Telford, United Kingdom

General Information

Regional secretariat

None

Administrative status

Telford is the largest town within the Borough of Telford & Wrekin, Shropshire, England.

Ironbridge Gorge

Registration Year

1986

Historical reference

Birthplace of industry

Location and site

Ironbridge Gorge lies within Telford, a new town located approximately 50 km west of Birmingham.

Urban morphology

The distinctive landscape of the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site is characterised by an unusual combination of remains of early industry and mining, land use patterns of agriculture and woodland management, and the survival and continued use of many historic industrial, commercial and residential buildings. These are all set within a dramatic and attractive “natural-looking” valley landscape, with steep, hanging woodlands interspersed with smaller areas of settlement, grasslands and other open spaces with the River Severn as a large, unifying landscape feature.

The pattern of settlement in much of the Gorge is of an informal nature and is disordered in appearance. Manorial control in the 17th century was weak and it was possible for incoming migrants to squat on common land or build cottages on waste areas. Many residential plots are consequently of irregular shape and are linked by pathways and flights of steps which in origin were primitive railways or packhorse tracks serving the hillside mines. In Coalbrookdale and Coalport there are more formal terraces of cottages built by employers for their workpeople from the mid 18th century, while around the Square at the northern end of the Iron Bridge are buildings that conform to the traditions of polite architecture, reflecting the ambitions of the builders of the bridge to create a mannered urban environment for their innovative new structure.

Registration criteria

The reasons for the inscription of the Ironbridge Gorge as a World Heritage Site of international cultural significance were:

    (i). It represents a masterpiece of human genius
    (ii). It exhibits an important interchange of human values over a span of time, or within a cultural area
    (iv). It is an outstanding example of a type of building or architectural ensemble or landscape, which illuminates a significant stage in human history
    (vi). It is directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas or beliefs, with artistic or literary sites of outstanding universal value

Historical reference

  • Sometimes known as the “Valley of Invention”, the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site is universally recognised for its unique role in the development of the Industrial Revolution that originated in Britain in the early years of the 18th century. A number of significant of factors combined to give rise to this, including, the abundant presence of the raw materials of production (coal, ironstone, clay and wood); rivers for power and transportation; and perhaps most significantly, entrepreneurs, innovators and engineers with vision, imagination and ambition. Names such as Abraham Darby, John Wilkinson, William Reynolds and Thomas Telford are inextricably linked with the history of this area, and the Ironbridge Gorge still contains much evidence of their work and influence in the buildings, structures, artefacts and settlement patterns that exist today.

    The focal point of the Ironbridge Gorge is perhaps the Iron Bridge itself – the first bridge in the world to be constructed of iron. Built in 1779 to a design by Shrewsbury architect Thomas Farnolls Pritchard and cast at the Coalbrookdale ironworks of Abraham Darby III, the bridge soon became a tourist attraction, drawing people from many countries, including artists, engineers and entrepeneurs. The Iron Bridge remains a powerful icon of the Industrial Revolution recognised across the world.

    Historically, the economy of the Ironbridge Gorge was based on the industries of mining, iron and ceramics. With the exception of the Coalbrookdale Works of the Aga-Rayburn company (a world-class, internationally known company producing cookers and stoves) and the recent re-introduction of tile making in Jackfield, the traditional industries have long since disappeared.

    Tourism is now the major industry within the World Heritage Site and it supports over 2,500 jobs locally and generates approximately £80m per year within the local economy. Within the World Heritage Site are 10 Museums run by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust which interpret the many different facets of the area’s history and development.

Contact

Mr. Raj Mehta

Mayor of the Borough of Telford and Wrekin
Telford and Wreckin Council

01952 380272 / 07837 113606

Councillor David Davies

Chairman
Local Authority World Heritage Forum

+44 1952 202451
david.davies@telford.gov.uk