Iron Bridge Gorge
Who could drive from Wales to London without going through Ironbridge Gorge, the cradle of the industrial revolution? The bridge is rather unassuming, just 7.3m wide, 30.6m long and 16.75m high, but at the time it was revolutionary. It was designed by Thomas Pritchard in 1775 and built by Abraham Darby III in 1777-79 as an advertisement for the skills of the Coalbrookedale ironmasters. It was the first bridge in the world to be made totally from iron, using 384 tonnes of metal, and artists
and engineers came from around the world to see it. Abraham Darby was
awarded the gold medal of the Royal Society of Arts for the artistic merit of the bridge, which was widely praised:"But of the Iron Bridge over the Severn, which we crossed and where
we stopped for half an hour, what shall I say? That it must be the
admiration, as it is one of the wonders of the world."
John Byng, Viscount Torrington, 1784".
..a far greater and more wonder piece of Architecture is now in
agitation, a Fabric which England or the whole Globe cannot equal. This
is an Iron Bridge... the whole will be of Cast Iron without an ounce of
any other sort of material about it..."
Iron Bridge Gorge
J.M. Fisher, 1776
To be fair, the town itself was not received with the same glory:"Coalbrookdale wants nothing but Cererus to give you an idea of the heathen hell. The Severn may pass for the Styx..."
Charles Didbin, Dramatist and Songwriter, 1787"...an uninteresting and somewhat squalid town... sloping down to the Severn whose banks are... covered with slag and refuse."
J.E. Auden, 1912
From Ironbridge we drove to Wolverhampton
Cadbury World, Birmingham
It is thanks to an accident of birth in this small industrial town outside Birmingham
that Lydia and I are able to live in Europe today. My mother was born in Wolverhampton and migrated to Australia on the ship "New Australia" in 1957 on a one-way family migration ticket, a "ten pound Pom" on Australia's mission to fill up the country with English immigrants. Her family, the Spencers of Wolverhampton, are actually related to the Spencers of Northampton
(the most famous of which was Princess Diana), although there must have been another accident of birth or some seriously bad life choices at some point down to line to make our branch poor enough for the family of six to sit on a ship for 38 days on their way to poverty in a new country (albiet one with better weather).
Finally, we finished the day by visiting Cadbury World in Birmingham, where Lydia was camouflaged in a sea of royal purple chocolate.