Page last updated at 11:23 GMT, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 12:23 UK
Celebrate a Shropshire revolution
The old furnace at Coalbrookdale
The old furnace at Coalbrookdale

Celebrations are taking place in the Ironbridge Gorge throughout 2009 to mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of the Industrial Revolution.

In 1709 in Coalbrookdale the Quaker ironmaker, Abraham Darby discovered a more effective method of smelting iron and transformed the way it was used.

It led to mass production of the material which drove the Industrial Revolution.

The cast iron pots made there also brought about a domestic revolution.

Where it all began

Abraham Darby was born in 1678 and moved to Coalbrookdale in 1708 where he leased and repaired Sir Basil Brookes's charcoal-fuelled furnace.

In 1709 he discovered a way of use coke (rather than charcoal) to smelt iron, making the process much cheaper and more productive.

By 1710 the foundry was making kettles and pot-bellied cauldrons for the local community and the Industrial Revolution was born.

Abraham Darby rented Madeley Court while Dale House was being built as a family home, but he never lived there. He died in May 1717 before it was finished and is buried in the Quaker graveyard at Broseley.

His son, grandson and great-grandson built on his achievements and have their own place in the industrial heritage hall of fame.

Abraham Darby I's own legacy lives on and this year the Ironbridge Gorge Museums feature several events planned to illustrate the area's importance in Britain's industrial past.

Among them is the Coalbrookdale 300 exhibition which opened on 3 April and runs until January 2010 at the Coalbrookdale Gallery near Ironbridge. It will feature works from the Sir Arthur Elton Collection (held by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum) and material loaned from other sources.

Three landscapes, painted by William Williams in the 1770s will be on display. One of them will be the artist's impression of the Iron Bridge itself. It was built by Abraham Darby III in 1781 after Williams's death.

Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron is holding an exhibition of the finds made during a recent archaeological dig at the site of Darby's orginal furnace. The 'Old Furnace' has revealed more about how its evolution and operation pioneered modern iron making.

For more information about the 300th anniversary events visit the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust website.



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