SHROPSHIRE. IRONBRIDGE. Share certificate of £50. black on vellum. #64. "Ironbridge is known throughout the world as the symbol of the Industrial Revolution", to quote UNESCO's World Heritage website. In 1708, on the site of an earlier furnace from 1658, Abraham Darby established new furnaces, invented a process for castingbrass and iron in sand, and perfected the smelting of iron using coke (from coal) instead of charcoal (from wood). The Darby family's Coalbrookdale Company flourished on the site and continued in existence until at least the 1950s. A wooden railway had been built by local mine-owners in 1605 and, amongst many other "firsts", the Coalbrookdale Company led the design of the new types of iron rail. In 1802 the company built the world's first railway locomotive, to Richard Trevithick's design. There were many other developments by pioneer industrialists in the area - mines, railways, canals, an inclined plane, foundries and the Coalportchina works. The varied products were shipped down the River Severn to the port of Bristol, from where they wereexported to Europe and, later, the world - as such spreading the fruits of the Industrial Revolution. Indeed, in the late 18th century, Coalbrookdale was the most technologically advanced region in the world. It was the birthplace of the First Industrial Revolution. The Iron Bridge was a startling innovation. UNESCO says that "the world's first bridge constructed of iron had a considerable influence on developments in the fields of technology and architecture". The single-arch 30-metre span was made from nearly 400 tons of iron, equivalent to three- or four-months’ output of a blast furnace. The bridge crossed the River Severn from Benthall, in the county of Shropshire, to the opposite shore at Madeley, in the said county in the English West Midlands. The bridge was designed in 1775, approved by Act of Parliament in 1776, funded in 1777, constructed in 1778-79, and opened on New Year's Day 1781, after much of 1779-80 had been spent clearing and building the approach roads. The Bridge attracted scores of ironmasters and industrial spies as well as artists and tourists from around the world. After 170 years as a toll bridge, it was handed over to Shropshire County Council in 1950, and is still today used by pedestrians. Over all those years, the Iron Bridge has become the symbol of the Industrial Revolution. The (vellum) share we offer is signed by the two most important founders : Abraham Darby and John Wilkinson. It is also signed by Edward Harries and issued to Edward Blakeway. 64 shares were issued to the founders. Documents in the Shropshire Records Office show that there were still only 64 shares in the 1860s and, to the best of our belief, no more were issued. Two examples of the founders' share certificates are in museums, and two are in a private collection (one of which sold by us in 2007 for 28.000 EUR), and the piece offered here is thus the fifth known to us. The first promoters' meeting in September 1775 collected seed funding of £23, from 17 subscribers. The majority of this came from the four people on this certificate. 64 shares of £50 were later sold, to provide £3,200, the estimated cost of the bridge. The two largest subscribers signed the certificate : Abraham Darby (15 shares) and John Wilkinson (12 shares). The third signatory, Edward Harries, bought 10, and the holder, Edward Blakeway, bought 2. Folds and cut borders. Abraham Darby (1750-91) was the third famous Abraham Darby. Three generations of this Quaker family made majorcontributions to the industrial revolution, mainly in iron founding, and are credited with many important innovations. A bridge over the River Severn near Coalbrookdale had long been envisaged by the Darby family and other industrialists, to replace the ferries used to convey the large quantities of limestone, firestone, bricks, timber and sometimes ironstone across the river. A meeting of bridge promoters in September 1775 appointed the young Darby as Treasurer. The contract to build the bridge was awarded to Darby's Coalbrookdale Company and it is thought that a cost over-run of almost £3000, much of it arising in the process of erection, was paid for by Darby. By 1782 Darby owned more than half the shares in the Bridge but later transferredmost of them to his brother-in-law, the famous Quaker ironmaster Richard Reynolds. John Wilkinson (1728-1808) was a very important figure in the industrial revolution and owner of businesses in the Coalbrookdale area such as the New Willey foundry company. Wilkinson successfully substituted coal for coke in the iron smelting process and also invented a device for boring cannon barrels from a solid block, which later enabled him to manufacture cylinders for Boulton & Watt's newly patented steam engines. He was Watt's main supplier for many years until being sued for making pirate cylinders to Watt's design. For his passion for iron, he was known as "Iron-Mad Wilkinson" and he produced the first iron barge, iron furniture, an iron pulpit for the Methodist chapel, even his own iron coffin. He was the leading ironmaster in England, and thus the world at the time. Wilkinson may have initiated the first design for the iron bridge. He was a much more experienced businessman than Abraham Darby -aged 48 when the decision was made, to Darby's 26 - and was a strong supporter of the scheme. He subscribed for 12 shares, which he offered to assign to Darby if the bridge was built by Christmas 1778. It wasn't. Darby had problems casting the bridge members and only began erection in 1779. Edward Blakeway (c.1719-1811), a brother-in-law of John Wilkinson, was a wealthy Shrewsbury businessman who invested in several Coalbrookdale enterprises including a major share in the Coalportchina works (which was on the site from 1796 to 1926) and in Wilkinson's New Willey foundry. He bought two of the Bridge's £50 shares, of which this is one. The Reverend Edward Harries of Cruckton Hall near Shrewsbury owned the Benthall Estate including the approaches to the Bridge on the east side of the river. He subscribed £5 (matching Abraham Darby) in the initial promotion and later bought 10 of the £40 shares. The industrial revolution changed the world as never before. The Iron Bridge, located in Coalbrookdale, the cradle of the First Industrial Revolution, is irrefutably the rightful symbol for this revolution. The historic importance of this share cannot be overestimated and it certainly counts among the very best scripophily around the world has to offer us.
Themes: BEFORE 1800, BRIDGES – TUNNELS
Date: 20 October 1777
Startprice: € 18000