©Ironbridge Gorge Museums

The Iron Bridge Oil on canvas by William Wiliams, 1780 (purchased with assistance from the National Art Collections Fund and the MGC/V&A Grant in Aid Fund).

Quaker Ironmaster Abraham Darby III commissioned this painting shortly before the bridge was opened to traffic. His Coalbrookdale Company had cast the parts for which he had personally paid half the cost out of his own pocket (equivalent to three quarters of a million pounds today), the rest having been covered by an issue of shares. The artist was paid ten guineas and his painting formed the basis for widely circulated engravings. The first bridge in the world to use cast-iron structurally, it rapidly became the focus of travellers from all over the world, and an icon of what was to be called the "Industrial Revolution". The Bridge still straddles the River Severn in Shropshire in the heart of the beautiful Ironbridge Gorge, one of Britain's World Heritage Sites and home to the nine museums of the independent charitable trust of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums.