A striking arc of metal stretching across a cavernous gorge, the world's first iron bridge is an extraordinary feat of human ingenuity. It stands as a testament to the people who worked relentlessly with a new, unknown material 240 years ago. Their innovations went on to transform the way we live today.
This historic bridge is suffering with stresses in its ironwork. Only careful conservation will protect it so that people in the future can enjoy it just as we do today. You can help save this industrial icon.
As we reach for our hard hats and put up the scaffolding, your support will ensure that the legacy of those who shaped our world today is passed on to generations to come.
What is the Iron Bridge?
Built in 1779 over the River Severn in Shropshire, the Iron Bridge was a turning point in British industry. The first free-standing structure ever to be made of cast iron, it inspired generations of engineers. It is the great-great grandfather of bridges, railways and skyscrapers all around the world today.
Since opening on New Year’s Day in 1781, the bridge has faced many challenges – weathering, ground movement in the gorge, even an earthquake 100 years ago. Extensive surveys have revealed that the bridge is under threat from cracking due to the stresses in the ironwork.
What needs to be conserved?
We need to take action to safeguard the bridge for the future.
We’ve undertaken years of detailed analysis of the bridge, so we now know more than ever before about how its structure functions. We will soon start to clean, repair and replace the different elements of the bridge: the iron radials and braces holding the bridge together, the deck plates and wedges, and the main iron arch itself. We’ll then re-paint the entire structure and renew the road surface to protect it from the elements.
This is a complex job. Even putting up a scaffold is challenging when it sits across a fast-flowing river alongside a historic monument. We will be conserving many of the bridge’s different elements on site, working above the river to clean and repair areas of the iron. The entire project will take us over a year to complete.
The Iron Bridge sits in the cradle of the Industrial Revolution and is free to visit. Throughout these vital works, we think it’s important for the bridge to remain open so people can still enjoy it and see up close the specialist skills it takes to save this 378 ton masterpiece.
What can you do to help?
Each generation has done their bit to look after the Iron Bridge and now it’s our turn.
It’s going to take £3.6 million to carry out this work.
As a charity we rely on support and we’ve already raised a significant sum, including a generous donation of €1 million from the Hermann Reemtsma Foundation.
We now need to raise £25,000 to safeguard this symbol of a turning point in human history.
You can play a role in passing on the heritage that’s shaped our lives today to share with people in the future. Support Project Iron Bridge by donating today.
By supporting Project Iron Bridge you will help save an industrial icon. As an extra thank you, we've lined up a range of rewards. If you would prefer not to receive a reward, you can support the project by clicking 'donate'.
We’ve commissioned renowned artist Paul Catherall to design an exclusive, limited-edition linocut print to mark the start of the Iron Bridge conservation project.
Paul has a special connection to the Iron Bridge, and says that his drawing of the bridge on a school trip was the first time he thought of pursuing an artistic career. He’s now known for striking linocuts of architectural landmarks such as Big Ben, Brooklyn Bridge and Battersea Power Station, all masterpieces of engineering that were built thanks to the pioneering Iron Bridge.
The 28cm x 38cm linocut prints are a limited edition of 50, signed and numbered by the artist and unframed. They will be delivered from Monday 18 December – so just in time for Christmas.
Our special behind-the-scenes tours will show conservation in action at the Iron Bridge.
You’ll be able to see the conservation work up close, in the beautiful Ironbridge Gorge.
We’ll contact you by 31 January 2018 to give you a selection of dates for you to choose from in spring 2018.
Guardians is English Heritage's recognition scheme for leadership supporters. Find out more on our website.
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What is English Heritage?
English Heritage cares for over 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites, bringing the story of England to life for over 10 million people each year.
In 2015 we became an independent charity, so the support of our members and donors is more important than ever before.
Join us as we embark on our largest conservation programme to date to save the Iron Bridge.
Find out more
For more information about Project Iron Bridge visit the English Heritage website.
If you have further questions about this crowd-funding campaign, please see our Frequently Asked Questions page.