Coloured lithograph by F Calvert after an original drawing by Samuel Ireland. The Iron Bridge at Coalbrookdale, completed in 1779, was the first in the world to use cast iron structurally and was commisioned because ferry traffic on the River Severn had become busy and expensive. It was 40 feet tall and the span of its single arch was 100 feet 6 inches. It was originally designed by Thomas Farnolls Pritchard (1723-1777) and built by Abraham Darby III. 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.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library