Sunday, 26 February 2012


We took advantage of an absolutely spectacular February Saturday (50F) by heading to "nearby" Ironbridge.  Ironbridge is near Telford and is about 75 minutes away (not sure if that qualifies as nearby for the locals -- more likely "not my patch").

Ironbridge is, as you can see from the photo above, named after its iron bridge.  The bridge was the first cast iron bridge in the world and was completed in 1779.  Its longest span is 100 ft.

As cool as the bridge is, I wouldn't have driven 75 minutes just to see it.  However, the entire region of the Ironbridge Gorge is also a World Heritage Site.  From one of the museum panels:

The Ironbridge Gorge offers a powerful insight into the Industrial Revolution and also contains extensive evidence of that period when the area was the focus of the international attention from artists, engineers, and writers.  The site contains substantial remains of mines,  foundries, factories, workshops, warehouses, ironmasters' and workers' housing, public buildings, infrastructure and transport systems, together with traditional landscape and forests of the Severn Gorge.

And a little more background on the Industrial Revolution from its wiki page:

The Industrial Revolution was a period from 1750 to 1850 where changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times. It began in the United Kingdom, then subsequently spread throughout Western Europe, North America, Japan, and eventually the rest of the world.

The Industrial Revolution marks a major turning point in history; almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way. Most notably, average income and population began to exhibit unprecedented sustained growth. In the two centuries following 1800, the world's average per capita income increased over tenfold, while the world's population increased over sixfold. In the words of Nobel Prize winner Robert E. Lucas, Jr., "For the first time in history, the living standards of the masses of ordinary people have begun to undergo sustained growth ... Nothing remotely like this economic behavior has happened before".

The Midlands area of England (including Derby) and the Ironbridge Gorge specifically were key figures in how the Industrial Revolution played out.

To help the interested tourist take this all in there are 10 (grouped) museums that comprise the Ironbridge Gorge Museum (link).  We spent most of our time at the Bliss Hill Victorian Town and also saw the Museum of the Gorge.  Our tickets are good for a year so we'll have to come back to see the others.

On to the photos:

Fairly impressive sight, especially considering this was built in 1779.  In doing some reading (after the fact), I found out that other cast iron bridges were built but there were a number of failures such that many were rebuilt with wrought iron or steel.  (This bridge is pedestrian only and not subjected to heavy loading).  [Geek note:  cast iron is good in compression and why it's good to have arches like shown above.  Most of the failures were when it was used in tension.  Needless to say, bridges are not built this way anymore.]

View from the other side

We had the pleasure of once again sharing the day with our friends the Seppanens.  Here the crew is walking under the stone archway along the bank of the River Severn.  See Jay's nice take on the day on his blog (link).

surprise photo of our motley crew -- a good day was had by all

down (up?) the River Severn

Showing this for 2 reasons:
1)  it was a really, bright sunny day (nice, and unusual)
2)  to remind you what a hack photographer I am (the family shot up top was from the other side w/o the sun in my eyes)

looking back on the village (town? -- sorry, still can't get the names straight -- the difference means something here too) of Ironbridge from the Iron Bridge

Aerial view from a museum  panel.  Apologies, but I didn't note the time frame.

You can (maybe) get a feel for the town and the various museum locations from this panel board.  I think it is a few miles across and you do need to drive from one to the other (for the most part -- some are grouped).

Rewinding a bit, we actually started the day a the Bliss Hill Victorian Town, meant to represent the area around 1900 I believe (link).  The town has many period shops and businesses with some actors to explain how things were (though not strictly in character like at Williamsburg, VA or Conner Prairie, IN).  We spent more time here than I thought we would.  It was a really nice day out and we enjoyed our time strolling around the "town".

 another shot of the Victorian Town outdoor museum

Scattered about were various signs as well.  I took a few photos of the more interesting ones.

How words get used certainly changes over time.  I'll leave it at that.

The original Crapper.  From the wiki pageThomas Crapper was a plumber who founded Thomas Crapper & Co in London. Contrary to widespread misconceptions, Crapper did not invent the flush toilet. He did, however, do much to increase the popularity of the toilet, and developed some important related inventions, such as the ballcock. He was noted for the quality of his products and received several royal warrants. 

[RayBo -- I know you like this sort of factual nugget and I bet you already knew it!]

Sign outside the working mine shaft demo.  Tough, tough times (but in some ways better than what the common person had previously).

Thank goodness for the subsequent Cotton Revolution!
Moving on to some of the specific stores and shops.  I enjoyed looking through the grocery store.

. . . and the chemist/drug store (didn't see any jars of leeches, perhaps we've moved on by then)

internal DIY plumbing repair

dental chair -- yikes, check out those tools (they had a bowl of extracted teeth as well).  Have to admit that the general setup looks similar to today.

Alex watching a wax sealing demo at the post office.

Royal Mail motor bike in the dedicated post museum (later than the rest of the period but still interesting).

We complain about the size and efficiency of the UK washers/dryers but it's always good to have a little perspective.

Lots of heavy, duty, (and just plain heavy) machinery about

very nice copper rose from the tinsmith (coppersmith?)

They developed this really neat inclined plane to transport goods, etc. to the river and back (restored in 1980).  From the website:

The Hay Inclined Plane connects the canal at Blists Hill with the canal at Coalport, lifting boats 63m using a combination of steam power and gravity. The inclined plane was opened in 1792 and remained in use until the end of the nineteenth century. It survives today as one of the most impressive structures of its type in the country.

 other transportation vehicles -- the big 'n for the river; the small 'n for the canal

Mammoth blowing engine(s) called David and Sampson.  Again from the wiki page:

A blowing engine is a large stationary steam engine directly coupled to air pumping cylinders. They deliver a very large quantity of air at a pressure lower than an air compressor, but greater than a centrifugal fan.  Blowing engines are used to provide the air blast for furnaces, blast furnaces and other forms of smelter.

Where the later beam engines drove flywheels, this was useful for providing a more even action to the engine. The air cylinder was still driven by the beam alone and the flywheel was used solely as a flywheel, not driving an output shaft. A well-known surviving example of this type are the paired beam engines "David & Sampson", now preserved at Blists Hill open air museum, Ironbridge Gorge. These are a pair of single-cylinder condensing beam engines, each driving an air cylinder by their own beam, but sharing a single flywheel between them.

And from Jay, who took better "notes" (panel photos) than me:  

The flywheel is 20 feet, 4 inches in diameter.  The middle steam cylinders are 38.75 inches in diameter and the far right blowing cylinders are 78 inches in diameter.  54.7 and 82.75 HP for the engines.

Period classroom.  Hard to take too many notes on the personal chalk boards.

 Nicole and Kalle in front of former furnances

 the Jay Seppenan, Steve Frey obligatory animal photo.  This guy was talking up a storm.

Doctor's office.  Check out the peg leg next to the crutches.  Better than nothing I guess, but yikes.

Present day handiwork in the carpenter's shop (by chainsaw evidently).  This fits Nicole's owl requirement for blog entry as well.

Switching gears to the Museum of the Gorge (link).  This was an interesting tableau that basically confirmed what rotten conditions folks in the town were subjected to.  Pollution, disease, etc.  Many things to be thankful for today.

Well, hopefully I didn't bore you with all the extra detail this week.  I also use these entries as impetus for me to actually look a few things up (often after the fact) to make sure I learned something too.

We had a really nice day out and were glad to share it with our friends.  We look forward to going back another time to see the other museums.

One last photo:

The Nicole meal of the week has been missing for a variety of reasons.  That hopes to return this week.  However, Nicole has been working on her puzzle that she bought at Hamley's in London.  She just finished the 1000 piece puzzle all by herself and is quite proud (as she should be).  Still a Disney fan at heart (though I was surprised by the choice).  Her lounging, sofa-slug brother is obviously thrilled as well (not so much).

Have a good week everyone.


  1. Liked your bridge photos better than mine, good job. Motley crew, very good description also.

  2. There's a BBC TV series, Victorian Pharmacy, which I think either ITV3 or the Yesterday channel is currently reprising, which uses the pharmacy at Blists Hill to show us all what sort of concoctions and treatments they used in those days and how they led to modern pharmaceuticals (or didn't).

    And a genuine Victorian joke (bearing in mind one of your photos above):

    Why is a lazy dog like an Inclined Plane?
    Because it's a slow pup.

  3. The classroom chalkboards reminded me in size and shape of iPads! How far and yet so close?

  4. Hi,
    This is very good and very nice posting.
    Keep it up nice posting like this.

    Thanks,I really appreciate this post.I