Cast Iron Bridge over the Severn

The world's first cast-iron bridge was built across the River Severn at Colbrookdale in 1779. This world-famous monument gave its name to the city that grew up around it and to the impressive forested gorge that was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution.

Cast Iron Bridge over the Severn

Strategic Importance

Ironbridge Gorge lies within the Coalbrookdale Coalfield, a region rich in minerals, coal, iron ore, limestone, sand, and mineral clays. In 1758, 400 ships sailed between Gloucester and Welshpool, and in fifty years that number had doubled. They were needed to transport raw materials across the river to smelters and other industries in the valley. The only other crossing was the medieval bridge Bildwas, located 3 km upstream. The river was often too shallow in summer and too fast and high in winter, and industry often depended on the river.

Building a bridge

The proposal to build a new bridge was imminent, and Abraham Darby III, a metalworker, was commissioned to build it. The construction of the bridge was in part a public relations event touting the versatility of cast iron and the skills of Abraham Darby III and his Coalbrookdale company, and the site chosen was also the most dramatic part of the gorge. The cast iron bridge was built in 1779 and is 60m long. The cost of building the bridge was £6,000, if Abraham Darby wanted to build such a bridge today, he would have to raise about £1.5 million.

Cast Iron Bridge over the Severn


Kings can rule a country, but tribute must be paid. The sign read: "Every officer or soldier, on duty or not, is required to pay the fare, as well as any baggage car, mail bus, or royal family." You can still see the sign next to the Iron Bridge today. Tolls for vehicles were abolished in 1934, but pedestrians still had to pay until 1950.

Commemorative object

The cast-iron bridge was prone to cracking, and for the first time in 1802 it was repeatedly overhauled. Many of the original cracks are visible today. Later cast iron bridges used much less iron, perhaps the Cast Iron Bridge was overdesigned. In the 1960s there was talk of dismantling it and selling it for scrap. But in the 1970s, the site came under the care of English Heritage. It was one of the first places in the UK to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cast Iron Bridge over the Severn Cast Iron Bridge over the Severn Cast Iron Bridge over the Severn Cast Iron Bridge over the Severn Cast Iron Bridge over the Severn Cast Iron Bridge over the Severn
Cast Iron Bridge over the Severn - geographical coordinates
Latitude: 52.6273
Longitude: -2.48542


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