Jackfield, The Iron Bridge.

We continued on our way. Adrian had booked a lovely cottage in the countryside just out of Jackfield. We all know what you think you are getting and what you really get are two different things when it comes to the Internet. Not that I am complaining the house was lovely and so were the owners. The photos on the net saw the house to be more like an estate home than a town house so we were surprised when we found it in the middle of town.

The house was by far the oldest we had stayed in so far. The owner showed us to our room warning us to watch our step as the floorboards were not even anymore. The room was quaint, with a 4 poster bed and a willow seat.  So Sweet.

I decided to rest while Adrian went for a walk. He walked up to the old Tile factories. Jackfield was well known for decorated tiles. He had read the information board and started to tell me the story of the kilns. It went something like ‘the first four kilns were up-draught bottle kilns built in 1874. They did something like ‘biscuit’ firing the tiles, which took about a week. (Me, biscuit mmm wonder what we are having for dinner?)   It took about a week for the kiln to cool down so they could take the tiles out. After about 20 years the biscuit kilns were replaced with down-draught ones. (Me, biscuit, mmmm I am starting to get hungry.)

Me, “Great, what are we doing for dinner?”

Adrian then went on to tell me were would be going to the Black Swan for dinner. As part of his walk he had dropped into the pub for a quick drink before coming back.

He was surprised to see one of the locals. It seems he comes in everyday at the same time for a treat. So cute I wished I had been there.

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The pub was only about a 10 minutes walk away and after my rest I was feeling a little better so we walked. I started to read the menu and stopped short at the bottom. Yes I had to re-read it to make sure I had read it right. The pub offered ‘Faggots served with chips or buttered chives mash potato mushy peas or peas.’ Yes I did ask Google. It seems a Faggot (when it appears on a menu) is a traditional dish cooked mainly in the south and mid wales, as well as the midlands of England. It is made from meat offcuts and offal, especially pork as a pigs heart liver and fatty belly meat or bacon make up the main part of the dish as they are minced together. Herbs are added for flavoring and then it is crumbed. I guess it is the English version of haggis, which started out as good cheep country type of food. (In Yorkshire the Faggot is known as ‘Savory Ducks.’ I bet that makes for some interesting ordering sometimes.) No I didn’t try it.

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The next morning we were up early to explore the Iron Bridge. It is what the area it now known for.

When I first saw it I was though ‘So it’s a bridge, why the fuss?’ We walked across it and both Adrian and I were surprised at how steep it was. I pitied the poor horses that had to haul a heavy load up and over the bridge.

The bridge offered a lovely view of the river.

The other side of the bridge has been closed off but the old tollhouse still stands. It has been turned into a mini museum.

Work started in late 1777 and the bridge was first open for business on New Year’s Day 1781. At the time the Iron Bridge was said to be one of the wonders of the world. As you could imagine, for the times the idea of building the bridge out of iron was unheard off. There were a lot of people who just didn’t believe it could be done. It convinced most doubters of its worth after a massive flood hit the area in 1795. The iron bridge survived while other bridges in the area of Shropshire were swept away or badly damaged.

The money to build the bridge was raised though an act of Parliament and shares were issued to raise the money. Abraham Darby (who built the bridge) had estimated he could build it for £3,200 but by the end the bill come in at £6,000. He had already contributed £787 of his own money to get the project up and running. Abraham (who ran the family foundry business) was so convinced in the idea of an iron bridge he had agreed to pay any difference if the project went over budget. He was left with a huge financial burden for the rest of his life.

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The bridge was used right up until 1934 when it was closed to vehicles. There were serious fears the bridge was becoming unstable. Pedestrians were stopped in 1950 and the ownership passed to the local shire council.

The information doesn’t say if the bridge ever made enough to pay back the investor. It should have as everyone had to pay the toll. No exceptions. It is said even Prince Charles, who became the patron of the museum and the bridge in 1979 had to pay a halfpenny when he crossed the bridge. It is now open to foot traffic only and you don’t have to pay.

I had changed my mind by the time I walked back across the bridge.  It was impressive.

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