'Ironbridge', Shropshire, 1856.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Lithographic print by I C Baylis. Printed by C Hullmandel. The development of coke smelting in Coalbrookdale, Shropshire by Abraham Darby I (c 1678-1717) and his family in the 18th century revolutionised the production of iron. This iron bridge was designed and built in the Darby foundry. It was the first in the world to use cast iron structurally and was designed by Thomas Farnolls Pritchard and built by Abraham Darby III (1750-1791). The combination of its reserves of coal, iron ore and the proximity of the busy River Severn made Coalbrookdale the cradle of the Industrial Revolution in Britain. Today Ironbridge Gorge is a World Heritage Site.