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Government pledges £12 million to save British heritage icon Ironbridge Gorge

The Government has stepped in to save one of Britain’s most famous vistas - the world heritage site at Ironbridge Gorge - by committing a £12million…

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The Government has stepped in to save one of Britain’s most famous vistas - the world heritage site at Ironbridge Gorge - by committing a £12million ‘keystone’ to conserve and protect it, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced today.

The iron bridge over Ironbridge GorgeIronbridge Gorge is home to the world’s first ever cast iron bridge

Described by writer Charles Hulbert in1837 as “the most extraordinary district in the world”, Ironbridge Gorge in Telford and Wrekin, regarded as the birthplace of the industrial revolution and a symbol of Great British ingenuity, is under threat from landslides and slippage which could damage and even destroy the historic site and tourist industry it supports.

Funding will go to restoring and protecting Ironbridge Gorge so that generations to come can enjoy the landscape and an area that sparked a new age of modernity in Britain and across the world.

The site, which is home to the first ever cast iron bridge, sits alongside such marvels of the world as the Taj Mahal, Great Wall of China and the Egyptian Pyramids, on list of world heritage sites and plays an important role in the local economy. Each year the Ironbridge Gorge draws in over half a million tourists from near and far to the area and pumps £20million into the economies of Telford and Wrekin and the wider Shropshire area.

Constantly shifting river banks and the weight of stone in the abutments squeeze the Bridge, cracking ironwork and buckling the deck. The first reports of cracking in the Bridge were made as early as 1784, and repair and maintenance has become a necessary and regular ever since.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:

The picturesque 18th century Ironbridge Gorge stands as a monument to modernity and the industrial revolution - a testament to British ingenuity and ambition that has been universally protected as a World Heritage Site for all to marvel at. This summer we have seen just how much there is to be proud of in Great Britain so it is vital that we do not let places like Ironbridge Gorge deteriorate or slide out of sight.

Today I can announce that the Government is stepping in with a £12million keystone investment that will preserve Ironbridge Gorge’s place in history as one of the world’s great symbols and a site of outstanding beauty for generations to come, making certain it can continue to draw in visitors and bring money into the local economy.

Notes to editors

  1. Communities and Local Government will pay a total of £2.2million during 2012-14 for the stabilisation of Ironbridge Gorge. The Government has made a commitment to provide a further fund of up to £9.8million in 2014-15 subject to approvals.

  2. In 1986, the Ironbridge Gorge became one of the first group of seven UK sites to be awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO. The designation of the Ironbridge Gorge as a World Heritage Site recognised the area’s unique contribution to the birth of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, the impact of which was felt across the world. It was the achievements of pioneering industrialists including Abraham Darby, William Reynolds and John Wilkinson that led to the Ironbridge Gorge becoming by the close of the 18th century the most technologically advanced area in the world.

  3. The 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention was ratified by the UK in 1984. The Convention provides for the identification, protection, conservation and presentation of cultural and natural sites of ‘outstanding universal value’.

  4. The UK currently has 28 World Heritage Sites.

5 There are now nearly 800 World Heritage Sites worldwide and these are added to each year when the World Heritage Committee meets to consider new nominations.

  1. Once a site is inscribed on the World Heritage List, a responsibility is placed upon the community and country within which it is located to care for and protect the Site on behalf of the wider global community and future generations.
Published 4 October 2012