now undertaking a major conservation project on the Iron Bridge. The bridge is suffering due to stresses in its ironwork, and the project is vital to preserving it for the future.
Watch our video to learn more about how the campaign is going and what we're doing to save this important monument.Donate today
Target reached - thank you
Nearly 800 of you have so far rallied to save the bridge and we are hugely grateful to everyone for their generosity.
In response to your overwhelming support, we increased our Crowdfunder target to £40,000 to complete the final part of Project Iron Bridge. Incredibly, we’ve now reached that target. But we still need your help.
All donations beyond the target will go towards conserving the Iron Bridge, easing the pressure on English Heritage's conservation budget. This will allow us to spend more on protecting the other sites in our care, the majority of which like the Iron Bridge are free to visit. As a new charity, we rely more than ever before on the support of our visitors, members and donors.
Thank you for your support today and for securing the future of the Iron Bridge.
Support Project Iron Bridge and English Heritage by donating via our Crowdfunder campaign today.
We're working to safeguard the future of the Iron Bridge. Be a part of our biggest conservation project to date.
- Make a donation towards the Iron Bridge via Crowdfunder. As a charity, we rely on your generous support to look after the historic sites in our care.
- Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find out more about the work we are doing. #ProjectIronBridge
- Join the team! From January 2018 you can sign up as an Iron Bridge volunteer, supporting visitors to understand the vital conservation work.
Abraham Darby, a former brass founder, discovered that coal from Coalbrookdale could be used to smelt iron. This enabled the economically viable mass production of cast iron. Kickstarting the Industrial Revolution, the foundry was producing large quantities of cast iron goods within a couple of years.
1773Pritchard’s Wild Idea
Shrewsbury architect Thomas Pritchard had a bold idea. Capitalising on engineering expertise and new iron-casting techniques, he proposed the world's first iron bridge, to be cast and built by Abraham Darby's grandson, Abraham Darby III. A strong and durable bridge, it would support the transportation of goods across the River Severn and cut down barge traffic.
Pritchard's designs for a single-span bridge of 30 metres (100 feet) were approved by Act of Parliament. Construction began in the same year but sadly, Pritchard died a month after work began.
1777-9The project continues
Abraham Darby III agrees to continue the project. All the iron is cast at his Coalbrookdale furnace.
1779-81New Year's Day opening
The bridge opened to traffic on the 1st January 1781. It soon became a must-see for tourists and sightseers from England and further afield. It attracted writers, poets and painters, who marvelled at its scale and ingenuity.
1795Battling the Elements
The bridge's great weight helped it to withstand severe flooding. However, the enormous stone abutments begin to cause cracks in the ironwork as the river banks shift over time.
The south abutment was modified several times and eventually replaced, first by two wooden land arches and then by cast iron ones.
1934Closed to Traffic
After 150 years, the bridge was finally closed to vehicles and designated an Ancient Monument.
A reinforced concrete strut is inserted on the river bank to brace the two abutments and to counteract the tendency of the gorge sides to push inwards.
1997A Revealing Sketch
A small watercolour sketch by an artist called Elias Martin came to light in Stockholm, finally shedding light on the mystery of how the huge structure had been built.
1999-2000Conservation and Research
A full archaeological survey, record and analysis of the bridge was made by English Heritage and the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust, providing a detailed understanding of how the structure had fared.
2017Saving an Industrial Icon
English Heritage announces its biggest conservation project to date - the repairing, conserving and repainting of the Iron Bridge in 2017 and 2018.