Coalbrookdale

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Coalbrookdale
Darby furnace UK.jpg
Abraham Darby's blast furnace, Coalbrookdale
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Coalbrookdale
Location within Shropshire
OS grid reference SJ668047
Civil parish
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Region
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town TELFORD
Postcode district TF8
Dialling code 01952
Police West Mercia
Fire Shropshire
Ambulance West Midlands
EU Parliament West Midlands
UK Parliament
List of places
UK
England
Shropshire
52°38′20″N2°29′31″W / 52.639°N 2.492°W / 52.639; -2.492 Coordinates: 52°38′20″N2°29′31″W / 52.639°N 2.492°W / 52.639; -2.492

Coalbrookdale is a village in the Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire, England, containing a settlement of great significance in the history of iron ore smelting. It lies within the civil parish called the Gorge.

Ironbridge Gorge canyon in the United Kingdom

The Ironbridge Gorge is a deep gorge, containing the River Severn in Shropshire, England. It was first formed by a glacial overflow from the long drained away Lake Lapworth, at the end of the last ice age. The deep exposure of the rocks cut through by the gorge exposed commercial deposits of coal, iron ore, limestone and fireclay, which enabled the rapid economic development of the area during the early Industrial Revolution.

Shropshire County of England

Shropshire is a county in England, bordering Wales to the west, Cheshire to the north, Staffordshire to the east, and Worcestershire and Herefordshire to the south. Shropshire Council was created in 2009, a unitary authority taking over from the previous county council and five district councils. The borough of Telford and Wrekin has been a separate unitary authority since 1998 but continues to be included in the ceremonial county.

Civil parish Territorial designation and lowest tier of local government in England

In England, a civil parish is a type of administrative parish used for local government, they are a territorial designation which is the lowest tier of local government below districts and counties, or their combined form, the unitary authority. Civil parishes can trace their origin to the ancient system of ecclesiastical parishes which historically played a role in both civil and ecclesiastical administration; civil and religious parishes were formally split into two types in the 19th century and are now entirely separate. The unit was devised and rolled out across England in the 1860s.

Contents

This is where iron ore was first smelted by Abraham Darby using easily mined "coking coal". The coal was drawn from drift mines in the sides of the valley. As it contained far fewer impurities than normal coal, the iron it produced was of a superior quality. Along with many other industrial developments that were going on in other parts of the country, this discovery was a major factor in the growing industrialisation of Britain, which was to become known as the Industrial Revolution. Today, Coalbrookdale is home to the Ironbridge Institute, a partnership between the University of Birmingham and the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust offering postgraduate and professional development courses in heritage.

Abraham Darby, in his later life called Abraham Darby the Elder, now sometimes known for convenience as Abraham Darby I, was the first and best known of several men of that name. Born into an English Quaker family that played an important role in the Industrial Revolution, Darby developed a method of producing pig iron in a blast furnace fuelled by coke rather than charcoal. This was a major step forward in the production of iron as a raw material for the Industrial Revolution.

Industrial Revolution Transition to new manufacturing processes in Europe and the United States, in the 18th-19th centuries

The Industrial Revolution, now also known as the First Industrial Revolution, was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Europe and the United States, in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, the increasing use of steam power and water power, the development of machine tools and the rise of the mechanized factory system. The Industrial Revolution also led to an unprecedented rise in the rate of population growth.

The Ironbridge Institute is a centre offering postgraduate and professional development courses in cultural heritage, located in the Ironbridge Gorge region of Shropshire, England.

Before Abraham Darby

Before the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Madeley and the adjacent Little Wenlock belonged to Much Wenlock Priory. At the Dissolution there was a bloomsmithy called "Caldebroke Smithy". The manor passed about 1572 to John Brooke, who developed coal mining in his manor on a substantial scale. His son Sir Basil Brooke was a significant industrialist, and invested in ironworks elsewhere. It is probable that he also had ironworks at Coalbrookdale, but evidence is lacking. He also acquired an interest in the patent for the cementation process of making steel in about 1615. Though forced to surrender the patent in 1619, he continued making iron and steel until his estate was sequestrated during the Civil War, but the works continued in use.

Dissolution of the Monasteries legal event which disbanded religious residences in England, Wales and Ireland

The Dissolution of the Monasteries, sometimes referred to as the Suppression of the Monasteries, was the set of administrative and legal processes between 1536 and 1541 by which Henry VIII disbanded monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in England, Wales and Ireland, appropriated their income, disposed of their assets, and provided for their former personnel and functions. Although the policy was originally envisaged as increasing the regular income of the Crown, much former monastic property was sold off to fund Henry's military campaigns in the 1540s. He was given the authority to do this in England and Wales by the Act of Supremacy, passed by Parliament in 1534, which made him Supreme Head of the Church in England, thus separating England from Papal authority, and by the First Suppression Act (1535) and the Second Suppression Act (1539).

Madeley, Shropshire town and civil parish in Shropshire, England, now part of the new town of Telford

Madeley is a town and civil parish in Shropshire, England, now part of the new town of Telford. The parish had a population of 17,935 at the 2001 census.

Little Wenlock village in the United Kingdom

Little Wenlock is a village and civil parish in Shropshire, England. The population of the civil parish at the 2011 census was 605. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book, when it belonged to Wenlock Priory. Ancient habitation is attested by the discovery of two caches of Bronze Age weapons.

In 1651, the manor was leased to Francis Wolfe, the clerk of the ironworks, and he and his son operated them as tenant of (or possibly manager for) Brooke's heirs. The surviving old blast furnace contains a cast-iron lintel bearing a date, which is currently painted as 1638, but an archive photograph has been found showing it as 1658. What ironworks existed at Coalbrookdale and from precisely what dates thus remains obscure. By 1688, the ironworks were operated by Lawrence Wellington, but a few years after the furnace was occupied by Shadrach Fox. He renewed the lease in 1696, letting the Great Forge and Plate Forge to Wellington. [1] Some evidence may suggest that Shadrach Fox smelted iron with mineral coal, though this remains controversial. Fox was evidently an iron founder, as he supplied round shot and grenado shells to the Board of Ordnance during the Nine Years War, but not later than April 1703, the furnace blew up. It remained derelict until the arrival of Abraham Darby the Elder in 1709. However the forges remained in use. A brass works was built sometime before 1712 (possibly as early as 1706), but closed in 1714. [2]

Blast furnace type of metallurgical furnace used for smelting to produce industrial metals

A blast furnace is a type of metallurgical furnace used for smelting to produce industrial metals, generally pig iron, but also others such as lead or copper. Blast refers to the combustion air being "forced" or supplied above atmospheric pressure.

Finery forge

A finery forge is a forge used to produce wrought iron from pig iron by decarburization. The process involved liquifying cast iron in a fining hearth and removing carbon from the molten cast iron through oxidation. Finery forges were used as early as 3rd century BC, based on archaeological evidence found at a site in Tieshengguo, China. The finery forge process was replaced by the puddling process and the roller mill, both developed by Henry Cort in 1783-4, but not becoming widespread until after 1800.

An iron founder is a worker in molten ferrous metal, generally working within an iron foundry.

Industrial Revolution

Coalbrookdale in 1758 South West Prospect of Coalbrook Dale.jpg
Coalbrookdale in 1758

In 1709, the first Abraham Darby rebuilt Coalbrookdale Furnace, [3] and used coke as his fuel. His business was that of an ironfounder, [3] making cast-iron pots and other goods, an activity in which he was particularly successful because of his patented foundry method, which enabled him to produce cheaper pots than his rivals. Coalbrookdale has been claimed as the home of the world's first coke-fired blast furnace; this is not strictly correct, but it was the first in Europe to operate successfully for more than a few years. [4]

Coke (fuel) fuel

Coke is a grey, hard, and porous fuel with a high carbon content and few impurities, made by heating coal or oil in the absence of air — a destructive distillation process. It is an important industrial product, used mainly in iron ore smelting, but also as a fuel in stoves and forges when air pollution is a concern.

Darby renewed his lease of the works in 1714, forming a new partnership with John Chamberlain and Thomas Baylies. They built a second furnace in about 1715, which was intended to be followed up with a furnace at Dolgûn near Dolgellau and taking over Vale Royal Furnace in 1718. However, Darby died prematurely in 1717, followed quickly by his widow Mary. The partnership was dissolved before Mary's death, Baylies taking over Vale Royal. After Mary's death, Baylies had difficulty extracting his capital. The works then passed to a company led by his fellow Quaker Thomas Goldney II of Bristol and managed by Richard Ford (also a Quaker). Darby's son Abraham Darby the Younger was brought into the business as an assistant manager when old enough.

Thomas Baylies British ironmaster

Thomas Baylies (1687–1756) was a Quaker ironmaster first in England, then in Massachusetts.

Dolgellau town in Wales

Dolgellau is a market town and community in Gwynedd, north-west Wales, lying on the River Wnion, a tributary of the River Mawddach. It is traditionally the county town of the historic county of Merionethshire, which lost its administrative status when Gwynedd was created in 1974. Dolgellau is the main base for climbers of Cadair Idris. Although very small, it is the second largest settlement in Southern Gwynedd after Tywyn. The community includes Penmaenpool.

Bristol City and county in England

Bristol is a city and county in South West England with a population of 463,400. The wider district has the 10th-largest population in England. The urban area population of 724,000 is the 8th-largest in the UK. The city borders North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, with the cities of Bath and Gloucester to the south-east and north-east, respectively. South Wales lies across the Severn estuary.

The company's main business was producing cast-iron goods. Molten iron for this foundry work was not only produced from the blast furnaces, but also by remelting pig iron in air furnaces, a variant of the reverberatory furnace. The Company also became early suppliers of steam engine cylinders in this period.[ citation needed ]

From 1720, the Company operated a forge at Coalbrookdale but this was not profitable. In about 1754, renewed experiments took place with the application of coke pig iron to the production of bar iron in charcoal finery forges. This proved to be a success, and led to the partners building new furnaces at Horsehay and Ketley. This was the beginning of a great expansion in coke ironmaking.

In 1767, the Company began to produce the first cast-iron rails for railways. In 1778, Abraham Darby III [3] undertook the building of the world's first cast-iron bridge, the iconic Iron Bridge, opened 1 January 1781. The fame of this bridge leads many people today to associate the iron-making part of the Industrial Revolution with the neighbouring village of Ironbridge, but in fact most of the work was done at Coalbrookdale, as there was no settlement at Ironbridge in the eighteenth century. Expansion of Coalbrookdale's industrial facilities continued, with the development of sophisticated ponds and culverts to provide water power, and even Resolution, a water-returning beam engine to recirculate this water.

In 1795, the first porcelain factory near Coalbrookdale was founded at Coalport, east of the Iron Bridge, by William Reynolds and John Rose, [5] producing Coalport porcelain.

Coalbrookdale Company auction poster, issued in 1910 Coalbrookdale Company auction poster - 1910.jpg
Coalbrookdale Company auction poster, issued in 1910

In the 19th century, Coalbrookdale was noted for its decorative ironwork. [6] It is here (for example) that the gates of London's Hyde Park were built. Other examples include the Coalbrookdale verandah at St John's in Monmouth, Wales, [7] and as far away as the Peacock Fountain in Christchurch, New Zealand. [8] The blast furnaces were closed down, perhaps as early as the 1820s, but the foundries remained in use. The Coalbrookdale Company became part of an alliance of ironfounding companies called Light Castings Limited. This was absorbed by Allied Ironfounders Limited in 1929. [9] This was in turn taken over by Glynwed which has since become Aga Foodservice. The Coalbrookdale foundry closed in November 2017. [10]

Several of Coalbrookdale's industrial heritage sites are to be found on the local trail: including: Coalbrookdale railway station, the Quaker Burial Ground, the Darby Houses, Tea Kettle Row and the Great Western Railway Viaduct.

Museum

In the century after the Old Blast Furnace closed, it became buried. There was a proposal for the site to be cleared and the furnace dismantled, but instead, it was decided to excavate and preserve it. It and a small museum were opened to celebrate 250 years of the Company in 1959. This became part of a larger project, the Ironbridge Gorge Museums. Its Museum of Iron is based in the Great Warehouse constructed in 1838 and Ironbridge Institute is based in the Long Warehouse, these two form the sides of an open space. On another side of which is the Old Blast Furnace, now under a building (erected in 1981) to protect it from the weather. The fourth side is a viaduct carrying the railway that delivers coal to the Ironbridge Power Station. One of the two tracks is due to be taken over by Telford Steam Railway as part of its southern extension from Horsehay. The Museum's archaeology unit continues to investigate the earlier history of Coalbrookdale, and has recently excavated the remains of the 17th century cementation furnaces, near the site of the Upper (formerly Middle) Forge.

Old Furnace

The Old Furnace began life as a typical blast furnace, but went over to coke in 1709. Abraham Darby I used it to cast pots, kettles and other goods. His grandson Abraham Darby III smelted the iron here for the first Ironbridge, the world's first iron bridge.

The lintels of the Old Furnace, with inscriptions The Old Furnace, Coalbrookdale - geograph.org.uk - 571126.jpg
The lintels of the Old Furnace, with inscriptions

The lintels of the furnace bear dated inscriptions. The uppermost reads "Abraham Darby 1777", probably recording its enlargement for casting the Iron Bridge. It is unclear whether the date on one of the lower ones should be 1638 (as it is now painted) or 1658 (as shown on an old photo). The interior profile of the furnace is typical of its period, bulging around the middle, below which the boshes taper in again so that the charge descends into a narrower and hotter hearth, where the iron was molten. When Abraham Darby III enlarged the furnace, he only made the boshes wider on the front and left sides, but not on the right where doing so would have entailed moving the water wheel. The mouth of the furnace is thus off-centre.

Iron was now being made in large quantities for many customers. In the 1720s and 1730s, its main products were cast-iron cooking pots, kettles and other domestic articles. It also cast the cylinders for steam engines, and pig iron for use by other foundries. In the late 18th century, it sometimes produced structural ironwork, including for Buildwas Bridge. This was built in 1795, 2 miles up the river from the original Ironbridge. Due to advances in technology, it used only half as much cast iron despite being 30 feet (9 m) wider than the Ironbridge. The year after that, in 1796, Thomas Telford began a new project, Longdon-on-Tern Aqueduct. It carried the Shrewsbury Canal over the River Tern and was supported by cast-iron columns. Charles Bage designed and built the world's first multi-storey cast-iron-framed mill. It used only brick and iron, with no wood, to improve its fire-resistance. In the 19th century ornamental ironwork became a speciality.

See also

Notes

  1. Baugh (1985), p. 45-49
  2. King (2002), p. 40-41; Cox (1990), p. 130-311
  3. 1 2 3 Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Coalbrookdale"  . Encyclopædia Britannica . 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 593.
  4. King (2009), 56.
  5. Trinder (2000), p. 88
  6. Trinder (1996), p. 130
  7. "St Johns Garden, Monmouth". coflein.gov.uk. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  8. "Public Art in Central Christchurch" (PDF). Retrieved 27 August 2012.
  9. Cox (1990), p. 131-144; Raistrick (1989); Thomas (1999); Trinder (1978)
  10. "Coalbrookdale Aga foundry to close by end of November". BBC. 21 November 2017. Retrieved 23 November 2017.

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References

Further reading