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Iron Bridge and Tollhouse

Ironbridge, shropshire

Location Guide

"A part of the World Heritage Site Ironbridge Gorge"

The Iron bridge of which Ironbridge Gorge takes it's name is the one of the most iconic images of Britain. It is in the centre of Ironbridge and is accessible at all times of the year on foot only. There is no vehicular access. It is very photogenic and transports foot passengers, who may have parked in the long stay car park on the opposite side of the river, over the River Severn into the town centre. On the car park side is also the Toll House which today acts as a small museum and local tourist information centre.

The Iron Bridge

Today's bridge was built by Abraham Darby III, along with others initially, witch him using Iron from his furnaces in the area and putting in most of the money to build it. Prior to its construction there were 6 ferry crossings in the gorge to get across the mighty River Severn, which was a main artery to the Bristol Channel and markets beyond. However the local industry was always at the mercy of the River and at times it would run too shallow in the summer and two high and fast in the winter so an alternative had to be found.

The original design was by Thomas Pritchard, an architect who previously had only worked with wood and stone bridges, he sought help from a local ironmaster, John Wilkinson who was sent drawings of a cast iron bridge. Together with local businessmen they approached Darby with the plans. Between them they set about the building of a 384 tonne cast iron bridge. It is not totally clear where the iron was cast for the whole of the project as it would have taken 3 months continuous production in one of Darby's furnaces. It is therefore thought that as the area was known as Coalbrookdale at the time, that the iron could have been cast at Horsehay or the Bedlam Furnace   as they were closer to the actual construction site, and moving such large pieces by horsepower would have been some feat. It is also not known how the physical construction took place as there is only one drawing of the bridge under construction. In the Blists Hill Victorian Town, over the canal, is a scaled down model of the bridge over the canal, which was constructed in 2000 when the BBC Timewatch visited and tried out some of the theories of how it was done.

The Act of parliament to build a bridge across the Severn at this point received Royal Assent in March 1776, and work began in November 1777. After a long drawn out build the Bridge was eventually opened to traffic on New Yearís Day in 1781.

 

A view at River Level

The Tollhouse

The Tollhouse is situated on the opposite side of the River Severn from the main town centre. It is not known exactly when the Tollhouse was erected although what we see today is what it was enlarged to in 1835. If this is enlargement it makes you wonder how small the original building was. On the outside just like all Tollhouses it has the details of the toll prices for different types of people and transportation which used it.

In 1776 an Act of Parliament for the Iron Bridge includes in its text the toll prices at this time and these were never changed. Another unusual feature of these tolls was that Royalty was not exempt from paying them as in some other cases. In fact within the building there is a picture of a visit when Prince Charles visited back in the 1970ís which shows him handing over his toll. However today the tolls are not enforced and it is possible to cross the bridge free of charge.

Today within the Tollhouse there is an exhibition on the first floor to the building of the bridge and function of the tollhouse and a little history of itís illustrious visitors over the years, as well as scaled models of the bridge and cuttings from newspapers etc. Downstairs is mainly the tourist information centre.

There are some great photo opportunities for this bridge, from both sides of the River, with a footpath running down either side at a lower level, picnic and community areas near to it and if you fancy the climb up to the church on the side of the hill then an aerial view can be achieved.

A view from the town side A close up of the structure

 

The Annual Passport. The Ironbridge Museums operate an Annual Ticket and Passport where for one price you can get access to all 10 of their sites with unlimited day time access during normal opening hours, so you can return as often as you like for a whole year. If after 12 months you have still not visited particular sites, you can return at any time in the future to make one free visit to the sites that you've missed. These tickets are sold at all the museums and the visitor information centre in Ironbridge itself or you can buy them in advance by phone. The 2009 prices for the Passport tickets are:

Adult £19.95;  60+ £15.95; Child £12.95 or a family ticket for 2A up to 3C £54.95.

A view of the top of the bridge from the Tollhouse towards the town


Location: Iron Bridge and Toll House, Ironbridge, Shropshire

Grid Reference: SJ672033 Ceremonial County: Shropshire

Map Link: Multimap

Aerial photo: Multimap birds eye

Getting there: Exit J4 or 6 of M54. Follow signs for Ironbridge Gorge. Then follow signs for Ironbridge Museums.

Access: Most central car parks are within easy walking distance of the Iron Bridge.
Website: The Iron Bridge and Tollhouse
Other Useful Websites:
Email:
Address: The Iron Bridge Ironbridge
Postcode: TF8 7JP Telephone: 01952 884391

Opening Times: Iron Bridge - Public Access monument open All Year

The Tollhouse is open 10am-5pm daily, and is the Tourist Information centre for the town.

Charges: FREE

Nearby Locations: Museum of the Gorge Ironbridge
Other Location Pages:

Bedlam Furnaces

Blists Hill Victorian Town

Broseley Pipeworks

Coalport China Museum

Darby Houses

Enginuity

Hay Inclined Plane    Hay Inclined Plane Gallery

Jackfield Tile Museum  

Museum of Iron

Tar Tunnel

Other Relevant Pages:

Living History Section

List of Living History Museums

Living history museums introduction

World Heritage Sites     

World Heritage Sites - Further Information

World Heritage Sites in the UK

Industrial Heritage

Anchor Points and The European Route of Industrial Heritage  

The Industrial Revolutions

Technological Developments in the Industrial Revolution

Transport in the Industrial Revolution 

Further Information on Industrial Heritage 

European Route of Industrial Heritage - UK Sites   

Notes: Cafe's and pubs are available in the town centre

 

 

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By: Tracey Park Section: Key:
Page Ref: Iron_Bridge Topic: Bridge and Historic Houses    Last Updated: 10/2009

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