Ironbridge Gorge Museum Library and Archives

Researchers working in a library
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The Museum has built up an extensive Research Library, which is based in the Long Warehouse, adjacent to the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron.

Collections include material on the history of the iron industry, bridge building, civil engineering, brick and tile manufacture, coal mining, the pottery and porcelain industries, railways, canals, the social history of the East Shropshire Coalfield and all other subjects represented at the Museum’s sites.

Special collections include the Elton Collection, strong on images of industry, and a collection devoted to the life and work of Thomas Telford. Some archive material is also held, mainly relating to the Darby family and local firms such as the Coalbrookdale Company, the Lilleshall Company, the Horsehay Company and Maw & Co.

The entire collection of Ironbridge Gorge Museum, Library and Archives is a Designated Collection of national importance.

Venue Type:

Museum, Library, Archive

Opening hours

Open to the public by appointment only during office hours.

Closed: Weekends.

Admission charges


Additional info

The Library, which is open weekdays only 9.00am - 5.00pm, can be visited by prior appointment. Please contact John Powell, BA, ALA, Librarian & Information Officer, in writing at the main Museum address, or by telephone (01952 432141), to make a booking. (Proof of identity will be required on a first visit.)

This venue has Designated Collections of national importance.

Thomas Telford (1757 – 1834) was the pre-eminent civil engineer of his generation and was responsible for improving the country’s roads and canals at a time when inadequate communications within Britain were putting a brake on the economic growth of the nation. His most notable work was the improvement of the road between London and Holyhead, which involved the construction of the impressive suspension bridge over the Menai Straits, still in use today.

The Telford Collection is the largest source of archive and illustrative material outside London (Institution of Civil Engineers), relating to the life and works of Thomas Telford. The collection includes facsimiles and microfilm copies of all known Telford archival material as well as a large number of books, prints, plans and photographs documenting Telford’s projects. It has unique manuscript versions of Telford’s autobiography and a large amount of original correspondence relating to its publication.

Sir Arthur Elton (1906 - 1973) was one of the early pioneers of documentary film making in the inter-war years and wrote a number of books on technical subjects. During his life he put together a unique collection of paintings, prints, drawings, books and other ephemera relating to the industrial and transport revolution. In 1968, using his extensive collection as source material, he re-edited the pioneering text on artists’ reactions to the changes brought about by the industry and technology – ‘Art and the Industrial Revolution’ – by Francis Klingender (1947).

The Elton Collection was accepted by the Government in lieu of estate duties and allocated to the Ironbridge Gorge Museum in 1978. The collection consists of over 5,600 items, including 160 original drawings or paintings, several hundred prints (engraving, lithographs, chromolithographs, etchings and mezzotints), 3,000 books and pamphlets, and other printed ephemera. In addition there are approximately 170 commemorative items in glass and china, supplemented with medals and other small objects.

The strength of the collection lies in the subject area they all have in common. As a result the Elton Collection is the best visual source of comparative material for the industrial and technological developments in this country from the 17th to the early 20th centuries.

Labouchere Archives: A direct descendent of Abraham Darby, Lady Labouchere assembled a unique collection of Darby archives which were bequeathed to the Museum. The material includes documents relating to the work and development of the Coalbrookdale Company, as well as Abraham Darby III’s ledger containing all accounts appertaining to the building of the Iron Bridge. The papers also give a detailed social history of Quakerism.

Collection details

Social History, Science and Technology, Personalities, Natural Sciences, Land Transport, Fine Art, Decorative and Applied Art, Coins and Medals, Archives, Archaeology

Key artists and exhibits

  • Telford Collection
  • Elton Collection
  • Labouchere Archives
  • Designated Collection

Ironbridge Gorge Museum Library and Archives
Long Warehouse





01952 432 141


01952 435 937

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.