The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust has been awarded £9.9 million by the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) from the Cultural Assets Fund (CAF), a £20 million government funding stream to protect treasured heritage assets in England from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. This funding will allow the museum to carry out a backlog of urgent conservation and repair work to 49 historic buildings and structures across the UNESCO World Heritage Site. This includes five scheduled monuments and 30 listed buildings which are recognised individually and collectively for their architectural and historic significance.
The Cultural Assets Fund is funding specifically for conservation work identified as part of the IGMT Quinquennial Review, carried out in 2021. £5.5m of the fund has been allocated specifically for the repair and maintenance of the historical buildings and monuments. The grant also includes £4.5m endowment funding which will be invested to ensure income generation for continuing conservation maintenance and to help safeguard the future of the heritage assets.
Visitor figures to Ironbridge, which has recently experienced devastating floods, dropped by almost 75% in 2020 due to the pandemic, compared to 2019. With less visitor income, the organisation’s funds for vital conservation repair work have been significantly reduced. The pandemic also meant that volunteers were unable to offer their usual help with site maintenance, including flooding repair work. In contrast, 2019 saw over 400 individuals volunteering almost 25,000 hours of their time to support the site.
The funding will support vital repairs to some of Ironbridge’s most important structures, which reveal how its rural landscape was transformed and optimised in the 18th century to provide the transport links, raw materials, and natural resources required for industrial processes such as iron, brick making, and ceramics. The survival of this heritage in its original context is crucial for maintaining the integrity and authenticity of Ironbridge as a designated World Heritage Site, attracting visitors from across the world.