Businesses look for bump in visitors after Iron Bridge work
It was a tough year for businesses in Ironbridge, with some owners reporting an 80 per cent drop in trade while the world famous bridge was being refurbished.
But with the landmark officially unveiled in January, people are slowly starting to return to the Gorge.
Among those benefitting from the return of custom is Sarah Greenow, who owns Grays of Shropshire.
She said: “For the whole of 2018, we were a good 80 per cent down.
“We were trying to look at other things like hampers or weddings – but that takes business out of Ironbridge.
“January was an awful month, but everybody in retail has a bad month in January. It is picking up and we’ve had a really good February and beginning of March.
“The weather hasn’t helped, because we’re very weather dependent. We had a big party cancel because of a recent storm warning, but you dust yourself off and carry on.”
Sarah said bookings had doubled since the Ironbridge had reopened.
“We are taking on more staff to meet the demand,” she said, “the restored bridge is giving new and old customers another reason to visit Ironbridge.
“We would like visitors to Ironbridge to explore all of the area and see what we have to offer them too.”
The Iron Bridge was kept under a plastic wrap for most of 2018 while a £3.6 million restoration project was carried out.
As well as a change of colour, cracks and stresses in the historic cast ironwork were repaired.
When it was finished in 1779 the Iron Bridge was the first single-span arch bridge in the world to be made of cast iron and was a turning point in British engineering – it is the great-great grandfather of today’s railways and skyscrapers.
However, investigations showed that it was under threat from cracking due to stresses in the ironwork dating from the original construction, ground movement over the centuries, and an earthquake in the 19th century.
The whole of the bridge’s elaborate structure has now been cleaned, conserved and repaired, from the iron radials and braces holding the bridge together to the deck plates and wedges, as well as the main iron arch itself.
The bridge’s colour was selected after samples of the earliest paintwork were discovered during the conservation process.