The Iron Bridge at Ironbridge is an iconic object in the landscape that is seen by many as the birthmark of the industrial revolution. People come from around the world to see it and marvel at this cast iron arch that crosses the River Severn. Built around 1780 it was a first significant bridge crossing that inspired the use of cast iron as a structural material.
A lot of academic stuff has been written about how it was cast and the constructional design. As a first of its kind, it used both dovetail and mortice joints (as seen in woodwork) in its construction. Casting the sections, certainly stretched the imaginations of the designers, ironmasters, and historians.
I still wonder as a builder; how did they erect it with only ropes and pulleys at their disposal.
I think that much construction knowledge, by necessity, resides in the minds of the individual working within the construction domain and that the intent behind the decisions made on sites and projects was often not recorded or documented and is therefore lost in the minds of the people from our past
As the casual visitor to Ironbridge is all consumed by the spectre of the Iron Bridge, just downstream is another icon from the past, the Coracle makers hut.
This hut is an object in the landscape that has become invisible to the casual onlooker by its familiarity. I love it, I have a thing about sheds.
The Coracle is a small locally made craft that is still used all over the world and are to me a link between our modern selves and our ancient past. There were thousands of Coracle made here. Local people used them for fishing and travel, the river itself was an integral part of everyday life and a source of sustenance. Most everyday people in Ironbridge owned a Coracle to avoid paying the toll on the Iron Bridge.
Making Coracles is a tacit skill, built by hand eye coordination and a feel for what’s right and works.
The growth of technology has moved us further away from our tacit skills and association with the landscape. This of course is the builder within me talking, but I do believe that understanding tacit knowledge should be the driving force to bring about critical thinking when exploring the past. I know that when I was building a Coracle, I was seeing he world thought the eyes of a person from the past, many thousands of years ago. If we can begin to understand out past, then maybe we can understand ourselves.