Industrial Power Brokers

The industrial revolution began in a little town know as Coalbrookdale.  This was where, in 1709, Abraham Darby successfully smelted iron using coke instead of charcoal.

This success created a solution to a major fuel crisis.  Charcoal is made from coppicing trees and this was depleting the forests that were needed to build houses and boats.  Unfortunately, Abraham Darby’s cast iron was not able to be converted into the stronger wrought iron.  Darby’s son, Abraham Darby II, found a solution to this problem in the 1750s.  This lead to Coalbrookdale being the center of the industrial revolution as it produced the iron for the steam engines that transformed manufacturing.  Abraham Darby III created a bridge using 373 tons of iron, this showcased the family achievements.

In 1775, Matthew Boulton and James Watt created a new age of mass production when they “perfected” the steam engine.  The steam engine allowed the mass production of jewelry, toys, tableware, coins, and many more things.  Boulton manufactured all of these items at his Soho Manufactory in Birmingham.  Boulton is considered one of the greatest British industrialists and he led a group of people known as the Lunar Society.  This group consisted of some of the greatest minds in Great Britain and they met once a month.  The group included master potter Josiah Wedgwood, Joseph Priestley who discovered oxygen, and Erasmus Darwin whose grandson was Charles Darwin. The Soho House is still standing today and is now a museum.

If you want to read more about the iron bridge that Abraham Darby III constructed read this.

Word Count – 258

6 Replies to “Industrial Power Brokers”

  1. This post was pretty good and filled with information. I appreciated how it was easy to read. The picture was cool and I could not believe that the bridge weighed so much. I think it was neat how you also went into detail with the steam engine and the Lunar Society. Great job.

  2. I’m interested to know why Coalbrookdale was the center of the Industrial Revolution. Was this only because Darby smelted iron with coke for the first time there? Knowing that Coalbrookdale, based on the name, had a lot of coal; so did other places. Why is this town considered the center?

    1. Coalbrookdale was more of the birthplace of the industrial revolution because it was where iron was first smelted using coke. This lead to more production of iron and that helped fuel the revolution. So, without the production of iron in this town the revolution may never have happened.

  3. Hi Matt,

    Sorry for the delayed response on your post. I just read through it and found it rather interesting. I, too, am wondering what made Coalbrookdale so special. I saw your comment, which as led me to wonder what exactly “coke” is in relation to smelting. What is it exactly, what and how is it used, what makes it more environmentally friendly than using charcoal (based on your above statement). Nonetheless, these are all rhetorical questions that you do not need to answer if you do not want to.

    After a quick search, I found a few sites that you should check out!

    https://www.ironbridge.org.uk/explore/coalbrookdale-museum-of-iron/

    http://shropshirehistory.com/iron/coalbrookdale.htm

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/shropshire/content/articles/2009/02/12/abraham_darby_feature.shtml

    Great work.

    Best,
    John

  4. I enjoyed that post! It’s interesting to see that the family lineage of Abraham Darby in Coalbrookdale had a technological milestone with every generation. I also enjoyed the part at the end about the Lunar society. After reading the article provided about the Ironbridge Gorge, I wonder about how the bridge has been able to stand for hundreds of years. The article mentions that the bridge is protected by the UK government. I wonder if maintenance has to be done regularly on the bridge or has the bridge been able to withstand the elements for so long due to the strength of iron?

  5. I’m not sure it is fair to criticize Abraham Darby senior for his “failure” of not being able to convert his iron into wrought iron. Upon further research, I have found there is a bit of a debate as to why he did not use it for wrought iron. One explanation lies in the difference between charcoal cooked iron and coke cooked iron. Pig iron produced using coke was better for casting than charcoal pig iron and I found that Abraham Darby used the majority of his pig iron produced using coke was used in casting. There is evidence that some of Darby’s product was sent to Bristol to be used in its foundries but it does not seem like breaking into that market was his main goal. A hypothesis I have is that Darby did not realize the potential of wrought iron in the future markets but had given his son all of the knowledge and equipment needed to make his mark.

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