Yesterday we treated ourselves to a Big Day Out, and on our own doorstep. We went to Ironbridge – all of five miles from the Farrell domain. We wanted to see what English Heritage was up to with Abraham Darby III’s monumental bridge – the high-tech PR stunt of 1779 in which a Coalbrookdale ironmaster set out to demonstrate that cast iron was the building material of the future.
He built a single arch bridge at the site of a notoriously dangerous ferry crossing, over a river prone to massive flooding while also accommodating the passage (without de-masting) of the large sailing barges (trows) that plied the Severn from Worcester. All the numerous other Severn bridges required the trows to lower their masts. Doubtless this novel feature alone would have made the new bridge the talk of the river.
Here’s a pre-wrapped winter view, glimpse of the toll house on the far right (since the Iron Bridge was always intended to make money too):
Interestingly though, and here’s where the new ‘roof’ comes in, while Darby’s construction was daring in its vision and materials, its design has distinctly retro features – the cast iron components were fabricated and assembled according to tried and tested carpentry methods with lots of dove-tail joints. On top of that, there has been much ground movement, general wear and tear and even structural shrinkage, so now the bridge is in serious need of restoration. While the work is underway, much of the bridge is shrouded in plastic. A walkway has been constructed along the north side of the bridge with viewing windows created at various points so visitors can view the underbelly of the bridge at close quarters and see the restoration work in progress. It is one stunning enterprise.
There may well be some controversy ahead though. Once the work is done, the bridge will be repainted – in its original colour on the opening day of 1781: a reddish-brown research has shown. For decades the bridge has been black or slate grey. Reddish-brown will be a real turn-up for the Severn Gorge location and doubtless a shock to some people’s systems. I can’t wait to see it – completion date is set for November just in time for a pleasing backdrop of autumn leaves.
Here’s a view of the Wharfage from the Iron Bridge. The town of Ironbridge owes its existence to the bridge, which attracted tourists right from its opening in 1781. In 1784 the handsome Tontine Hotel was built overlooking bridge, and today is still a popular place to stay. The Severn Gorge is now a World Heritage Site.
For more about the restoration project including a brilliant short video see:
English Heritage Saving The Iron Bridge
Roof Squares 8 Please pop over the Becky’s to join in the June Roof Extravaganza
31 thoughts on “Rooftops Galore In The Severn Gorge ~ Even The World’s First Cast Iron Bridge Has One”
Perhaps the original colour was rust-resistant paint (I’m thinking Forth Bridge here!)
That’s the sort of thought I was having. In fact I’ve just found a catalogue of images of the Iron Bridge including a 1780 view by William Williams, and a 1788 one by George Robertson, both of which show it painted a glorious rusty red.
Ah, great minds, Tish!
Very interesting. The scaffolding is an art form in itself.
It is, Beverly.
Great story. I love your occasional snippets of local history in your blogs, almost as much as your African reminisces.
That’s very nice of you 😉
Ooh I like the idea of reddish brown. And loving how they are enabling visitors to see what is happening in the meanwhile. I must though have words about your first photo! My hubby wondered what on earth I was doing as my tilted my head!!!! Brilliant post Tish 😀
Cheers, Becky. So glad it hit the spot, but very hopefully not inducing need of a chiropractor.
I’ve been very remiss over here and not thought about roofs at all. Thank goodness someone’s on the ball. Looking forward to rusty photos Tish xx
I’m getting excited already 🙂 Am also happy to be on roof duty while more pressing family gatherings take precedence over there in Poland 🙂
Thanks darlin! You’re a sweetheart xx
I like the idea of being able to keep an eye on what’s happening, but a couple of those shots made me think you stopped at the pub before taking them. 🙂 Had to tilt my head to see the pork pie sign in the first one.
Only a mint tea imbibed, honest!
🙂 Of course.
I think rusty-red will look beautiful, and have those lovely pink cooling towers gone? I looked for them in your photos, but no sign. I really wanted them to be kept.
I did take some photos from the town with rooftops, so maybe I’ll post them later. We also walked through Dale End Park where you have a very fine view. So: they’re still there – for now. But gather they will be cleared – possibly for a housing estate. Can’t imagine how much work they will need to do to remove the pollution. There’s the earlier power station behind the towers – full of asbestos I believe.
I remember having to drop the mast to get out of Jones inlet on Long Island. The thing is, it’s an ocean inlet and it was a very small boat and when the tide grabs you, suddenly, that distant bridge gets very close very suddenly. I remember my then husband shouting “Prepare to repel bridge” so that two of us are out there with boathooks trying to keep from going under the bridge before Jeff got the mast down.
ANY little bridge which you can go under and not have to drop the mast and get the outboard to run … that’s a GOOD bridge.
Goodness – preparing to repel fast approaching bridge sounds a nightmare. Wonderfully dramatic scene you’ve conjured here though.
What a bridge! I love your occasional posts about it as the entree to the industrial revolution. Thanks too for the link – some great images there as well.
Glad you liked this, Meg 🙂
They are trying to restore all our old iron bridges too. Some they have succeeded. Others were too dangerous and had to be replaced. Some of our early iron bridges are really BIG, too. I still think any bridge you can sail under without having to drop the mast is a fine bridge and should be saved 🙂
You have some very fine bridges in your neck of the woods. It’s good to hear they are being restored if possible.
Impressive Dutch angle on first shot – 2nd one looks like a watercolour. Thanks for keeping your readers in the know with the soon to be rusty ironbridge p.s. The Wharfage shot brings back memories of family days out and a tea shop – a visit to the Victorian town there taught me that the tallow maker reared pigs on it!
Nice to think of you wandering in my neck of the woods. Poor pigs though.
Ah roofs… On your other post of roofs, I wanted to tell you… and then forgot, looking at other sites, that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing a few buildings with roof windows, bringing light from before electricity made it so much easier for us. It is a very special light.
Roof lights are excellent. Our cottage has windows in the roof along the back of it otherwise we wouldn’t see a thing upstairs. I find the one in the office handy (when open) for resting the camera on – to take landscape shots behind the house. This does however involve clambering onto a bed first. Thank you for visiting so many of my posts and your thoughtful comments.
I visit for my pleasure. Don’t spend all that much time with the computer. Sometimes I lag behind the pace of blogging. And then, I might get the urge to read what others are sharing.
Always good to manage blogging on one’s own terms. I think I need to be here less frequently 🙂