Ironbridge.JPG (23749 bytes)Ironbridge: is an historic town situated about 40 km northwest of Birmingham. The town is home to a number of museums mainly dealing with the Industrial Revolution. The town’s main claim to fame is the graceful bridge that crosses the Severn River. This was the first cast iron bridge in the world and heralded the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. In 1775, Abraham Darby III (sounds more American than British) raised money for the construction of the bridge.
The bridge sections were cast nearby at Coalbrookdale during 1778-9 ready for erection in the summer of 1779. The bridge dimensions: 31 metres long, 8 metres wide and 14 metres above the river. Some of the cast ribs are nearly 21 metres long.
Bridge erection took only three months. The sections were cast so that they slotted together. The slots were large enough to allow considerable movement during construction. Cast iron wedges on completion took up this slack. The bridge is a stable construction without bolted or riveted joints. The Ironbridge is closed to vehicular traffic and is only used by pedestrians. 
Several thoughts pass through the mind as you stand on the bridge and gaze down the peaceful Severn River. Firstly the thought that you are standing on the structure that was the forerunner of the Industrial Revolution. Secondly, that this structure was built only two years after the European colonization of Australia. Finally you have to think how different the river and surrounds look compared with those far off days when bridge was constructed. In the 18th century the river was lined with furnaces and iron works. During this period both air and water would have been heavily polluted.
The Ironbridge area would be a great place to stay for a week or so. Beautiful scenery, heaps of industrial archaeological sites and museums are all close to the town. See Bedlam Furnaces.