The closure of the Coalbrookdale Foundry marked the end of the cast iron industry in the area that had begun more than three centuries earlier.
Now a sculpture is to be unveiled to mark the skills of the workers who triggered the industrial revolution and continued to run the works until just five years ago, says a report in the Shropshire Star. The poignant work of art will include a nod to the boots, helmets and jackets that the workers hung on the gates of the foundry when the gates finally closed in November 2017.
The sculpture, by artist Chris Wright, has been commissioned by the Coke Hearth Improvements Group, a resident led group which aims to improve the local area. It will sit at the point where Abraham Darby first created the coke that triggered the industry and the Industrial Revolution – the Coke Hearth.
Speaking on behalf of the Improvements Group, member, Jean Wright, said: “Coalbrookdale and the lives of its inhabitants were shaped over 300 plus years of foundry work. The sculpture commemorates that moment and recognises the skill and commitment of local workers over three centuries.”
“We wanted the sculpture to commemorate the works and all the local people who had worked there. When the last workers left the site and hung their boots on the gate, we collected a pair of boots, worker’s jacket, visor and these have been cast in iron and will be hung over a cast iron anvil.”
She said local people have contributed to the cost, as had the Gorge Parish Council and Arts and Heritage Lotteries.
Over 300 years the Coalbrookdale Foundry produced everything from the world’s first iron bridge, to delicate filigree, items such as railings, gates, lamp posts, fountains and vases and the AGA stoves that are known the world over.
“Our sculpture recognises and commemorates a piece of local history which has had worldwide significance.”
Prior to Abraham Darby I’s ground-breaking experiments at Coke Hearth, where he turned coal into coke, iron had been forged with charcoal.
“The use of coke was a major step forward in the production of iron as a raw material for the Industrial Revolution. This location is still known as The Coke Hearth.”
Sculpted by Chris Wright and cast by Roger Fewtrell the sculpture has been made at the foundry at Blists Hill Victorian Town.
It was on November 23 that workers arriving at the Coalbrookdale Foundry to be told that they were no longer needed as the company and the foundry gates, closed. It was closed by owner, Aga Rangemaster, which said that the foundry was no longer economically viable.