The trouble with ignorance is that you seldom know what it is you don’t know, or so one of of my childhood teachers taught me. But this is excusable, he said, because no-one knows everything. True ignorance is when what you think you know turns out to be a no-no. (Are you keeping up at the back?)
I was reminded of this a couple of weeks ago when we visited Ironbridge in the town of Telford in Shropshire. It is famous as the site of the world’s first bridge made of iron. It was built in 1779 by Thomas Telford, or so I thought, but I was truly ignorant.
As you can see from my photo above, the bridge spans the Severn Gorge and I based my assumption that it was a Thomas Telford construct on the fact that the new town was named in his honour in when it was created in 1968.
In fact, the bridge was designed by Thomas Farnolls Pritchard and Abraham Darby III was commissioned to cast and build it. Iron had been too expensive to use as a construction material until Abraham Darby I created a blast furnace fuelled by coke, rather than charcoal.
You can visit the furnace today as you can see from my photo above right. It is preserved in the neighbouring village of Coalbrookdale where the Iron Bridge was cast.
If you click my photo to read the bottom bit you discover that no-one was exempt from the charges, not even the royal family!
Back to Thomas Telford, he was the renowned Scottish-born engineer responsible for many of the engineering marvels of the 18th century.
You can read more about him here, but the reason he is commemorated by Telford town is because he made his name in Shropshire when he was the county surveyor.
There are ten museums celebrating the area’s industrial past and Telford is well worth a visit if you are ever in that neck of the woods.
I took many photos while we were there and my final offering was taken in the covered section of the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron. Fittingly it show the cast iron steps leading up to the platform that overlooks the first coke fired forge.