Conserving the Historic Estate Project

We have a large estate of internationally important heritage buildings that require regular maintenance and repair.  We needed to better understand the condition of our estate and commissioned a Quinquennial Review from Oliver Architecture in 2021.  This review allowed us to identify a programme of maintenance and repair work for our most important heritage assets.

To carry out the repair programme we bid for additional funding and in 2022, we were successful in securing £5.5 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF).

This funding has allowed us to start on a three year programme, Conserving the Historic Estate (CHE), to repair some 49 buildings, with work ranging from removing vegetation and external redecoration to re-roofing and stabilisation works.

We have brought together a dedicated project team to manage and deliver the CHE project.  We have also been able to recruit a project maintenance team to undertake some of the work which will build capacity and develop skills which will have a long term benefit for the Museum.

The CHE project will bring the heritage assets into a good state of repair and provide a sound base for future maintenance.   

Of particular importance are:

  • Old Furnace at Coalbrookdale where Abraham Darby I developed the production technique for smelting iron with coke, beginning the 18th century iron revolution
  • the spectacular Hay Inclined Plane which connected the Shropshire canal to the Coalport Canal and the River Severn
  • Bedlam Furnaces, the remains of two 18th century blast furnaces built in 1757
  • Coalport China Works which is specifically included in the UNESCO citation as one of five features of particular interest

We were also successful in securing a further £4.5 million from NHMF for an endowment to generate income for ongoing maintenance beyond the three years of CHE project.

the hay inclineD plane

Work is currently being carried out to repair and conserve this Scheduled Ancient Monument at Blists Hill Victorian Town. Over the next few months from 14 May 2024, we will be clearing vegetation and removing self-seeded trees within the canal basin, cleaning graffiti, and removing the failing concrete capping, replacing it with soft turf capping. We will also repair and repoint the Winding House, Dock, and bridge over the Silkin Way. The visitor steps to the top of the Incline will be repaired and a new handrail installed.

Image shows the Hay Inclined Plane in 1968.

The heritage assets

The project focuses on the heritage buildings in our care, in their original context/environment within the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site. 

The main concentration of buildings and structures are to be found at Coalbrookdale, Coalport, Jackfield and Blists Hill (Madeley) but there are several structures and monuments situated throughout the Gorge including five Scheduled Monuments, one Grade 1 Listed structure, 10 Grade II* Listed structures and 19 Grade II Listed structures all within an area of 5.5km2.

Get involved

If you are interested in learning more about our project and how we will be working to repair these important buildings please get in touch with us.

We are also very keen to hear from anyone who would like to volunteer to help us look after these fabulous buildings. If you would like to get involved please send us a message.

See the Completed Projects tab for information about specific projects.

Find out more about the projects we've completed as part of the Conserving the Historic Estate project, a 3-year programme funded by the National Heritage Memorial Fund. 

This page will be updated as more projects are added.


We began work at the Shelton Tollhouse, one of the buildings at Blists Hill Victorian Town, on Monday 12 June, 2023. 

The work saw the restoration of all of the external soffits, roof repairs and vegetation removal alongside the fitting of cast-iron guttering around the building. At the same time the interior was fully redecorated. 

This building was originally a tollhouse located in Shelton, Shrewsbury on the Holyhead Road (now the A5), which was the major route to Ireland from London. It was designed by Thomas Telford (1757-1834) and built in 1829.

We believe it was used as a toll house until the 1880s, when it became a family home. It was the first historic building to be acquired by the Museum and was rebuilt at Blists Hill Victorian Town in 1973.  


In September 2023 we completed external repairs to the Museum of the Gorge. This involved repairs to the roof, including replacement of valley gutters, and rebuilding the pitched roof on the ‘Lady Chapel’ office. Thanks to additional fundraising, we were also able to commission and install replicas of the ornate chimney pots. 

The building re-opened to the public on 31 January 2024. It serves as an information point for visitors to the Ironbridge Gorge and there is a display about the building’s history and the work that has taken place. During 2024 we will be developing plans for a full internal refurbishment with the aim of creating a visitor centre for the UNESCO World Heritage Site. 


boy and swan fountain

The Boy and Swan Fountain, situated on the green at Coalbrookdale, underwent extensive conservation repair during 2023. The metal work was repaired and repainted to protect it for the next 10 years. 

Cast by the Coalbrookdale Company in 1851 for the Great Exhibition where it stood in a prominent position in front of the gates which separate Hyde Park from Kensington Gardens, the Boy and Swan eventually returned to Coalbrookdale and was re-erected opposite the Old Furnace.

The fountain was reinstalled in the summer and will be switched back on in spring 2024. 

buildings at blists hill victorian town

St Chads Mission Church has been fully restored and repainted to bring it back to its 1900s glory. 

The Shelton Toll House has undergone repairs. This included reinstating the soffits and fascia boards that had been lost. New guttering has been installed and the interior has been redecorated. A small lean-to has been built to the rear to protect the laundry area. 

External repairs have been completed on the School, with slipped tiles replaced, windows repainted and rainwater goods restored. The school gates are currently undergoing restoration and we will redecorate the interior in January 2024.   

The Forest Glen pavilion has been redecorated and the lettering to the roof restored. The roof required a lot of moss clearance and vegetation removal. The interior was also cleaned, which highlighted the painted ivy decoration on the pillars. 

The Estate Office building has been redecorated and roof repairs carried outThe railings are being restored off site and we will carry out internal redecoration in 2024. 

Across the Blists Hill estate gutter clearing has also been carried out which will help to prevent further rainwater damage to vulnerable buildings. The project team has been using a special gutter vacuum to do this work. 

Top photo: St Chads Mission Church 
Bottom Photo: Ivy decoration in the Forest Glen pavilion.

current projects

The project team are now working on Broseley Pipe Works, to restore and conserve the woodwork and repair the roof without impacting on the unique character of the site. 

The team will also continue to work on the buildings as Blists Hill most in need of repair. 

During 2024 we plan to start conservation work at some of our most iconic sites: the Hay Incline Plane at Blists Hill, the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron and the Long Warehouse at Coalbrookdale.