Blog: The Ironbridge Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The birthplace of Industrial Revolution

This year is the 30th anniversary of the Ironbridge Gorge becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1986, it was awarded World Heritage status along with 6 other sites in the UK. This status gives recognition to the area’s Outstanding Universal Value through its unique contribution to the birth of the Industrial Revolution. The buildings and nature at Ironbridge with its 10 museums, monuments and artefacts – including the Iron Bridge, remind visitors of a special time in history and the development of an industrialised society.

The ten museums include:

  • Museum of the Gorge
  • Tar Tunnel
  • Iron Bridge and Tollhouse
  •  Jackfield Tile Museum
  • Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron
  • Darby Houses
  • Blists Hill Victorian Town
  • Coalport China Museum
  • Brosely Pipe Works
  • Enginuity

A full and detailed description of the site’s Outstanding Universal Value can be found on the UNESCO World Heritage List website, click here.

The Ironbridge, 1779
Erected in 1779

The History of the Ironbridge
The Iron Bridge was designed by an architect named Thomas Pritchard and the building project was taken on by Abraham Darby III. The construction of the Bridge was completed in 1779 and it is the first cast-iron bridge in the world. The bridge was built over the River Severn which was very useful for the expansion of industrial trade and soon the settlement around the Bridge became known as Ironbridge. It was, of course, also intended as an advertisement to show off the competence in ironworks and the pioneering new techniques that were being used. In 1781, Abraham Darby III issued a mass production of an image of the Bridge which was distributed widely through advertisements and bookshops. The image served as an advertisement for the Coalbrookdale Company and the innovative results that they could achieve using cast iron.

The Cast Iron Bridge near Coalbrookdale 1781
Ellis, William (engraver)
Rooker, Michael Angelo (artist)

Another unique aspect of the area is the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (IGMT), an educational charity established to preserve and interpret the remains of the Industrial Revolution in the Ironbridge Gorge. The Trust manages 10 museums and 25 other historic sites within the area. Its innovative methods and approach to managing museums has  inspired best practice which has been adopted in many other museums across the UK.

Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron

For more information on the Ironbridge Gorge visit or


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