Cast iron praise as Iron Bridge is reopened
Shropshire's world-famous Iron Bridge is officially fully open to visitors again after more than a year of repairs – and the boss of English Heritage visited to celebrate the pioneering refurbishment project.
The bridge, the first of its kind, was closed for a year after surveyors found cracks and stresses in its historic cast ironwork.
English Heritage launched a £3.6 million programme of repairs in autumn of 2017.
Kate Mavor, the charity’s CEO, came to the gorge to get a first-hand look at the historic bridge restored, and spoke of her pride.
“This is the first English Heritage site I remember coming to when I was about 11, and now it looks much the same as it did then.
“This is the first time I’ve seen it refurbished and I think it sits very nicely in the gorge, and with the red paint it will especially look good in autumn colours.
“I’ve been following the repairs closely since they began, it is an extraordinary project.
“The gorge is a world heritage site, the bridge was the first of its kind and it’s been there since 1779.
“It has survived a number of pernicious influences including an earthquake.
“We’re very proud of what we’ve been able to do here because it’s been unlike any other project of ours.
“We’re very grateful to everyone that has supported the project.
“The amazing response we had to English Heritage’s first ever crowdfunding campaign was fantastic too.”
Kate said that the surveys carried out before the project started revealed that the bridge had originally been painted a deep red, unlike the recognisable black or grey layer of recent years.
Efforts to repair the damage and give the structure a new lick of paint to reflect its original colour are almost complete, but the last of the work on the base of the bridge is set to finish early in the new year.
More than £47,000 towards the repairs was raised through crowdfunding, the first time English Heritage has appealed for public donations.
And it was such a success that the model will be used for future restoration projects.
Nicola Tasker, head of English Heritage’s National Projects, also visited the bridge.
She spoke of one of the project’s unique quirks: “When we took up the deck of the bridge to put a waterproof layer in we found hundreds of little wedges that held the deck up. It turned out all of those were completely different because they were all handmade by the carpenters who originally built the bridge.”
Earlier this year a temporary footbridge was installed alongside the Iron Bridge allowing pedestrians to get a closer look at the ongoing work under a canopy.
Councillor Nicola Lowery, borough councillor for the Ironbridge Gorge, said: “The bridge has been greatly missed and I know many within our community are looking forward to seeing our iconic structure restored to its former glory at the heart of our community.”
The work was started after extensive surveys of the area revealed that the historic structure 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.