Iron Bridge

Iron Bridge

By Ann Evans


Artist Faye Claridge is preparing to create a unique transformation of the famous Telford Iron Bridge that spans the River Severn this Saturday, 10th October. As Artist in Residence at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, Faye and a team of more than 50 volunteers will cover the bridge in hundreds of giant rags.


The spectacular event on the Iron Bridge, built by Abraham Darby III in 1779, marks the contribution of the wider Darby Family, including women, and their workforce in starting the Industrial Revolution in Coalbrookdale.


Work on this unique event – entitled Weighty Friend, will start at 10am. Led by Faye it’s expected that the installation and removal of the rags and the whole operation will take less than two hours from start to finish.


Once installed the multi-coloured rags will form a shape echoing the arch of the Bridge and will be left in place for just a few minutes, whilst its transformation is captured by photographers and video artists.


The span of the arch of the bridge is 100 feet and 6 inches (over 30 metres) in length and 384 tonnes of iron were used in its construction.


In order to achieve this massive project, over 1,400 metres of fabric will be cut up into hundreds of 28cm wide strips. The colour of the rags will be vibrant red, orange, yellow, magenta and purple, so they will stand out from the greens and blues of the existing scene and together with these colours they will cover the main colours of the rainbow. The hotter colours reference the furnace and the more stereotypical feminine colours reference the contribution of women to the Industrial Revolution. The longest strips will measure 12 metres long and will hang from the bridge to just above the river. All the strips will be tied to the Bridge by local residents, foundry men, pensioners, school children and Quakers.


Faye Claridge’s residency is being funded by Arts Council England. She has been working with museum visitors and local community groups over the summer to explore ways to create portraits of the Darby legacy. The Darbys were Quakers and in line with their faith and belief in modesty, in the 18th century they did not have portraits painted even at the height of their business success. To respect this view instead of making literal portraits, Faye is creating portraits of their legacy, adding disguise techniques like tatter coats to highlight the complex task of representing people.


She explains: “Quakers, Aga workers and Ironbridge residents will come together to cover the bridge in hundreds of strips of fabric, like an enormous rag rug or tatter coat. The multi-coloured strips will soften and enliven the bridge, rippling in the breeze and reflecting rainbows in the water below.”


Inspiration for the project has come from artefacts on display at the Darby Houses that show evidence of the Quaker faith through the education of women and the unusual lack of distance between home and business. These include embroidered samplers, which Faye Claridge has linked with tatter coats, a style used by workers for decoration and also as disguise for those involved in traditional Morris Dancing on the Shropshire-Wales border.


Faye continues: “It brings domestic ragging skills into the centre of Ironbridge, highlighting the relative respect workers and women were given by the early Quaker industrialists. In softening, or feminising, the Bridge the contribution of women in the Darby story in particular and the global industrial story in general comes to the fore, possibly for the first time.”

Picture: Lorne Campbell / Guzelian The new exhibition at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum at Ironbridge, Shropshire. PICTURE TAKEN ON TUESDAY 16 JUNE 2015

Picture: Lorne Campbell / Guzelian
The new exhibition at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum at Ironbridge, Shropshire.

The installation is part of a symposium Re-imagining the Industrial Revolution that is taking place in Coalbrookdale 9th – 10th October, bringing together artists and academics to talk about the impact of the Industrial Revolution on society and the landscape and how it has been portrayed in art.


The Iron Bridge is cared for by English Heritage who has kindly granted special permission for the installation to take place. The 18th century bridge is one of Britain’s best-known industrial monuments. As a scheduled monument, the care and protection of the bridge has been a key consideration in the design of the artwork.


Weighty Friends is one of the many exciting contemporary arts events being run as part of Shifting Worlds, a collaboration between the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust and Meadow Arts, with funding from Arts Council England. The Trust is the education and heritage conservation charity that operates the ten award-winning museums in the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site. Meadow Arts is the Shropshire based charitable organisation that produces exceptional contemporary art projects in unusual places, bringing high quality contemporary art to areas where few other facilities exist.

Iron Bridge autumn

Iron Bridge autumn


Art fans, students, amateur historians and anyone with an interest in the Industrial Revolution are invited to join artists and academics this weekend (9th-10th October) to discuss the impact of the Industrial Revolution at the symposium Re-imagining the Industrial Revolution. During the two-day event delegates will discuss our industrial past, its impact on our present and consider what will happen in its aftermath. An impressive line-up of speakers from both the academic and contemporary art world includes a keynote lecture from international artist Jeremy Deller, who will take a personal look at the impact of the Industrial Revolution on British popular culture.


Following a full day of discussions, on Day Two delegates will be given the opportunity to join artist in Residence Faye Claridge as she covers the famous Iron Bridge in rags for her installation Weighty Friend. In the evening they can enjoy a performance of moving songs and projections by Nathan Tromans, The Trail of Thomas Love. Free entrance to the Ironbridge Gorge Museums will be included in the symposium ticket, which must be pre-booked. .


The Symposium Re-imagining the Industrial Revolution is open to all; tickets at £15 per person must be pre-booked online at

Additional information about the coming weekend at: