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Darby Houses

Ironbridge, Shropshire

Location Guide

"A part of the World Heritage Site Ironbridge Gorge"

Coalbrookdales' Ironmasters were primarily Quakers and the Darby family was no exception. The Darby Houses are made up of two houses, Rosehill House and Dale House which were home to the Darby family for many years.

For 5 generations the Darby family managed the Coalbrookdale Ironworks and were an important part of this community. Other Quaker families became involved by marriage such as the Ford and Reynolds families, who also played an important role in the history of this area.

Access is from the Museum of Iron car park, under the railway arches and at the road on the left-hand side, you will see a narrow path going upwards and signs which are not always that clear. Walk up this path and you will see two houses a red-bricked house, Dale House and one with a cream exterior, Rosehill. From their doorsteps looking back across the gorge you will see below the restored Furnace Pool which once helped to power the Ironworks, but today looks like a large pond. Behind the houses is the Quaker cemetery.

Rosehill House

Rosehill House was built in about 1738 for Richard Ford. Today it has been restored to show it as it was around 1850. It contains many items which were owned by the Darby family, over the generations. In the mid 19th Century the house was occupied by Abraham III's youngest son Richard and his wife Maria. After Richard's death in 1860, his daughter Rebecca continued to live in the house until she died in 1908.

Richard Ford was Clerk to the Coalbrookdale Company under Abraham I, and was later Manager of the Coalbrookdale Ironworks. He married Abraham Darby I's eldest daughter, Mary and became part of the Darby dynasty. The Darby family, who were Quakers, lived more simple lives than the typical mid-Victorians and Rosehill was very simply furnished. In 1851 there were only 4 servants, who were shared between Rosehill and Dale House. In a normal Victoria household, two houses would have required at least 12 for houses of this size.

On a RoseHill visit. It is not a guided tour and therefore you can wander at your leisure, depending on the number of visitors around the house. You enter the building via the main door and enter into a large hall with a staircase off to your left. In the hallway there are portraits of Richard and Maria Darby, who lived in the house in the 19th century. Before going off upstairs there are two rooms to explore, the one on your left is the Study which has a portrait of Francis Darby over the fireplace. In 1850 the house would have been lit by oil and candles. Opposite the room is set out as a dining room where the family would have eaten supper and entertained guests.

The Study

Going upstairs, there are some interesting paintings as sculptures on the walls and landing and two rooms have been set up to represent the bedroom and the Parlour. The bedroom is furnished as it it was occupied by one of the daughters, the bed is a reproduction iron bed of an 1835 design, there are also some Coalport porcelain dating from the 1840's in the room such as a candlestick and ring stand. The second room is the Day Parlour which would have been used by the ladies of the house to entertain guests after a meal, or to carry out activities such as reading, needlework and drawing. Other rooms on this level and on the first level are set up as exhibition rooms showing Quaker books, family papers, family memorabilia, ivory toys, beadwork purses, Quaker costumes and more.

Going down a separate staircase from the first you come down into the kitchen. This large kitchen was added in 1810 and the large range which is the centrepiece of the room dates from this same period. It has a large oven, a hot water thank and additional small fireboxes for heating the hobs. This is a large room and off of here there would have been a separate scullery and pantry rooms. From here you make your way back towards the entrance going through the China Display Room which contains another small range. This would have been the original kitchen but when the large kitchen was built this would have become the breakfast room. However it was converted back to a small kitchen when occupied by Rebecca as she found the larger kitchen and range was more than she needed and wanted something smaller. Today it houses cabinets and displays of a vast array of china owned by the Darby family.

Rebecca's Bedroom and Bed  

Dale House

Built by Abraham Darby I and originally completed in 1717, however it was updated and enlarged by further generations. It was built to overlook the Upper Furnace Pool and its blast furnace, and was the place where hospitality was extended to visitors to both the family and the ironworks by the Darby family. Abraham Darby III enlarged the house between 1768 and 1776 converting the attic area into a third floor and it is to this period that the house and garden have been restored. During the 20th century it was converted to flats and this almost destroyed the original character of the building.

On a visit today after some sympathetic restoration you get to see:

  • the Main Hall, Study where he oversaw the building of the Iron Bridge

  • the parlour where you can browse through books, documents and historic images and discover more about the history of the ironworks

  • the dining room which has been restored to its former floor plan but has not been totally renovated so that you can see the vaulted cellar which runs underneath the house.

Allow 30 minutes to an hour for your visit. These houses are not always available for inspection inside as they rely on how many volunteers are available to open and supervise visitors on the day you visit. On the day I visited you could only look around Dale House.

A view over the restored Furnace Pool

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.

Location: Darby Houses, Coalbrookdale, Ironbridge, Shropshire

Grid Reference: SJ666049 Ceremonial County: Shropshire

Map Link: Multimap

Aerial photo:  multimap   multimap birdseye view

Getting there: Exit J6 of M54. Follow signs for Ironbridge Gorge. Then follow signs for Coalbrookdale Museums. Park in the Museum of Iron car park.

Other Useful Websites: Darby Houses
Address: Darby Rd, Coalbrookdale, Ironbridge
Postcode: TF8 7EW Telephone:
Opening Times: March to September 10am-5pm. Closes for the winter months.

Charges: Use the Annual Passport as detailed above or for entry to the houses only prices are: Adult 4.15; 60+ 3.25; Child 2.75

Nearby Locations:
Other Location Pages:

Bedlam Furnaces

Blists Hill Victorian Town

Broseley Pipeworks

Coalport China Museum


Hay Inclined Plane    Hay Inclined Plane Gallery

Jackfield Tile Museum  

Iron Bridge and Toll House

Museum of the Gorge Ironbridge

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   



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By: Tracey Park Section: Historic Houses Section Key:
Page Ref: Darby_houses Topic: Historic Houses    Last Updated: 08/2009


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