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Historic Iron Bridge to be Restored to Original Color

Friday, May 18, 2018

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After concerns over funding preservation work, Shropshire, England’s historic Iron Bridge is being brought back to its original color—a dark red-brown.

The bridge’s first color was uncovered through analysis of paint samples taken from the centuries-old iron span. What was revealed was that the original coat was a lead-based oil paint.

Preserving the Past

Constructed in 1779, the 378-ton Shropshire Iron Bridge was designed by Abraham Darby, according to New Civil Engineer, and was the first cast-iron single-span arch bridge in the world. Due to the age of the structure and the threat of cracking due to stresses in the ironwork, the bridge requires 3.6 million pounds ($4.7 million) in conservation work.

Nonprofit English Heritage spearheaded the work on the project, which includes painting every cast-iron rib, radial and brace in the original dark red-brown.

“Uncovering the original [color] of the Iron Bridge has been a fascinating mix of both archive research work and detailed forensic investigation,” said English Heritage Senior Property Curator Heather Sebire. “We had already found some clues in the archives but the decider was the results of our analysis of the historic paint, revealing a red-brown coating beneath centuries of historic dust and paintwork. That’s when we knew we had found the answer to the key question about the original [color] of the Iron Bridge.”

Recent investigations conducted by the nonprofit revealed that the structure was under threat of cracking due to stresses in the ironwork dating back to its original construction, overall ground movement and an earthquake. Conservation efforts started in autumn 2017, and are still ongoing.

Most recently, the ironwork was protected with a layer of primer to prevent further corrosion. Replacement iron wedges have also been cast and are currently being fitted; this accounts for the largest amount of new metal going into the bridge, but conservation efforts remain focused on replacing as little of the main bridge as possible.

This is English Heritage’s largest conservation project since it became a charity in 2015.


Tagged categories: Bridges; EU; Europe; Historic Preservation; Historic Structures; Preservation; Program/Project Management; Renovation

Comment from Peter Gillies, (5/18/2018, 3:51 AM)

This is an ideal application for fluoropolymer, as it wouldn't have to be painted again for sixty years.

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