Work to begin to conserve historic coracle shed

Trustees from the Ironbridge Coracle Trust are pleased to announce that works to halt the decline of last coracle makers shed in England which is situated on the bank of the River Severn within the World Heritage Site (WHS) of the Ironbridge Gorge are starting.

Work to begin to conserve historic coracle shed

Thanks to players of the National Lottery, the Trust has been able to secure a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund which will see the shed stabilised, repaired and established as a visitor attraction.

The Coracle Shed dates from the 1920s and was owned by the Rogers family until the death of Eustace Rogers in 2003.  It was used by Eustace, his father and grandfather before him, for building Ironbridge Coracles.

In recognition of the importance of the shed and coracle making to Ironbridge the Trust has appointed Messenger, experienced conservations contractors, to carry out the sympathetic works to improve the structural integrity of the shed and ensure its survival for years to come.

Peep holes will be formed in the wall close to the public foot path which will allow visitors to look through and see images of life of a coracle maker using a Victorian stage lighting trick called The Pepper’s Ghost effect. 

Works will begin on site at the end of January 2020 and are expected to take three months.

History of coracle making in Ironbridge and background to the shed’s conservation

There is a 300-year old tradition of making and using coracles on the River Severn in Ironbridge, which is in danger of being lost.

Dating from the 1920s, the Roger’s family shed is situated on the bank of the Severn within the WHS of the Ironbridge Gorge and clearly visible from the Iron Bridge itself. It was bought by the Trust in 2017 with the help of funding from Telford & Wrekin Council’s Community Pride Fund.  Since then the Trust has been working tirelessly to preserve it for the future.

The contents from the original shed, however, cannot be safely displayed or stored within the existing shed and it would not be accessible to visitors, so a new Coracle Stories Hut has been built on a site donated by the Small Woods Association at the Green Wood Centre in Coalbrookdale to show the collection.

This heritage is not just about a shed and a strange mode of river transport, it is about the people who used and made coracles, and their connection to the River Severn and the various communities of the Ironbridge Gorge.

Alongside the conservation of the Shed, the Ironbridge Coracle Trust is working with the local community of Ironbridge to document and record some of the memories of those who knew the last coracle men.  There will also be an exciting programme of activities to enable young people to discover and acquire the traditional skills of coracle making.

Anne Jenkins, Director, England, Midlands & East, said: “The coracle makers of Ironbridge are integral to the heritage of the area, and this important project will ensure that their stories and legacies are not lost to future generations. We’re delighted that money raised by National Lottery players will enable the safeguarding of the craft and its history and allow young people to discover more about their local heritage.”

Councillor Carolyn Healy, Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet member for the World Heritage Site, said: “This is fantastic news and a real testimony to the hard work of the Ironbridge Coracle Trust. It has been a privilege to support them in their work to preserve such an important part of our community’s history’’

[Photo courtesy of Ironbride Coracle Trust, Graham Peet]

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