The Museum of Iron
This was my second visit to the site of the blast furnace where the first Abraham Darby smelted iron using coke instead of charcoal, thus greatly reducing the cost of iron and enabling it to be used for all sorts of new purposes, including the railways that sparked the Industrial Revolution.
The first time was way back in 1976 when the furnace was still open to the elements and was tucked away at the back of the Aga-Rayburn factory car park. Since then, the site has been enclosed in an immense triangular shed and the car park grassed over.
The building is probably inevitable and quite nicely done, the grass sward however, for me, puts the whole thing in the wrong context. Itʼs more like a municipal park (complete with fountain) than the former site of intense industrial activity.
The Tuyere Opening
Inside the building there are gangways that allow you to climb up and peer down into the furnace, and the tuyere openings are much as I remember them. Round the corner, however at the site of the tap hole where the first coke smelted iron was drawn off, something disasterous has happened.
The opening has been covered in "brick-effect" hardboard, and a crude illuminated representation of pig-iron being created installed on the ground in front. This is unbelievably crass, and I can only hope that there was no other feasible solution to whatever the problem was.
Check the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trustʼs website for opening times etc.