Abraham Darby I (14 April 1678 – 8 March 1717) was the first and most well known of three generations of that name.
He was born at Woodsettle, Woodsetton, Staffordshire, just across the county boundary from Dudley, Worcestershire, into an English Quaker family. He was descended from nobility; his great-grandmother Jane was an illegitimate child of Edward Sutton, 5th Baron Dudley.
The family played an important role in the Industrial Revolution and Abraham Darby I developed a method of producing pig iron in a blast furnace fuelled by coke rather than charcoal. This was a major step forward in the production of iron as a raw material for the Industrial Revolution.
Coke is a fuel with few impurities and a high carbon content, usually made from coal. Cokes made from coal are grey, hard, and porous. While coke can be formed naturally, the commonly used form is man-made.
Coke’s superior crushing strength allowed blast furnaces to become taller and larger.
The ensuing availability of inexpensive iron was one of the factors leading to the Industrial Revolution. Before this time, iron-making used large quantities of charcoal, produced by burning wood.
And as forests dwindled dangerously, the substitution of coke for charcoal became common in Great Britain.
Darby set up his furnaces in Coalbrookdale, Shropshire in what has come to be known as the Ironbridge Gorge.
Below are some images the foundry and village today.