Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ironbridge - 9 June 2007

The iron bridge at IronbridgeOur previous visit to the Ironbridge UNESCO World Heritage Site, near Shrewsbury, was in June 2003. It has taken some time, but we finally returned to finish our visit. They sell ‘passports’ for all the attractions that do not expire and since some attractions were closed during our last visit we felt duty bound to go back and ‘collect the set’.

Ironbridge was the crucible of the industrial revolution, as it was here that that the technique of using coke instead of charcoal for Tile Museummaking cast iron was invented, and here that the first 'iron bridge' was constructed in 1779. The bridge stands today, still proudly displaying the sign indicating that it was private property and that tolls applied to all; officers, serving soldiers and even the Royal Family.

We visited the Jackfield museum of tile making. Tiles were very popular in Victorian times and many of London's Tube Stations were lined with tiles made in the Ironbridge valley.

Tar TunnelNext stop was the Tar Tunnel. Originally dug as a canal link the work was halted when they encountered a seam of natural bitumen so instead of using the tunnel for barges, the bitumen was sold and then the tunnel was abandoned and sealed off.

Pipe MuseumFinally, we visited the Broseley clay pipe factory; this was surprisingly interesting. The owners simply closed the doors 40 years ago and walked away, leaving all their machinery and paperwork. A self-confessed ‘anorak’ enthusiast was demonstrating the process of making clay pipes. He has a collection of 14,000 pipes. If you see an old clay pipe in a movie, (e.g. Amazing Grace) he probably made and supplied it.

Acton Burnell CastleA short drive took us to Acton Burnell. This small village has the ruins of a castle built in the 13th century. A walk through wheat and barley fields took us to another smaller ruined house.

Wheat fieldWe spotted a possible dinner venue on the way to Shrewsbury. Despite looking rather shabby in our walking clothes, we were given a lovely table by their open French doors, and enjoyed a lovely meal: a great find in rural Shropshire.

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