The Community Centre, based in a Victorian listed building, was established in 1998. It is a vital resource for all residents of Coalbrookdale and Ironbridge. Regular users include Cubs, Beavers, Scouts, Explorers, Play Groups, a Film Club and Gardening Club and classes for Tae Kwon Do, Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi. It is also used for meetings, presentations, live music and private parties. Rates are reasonable for hiring and there is lots of free parking.
The Centre is run by a voluntary committee. Booking fees and an annual grant from the Parish Council cover day to day costs, such as heating and cleaning, but improvements are paid for by fundraising and grants. In 2013 the main hall had a major renovation with a new oak floor and soundproofed ceiling funded by grants from Biffa Environmental Trust, the Gorge Parish Council and by our own fundraising. In 2015/6 Veolia Environmental Trust, the Gorge Parish Council, Ironbridge Lions and our own reserves enabled us to improve the rest of the building.
We now have a refurbished kitchen/bar area and separate meeting room, all with new flooring and wheelchair access. In 2017 the building was re-roofed by Telford & Wrekin Council, from whom the building is leased, and in 2018 grants from Telford 50 and the Big Lottery Fund allowed us to modernise the toilet areas on both floors.
The Coalbrookdale & Ironbridge Community Centre occupies a building which has been a focus for community life since 1830. Its original purpose was to house a thriving girls and infants school founded by Mrs. Abraham Darby in 1831 with a school house for the two mistresses incorporated into the building. It was designed in the style of the adjacent Company Works and for many years was jointly run by the Coalbrookdale Company and the Darby family.
In Bagshaw’s Directory of Shropshire, 1851, it was described as ‘a commodious school for girls, near the Works, which is supported by Mrs. Abraham Darby; here about one hundred girls and an equal number of infants are now receiving instruction’.
Close links with the Church began in 1854 when the new Coalbrookdale Church was built; these still continue with the local primary school today. The school became known as Coalbrookdale Church School although it was still maintained by the Darby family and the Coalbrookdale Company.
These arrangements continued until 1893 when a committee of interested local people was formed to run the school; minutes from their meetings are kept at Shropshire Record Office from which it is possible to build up a picture of the school a hundred years ago. They faced some of the same problems that we face today and soon had to commence building works to bring the school up to government standards. It was at this point that the section containing the school house was converted to extra classrooms and cloakrooms with the mistresses receiving financial compensation for losing their accommodation. Fundraising was another important issue and a circular was sent out asking for subscriptions from all the residents in the Coalbrookdale district inviting them to contribute at the rate of one shilling in the pound upon the ratable value of their buildings. The response is not recorded.
In 1938 the local boys joined the girls and infants to form a junior mixed and infants school which continued on the site until 1971 when it moved to larger premises formerly occupied by the Coalbrookdale High School.The building was subsequently used as a dance school and then leased by the Royal British Legion who made the lower floor available for community use. The current Community Centre opened in October 1998 and hopefully the building will continue to form a focus for the community for many years to come. Many of the people who use the Centre have memories of their school days there, some dating back to the 1920s. Gradually a picture of school life through the 20th century is being built up using their reminiscences and photographs where possible. One of these, dated 1927 shows the most unusual feature of the building, an indoor maypole, in use. This has been adopted as the Centre’s logo.