Conservation and Restoration

The 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 abutments were made as early as 1784, and repair and maintenance has been necessary and regular ever since.

This view of the bridge clearly shows the massive stone abutments, the weight of which cracked the ironwork when the river banks shifted. The south abutment was demolished in 1802, long before this view was published in 1823.
Stone Abutments
Cast Iron Bridge over the River Severn near Coalbrookdale
Acc No: AE185.771
Dubourg, M. (engraver)

This sketch from the north bank of the river looking towards Benthall shows the wooden side arches that replaced the stone abutment between 1802 and 1821.
Wooden Side Arches
Iron Bridge, Colebrookdale
Acc No: 1978.225.3
Holdsworth, Arthur Howe (artist)

Iron land arches were built on the south side of the river in 1821 to reduce the weight of the abutment. A heavily laden cart makes its way up Tontine Hill and three men weigh wool on the north bank.
Iron Land Arches
Acc No: 1978.73
Fidlor, J. (attrib.) (artist)

The Iron Bridge in 1935 just after closure to traffic and scheduling as an ancient monument. The buildings next to the Bridge were demolished in May 1946 to make way for a planned replacement bridge.
1935 Traffic Closure
The Iron Bridge
Acc No: 1976.28
Temple, Vera Louise (artist)

Work in progress in September 1973, a year after the northern abutment was emptied of rubble and strengthened with concrete. A concrete strut to keep the abutments apart was built below water level, within the safety of a coffer dam.
The Iron Bridge during restoration
Acc No: 1987.597

Bank movement has resulted in over 70 fractures in the Bridge ironwork. English Heritage carried out a full survey during 1999-2000 to record and photograph the entire Bridge.
Damage to the Iron Bridge
Acc No: F22.11