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Introducing Ironbridge Gorge

It can be hard to fully grasp the world-rocking events that took place in this tranquil river gorge as you wind your way through its wooded slopes and sleepy villages. But the Industrial Revolution was dramatically kick-started here in the 18th century. Three generations of the pioneering Darby family set about transforming their industrial processes and in so doing irreversibly changed the world.

The story began quietly in 1709, when Abraham Darby determinedly set about restoring an old furnace to prove it was possible to smelt iron ore with coke. After much trial and error he was proved right, and his breakthrough paved the way for local factories to mass-produce the first iron wheels, rails and steam locomotives. Abraham Darby II’s innovative forging process then enabled the production of single beams of iron, allowing Abraham Darby III to stun the world with the very first iron bridge, constructed here in 1779. The bridge remains the valley’s showpiece and dominates the main village, a jumble of cottages sliding down the gorge’s steep bank.

Now written into history books as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Ironbridge is a World Heritage Site and the Marches’ top attraction. Ten very different museums now tell the story in the very buildings where it took place.