- Museum number
- Object: A view of the upper works at Coalbrook Dale,...
Various factories and houses on a hill, most with smoking chimneys; a boat on a river bend to the right, with six horses harnessed in a line, drawing a large iron cylinder through the foreground and a man with a rake, walking away from four smoking piles, on the far side of a wooden fence, beyond them to right; etched state. 1758
- Production date
Height: 388 millimetres
Width: 547 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Extract from Robert Anderson's catalogue entry in S. O'Connell (ed.), "Britain meets the World: 1714-1830" (Palace Museum, Beijing, 2007): Coalbrookdale, in the county of Shropshire to the west of the midlands, was the centre of important developments in the industrial production of iron in England. It is often called the "birthplace of the industrial revolution". The innovation was to use coke (from partly combusted coal) rather than charcoal (from partly combusted wood) to smelt the iron ore - wood was starting to be in short supply in England. The industrialist who introduced the new process was Abraham Darby (1678-1717), who leased a derelict blast furnace and started his experiments in 1709. His son, Abraham Darby II (1711-63), and grandson, Abraham Darby III (1750-89), continued the business and by the 1750s when this view was made Coalbrookdale was a major industrial centre. In 1777 the world's first cast-iron bridge was built over the River Severn, which runs through the site. By the end of the century, coal, bricks, tiles, porcelain, chemicals and iron products were all being produced.
This etching is the earliest depiction of the industry of the district. It shows, at centre left, a row of smoking chimneys of lime kilns. At the bottom, a wagon train is hauling a huge iron cylinder along a winding lane. This cylinder may be intended for a Newcomen engine, used to pump water out of mines. Coalbrookdale was the principal manufacturer of cast-iron cylinders for steam engines which were supplied to every mining area in Britain. To the right, by the Furnace Pool, are piles of coal which are being partly burnt to produce the coke needed for iron smelting.
The industrialisation of England was not universally welcomed. In 1785 Anna Seward, in her poem "Colebrook Dale" blamed the desecration of a charming rural valley on the influence of Plutus, Greek god of wealth:
Scene of superfluous grace, and wasted bloom,
O, violated Colebrook! In an hour,
To beauty unpropitious and to song,
The genius of thy shades, by Plutus brib'd,
Amid thy grassy lanes, thy woodwild glens,
Thy knolls and bubbling wells, thy rocks, and streams,
Slumbers! - while tribes fuliginous invade
The soft, romantic consecrated scenes.
Coalbrookdale is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number