Project to save last remaining coracle shed wins National Lottery support

22 February 2018

Efforts to preserve the last coracle shed in England and celebrate the history of coracle making in the Ironbridge Gorge are set to benefit from National Lottery support. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the project is set to benefit from an initial grant* of £76,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help the Ironbridge Coracle Trust progress their plans to apply for a full grant at a later date.

The River Severn has always been a significant part of the life and livelihoods of people who have lived along its banks. In Ironbridge, the birthplace of the industrial revolution and now a World Heritage Site and popular tourist destination, there has been a tradition of making and using coracles for hundreds of years.

At the height of the industrial era, the coracle men served the Ironbridge Gorge community by making coracles, providing ferry crossings before the advent of the Iron Bridge, helping to clear the river to prevent flooding as well as being skilled fishermen. 

Generations of the Rogers family were among those venerable workers.  Their shed near the Iron Bridge is the last remaining coracle shed in England. In 2003, Eustace Rogers, the last of the family’s coracle makers, died. With no family to continue the business, the shed fell into disrepair.

In order to preserve the last remaining coracle shed in England and celebrate the tradition of coracle making in the Ironbridge Gorge, a group of locals came together to form the Ironbridge Coracle Trust in 2014. That same year, the trust successfully applied for a £40,000 grant from Telford & Wrekin Council’s Community Pride Fund and thanks to the award of this funding, the trust were able to purchase the historic coracle shed and begin their journey to conserve this little piece of world history. Since then, trust members have been raising funds to conserve the shed, curate its historical artefacts and promote traditional coracle making artisan skills so that their role in the history of the Ironbridge Gorge are not lost.

At the end of 2017, Telford & Wrekin Council awarded another £30,000 to improve the steps and pathways that lead along the river past the coracle shed to improve access for the future. 

This latest funding from the HLF will mean that detailed plans for the conservation work on the coracle shed can now begin. Part of the National Lottery funding will also be used by ICT to carry out some urgent repairs to the coracle making collection and to run the annual Ironbridge coracle regatta. Other courses and events will be held in association with The Green Wood Centre.

Terry Kenny, Chair of Ironbridge Coracle Trust and skilled coracle maker, said: “This is an exciting time for us. Coracles and the coracle men are an important part of the history of Ironbridge. There are many people in Ironbridge who have fond memories of the Rogers family, their friends and their coracles. They were colourful characters and there are a lot of stories to tell - they are important part of the folk lore of Ironbridge.”

Councillor Rae Evans, Telford & Wrekin Council cabinet member with responsibility for tourism, said: “It is so important that we work together to treasure and safeguard the Gorge’s industrial heritage for local residents and visitors. The Gorge is one of Telford and Wrekin’s most celebrated assets, loved by locals and popular with tourists who come from all over to discover its many attractions. The initial Pride funding meant the trust could buy the shed and start the process of securing the funds needed to preserve this little piece of history.  It is a journey and the National Lottery funding is a very welcome boost.” 


For further information or to get involved please contact Jude Walker, Secretary, Ironbridge Coracle Trust [email protected], telephone (01952) 275606.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

* HLF Heritage Grant applications are assessed in two rounds. The Ironbridge Coracle Project has initially been granted round one development funding of £76,600 by the Heritage Lottery Fund, allowing it to progress with its plans.  Detailed proposals are then considered by HLF at second round, where a final decision is made on the full funding award of £344,200.

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