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Biographies of Abraham Darby the First and Third

Abraham Darby

Abraham Darby the First: First successful smelter of iron with coke. Abraham Darby the Third: Builder of the world’s first ironbridge over the River Severn.

NOTE: This is unique on Britain Unlimited that a page covers more than one person but there were four bearers of the name Abraham Darby in the famous Quaker family. The First and Third who achieved particular success are covered here.

No portraits of the Darby Family exist 
as it was against their Quaker religion 
to make images of themselves.

When and Where was he Born?

Abraham Darby the First: 1678, Wren’s Nest, Sedgley, West Midlands, England.

Abraham Darby the Third: 1750, Nash House, Coalbrookdale.

Family Background:

Abraham Darby the First was the son of a Quaker farmer.


Within the family by Quakers and self-taught. Apprenticed as a metal worker.

Upper furnace pool
Upper Furnace Pool, Coalbrookdale 
still showing Iron deposits today (copyright Anthony Blagg)
Aga Factory
Former Aga Cooker Factory on the site of the famous Coalbrookdale manufactory which closed in 2017  (copyright  Anthony Blagg)

Timeline of Abraham Darby:

1699: Abraham Darby the First married Mary Sarjeant.

1700: Darby founded the Baptist Mills Brass works near Temple Meads in Bristol and over the next few years turned Britain into a major producer and exporter of brass. Using sand moulds made the process continuous.

1708: He founded the Bristol Iron Company.

1709: The first successful manufacture of good quality iron in furnaces fired with Coke is made at his new premises in Coalbrookdale, Shropshire, on the banks of the River Severn. Charcoal was becoming too scarce and could not achieve fires for furnaces of the right temperature and coal contained many impurities including sulphur which made inferior quality iron. The area was rich in low sulphur coal.

1712: 250 tons of coal were being used per week at the Baptist Mills Brass Works. The advent of the new Newcomen steam engine created major new market for iron.

Nash House belonging to Darby
Nash House, Coalbrookdale where Abraham Darby the Third was born and 
which became known to the family as The Darby home. (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1758: Abraham the First was succeeded in the business by his son Abraham the Second and the factory had cast about 100 Newcomen engines by this time.

1779: Abraham Darby the Third, grandson of the original Abraham Darby created the world’s first cast iron bridge at Iron Bridge, which still crosses the River Severn today. It was designed by Thomas Farnolls Pritchard and the pieces where transported from the Coalbrookdale Factory one and a half miles away to be erected over the river at what is now called Ironbridge.

When and Where did he Die?

Abraham Darby the First: 8th March 1717, Madeley Court, Shropshire, England.
Abraham Darby the Third: 1791.

Age at Death:

Abraham Darby the First: 39.
Abraham Darby the Third: 41.

Iron Bridge, Shropshire
The world’s First Iron Bridge which became the symbol of the Industrial revolution,
 Ironbridge, Telford. (copyright Anthony Blagg)


Abraham Darby the First: 18th September 1699 to Mary Sarjeant.

Site of Grave:

Abraham Darby the First: All Saint’s Church, Broseley, Shropshire, England.
Abraham Darby the Third: Quaker Burial Ground, Coalbrookdale, Telford, Shropshire. This walled piece of land was bought by Abraham Darby the Second for his burial and those of many other Quaker’s in the vicinity.

Quaker burial ground
The Quaker Burial Ground just up the road from Nash House. Bought by Abraham Darby the Second for his burial and that of other quakers in the area. Abraham Darby the third is also buried here. There is a plaque at the entrance showing the original burial locations (copyright Anthony Blagg)
Quaker burial ground
Detail of Quaker Burial Ground notice

Places of Interest:


Iron Bridge Gorge Museums, Coalbrookdale. His grandson Abraham Darby the Third cast and erected the world’s first iron bridge at Coalbrookdale, Shropshire.

Rosehill House, Coalbrookdale
Rosehill House, Colabrookdale built next door to Nash House showed how prosperous the Darby Family had become (copyright Anthony Blagg)