Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust
Shropshire TF8 7DQ
Ironbridge Gorge is an historically important UNESCO World Heritage Site in Shropshire, England and well-worth visiting. It covers a pretty six square mile stretch of the River Severn and is considered to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. The deep gorge was originally called the Severn Gorge and gets its name from the famous Iron Bridge that spans the river.
Built in 1779 to link the industrial town of Broseley with the smaller mining town of Madeley and the growing industrial centre of Coalbrookdale, the bridge was the first of its kind in the world.
The Industrial Revolution of the 17th century started in Britain and there were two reasons why the Severn Gorge was so useful to the early industrialists. The raw materials - coal, iron ore, limestone and clay for the manufacture of iron, tiles and porcelain - were exposed or easily mined in the gorge. The deep and wide river allowed easy transport of products to the sea.
The Darby Family
The Gorge attracted innovative industrialists such as the Quaker iron-maker Abraham Darby I (1678-1717) who developed a method of producing pig iron in a blast furnace fuelled by coke rather than charcoal. This was a major step forward in the production of iron as a raw material for the Industrial Revolution.
By 1709 Darby’s blast furnaces in Coalbrookdale were producing high quality coke smelted pig iron which was used mostly for the production of cast-iron goods such as pots and kettles. He had the advantage over his rivals in that his pots, cast by his patented process, were thinner and cheaper than theirs.
Coke pig iron was hardly used to produce bar iron in forges until the mid-1750s, when his son Abraham Darby II (1711–1763) built his own furnaces not far from Coalbrookdale. By then, coke pig iron was cheaper than charcoal pig iron.
Since cast iron was becoming cheaper and more plentiful, it began being a structural material but not until Abrahm III (1750–1789) showed its’ potential by building the iron bridge over the River Severn in 1778.
Abraham III was a great philanthropist. He took various measures to improve the living conditions of his Coalbrookdale work force. In times of food shortage he bought up farms to grow food for his workers, he built housing for them, and he offered higher wages than were paid in other local industry (such as mining or the potteries).
At Ironbridge Gorge the remarkable history of Coalbrookdale has been preserved. You can see the original blast furnaces, the village and houses where the Darbys lived, the warehouses, potteries and tile factories. At each site beautifully presented museums explain the history and way of life.
There are ten award-winning museums in all:
- Museum of the Gorge
Housed in an original warehouse, displays provide visitors with a fascinating insight into the history of the Ironbridge Gorge and it is a great place to start your visit to the World Heritage Site. Has a beautifully detailed 12 metre long model of the Gorge in 1796.
- Iron Bridge & Tollhouse
The Iron Bridge is a public access monument: Walk across the famous Iron Bridge, admire the view of the river and visit the old Tollhouse to discover the secrets of how and why the Iron Bridge was built. You will be amazed at how it is all held together.
- Jackfield Tile Museum
See, touch and walk upon magnificent British tiles as you wander through the original gas-lit trade showroom, fascinating galleries and period room settings. See different tile decorating techniques.
- Broseley Pipeworks
Broseley Pipeworks is one of the ten Ironbridge Gorge Museums. Step back in time and discover this abandoned factory, once home to one of the most prolific clay tobacco pipe makers in Britain.
- Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron
Step inside the mighty Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron and discover the revolutionary techniques that made Coalbrookdale the most famous ironworks in the world. See the original water powered blast furnace, and the amazing products made from cast-iron.
Enginuity is a superb science and technology centre packed with hands-on activities and interactive exhibits - interesting for the whole family.
- The Darby Houses
See inside the Darby ironmasters family homes. Their graves are in the nearby Quaker Burial Ground.
- Coalport China Museum
See demonstrations of china making and decoration in the original Coalport China factory building. Admire the National Collections of Coalport and Caughley porcelain and have a go at making exquisite china flowers.
- The Tar Tunnel
Don your hard hat and step inside the Tar Tunnel and discover where miners digging in 1787 struck a spring of natural bitumen which has oozed out of the walls for over 200 years.
- Blists Hill Victorian Town
Open air re-creation of a Victorian town in the 1880s. Costumed townsfolk go about their daily lives in their cottages, shops and workplaces. Experience the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of an authentic Victorian community - a good day out for all the family.
Today’s tranquil and picturesque gorge is a far cry from the industrial Coalbrookdale hellhole of the 17th and 18th centuries. Imagine the constant roar and heat of the blast furnaces, the noxious and sulphurous fumes trapped in the valley and the constant hammering and noise from the forges and rolling mills. It was no wonder that the gentry lived on the top of the gorge in the fresh air.
Open 7 days a week: 10:00 – 17:00 hours
All Museums close 24 & 25 December and 01 January.
From 26 – 31 December the Museums that are normally open during the winter, will close at 16:00 hours.
For more information click go to Web: Ironbridge/ opening times
There is no fee to visit the gorge and walk over its famous bridge; however, there is an admission cost to visit each historic site museum. A ticket to visit all ten sites is valid for 12 months. One-off tickets are also available for individual sites. There is a lot to see and depending on how long you wish to stay at each site, a visit could take several days. If you are intending to visit all the sites, we recommend visiting the Museum of The Gorge first.
The most popular site is the Blists Hill Victorian Town and a full day can easily be spent mingling with the inhabitants and joining in their daily activities. Children particularly enjoy a visit to Blists Hill.
For ticket options and prices go to Web: Ironbridge/ ticket prices
+44 (0)1952 433424
The Ironbridge Gorge is in Shropshire, 5 miles (8km) south of Telford Town Centre and about 21 miles (34 kilometers) from Shrewsbury.
- By Car
The Gorge is easily reached via the M6 and M54 motorways exiting at Telford (M54 Junction 4 or 5)
It is well signposted from M54 motorway, Junction 4. When you leave M54 follow the brown and white tourism signs for Ironbridge Gorge. As you get closer to the Museums follow the specific signs:
- For Jackfield Tile Museum, Broseley Pipeworks, Museum of The Gorge and The Iron Bridge & Tollhouse follow ‘Ironbridge Museums’
Comprehensive Travel Information
Parking is supplied at most museum sites and some sites are within easy walking distance of each other. For an Ironbridge Map, go to Web: Ironbridge/ Travel Advice & Map
There is no regular public transport. However, The Gorge Connect is a shuttle service that connects the majority of the Museums and there are several ‘Park & Ride stations.
Google Map - Ironbridge Gorge