Decision : 32 COM 8B.91
Revision of Statements of Signifiance and of Statements of Outstanding Universal Value - Ironbridge Gorge (UK)

The World Heritage Committee,

1.   Having examined Documents WHC-08/32.COM/8B.Add and WHC-08/32.COM/INF.8B1.Add,

2.Adopts the following Statement of Significance for Ironbridge Gorge, United Kingdom:

The Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage property covers an area of 5.5 km2 (550ha) and is located in Telford, Shropshire, approximately 50km north-west of Birmingham. The Industrial Revolution had its 18th century roots in the Ironbridge Gorge before spreading across the world, bringing with it some of the most far-reaching changes in human history.

The site incorporates a 5km length of the steep-sided, mineral-rich Severn Valley from a point immediately west of Ironbridge downstream to Coalport, together with two smaller river valleys extending northwards to Coalbrookdale and Madeley.

The Ironbridge Gorge offers a powerful insight into the origins of the Industrial Revolution and also contains extensive evidence and remains of that period when the area was the focus of international attention from artists, engineers, and writers. The site contains substantial remains of mines, foundries, factories, workshops, warehouses, ironmasters' and workers' housing, public buildings, infrastructure, and transport systems, together with traditional landscape and forests of the Severn Gorge. In addition, there also remain extensive collections of artefacts and archives relating to the individuals, processes and products that made the area so important.

Today, the site is a living, working community with a population of approximately 4000 people. It is also a historic landscape that is interpreted and made accessible through the work of a number of organisations, in particular, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (established in 1967 to preserve and interpret the remains of the Industrial Revolution within the Ironbridge Gorge) and the Severn Gorge Countryside Trust (established in 1991 to manage the woodland and grassland in the Gorge).

Within the site, five features are highlighted as of particular interest:

1. Coalbrookdale: It was here in 1709 that the Quaker Abraham Darby I developed the coke iron production technique which began the great 18th century iron revolution. There still remains a high concentration of 18th and 19th century dwellings, warehouses and public buildings in Coalbrookdale.

2. Ironbridge: The community draws its name from the famous Iron Bridge erected in 1779 by Abraham Darby III. At the eastern end of Ironbridge stand the remains of two 18th century blast furnaces, the Bedlam Furnaces, built in 1757.

3. Hay Brook Valley: South of Madeley lies a large open-air museum which incorporates the remains of the former Blists Hill blast furnaces and Blists Hill brick and tile works. Also of importance is the spectacular Hay Inclined Plane which connected the Shropshire Canal to the Coalport Canal, which in turn linked with the River Severn.

4. Jackfield: This small community on the south bank of the River Severn was important for navigation, coal mining, clay production, and the manufacture of decorative tiles.

5. Coalport: Located at the eastern end of the site and on the north bank of the River Severn, industrialisation came to Coalport in the late 18th century and the area is remembered principally for the Coalport China Works.

Criterion (i): The Coalbrookdale blast furnace perpetuates in situ the creative effort of Abraham Darby I who discovered coke iron in 1709. It is a masterpiece of man's creative genius in the same way as the Iron Bridge, which is the first known metal bridge. It was built in 1779 by Abraham Darby III from the drawings of the architect Thomas Farnolls Pritchard.

Criterion (ii): The Coalbrookdale blast furnace and the Iron Bridge exerted great influence on the development of techniques and architecture.

Criterion (iv): Ironbridge Gorge provides a fascinating summary of the development of an industrial region in modern times. Mining centres, transformation industries, manufacturing plants, workers' quarters, and transport networks are sufficiently well preserved to make up a coherent ensemble whose educational potential is considerable.

Criterion (vi): Ironbridge Gorge, which opens its doors to in excess of 600,000 visitors yearly, is a world renowned symbol of the 18th century Industrial Revolution.

3. Recommends that assessment for statements of authenticity and integrity / statements of protection and management should be postponed to the 33rd session of the World Heritage Committee (2009) awaiting adoption of a methodology and an agreed format for Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for inscribed properties.

Themes: Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
Properties: Ironbridge Gorge
Year: 2008
Decision Code: 32 COM 8B.91