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Nestled in a spectacular wooded gorge stands a monument to British industry – the world’s first iron bridge.

With this breakthrough in production, the iron trade in Britain accelerated and local industry began to flourish.

As industry around the gorge grew, so did the need for a strong and durable bridge to transport goods across the river.

While Darby’s accounts suggest the use of scaffold poles, timber and rope during construction, Martin’s painting shows a wooden framework used to raise the half-ribs from the deck of a vessel.

Research also revealed that 70% of the components of the bridge – including all the large castings – were made individually to fit, and all differ slightly from one another as a result.

Richard Warner, a writer and priest, described Coalbrookdale in 1801 as ‘a scene in which the beauties of nature and processes of art are blended together in curious combination’.

But the unveiling of the Iron Bridge brought new visitors, who marvelled at its scale and ingenuity.It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 and remains an iconic feature of Britain’s industrial past.The world’s first iron bridge emerged during a time of immense change in Britain – it was the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.Its massive strength saw it survive the great flood of 1795, motivating builders and engineers like Thomas Telford to construct their own iron structures.Although Darby commissioned many paintings and engravings of the finished bridge, a lack of images or eyewitness accounts meant that, for over 200 years, little was known of exactly how Darby managed to erect this structure of almost 400 tons.But in 1934 it was finally closed to vehicles and was designated an Ancient Monument.

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