“ Open air museum in Shropshire, England. „
For a long time, I've enjoyed visiting museums based upon the not-so-distant past; attractions such as Yesterday's World in Great Yarmouth and the Black Country Museum in Dudley have always fascinated me for their examination of Victorian England. Although my last visited to Dudley over two years ago was somewhat of a disappointment, I was still eager to visit Blists Hill, a similar tourist attraction situated close to Ironbridge in Shropshire. Apparently, I've been to the Victorian Town before but I can't remember the occasion so this review will definitely be focused upon Blists Hill as it is today.
OK SO IT'S A VICTORIAN TOWN IN IRONBRIDGE. WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO KNOW ABOUT BLISTS HILL?
Blists Hill is an open-air museum which was built upon the grounds of an old industrial complex in the 1970s. The museum is essentially a collection of working shops, industrial workplaces and houses that people living in the 19th century would have used on a daily basis. The buildings themselves were either already present on the original site, such as the blast furnace; have been based upon several shops from the era, such as the locksmith; or have incorporated original fixtures and fittings from other places across England, such as the New Inn which used to stand in Walsall. Blists Hill is set across fifty acres of woodland but to me it didn't seem as if we'd walked that much or that far by the end of the day: the different buildings were separated across the area but not in a way that was unmanageable.
As a tourist attraction, Blists Hill is host to several different displays, some of which are 'manned' on some days so that visitors (in theory) can listen to stories about certain trades and how shops used to produce their goods. Other areas are merely there for historical interest and viewing purposes, such as the remains of the blast furnace. Although there is a fair amount to see and do, Blists Hill has a very relaxed pace to it; you can spend as much or as little time looking around every nook and cranny as you please but the organisers recommend that you set aside at least three hours for your visit which is a good estimate. Obviously, this time will increase or decrease depending upon when you visit as the weekends and bank holiday periods tend to include special events.
One thing that really, really irks me about any tourist attraction is when you have to pay for the privilege of using their car park. True, Blists Hill is situated a short distance away from the heart of Ironbridge but I think you'd have to be a fairly avid walker to park up at Blists Hill and stroll all of the way to the town centre as it is still quite a distance. After the jobsworth tells you where to park, collecting your £1.50 as you pass go, it's a relatively short distance to the entrance where you purchase your tickets. If, like us, you have not got an Ironbridge passport, a one off payment of £22.50 for adults which allows you to visit all of the area's ten museums, you can expect to pay the following per ticket at Blists Hill:
Adults ~ £14.95
Adults over the age of sixty ~ £11.95
Child/student ~ £9.95
The lady on the desk was pleasant but the place was heaving with people; we had decided, perhaps unwisely, to visit Blists Hill last Bank Holiday Monday and by the time we'd paid and returned to our car for a bit of lunch at 12.30pm, the car park was full. I would be lying if I said that the amount of people in attendance that day didn't make things troublesome; although Blists Hill covers a vast area of land, the key points of the attraction were filled to the brim, making it hard to really have a proper look around. Therefore, if you can, it's my recommendation to visit the museum when it's not the height of summer or at any other point during the school holidays. The Victorian Town's opening times can be found at the bottom of this review but the above prices are fixed until March 2012.
JUST WHAT IS THERE TO DO AT BLISTS HILL?
I'm not going to go through each and every building, you'll be pleased to read; instead, I'm going to select a few that struck me as the most interesting and those that I found to be a little disappointing so that you know what to expect overall.
As you enter the visitor centre, the first port of call after purchasing your tickets, you're invited to watch a five or so minute long video which is a mixture of modern day recreations and photographs taken during the Victorian era. The footage is projected in sections across the tall walls and at times, not all of the footage is the same so you have the choice to look at different visuals of the same topic. Personally, I felt that the video package was one of the most informative parts of Blists Hill; without the need for many words, instead combining music with the sound of machinery, the videos depicted the sometimes tragic life of those living in Victorian England. There was nothing gruesome or sensationalist about it; even the montage of clips showing coal miners being taken to their final resting place was tastefully done with just a solemnly-sung hymn in the background. The video was certainly not all doom and gloom as it managed to capture what an exciting, experimental time Victorian Britain was, particularly with regards to industrial growth which Ironbridge is renowned for.
Once you arrive at the top floor of the visitor centre, you exit to the outside and I have to say that I liked the way the town itself had been organised at the point of construction: the area towards the visitor centre creates a high street where you get to see some traditional Victorian shops, such as the grocers, before venturing out to the industrial area and homes. As I enjoy looking at fashion from years gone by, I was instantly drawn to the outfitters on the left side street; it had a lovely array of feathered hats, nightwear, corsets and ribbons and I found the note on the door to be very amusing - something along the lines of 'if you're a peasant, keep out until after closing time when I may be able to cobble you an outfit together out of odds and ends'. Charming!
Another part of the attraction which I really enjoyed looking around was the Doctor's surgery, a quaint little cottage with fire engine red window panes, located towards the bottom end of the town. Whilst it was a joy to look around at the house's decor, particularly the row upon row of leather bounded books, I really enjoyed looking through the Doctor's notes about the patients he diagnosed on a daily basis. I found the various treatment methods for illnesses such as indigestion to be particularly amusing and it really makes you appreciate how much medical science has advanced over the past hundred to hundred-and-fifty years. The gardens at the back of the house are particularly tranquil and allow you to take a moment away from the very busy street life elsewhere at Blists Hill.
There was a particularly striking juxtaposition between the types of houses people used to live in, from the moderately well off to those living on the breadline. The squatter cottage close to the mine was a very humble display, adorned with ragged patchwork quilts and the most basic of kitchen utensils. One of the most discreet exhibits on display in the squatter's cottage was the crucifixes hanging both in the bedroom and the sitting area. It was a subtle display but enough to give you a bit of an insight into the beliefs of those living at the time.
However, by far the most absorbing exhibit was the candle makers, situated at the heart of Blists Hill. By the time we'd arrived, quite a crowd had entered the little brick building and the gentleman behind the railings, who was making candles for sale and display purposes, began a wonderful prose about what life was truly like for candle makers at the time. His speech was engaging, with pauses in-between which invited questions from the visitors, and full of interesting historical details including what candle makers and miners used to do with the leftover candles at the end of the day. The facts were quite unusual and I genuinely felt as if I'd learnt something valuable by the end of his talk.
Sadly, the amount of information across the board at Blists Hill was rather scarce; besides the postal museum archives, blast furnace and mine experience centre, there was very little written information available. Many of the members of staff at the attraction failed to engage visitors in the same way that the candle maker did; some may say that visitors should start the conversations first but I believe that many people would not think to ask the question that the candle maker answered, without the workers starting the discussion. Whilst the dress maker was happy to natter away to a couple of tourists, when my Brother asked a question in the chemists, the lady simply didn't know the answer so Mum answered it for her! To the chemist lady's defence, she didn't normally 'work' in there: she was covering another staff member's absence. Yet it just epitomises to me how Blists Hill should produce a little more written information just to offer some basic statements about the displays.
Having said that, at times, the workers were rather a hindrance: in the squatter cottage it was impossible to take a good look at the fireplace because two of them were sat in rocking chairs right in front of it!
Another thing that really bugged me about Blists Hill was the fact that it felt more like a shopping centre than a museum. True, there is a recession on and places of historical interest need to do all they can to raise funds in order to keep going. However, whilst in some shops it was a pleasant touch for them to sell products made on site, such as the pork scratchings costing a pound a bag at the butchers and four candles for a pound at the candle makers, in other places, it felt unnecessary; in the dress makers, there was the chance to purchase a cardboard doll and 'dress' her in the supplied paper clothes. Now, I know for a fact that when I was younger, I would have begged my Mum to buy me one and she probably would have obliged. But when you take into consideration that there's a gift shop at the exit, a sweet shop, a fish and chip shop, a photographers, a chemists that sells smelly soaps and then several vintage fairground rides that you have to pay to go on, it can soon turn into an expensive day. Also, places such as the butchers and bakers seemed to be open purely for the purpose of selling food so were not exactly much of a historical display in comparison to the cottages, printers or candle makers.
Speaking of expense, I think it's quite cheeky that Blists Hill wants its customers to spend an additional £2 a head to watch a six minute video about mining which also includes a two minute trip there and back on a train. As the coal mining centre was one of the few places on the site which has been jam-packed full of information, I do have to question whether the further two pounds is worth the extra money. Instead, we decided to take a short trip on the steady incline lift, which is already included in the price of the tickets, so we could see Blists Hill in its entirety from a distance.
Considering we were visiting on a Bank holiday weekend, I found it disappointing that places such as the church and the school were out of bounds to the general public: the most you could do was go and have a quick peek through the glass doors at both. The church does not necessarily need to be 'manned' any day of the week but the school hosts a mock lesson every Sunday. Considering how many children were loitering around Blists Hill on the day we visited, it's arguable that there's a demand for an old-fashioned school lesson at least once or twice a day during peak times. Personally, I found it a bit odd that Blists Hill did not have anything such as that arranged for visitors that Monday as there were several people in the queue to get tickets who were really looking forward to going inside the school itself.
BESIDES THE SCHOOL, HOW CHILD FRIENDLY IS BLISTS HILL?
I would say that Blists Hill is very child friendly place; besides the fairground rides, which are understandably only open during the spring and summer months, there are different events to educate and entertain children which occur throughout the year. On the day we visited, there was a tie-dye candle dipping class which did cost a little extra per child's participation. Sadly, by the time we were heading for the exit at about 3.30pm, the tent had already closed because they had run out of candles so if you do have little ones who enjoy arts and crafts, I'd recommend doing anything like that as and when you see it.
Another really sweet touch is the fact that the bank allows you to swap present-day money for old currency so that you can 'buy' gifts and food on the premises with Victorian-era coins. At first I was a bit cynical about that; to me, the bank was pretty pointless unless you actually wanted to exchange your money for old-fashioned coinage because it just had queues upon queues of people waiting to do just that. But then I thought it was a nice touch for children as they would get to learn about the currency from the day. If you don't fancy standing in line and waiting to exchange money, you can buy everything on site with today's money which does make the exercise seem somewhat pointless but the children doing so seemed to be having a good time.
That bank holiday weekend, Blists Hill also promoted a number of displays based upon the Lewis Carroll classic, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Although we didn't watch any of them (I have a phobia of furries) we did catch the cast roaming around the streets and they actively got the children involved by goading them into watching the play later that afternoon. Based on that little snippet, I imagine that for children it would have been a fun, pantomime-like demonstration and, of course, a good way for the book to be brought to life.
ACCESSIBILITY AND OTHER INFO
Whilst there are ways for people in wheelchairs to get about the Victorian Town, I will say that many of the paths are very uneven in places. Lifts are a feature of many of the newer buildings and, from what I can recall, there was no need to go upstairs in any of the older buildings so people with limited mobility would not be missing out in any way. There are also several disabled toilets on site. The female loos close to the cafe area were in a good condition although the lock on one of the doors could do with being changed.
Visitors are allowed to take dogs onto the site if they're on a lead. There are however many lovely animals throughout Blists Hill which is why doggies must be contained; I would hate to think that the cockerels and black piglets would be in danger! There is the option to have a ride on a horse-drawn carriage too so you might have to play a game of turd dodging as you're walking around the grounds as nobody working at Blists Hill seemed to be the designated poop-picker-upper...
We didn't purchase any food from Blists Hill: frankly, I got bored of waiting in line for the sweet shop and we would have probably been waiting for a further half an hour before getting in there, with no exaggeration. We did however get some drinks from the cafe next to the visitor centre and the price for two coffees, an organic apple juice and a bottle of Curiosity Cola, basically an indulgently sugary, old-fashioned soft drink, cost somewhere in the region of six to seven pounds. The cafe was not too busy by about half past three in the afternoon but it is rather limited in terms of seating. There are other places to eat and drink on site, including the New Inn pub and the Forest Glen Refreshment Pavilion, and opening times vary but at the pub, there was a large blackboard which stated when food would be served throughout the day.
The shop towards the exit sells a range of gifts for the young and old alike using materials sourced locally. I purchased an adorable elephant necklace on a black cord chain for £1 which was made in Ironbridge and I would say that overall, the gift shop is pretty reasonably priced; old-fashioned sweets cost £2.50 for a smallish jar and a miniature but cute mouse doorstop cost just a pound more.
OVERALL: WOULD I RETURN TO BLISTS HILL?
Perhaps if I had children, I would go back: there is a lot for them to do in terms of the extras on site, like the Alice's Adventures in Wonderland display and the candle dipping. But for adults, I think the Blists Hill experience is a lot more limited due to the fact that there was such an inadequate amount of information available. To me, Blists Hill's worth as a historical attraction would increase no end if there was more written information across the grounds as I felt that it was very much a place for looking at and admiring rather than finding out about the past in a profound way. Don't get me wrong, the buildings looked authentic and aesthetically pleasing but that's about all.
It's difficult to get past the fact that Blists Hill felt more like a collection of shops rather than a museum with the added bonus of being able to purchase prezzies made on site, particularly when it comes to areas like the butchers and bakers being included for that purpose alone. I also think that Blists Hill's staff should make a concerted effort to talk to visitors and to ask them if they have any questions or, like the candle-maker, to start talking about the trade when a significant amount of people are around. The chemist's is one area that particularly stands out in that respect as lacking: there were a lot of people who were just wandering about glancing at the 'stock' before leaving again. There was a dentist's booth adjacent to that building and I felt that it would be a key area to have a member of staff pretending to be a dentist from the era and talking about what a trip to the dentist's office would have been like back then and the same goes for the doctor's.
In terms of how it compares to similar attractions, then I think Blists Hill is a little weaker than the Black Country Museum: the Black Country Museum had more places to look around, such as the observatory and buildings for entertainment purposes like the cinema, and was more atmospheric yet some of the staff were a little on the rude side; the people who were working at Blists Hill seemed agreeable enough overall and some were very, very knowledgeable. The Black Country Museum is marginally cheaper and does offer more for car enthusiasts as there's a big display of old fashioned motors. But back to Blists Hill and overall, it's an attraction which offers visitors a pleasant day out: it's not too taxing and in the warmer weather, it's a sweet place to take a stroll around. However, it would be a good idea for them to develop the site a little more in the future as there's certainly the space to add displays of pertinent cultural value, like a cinema, if Blists Hill wanted to present a fuller picture of life in the Victorian era.
Address: Legges Way, Madeley, Ironbridge, TF7 5DU
Phone number: 01952 884391
Opening times: All day, every day, Monday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm. Presumably, Christmas Day is out-of-bounds.
How long does it take to complete?: Three to four hours.
Transportation: Between Easter and October, a bus service which is free to Ironbridge passport holders, operates Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays. Telford train station is five miles away.
(Please note: review previously posted 'on the other side' under the same user name.)
I remember visiting here on a school trip about 25 years ago (eek!) and really enjoying it, so on a recent short break in the area we decided to see if it had changed much.
Blists Hill is an open-air 'living' Victorian museum and all the staff are dressed appropriately for the era. It is signposted from the Shropshire town of Ironbridge and there is parking on site. There is a fee for parking, I don't recall the amount but I think it was quite reasonable as your ticket is valid all day in any of the other Ironbridge museum car parks except the Museum of the Gorge (details are at the ticket machine). It is open daily 10am - 4pm. To visit here alone it costs £14.90 which is quite a lot of money. If you have the passport (which is £21.95) you get in free as part of that. The passport allows you entry into nine other museums in the area when they are open (some are seasonal) for a year.
You arrive in a modern reception and gift shop where you can purchase tickets or get your passport checked before going through to the town. There are a few things to look at as you walk through, but we sped up as I needed the loo! Just before you enter the town there is a café offering hot food and sandwiches where we stopped to refuel and use the facilities. Lavatories were clean and well stocked, there were disabled facilities also. We had a jacket potato each with soft drinks.
The town is open air so you need to consider the weather. We went in early January, so although it was dry, it was cold and we re-treated back to the warmth of the car after three hours. Also due to burst pipes some buildings were closed.
One of the first shops you visit in the town is the bank to change your money for Victorian money. They do take 'new' money in the shops nowadays so this isn't strictly necessary, but could be fun if you came here with children. Other shops to visit include a grocers, chemist and haberdashers. There are little things for sale in the shops but a lot of the merchandise is there for historical purposes and authenticity. It is interesting to see the things they have for sale and to see famous brands in 'retro' packaging. The staff who serve in the shop are friendly and well informed and can answer your questions. They are also happy to engage and chat with any children who are there. There is also a post office and the postmistress informed us that there is a museum upstairs. The museum depicts the Royal Mail from it inception to the present day, and isn't specifically orientated in the Victorian era. It is only a small museum but worth a visit.
Other popular places are the pub (draught beer and a few other alcoholic and soft drinks are sold in this small pub), where you can sit down. It is very basic but apparently they have an Old Time Music Hall choir singing here at weekends. I am undecided if it was a good thing or not that we missed it! You can also purchase Fish & Chips in the appropriate shop or visit the sweet shop and buy sweets by weight from a jar. We purchased a gobstopper each for the princely sum of 10p. After the shops you can see a few homes and look at typical bedrooms and living quarters. There is a bakers selling fresh bread baked on the premises, a chatty and informative candlestick maker, a blacksmith and a printer. The printer was also keen to chat to his younger visitors, and talk to them about their future career (when they turned 12) as a printer's apprentice. He also had some printed cards to play word games with them. They also have a photographer where you can dress up in Victorian outfits and pose for sepia toned pictures which you can then purchase. We couldn't find the photographer when we visited, but I am sure I have a picture with my schoolmates lurking in a shoebox somewhere from my previous visit.
There appears to be a fairground here but that was closed due to the weather I think. The schoolhouse and a few other buildings were closed due to the aforementioned burst pipe. I think they normally run a horse and cart for rides but guess that is also seasonal. There are other industrial sites around the town but these didn't seem to be used to their full potential - again this could be due to the weather as it was outdoors. As well as the café by the entrance and the Fish and Chip shop, there is also a tea room for refreshments.
I do recommend Blists Hill for a visit. We were here three hours and only retreated when we did as we were so cold. I think you can easily spend four hours wandering around here, particularly with a family. The site is geared towards learning and children, and as mentioned above, a lot of the staff are happy to engage with younger visitors and tell them stories of Victorian life. Some of them must repeat their anecdotes hundreds of times during the day but they all had a smile on their faces. They are happy to answer questions from adults too! During the warmer months and school holidays there are specific activities organised and I recall visiting on a school outing so presumably this is still the case. I think the individual admission is quite pricey; it is better value in conjunction with the Ironbridge Museum passports, plus they also do a family pass.
BLISTS HILL A VICTORIAN TOWN
After we had to cancel our main two week holiday, we decided to visit our local tourist attractions. We are lucky enough to live in a small village just outside Ironbridge which is a large tourist attraction and hosts at least 10 museums. Blists Hill A Victorian Town being the biggest of all of them. I have personally lived here for over 20 years and I have only once visited here previously and that was a long time ago, it has been improved greatly since that first visit. My husband has never visited it before now, isn't it amazing how you something wonderful on your own doorstep and it takes you years to get around to visiting it.
~~A little History~~
We can trace it back to the late 18th century when the mining industry was well established here; the local Ironmaster William Reynolds tried to link the mine with the River Severn by tunnelling through the hill and by doing this he discovered a natural source of bitumen (this is now known as Tar Tunnel and is also open to the public). The Shropshire Canal was built instead and was used for many years until progress bought along the railways. Blists Hill had the brickworks and the blast furnaces working on the site either side of the canal for the transport links. For years brick and tiles, plus pig-iron were produced here; in its hay day there were over 500 people working here, so it was a prominent business at that time keeping local people employed (probably even some of my relatives as my sister traced our family tree back to this area). It was 1860 when the new rail link was built, which was just as well as the ground here was a little unstable and caused problems with the canal.
The blast furnaces finally closed down in 1912 and the canal closed down soon after; the brick and tile factory lasted a while longer and closed down in 1960. Blists Hill was now totally closed down and its slag was quarried to make new roads in the area. The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust was set up in 1967 and they started the Blists Hill Open Air Museum which opened its doors to the public for the first time in 1973. Today Blists Hill has been turned into a Victorian town where buildings have been moved here from various locations brick by brick and recreated to make this town. The majority have been moved and are the original buildings and some are replicas. You will find that all the staff working in the town will be in Victorian costume.
It was the first sunny day of my leave from work, when we decided to visit the Victorian town, as the majority of the town involves walking from building to building a dry day is a very good idea. My day was made more special as my daughter decided to take a day off from her studies and join us for the trip. As it was a Saturday the car park was already getting full and we had to join the queue to enter; my husband and I had our passport tickets, my daughter had to purchase her ticket, but as she had her student ID she did get a good discount.
To gain entry once you have your ticket you go into a little room where they play an introduction video on Blists Hill and its history, you then take the stairs to the town; there is a lift for people with mobility problems. On the day of our visit the lift was temporary out of order, wheelchair users were getting assistance from members of staff and pushed around the outskirts of the entrance building and up the hill into the town. My husband helped me up the stairs and then we rested in the
café next door to the entrance with a cup of tea, whilst I got my energy back ready for the walk around the town.
We took this time to have a look at the guide book and the scale map of the town to see where we were going and what there was to see. Also making sure we didn't anything. I also noted that I was sitting in the perfect position to get a lovely picture of the town, so out came my camera and I clicked away for a little while, until my family urged me to stop so we could actually move on and take a look around. Our next stop was to go to Lloyds Bank, this is a must place to visit especially if you want to make this visit special for both you and your children. Blists Hill has its own currency it is actually old money that was around before we went decimal in 1971. The coins all have Blists Hill Museum on them, but you can spend them in the shops as you go round making it more authentic and fun (for those that don't want to join in you can also spend 'real' money).
The bank teller dressed in Victorian costume advised us that exchanging £10.00 would be more than enough to enjoy ourselves with, so my daughter and I did just that, and our money was given to us in a little brown envelope so we could keep it separate from modern coins. They gave us a sheet of paper with this explaining the exchange rate for example 1 shilling (a bob) is equivalent to £4.80; 2 shillings and sixpence (half a crown, which used to be how much my pocket money was when I was a little girl) is equal to £12.00. Don't worry if you lose this as all the shop keepers will help you sort your money if you wish to buy and they do display prices in old and decimal currency.
The street was crowded with people when we left the bank, it looks like a real street with the staff walking about and playing in period costume amongst all the visitors that is; the atmosphere was electric as people walked about taking a look at everything and getting involved. A horse and carriage rode up the street and people had to get out of its way; all this added to the authenticity of the place. Young children were yelling to clean your shoes for a penny, and other were selling you the local (Victorian) paper as a souvenir, everything here is set out to be as realistic as possible and I am I still only in the street, I haven't entered any of the shops yet. My hubby and my daughter mock my enthusiasm as once again I am like a child in a toy shop getting excited and carried away.
I'd like to say I dash into each shop, but in truth I enter the first shop and take my time as I stand there absorbing the atmosphere and looking at the ornate old fashioned till which looks all shiny and pretty, I look at all the items on sale wanting to buy half of the store as a memory, but my daughter makes me be an adult again and treats me to a lovely china tea strainer which I now use most days.
The chemist shop was great to see and even had a dentist/doctors chair complete with straps to tie you down, ouch I'm glad I didn't have to go through with dental work in those days. Going up a side street we saw the haberdashery where you could purchase lace, everything looked so pretty and tempting. There was also and old fashioned chip shop which my daughter really fancied trying but the queue went on 'forever' (ok, I exaggerate, but it was really long). We settled for a little sweetshop and bought some good old fashioned sweets; my mother-in-laws favourites' rhubarb and custard sweets were there.
After pleasing my daughter with the sweets, I went and upset her by arranging to have our picture taken in Victorian attire, (she doesn't like having her photo taken); our appointment was for approx 1 hour later, so we went to see some more of the town and then went to the pub, we all sat on the stiff wooden benches with the cast iron tables; if we had been able to stay there we would have got to see some singers which were the 'Victorian' entertainment; but our appointment had been made for the same time. The pub was called The New Inn and it sold Bank's beer, it was once located in the centre of Walsall in the West Midlands until it arrived at Blists Hill in 1981.
On leaving the pub I had to try the toilets, they too were authentic except for the toilet paper, which thankfully was very 21st century I was so pleased it wasn't the old Izal toilet paper which was hard and awful to use. As we came out of the rear yard you could smell and see the smoke coming from a local workshop in the town. We moved on to investigate what else there was to see and we saw many people showing their trades, you could actually see them working you could see them filling moulds to make Ironwork or clay, you could watch a tinsmith working or a carpenter, there were so many you could go and see.
It was time to go and have our photographs taken, on arrival at the shop we were asked what we would like and then shown into a back room which contained cubicles (a very modern changing room), my daughter and I shared one and my husband went into another one, we were all given the choice of a couple of outfits each to choose from. The costumes were great and they tied around the back so they could be adjusted to fit the fuller figure. With our costumes on and looking very smart and Victorian we were led into the studio, which is on display to the public so they will see you posing for your photographs. The photographs are taken by a very modern digital camera set up to a computer which generates an image which is then printed off for you. The young girl offered us various Victorian accessories including glasses, head wear and purses for our photographs, she took a couple of us smiling and some more natural ones; at the end of the shoot we got to have a look at the photos to decide which one we wanted. We only bought the one photo which was an 8 x 10 for £15.00 but they did have more offers available. We were very pleased with the photo which is now framed and hanging up in my living room.
I am a happy bear as we leave the photographers and move on to see the rest of the town. We walked up the hill, but half way up I stopped to take a look at the Duke of Sutherlands' cottage and Doctors Surgery. The Duke was one of the largest landowners in East Shropshire and the cottage was moved to this site from Donnington, Telford; it is dressed with all period features, but what made it even more special was they had the family (dressed in character) in the living room enjoying a hot cup of tea, the lady of the house was addressing the visitors providing information of the history of the property.
Hubby and my daughter had stayed outside and I found them looking at the pigs in the plot next to the house when I came out. We carried on then past the old brick works and onto the old fair, the Forest Glen (which I remember when it was at the bottom of the Wrekin) and the Victorian school. We stopped and had a rest at the Forest Glen which was moved here in 1993; we had a hot drink and a snack, which my husband wasn't that impressed with, saying there was a large queue for food, but all the food looked dry and unappetising and the staff appeared to be struggling to keep up. This was obvious by the amount for uncleared tables when we finally found an empty one. It was nice to sit and watch the Victorian fair working and that wonderful big carousel.
After a rest it was the long walk back through the town and back to the entrance which is also where the exit is, we stopped half way and enjoyed the pleasures of a little resting area in a small park whilst my husband went off to the one and only smoking station. Whilst we sat there we did notice that some people were having sneaky cigarettes, but they shouldn't be as there was only one designated smoking area.
Very tired and very happy we ended our trip and exchanged what money we hadn't spent back to decimal currency and then left via the gift shop, where my daughter treated my hubby to a gift to say thank you for the day out which we all enjoyed.
I have to mention the guide book is most definitely worth buying as it is full of pictures and information about all the properties and where they were moved from and when; even giving you useful bits of information like where the word 'grocer' comes from.
The Chemist shop here was a reconstruction, but the fittings used in it have come from a shop in Bournemouth.
In the Post Office the assistant gave a demonstration on how letters had a wax seal and showed us how it was done. On top of all the ones I have already mentioned you could also purchase fresh food from the bakery on site.
There is a tour bus in operation for all the Ironbridge attractions, this is one of those attractions that it stops at, but if you do decide to use it I would give yourself at least half a day to visit here, if you interact well you could easily get a full day out of it.
They do hold events here so it may be worth checking this out before your visit; one of the annual events is the firework display, I would like to go one of the years to this, you can't use your passport ticket to the special events.
~~How to get here~~
Post code for your sat nav - TF7 4DU
Directions M54 Junction 4, coming from Shrewsbury you need to go round the island and take the 3rd exit towards Stafford Park (If you come from Wolverhampton side then it is the first exit off Junction 4 sign posted Stafford Park) then take the A442 towards Madeley and follow the brown information signs.
Adult Passport Ticket - £19.95
Over 60's passport ticket - £15.95
Child and Student ticket - £12.95
Family Ticket (2 adults and 2 children I believe) - £54.95
All these tickets last you for 12 months and let you return as many times as you like and allow you access to all 10 Ironbridge Gorge Trust attractions, I could not find individual prices to see it as a one and only.
It is open 7 days a week between 1000hrs and 1700hrs
I cannot recommend this place enough it really is a fantastic day out and ticks all the boxes to meet everyone's needs both young and old. It is educational and fun bringing history to life, the time and effort with attention to detail makes this an award winning attraction and Shropshire should be very proud to have it. Anyone can look at an old building dressed for the time period and imagine what it would be like, but to have staff dressed in period costume there to serve you and having old currency brings a little more reality to it and will certainly help you to remember your visit. Seeing craftsman showing you their trade which is sadly a dying art these days is also brilliant and will keep young and old minds entertained. They even had a member of staff dressed as a teacher in the old school teaching people to draw; his classroom was full when I watched him working. It was truly a wonderful day out and I look forward to visiting it again one day as it is still growing.
Thank you so much for reading
What a fantastic day out.
What you are stepping into when you visit Blist's Hill is a fantastic approximation of Victorian life in Britain, or more specific England, given the unusual amount of St George crosses that were flying - my understanding is that back in Victorian times, the flying of the St George Cross would have been almost unheard of, with the Union Flag taking great precedence. This visit was no where near St George's Day, so I was scratching my head at this glaring historical inaccuracy.
This is a real working Victorian village!
It is the highlight of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums group of visitor sites which in total include:
Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron
Jackfield Tile Museum
Coalport China Museum
Museum of The Gorge
The Iron Bridge & Tollhouse
Blists hill isn't cheap at about £13.25 for a standard adult ticket, but it is worth it. You may though be intending on visiting the other museums in the area which are under the banner of Ironbridge Gorge Museums and you would be well advised to spend a little extra and get a passport ticket for £19.95. Otherwise you will be paying about £60 for a standard adult ticket to visit everyone of these. This allows you one entry into all of the other museums of the total of 10, and lasts up to 12 months, so you don't need to visit them all in one go.
There is a reasonable sized car park there which is only £1.00. I was not sure of the situation, but I think if you have paid for parking at one site, the ticket allows you to park at other sites on the same day - I didn't take the risk and bought a parking ticket at every site, however it might be worth checking on the certainty of this if every penny counts.
At its simplest Blists Hill is a more or less complete Victorian Town, no really! The staff there are 'in character' and although they don't go to the extremes of some of the re-enactment participants I have seen at other living museums, who NEVER step out of character, there is enough conviction there for you to get caught up in the feel of being in a Victorian town and a balance that when asked a question they can be factual and to the point.
So who are these characters?
They are the shop owner's, and the workers who would keep a town alive. And if a town has shopkeepers and workers there obviously must be shops and industry. Some of what we get to see when we visit Blists Hill are:
The bank where you can change modern money into old money - the shops around the site accept both.
The chemist shop is out of this world and as well as being working (though not dispensing), it houses a fabulous range of artifacts. This really is a site to see.
General Draper and Outfitters, where you can buy items.
Victorian style Photographers studio, where you can have your photo taken the way it was done back then.
The Post Office, shows you how things were done back then and you can post items here.
The Sweet Shop was a little disappointing
Traditionally made fish and chips in the Fried Fish Dealers - too expensive so I gave that a miss.
The baker's shop had a most delicious fruity cinammon smell wafting from it, but had very limited bread, bun and biscuit range, which all seened to contain fruit and cinammon. Perhaps this is the way it was back then. Anyway items were reasonably priced and tasty.
There is a Victorian cottage which you can stroll through, as the actors are living their normal life. I felt as if I was interrupting, trespassing on someone's life. This leads through to a wonderful garden space.
You can visit the school, and if you are there at the right time, the schoolmaster is on hand to give you a lecture on Victorian schooldays. The doctor's surgery is very interesting, and the doctor is on hand to answer any questions, although I didn't consult him regarding any ailments!
There is of course the industry and many factories and manufacturers are there and working as they would have been back in the day. There is a foundry which I found (ha ha) most interesting, as a very informative running commentary was given by one of the workers as he went about his business. You will also find engine rooms, a carpenters, a printers, locksmiths. There is a more sedate candlemakers, which pongs a little.
I am doing this review from memory, so I will have left things out, which I will come back and expand upon.
You need a whole day to get the most out of this site. there is lots here to see and do. With all that walking around you are going to get tired and hungry. I always recommend taking a packed lunch to these places, as the onsite cafes tend to be overpriced. There is a refreshment pavilion which does food and drink, and while I still think it is expensive, it is one of the more reasonably priced museum eateries.
Did I mention the pub. This is not a comfy affair, though it is 'warm' in the hospitable sense. Drinks are reasonably priced. I am not a drinker as such so didn't really take much note of what was on offer. Despite being a 'Victorian' pub, crisps and nuts were available I am glad to say. There was a sing song in that wonderful 'Knees-Up Mother Brown fashion, to round the day off, and what a wonderful day it was too.