World Heritage Site
In 1986, the Ironbridge Gorge became one of the first group of 7 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. The surviving built and natural environment with its museums, monuments and artefacts, including the world famous Iron Bridge of 1779, serve to remind us of this area’s unique contribution to the history and development of industrialised society.
For over 30 years, UNESCO has been working with countries across the world to identify World Heritage Sites and ensure their safe keeping and protection for future generations. World Heritage Sites are selected because of their "Outstanding Universal Value" as natural or cultural sites. They enrich our lives and illustrate the diversity of the planet and its inhabitants. They are ours to share, cherish and respect, and their disappearance would be an irreparable loss to humanity. Further information about World Heritage Sites is available on the website of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
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. Included on the World Heritage List are many well known sites including the Pyramids of Egypt, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, and the Great Barrier Reef. Within the UK, there are over 25 World Heritage Sites including Stonehenge, Durham Castle and Cathedral, the City of Bath, New Lanark and the Giants Causeway.
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. In practice, this means that National and Local Government, site owners, local and national organisations, residents and visitors all have a part to play in helping to protect these unique and irreplaceable sites. There is also a responsibility to interpret and inform visitors and the local community about the significance of the Site and the principles of World Heritage. However, in addition to these responsibilities that accompany World Heritage status, there are also benefits. For the Ironbridge Gorge, these include an enhanced national and international profile which helps to strengthen the area’s tourism industry and access to funds to ensure the long-term protection of the area.