Visit Ironbridge by Mouse
is a great place to visit. A World Heritage site
, it has 10 fascinating museums
devoted to the understanding of the early
days of the industrial revolution. The museums are based on industrial activity that went on there for two hundred years in the seventeenth
through the 19th centuries. And all that occurred because of the work of three generations of an English Quaker family, the Darbys
That work made the industrial revolution possible and thereby changed the history, not only of England, but of the whole world. So
the place and the family are not only interesting, but also pretty important. A visit to Ironbridge brings all of this history to
life in a delightful way.
Ironbridge is near the town of Telford
, in the West Midlands, 153 miles northwest of London and 38 miles northwest of Birmingham
. The Severn river runs through it, which gave the area the potential of using water to power machines, and provided a way
to transport manufactured goods. The Ironbridge Gorge area also was close to deposits of both coal and iron ore.
Between 1678 and 1791, three generations of men, all named Abraham Darby, lived there. Before then, iron was very expensive to make.
It required a great deal of charcoal to melt the ore and remove the impurities from the smelt. To make charcoal you need wood. Lots
of it. So much of it that wood became a scarce and expensive raw material. Abraham Darby developed a method that used coke, which
is made by slow-burning coal instead of wood. With coke as the fuel, the cost of making iron plummeted. His descendant, Abraham Darby
II developed a way of casting iron
into shapes, especially rounded pots and then cylinders. Cast iron cylinders were cheaper to manufacture
than brass ones used in steam engines until then. And this development made the production of steam engines less expensive, and later,
aided the development of internal combustion engines, and hence our way of life. Abraham Darby III continued the process of developing
the smelting method and built the first iron bridge over the Severn River in the 1770's. That bridge still stands there today and
gives Ironbridge its name.
We were not able to visit all 10 museums on the one day we were there. The highlights for us
were the Blists Hill Victorian Town, the Coalport China Museum, the Museum of the Gorge and the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron.
That is about all our tired feet could stand to do in one day. The Victorian town is a recreation that includes homes, shops,
a school, a bank, a foundry and more, all of which you can visit. The Coalport China Museum shows how fine and commercial china
was made and contains displays of very beautiful examples. The museum of the Gorge has a 12 meter long diarama of the gorge
that shows the bridge and the factories in the area. And the Coalbrookdale Museum has the original Darby blast furnace in which
he developed the process of smelting iron using coke instead of charcoal.