In 1709, in a small riverside town in Shropshire, a Quaker industrialist called Abraham Darby set up the Coalbrookdale Iron Foundry – and became a pioneer of the Industrial Revolution. With plentiful coal, and a new method of smelting iron ore, he inaugurated a construction revolution. The beautiful Iron Bridge across the river Severn was begun by his grandson in 1776, and the technology that created this graceful span went on to be applied to buildings, ships and railroads around the world.
In this day we’ll explore some of the many ways in which the work of inventors, industrialists and designers like the Darbys, Josiah Wedgwood, Matthew Boulton, Thomas Telford and the Stephensons are reflected in the art of the nineteenth century.
We’ll see how new techniques affected design, and consider how mass production and the changing landscape affected life for rich and poor. The apogee of this industrial age was the Crystal Palace exhibition of 1851. We’ll look at the building, its contents and the huge success of the Great Exhibition, as well as its legacy for art, design and architecture through the nineteenth century and beyond.