World Heritage Sites are designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
UNESCO supports and encourages the protection and conservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world which is considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which was adopted by UNESCO in 1972.
The list of World Heritage Sites was established in 1978. In 2015, there were 1,031 properties (802 cultural, 197 natural, and 32 mixed properties), which form the cultural and natural heritage that the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value (UNESCO, 2014).
Inscription on the World Heritage List by the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO does not confer any additional legal protection but it does convey a significant international prestige. Moreover, by nominating a site for inscribing on the World Heritage List, national governments are explicitly stating their commitment to the conservation and protection of the site in situ in perpetuity.
As of 2015, there were 29 World Heritage Sites in the United Kingdom (23 cultural, 4 natural, and 1 mixed). The Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site was inscribed as one of the first World Heritage Sites in the UK in 1986.
Telford & Wrekin Council, is the managing authority of the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site and since 1994 it has been UK Government policy that all UK World Heritage Sites should have Management Plans.
The majority of the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site is also designated a Conservation Area.
The Ironbridge Gorge
The Ironbridge Gorge is a World Heritage Site and is a very special place where history and nature have combined over many years to produce a landscape and environment of great beauty.
Nature endowed the area with many of the raw materials of industry - coal, limestone, wood, iron ore, clay and water. Combine with that the genius and entrepreneurial skills of people like Abraham Darby and John Wilkinson and it is no surprise that this once rural area was transformed in the 18th century into "the most important industrial area in the world". The Ironbridge Gorge is now often referred to as the Birthplace of Industry because it was here that in 1709 Darby perfected a technique for manufacturing iron using coke which enabled, for the first time, the mass production of high quality iron.
The iron works of Coalbrookdale and surrounding area gave the world the first iron rails and iron wheels and in 1779, the famous Iron Bridge, the world's first bridge constructed from iron and now an internationally recognised symbol of the Industrial Revolution.
Two hundred years ago, the Ironbridge Gorge would have been a harsh, industrial environment, the air filled with the acrid smell and relentless noise of industry. With the exception of the AGA Rayburn Company, which still produces cast iron cookers and stoves in the historic Coalbrookdale Works, heavy industry has long since disappeared from the valley. Fortunately however, many of the historic buildings, structures and monuments remain, standing testimony to the area's illustrious past.
Since the mines closed and the ironworks fell silent, nature has re-established her presence and the woodlands that were felled to provide wood for the furnaces and mines have regenerated and the spoil tips and old workings have become green and attractive. Today, the Ironbridge Gorge is a place of beauty, attractive historic buildings set in a wooded valley landscape with the River Severn flowing through on its way from the hills of Mid Wales to the Bristol Channel.
The Iron Bridge
At the very heart of the World Heritage Site stands the famous Iron Bridge built by Abraham Darby III and designed by Shrewsbury architect Thomas Farnolls Pritchard. The bridge was completed in 1781 and as the first bridge in the world to be built completely of iron, it immediately became a visitor attraction. It attracted artists, engineers, entrepreneurs and sightseers from across the world, all of whom wanted to view this wonder of the industrial age.
Two centuries later, the Bridge has withstood the test of time and it continues to span the River Severn. The years have not reduced interest in the Bridge and it continues to be a popular attraction drawing visitors from near and far.
- World Heritage UK
- The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust
- Severn Gorge Countryside Trust
- Conservation Areas
- Conservation Area Appraisal
- The Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site Public Realm Guide