The re-opening of a Victorian town after multi-million pound development, tile decorating, ceramics, smelting and art exhibitions, a steam weekend and two iron festivals are among a string of events planned to mark the 300th anniversary of the start of the Industrial Revolution at Telford’s Ironbridge Gorge.
The World Heritage Site is pulling out all the stops as part of a year-long Celebration of Imagination, featuring key anniversaries of iconic figures from central England including Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday in Shrewsbury, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s sonnets in Stratford-upon-Avon and 50 years since the production of the first mini car.
Abraham Darby is believed to have first smelted iron with coak in the Old Furnace at Coalbrookdate in 1709, allowing iron to be produced as fast as coal could be minded for the first time, and a Museum of Iron exhibition in March will recount the milestone alongside a grand opening of the Furnace.
The string of ten award-winning Shopshire Museums on the valley beside the River Severn, where the world’s first Iron Bridge still stands, counts the recreated Blists Hill Victorian town among its attractions, complete with a separate banking system, and goods and industries of the period for visitors. It will be reopened in April following a £12 million restoration project.
The Jackfield Tile Museum, the Enginuity Design and Technology Centre and the Darby Houses where Quakers once worked will also house a variety of events, and Coalport China Museum and the Museum of the Gorge will also house demonstrations.
Broseley Pipe Works, once home to one of the most prolific clay tobacco pipe factories in the country until the 1950s, will also be opened, as well as The Iron Bridge and Tollhouse.
Visit The Ironbridge Museum for a full list of events.