The Museum of the Gorge, originally the Severn Warehouse, is one of the ten museums of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. It portrays the history of the Ironbridge Gorge and the surrounding area of Coalbrookdale, Shropshire, England.
The River Severn was a major transport route, especially before the building of the railway. Severn trows were used to bring raw materials to the forges of the Gorge and to take the finished goods away. At this time, before the management of the river by weirs, water levels in the Severn were highly seasonal. During the summer the river was too low to be navigable and so finished goods were held in warehouses until there was once again enough water for passage.
The site is at the Wharfage, just West of the village of Ironbridge.This location is also the confluence of the main manufacturing area of Coalbrookdale, and its non-navigable river, with the valley of the Severn.
Around 1840 a warehouse was constructed here for the Coalbrookdale Company, to plans by the architect Samuel Cookson.Its architectural style is highly distinctive and most unusual for a warehouse. It follows the Gothic Revival architecture recently made fashionable by Pugin and already made use of locally for St Luke's Church, Ironbridge. St Luke's is in the simple Commissioners' Gothic style, by local architect Samuel Smith of Madeley. That style is close to the original medieval Gothic and follows Pugin's ideas. The style of the warehouse owes far more to Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill than to Pugin. The parapet of the roof is crenellated at each end and decorated with pinnacles. The Eastward, riverward face is extended with a church-like apse, flanked by two narrow towers decorated with cross-shaped arrow loops, but actually hiding chimneys. Construction is of local red brick, with yellow brick dressing. The main roof is simple and warehouse-like, comprising four tiled bays with simple gable ends. Most of the walls are blind, with only high windows in the gables for security and the walls between supported by buttresses. The apse extension, originally an office, has tall lancet windows to give light, and reinforcing the church-like atmosphere of that facade.
The warehouse is Grade II* listed.The sandstone walls of the 1780s wharf extend for half a mile between the warehouse and the Iron Bridge; they are also listed at Grade II.
Various small narrow gauge tramways were used around Coalbrookdale. The short distance from the doors of the warehouse to the river basin is crossed by plateway grooves for unflanged wheels, set directly into the paving of the wharf.
Later warehouses were built to the west, adjoining this building and what is now the museum car park. These have since been used for light industry and retail purposes. At one time they housed the Merrythought teddy bear factory, makers of Mr Whoppit and other bears.
Flooding has long been a problem for this stretch of the river. Flooding to the level of the warehouse is an annual occurrence. The worst of the floods is recorded by a painted line inside the building, almost at the top of the windows.
The museum's main function is to explain the overall picture of the Ironbridge Gorge sites. Films and interactive displays help to do this.
There are relatively few exhibits specific to the warehouse building itself. Examples are displayed of the kind of iron wares that were cast by the Coalbrookdale Company, and that would have been shipped through the warehouse.
The centrepiece of the museum is a large diorama, 12 metres (40 ft) long. This represents the whole of the Gorge, as it was at its industrial height.
The diorama represents the visit of King George III to the Iron Bridge itself, in 1796. The bridge, opened in 1781, was now 15 years old. This was the period of the Napoleonic Wars and the First Coalition. At this time Britain was still at war with France, although not as actively engaged as it would be shortly. The industries of the Gorge were militarily important, although under the Quaker ironmasters of the Darby family the foundries of Coalbrookdale were not directly engaged in the casting of cannon, as other ironworks such as the Calcutts Ironworks in Jackfield (shown on the diorama)and the more famous Scottish Carron Company were.
In the early part of the first industrial revolution the Gorge contained a larger number of smaller furnaces than it would in later years. Many establishments were small and in particular there were a large number of shallow bell pits extracting coal. These used horse gins for winding, models of which can be seen. Steam power is rare at this time, only a few of the larger furnaces having steam blowing engines.
One of the largest sections of the diorama is the 350 yards (320 m) long Hay Inclined Plane of the Shropshire Canal, opened in 1792. Although mostly gravity worked, this also used an early Heslop patent rotative beam engine to winch canal tubs from the canal basin at the top. At the foot of the inclined plane is the short Coalport Canal and the newly opened Coalport China manufactory (1795) with its four bottle kilns.
The Gorge site and its museums are a large destination for any visitor. The diorama provides a convenient viewpoint to gain an overall view of the several sites and an aid to planning a trip around them. Although the museum is otherwise one of the smaller ones of the Trust, the diorama and other displays here are useful at the start of a larger visit as an overview and context for the other sites.
The River Severn, at 220 miles (354 km) long, is the longest river in Great Britain. It is also the river with the most voluminous flow of water by far in all of England and Wales, discharging an average of 107 m3/s (3,800 cu ft/s) into the Celtic Sea at Apperley, Gloucestershire.
Ironbridge is a town on the River Severn, at the heart of the Ironbridge Gorge, near Telford, Shropshire, England. It lies in the civil parish of The Gorge, in the borough of Telford and Wrekin. Ironbridge developed beside, and takes its name from, The Iron Bridge, a 100-foot (30 m) cast iron bridge that opened in 1781.
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.
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.
Blists Hill Victorian Town is an open-air museum built on a former industrial complex located in the Madeley area of Telford, Shropshire, England. The museum attempts to recreate the sights, sounds and smells of a Victorian Shropshire town in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is one of ten museums operated by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.
The Hay Inclined Plane is a canal inclined plane in the Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire, with a height of 207 feet (63 m). It was located at the end of the Shropshire Canal, part of a network of canals that linked the industrial region of east Shropshire with the River Severn. The inclined plane was in operation from 1793 to 1894. It can be visited as part of the Blists Hill Victorian Town and is also a waypoint on the South Telford Heritage Trail.
Broseley is a market town in Shropshire, England, with a population of 4,929 at the 2011 Census. The River Severn flows to its north and east. The first iron bridge in the world was built in 1779 across the Severn, linking Broseley with Coalbrookdale and Madeley. This was part of the early industrial development in the Ironbridge Gorge, which is now part of a World Heritage Site.
The Madeley Wood Company was formed in 1756 when the Madeley Wood Furnaces, also called Bedlam Furnaces, were built beside the River Severn, one mile west of Blists Hill.
Coalport is a village in Shropshire, England. It is located on the River Severn in the Ironbridge Gorge, a mile downstream of Ironbridge. It lies predominantly on the north bank of the river; on the other side is Jackfield.
The Shrewsbury Canal was a canal in Shropshire, England. Authorised in 1793, the main line from Trench to Shrewsbury was fully open by 1797, but it remained isolated from the rest of the canal network until 1835, when the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal built the Newport Branch from Norbury Junction to a new junction with the Shrewsbury Canal at Wappenshall. After ownership passed to a series of railway companies, the canal was officially abandoned in 1944; many sections have disappeared, though some bridges and other structures can still be found. There is an active campaign to preserve the remnants of the canal and to restore the Norbury to Shrewsbury line to navigation.
The Iron Bridge is a cast iron arch bridge that crosses the River Severn in Shropshire, England. Opened in 1781, it was the first major bridge in the world to be made of cast iron. Its success inspired the widespread use of cast iron as a structural material, and today the bridge is celebrated as a symbol of the Industrial Revolution.
The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust is an industrial heritage organisation which runs ten museums and manages multiple historic sites within the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site in Shropshire, England, widely considered as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.
The Tar Tunnel an abandoned tunnel located on the north bank of the River Severn in the Ironbridge Gorge at Coalport, England. It is one of ten Ironbridge Gorge Museums attractions administered by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.
Jackfield is a village in Shropshire, England, lying on the south bank of River Severn in the Ironbridge Gorge, downstream from Ironbridge.
The Ironbridge Institute is a centre offering postgraduate and professional development courses in cultural heritage, located in the Ironbridge Gorge region of Shropshire, England.
The Coalport China Museum is one of the ten Ironbridge Gorge Museums administered by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. The museum is based in the village of Coalport within the Ironbridge Gorge on the northern bank of the River Severn in Shropshire, England. It is located in a World Heritage Site, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.
The Shropshire Canal was a tub boat canal built to supply coal, ore and limestone to the industrial region of east Shropshire, England, that adjoined the River Severn at Coalbrookdale. It ran from a junction with the Donnington Wood Canal ascending the 316 yard long Wrockwardine Wood inclined plane to its summit level, it made a junction with the older Ketley Canal and at Southall Bank the Coalbrookdale (Horsehay) branch went to Brierly Hill above Coalbrookdale; the main line descended via the 600 yard long Windmill Incline and the 350 yard long Hay Inclined Plane to Coalport on the River Severn. The short section of the Shropshire Canal from the base of the Hay Inclined Plane to its junction with the River Severn is sometimes referred to as the Coalport Canal.
Preens Eddy is a settlement on the south bank of the River Severn, opposite Coalport. Its history lies at the heart of the industrial revolution.
Coalport, Shropshire, England was a centre of porcelain and pottery production between about 1795 and 1926, with the Coalport porcelain brand continuing to be used up to the present. The opening in 1792 of the Coalport Canal, which joins the River Severn at Coalport, had increased the attractiveness of the site, and from 1800 until a merger in 1814 there were two factories operating, one on each side of the canal, making rather similar wares which are now often difficult to tell apart.
The Gorge is a civil parish in the district of Telford and Wrekin, Shropshire, England. It contains 215 listed buildings that are recorded in the National Heritage List for England. Of these, two are listed at Grade I, the highest of the three grades, 13 are at Grade II*, the middle grade, and the others are at Grade II, the lowest grade. The River Severn runs through the parish and, together with a tributary running from the north, form Ironbridge Gorge, which contains the town of Ironbridge, and the villages of Coalbrookdale, Coalport and part of Jackfield.
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