Official Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Property Listing
Information From UNESCO
CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0
Date of Inscription: 1986. Criteria:
(i)(ii)(iv)(vi). Property : 547.9 ha. Ref: 371
Ironbridge is known throughout the world as the symbol of the Industrial
Revolution. It contains all the elements of progress that contributed to
the rapid development of this industrial region in the 18th century,
from the mines themselves to the railway lines. Nearby, the blast
furnace of Coalbrookdale, built in 1708, is a reminder of the discovery
of coke. The bridge at Ironbridge, the world's first bridge constructed
of iron, had a considerable influence on developments in the fields of
technology and architecture.
Outstanding Universal Value
The Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage property covers an area of 5.5
km2 (550 ha) and is located in Telford, Shropshire, approximately 50 km
north-west of Birmingham. The Industrial Revolution had its 18th century
roots in the Ironbridge Gorge and spread worldwide leading to some of
the most far-reaching changes in human history.
incorporates a 5 km length of the steep-sided, mineral-rich Severn
Valley from a point immediately west of Ironbridge downstream to
Coalport, together with two smaller river valleys extending northwards
to Coalbrookdale and Madeley.
The Ironbridge Gorge provided the
raw materials that revolutionised industrial processes and offers a
powerful insight into the origins of the Industrial Revolution and also
contains extensive evidence and remains of that period when the area was
the focus of international attention from artists, engineers, and
writers. The property contains substantial remains of mines, pit mounds,
spoil heaps, foundries, factories, workshops, warehouses, iron masters’
and workers’ housing, public buildings, infrastructure, and transport
systems, together with the traditional landscape and forests of the
Severn Gorge. In addition, there also remain extensive collections of
artifacts and archives relating to the individuals, processes and
products that made the area so important.
Today, the site is a
living, working community with a population of approximately 4000 people
as well as a world renowned place to visit. It is also a historic
landscape that is interpreted and made accessible through the work of a
number of organisations, in particular, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum
Trust (established in 1967 to preserve and interpret the remains of the
Industrial Revolution within the Ironbridge Gorge) and the Severn Gorge
Countryside Trust (established in 1991 to manage the woodland, grassland
and associated historic structures in the Gorge).
property, five features are highlighted as of particular interest. It
was in Coalbrookdale in 1709 that the Quaker Abraham Darby I developed
the production technique of smelting iron with coke which began the
great 18th century iron revolution. There still remains a high
concentration of 18th and 19th century dwellings, warehouses and public
buildings in Coalbrookdale. In Ironbridge, the community draws its name
from the famous Iron Bridge erected in 1779 by Abraham Darby III. At the
eastern end of Ironbridge stand the remains of two 18th century blast
furnaces, the Bedlam Furnaces, built in 1757. In Hay Brook Valley, south
of Madeley, lies a large open-air museum which incorporates the remains
of the former Blists Hill blast furnaces and Blists Hill brick and tile
works. Also of importance is the spectacular Hay Inclined Plane, which
connected the Shropshire Canal to the Coalport Canal, which in turn
linked with the River Severn. The small community of Jackfield on the
south bank of the River Severn was important for navigation, coal
mining, clay production, and the manufacture of decorative tiles.
Located at the eastern end of the property and on the north bank of the
River Severn, industrialisation came to Coalport in the late 18th
century and the area is remembered principally for the Coalport China
Criterion (i): The Coalbrookdale blast furnace
perpetuates in situ the creative effort of Abraham Darby I who
discovered the production technique of smelting iron using coke instead
of charcoal in 1709. It is a masterpiece of man's creative genius in the
same way as the Iron Bridge, which is the first known metal bridge. It
was built in 1779 by Abraham Darby III from the drawings of the
architect Thomas Farnolls Pritchard.
Criterion (ii): The
Coalbrookdale blast furnace and the Iron Bridge exerted great influence
on the development of techniques and architecture.
(iv): Ironbridge Gorge provides a fascinating summary of the development
of an industrial region in modern times. Mining centres, transformation
industries, manufacturing plants, workers' quarters, and transport
networks are sufficiently well preserved to make up a coherent ensemble
whose educational potential is considerable.
Ironbridge Gorge, which opens its doors to in excess of 600,000 visitors
yearly, is a world renowned symbol of the 18th century Industrial
The boundary of the property is
clearly defined by the steep sided Gorge and encompasses an
extraordinary concentration of mining zones, foundries, factories,
workshops and warehouses which coexist with the old network of lanes,
paths, roads, ramps, canals and railroads as well as substantial remains
of traditional landscape and housing. The ironmasters' houses, the
workers' living quarters, public buildings and infrastructure are all
within the five identifiable areas of Coalbrookdale, Ironbridge, Hay
Brook Valley with Madeley, Jackfield and Coalport, which are enclosed by
a common boundary. The well preserved historic fabric is well supported
by detailed historic archives and collections of manufactured goods. The
technologically revolutionary Iron Bridge spanning the River Severn
Gorge is the focal point of the property and, together with the
attributes above, includes all that is necessary to convey the former
pioneering intense industrial past within its green landscape and thus
the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.
None of the key
industrial attributes are under threat, but the overall mining landscape
is vulnerable to land instability resulting from mining, underlying
geology and incremental changes, which over time could impact the
character of the valley. The landscape is a crucial part of the
property, and it needs to be managed as a coherent whole, with key views
across the valley identified and protected.
The decline of the industries and the prosperity of the area at the end
of the 19th and start of the 20th centuries in a way helped to protect
most of the urban fabric within the property and its landscape. The
different types of dwellings, industrial buildings and structures did
suffer from a degree of neglect following the decline in prosperity.
However, in recognition of the area’s unique industrial heritage
significant late 20th century investment reversed this decline. With
careful attention to details, materials and techniques, most of the
historic buildings, structures and urban and rural patterns have
retained their essential and authentic historic character, although,
some industrial monuments await conservation work.
nearly 1 million people visited the Ironbridge Gorge and its museums.
The Victorian Town Open Air museum at Blists Hill was established before
inscription and incorporates scheduled industrial monuments,
reconstructed 19th century buildings and new buildings based on local
examples. Care is taken to ensure that the relationship between the
original buildings and monuments on the property and the other
structures, which do not form part of the historic attributes of the
property is clearly stated ensuring authenticity is not compromised.
Protection and management requirements
The UK Government
protects World Heritage properties in England in two ways. Firstly,
individual buildings, monuments, gardens and landscapes are designated
under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990
and the 1979 Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act and
secondly, through the UK Spatial Planning System under the provisions of
the Town and Country Planning Acts.
Government guidance on
protecting the Historic Environment and World Heritage is set out in the
National Planning Policy Framework and Circular 07/09. Policies to
protect, promote, conserve and enhance World Heritage properties, their
settings and buffer zones are also found in statutory planning
documents. World Heritage status is a key material consideration when
planning applications are considered by the Local Planning Authority.
The Telford & Wrekin Core Strategy contains policies to protect the
property. This Strategy is replaced by a Local Plan covering a period of
approximately 25 years.
The property lies predominantly in the
boundary of Telford & Wrekin Council with a small south-east portion
within the Shropshire Council boundary. The entire site is a designated
Conservation Area and there are over 375 listed buildings of which two
are Grade 1 and eighteen are Grade 2*. In addition, there are 7
Scheduled Ancient Monuments. There are two Sites of Special Scientific
Interest within the World Heritage property.
Added control over
changes to the property is achieved through an Article 4 (2) Directive
for the Conservation Area, which withdraws permitted rights for certain
development. Additional controls under a wider Article 4(2) Directive
will be implemented in 2013 as an improved management tool to prevent
damaging incremental change.
The Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage
Site Management Plan is under regular review every ten years. Boundaries
and protection mechanisms will be reviewed as part of the management
plan process. The delivery of the management plan will be implemented by
all partners, in conjunction with and on behalf of, Telford & Wrekin
Council and overseen by a World Heritage Site Steering Committee by
which the key stakeholders are represented. The day to day management
activities are carried out at local level by Telford & Wrekin Council
together with diverse organisations, agencies, and owners who have
various management responsibilities within the property.
a need to ensure that management of the property covers the whole area
within the boundaries, including the rich ensemble of minor buildings
and the encompassing landscape that together give the major structures
such as the Iron Bridge and the Old Furnace at Coalbrookdale their
extraordinary social and economic context. The management plan review
will look at ways this can be achieved. Land instability resulting from
previous mining activity and underlying geology is a significant factor
in the Gorge and some stabilisation took place. A comprehensive,
holistic management approach is required and works are planned as part
of a major phased stabilisation programme. An Environmental Impact
Assessment, including heritage assessment, will be undertaken to inform
the design process.
There is also a need to promote wider
understanding of the scope and extent of the property and its
inter-related attributes. A visitor and interpretation centre enables
visitors to understand the geographical and geological context to the
property and visitors are encouraged to visit the various museums and
villages and to walk along the river and the slopes of the Gorge.
Additional visitor facilities include upgrading visitor accommodation
and a Park and Ride facility. This complements the comprehensive high
quality interpretation and education service provided by the ten
Ironbridge Museums and the Ironbridge Institute.