January 10: first flame of the Industrial Revolution

2012/01/10 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1709 Abraham Darby (1678-1717) used his furnace at Coalbrookdale for the first time.

Although not wholly responsible for the Industrial Revolution, Darby is of extraordinary significance in the development in English history, and in the development of this region as a center of industrial production.  The industrial process that Darby employed there was not new; it grew from established traditions that he utilized to make metal pots.  Darby’s innovation was to use coke instead of charcoal to produce pig iron, the result of which was to advance the process and production of iron goods of all sorts.  It was left to Darby’s grandson, Abraham Darby III (1750–1791), to build the first great architecturally scaled monument to his grandfather’s innovation, the great iron bridge at Coalbrookdale of 1778.

If you think about it long enough, it’s hard to be lukewarm about the Industrial Revolution.  Either way you go–was it the best thing to happen to mankind, or the start of all degradation–the Darby family is at its center, to praise as heroes or blame as villains.

image: painting by Philip James de Loutherbourg, “Coalbrookdale by Night,” 1801 (from this source)

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You are currently reading January 10: first flame of the Industrial Revolution at Clio’s Calendar: Daily Musings on Architectural History.

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