The first bridge made of iron is still there – in the town it gave its name to. But it may not last much longer. The banks of the river it crosses are, quite naturally, being eroded. The bridge itself has changed its shape in response to the changes, but it stands firm for now.
It is not much use as a bridge anymore – it no longer does its job, except for pedestrians. It has become a museum piece.
It was an odd design for an iron bridge – but then there hadn’t been one before. The metal was shaped into arches, copying the way stone bridges had been made, as its predecessors. Later, iron bridges were made more simply, exploiting the natural properties of iron much more effectively, rather than trying to make it copy stone.
They may have lost some of the ornateness, but they were able to do a much more effective job.
This is the story of progress in a nutshell, finding better ways to do the necessary job with new materials. But attached to what has served well in the past.
Ironbridge has been awarded a 12 million pound grant to shore up the river banks to preserve the historic bridge, which does a job that is no longer necessary.
Is it worth it?
Is there a message here for the Church of England?