Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust to receive £9.9million government support

First funding from Cultural Assets Fund announced as part of DCMS Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage 

  • £9.9million lifeline awarded to UNESCO World Heritage Site Ironbridge to counter long-term impacts of the pandemic
  • Funding will enable vital conservation work to 35 scheduled monuments and listed buildings at site internationally recognised as the ‘symbol of the Industrial Revolution’
  • Grant will also enable endowment investment to support maintenance of the heritage assets
  • Site received a visit from Tourism and Heritage Minister Nigel Huddleston and National Heritage Memorial Fund Chair Dr Simon Thurley

Today the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) announces the first grant to be awarded from the Cultural Assets Fund (CAF), a £20million government funding stream to protect treasured heritage assets in England from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. NHMF is administering this funding as part of its UK wide NHMF COVID-19 Response Fund, to safeguard nationally important heritage which is at risk due to the pandemic.

Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust runs ten museums across the internationally significant World Heritage Site, regarded as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. The Trust has been awarded almost £10million CAF funding to carry out a backlog of urgent conservation and repair work to 49 historic buildings and structures across the UNESCO World Heritage Site. This includes five scheduled monuments and 30 listed buildings which are recognised individually and collectively for their architectural and historic significance. The grant also includes £4.5m endowment funding which will be invested to ensure income generation for ongoing conservation maintenance and to help safeguard the future of the heritage assets. 

Visitor figures to Ironbridge, which has recently experienced devastating floods, dropped by almost 75% in 2020 due to the pandemic, compared to 2019. With less visitor income, the organisation’s funds for vital conservation repair work have been significantly reduced. The pandemic also meant that volunteers were unable to offer their usual help with site maintenance, including flooding repair work. In contrast, 2019 saw over 400 individuals volunteering almost 25,000 hours of their time to support the site.

The funding will support vital repairs to some of Ironbridge’s most important structures, which reveal how its rural landscape was transformed and optimised in the 18th century to provide transport links, raw materials and natural resources required for industrial processes such as iron, brick making and ceramics. The survival of this heritage in its original context is crucial for maintaining the integrity and authenticity of Ironbridge as a designated World Heritage Site, attracting visitors from across the world.

The Clock Tower, Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron

The Old Furnace, Coalbrookdale

Elements of the site to be saved from critical deterioration include:

  • The Old Furnace at Coalbrookdale, dating back to 1658 and where, in 1709, Abraham Darby I successfully smelted iron using coke as a fuel instead of charcoal. This action was a catalyst for the Industrial Revolution that transformed Britain and much of the wider world in the 18th and 19th centuries 
  • The Clock Tower, with a gilded finial, added to the Great Warehouse of the Coalbrookdale Company in 1843  
  • Madeley Wood blast furnaces, better known as Bedlam Furnaces, built in 1757 to specifically smelt iron with coke 
  • Grade II* listed Coalport China Works, which produced some of England’s finest china in the 19th century, and now the site of Coalport China Museum. 

Of the 32 World Heritage Sites in the UK, Ironbridge is unique in terms of its number, breadth and range of monuments, structures, and buildings. Its arts, library and archive collection are also Designated as being of national significance, making the entirety of the heritage assets within the Trust's care incomparable internationally.

Dr Simon Thurley CBE, Chair, The National Heritage Memorial Fund, said:
“I am delighted to announce our support of Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust today. The Ironbridge Gorge is one of the most important historic sites in the UK, the cradle of the industrial revolution, and a monument of global heritage significance.

“The pandemic and severe flooding have had a catastrophic impact on the Trust. This government grant of just under £10million, allocated by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, will stabilise important monuments and buildings at risk and secure their long-term future through an endowment.”

Tourism and Heritage Minister Nigel Huddleston, said: 
“The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust is an internationally renowned institution that tells the story of this country's proud industrial heritage.

“Our unprecedented £2 billion Culture Recovery Fund has provided vital support to cultural organisations through the pandemic and this £10 million investment will help to protect this important collection for future generations."

Nick Ralls, CEO of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust said:
“We are incredibly grateful to have received such a substantial grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. The level of support is testament to the importance of this historic site and the buildings and monuments in our care. As we emerge from the effects of the pandemic we can address the backlog of maintenance and repair for some of the UK’s most significant industrial heritage in the knowledge that these important assets are protected for future generations.”

About the National Heritage Memorial Fund  

The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) was set up in 1980 to save the most outstanding parts of our national heritage, in memory of those who have given their lives for the UK.  



About the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust 

Established in 1967 the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (IGMT) is one of the UK’s largest independent museum Trusts and custodian of some of the nation’s most significant industrial heritage. A registered charity set within a 6 square mile UNESCO World Heritage Site the Trust operate 10 award-winning museums and care for 35 Scheduled Ancient Monuments and listed buildings that collectively tell the fascinating story of Ironbridge Gorge as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and its remarkable transformation through time.

Main image caption: (l-r) IGMT Senior Curator Georgina Grant, Historic England CEO Duncan Wilson, Tourism and Heritage Minister Nigel Huddleston, Lucy Allan MP for Telford, Chair of National Heritage Memorial Fund Dr Simon Thurley, IGMT CEO Nick Ralls

Share this article