By Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, 01 November 2017, 11:00AM
Bedlam Furnaces, one of the most important industrial monuments in the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site, has been taken off Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register, thanks to the construction of a protective canopy by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, with the support of Historic England and the Ironbridge (Telford) Heritage Foundation.
Bedlam Furnaces are of international significance as they were amongst the first in the country to be built specifically to smelt iron with coke and research suggests that much of the ironwork for the Iron Bridge was cast there. Now they are believed to be the last furnaces of their type that remain largely intact.
Anna Brennand, Chief Executive Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust commented: “The structures are a unique reminder of the scale of the iron industry in Shropshire and that by 1788 a third of all iron smelted in Great Britain was being made in the county. The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust started conducting conservation work and archaeological studies on the Furnaces in the 1970s. This greatly increased our understanding of industrial ironworking during this period, however more recent reports revealed that the structure was deteriorating rapidly and it was subsequently put on Historic England’s Heritage At Risk Register.”
Following an extensive fundraising campaign, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust secured £1.2million, including a generous grant from Historic England of £700,000 to build a protective canopy over the remains of the furnaces. Work started during the summer and all of the structural work is now complete. Further funds will be required to address the ongoing conservation needs of the Bedlam Furnaces.
Anna Brennand, continues: “We have worked closely with Historic England to ensure that the canopy protects Bedlam Furnaces from the elements and we are delighted that Historic England have now removed the monument from their Heritage At Risk Register. We also worked with Shropshire based specialist architects McPhillips as the main contractor. The new structure allows Bedlam Furnaces to be seen within their natural and historic context and at the same time provide the level of protection required.”
The Bedlam Furnaces’ site is one of the 36 historic assets under the care of Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, which is an education and heritage conservation charity.