Sculpture takes pride of place on historic spot after closure of Coalbrookdale Foundry

Former foundry workers have been among those to welcome a new sculpture marking part of Shropshire's vital industrial heritage.

Residents watch sculptor Chris Wright installing the sculpture commemorating Men of Iron that worked at Coalbrookdale Foundry at Coke Hearth. Picture: Dave Bagnall
Residents watch sculptor Chris Wright installing the sculpture commemorating Men of Iron that worked at Coalbrookdale Foundry at Coke Hearth. Picture: Dave Bagnall

A striking iron sculpture, made up of an anvil, a worker's boots and a visor, has taken pride of place on the Coke Hearth in Coalbrookdale.

The sculpture was created to commemorate the Coalbrookdale Foundry, which closed in 2017, after more than 300 years.

The idea for the artwork came from the Coke Hearth Improvements Group – a resident-led body which has made it a mission to improve the area, and commemorate its vital history.

The sculpture commemorating Men of Iron that worked at Coalbrookdale Foundry at Coke Hearth. Picture: Dave Bagnall

The Coke Hearth, is a central part of the area's industrial heritage, as the place where Abraham Darby first created the coke that triggered the Industrial Revolution.

Jean Wright, vice chair of the Coke Hearth Improvements' Group, explained that the sculpture was created using actual items rescued from the foundry on its last day.

When it closed in 2017 workers at the site hung their boots and visors on the gates at the end of their final shift.

Workers boots and clothing on the gates after the foundry closed its doors

Mrs Wright rescued a pair of boots, a visor, and a jacket, which were all used as part of the sculpture, sculpted by Chris Wright, and cast by Roger Fewtrell at Blists Hill.

She said the group was delighted with the sculpture and added that the piece had met with a hugely positive response from the public, visitors and, crucially, some of the foundry's former workers.

"We are very pleased because it has taken us quite a few years to get to this point," said Mrs Wright.

Former foundry workers mother and son Irene and Glyn Baker watch sculptor Chris Wright installing the sculpture commemorating Men of Iron that worked at Coalbrookdale Foundry at Coke Hearth. Picture: Dave Bagnall

"The idea actually came pretty quickly after the foundry shut in 2017."

She added: "The response from the residents and people who work at the Dale works, who have commented on Facebook, it has been very positive."

Mrs Wright said that the sculpture was a fitting reflection of the history of the foundry.

Sculptor Chris Wright installing the sculpture commemorating Men of Iron that worked at Coalbrookdale Foundry at Coke Hearth. Picture: Dave Bagnall

"I think it very much does what it is meant to do in that it depicts the idea, almost of the abandonment of the works.

"When the works closed I went down and I got an actual pair of boots, a visor and a worker's jacket and the sculpture was cast from the real thing."

The foundry's central role to the area over around 300 years means that the site has memories for families across Telford.

Mrs Wright said: "Lots of people in Coalbrookdale and wider Telford had family members wo were involved in the works. It had been here for 300 years so it was very much an important employer."

The sculpture was paid for through local fundraising and a series of donations and grants.

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