A delicate day out
Coalport China Museum (Telford)
Member Name: arnoldhenryrufus
Coalport China Museum (Telford)
Advantages: A great afternoon out for both parents and children
Disadvantages: You can find yourself waiting for your children to finish enjoying themselves
After cancelling our holiday at the last minute my hubby said he would take me to see all our local attractions. As we live on the edge of a tourist attraction we bought a passport ticket to the Ironbridge Gorge Museums which gave us access to 10 historic attractions around Ironbridge and the neighbouring villages. I do feel a little bit of a fraud visiting the Coalport China Museum as I have always been an avid collector of Royal Doulton, and only have a small amount of Coalport in my own personal collection; but also as a lover of fine bone china I was really looking forward to the visit. This wasn't my first visit here though I had been over a decade earlier, but I couldn't remember too much about it apart from the gift shops having lots of figurines on sale.
I will mention that if you have bought the passport ticket, then tar tunnel is just a short walk from the museum and will only add approximately 30 minutes onto your visit for that day.
~~ A little History~~
The factory was started in 1796 by John Rose who was aged 24 years, he had served an apprenticeship at Caughley Porcelain factory, but wanted to start up on his own; the coalport factory became an instant success and gained a reputation for its delicate design; it was so successful that Rose took over his previous employers factory at Coughley in 1799.
His work took a different turn in 1820 when he started the now famous flower designs; he also won a gold award from the Society of Arts in that same year. John Rose passed over in 1841 and he died a very successful porcelain maker.
Coaport itself seemed a good location to set up the porcelain business as during the late 1700's in the rise of the Industrial Revolution they had built the Shropshire Union Canal (part of which is still there next to the museum for you to see), and a railway system, both used to transport the wears. The canals' main use was to take goods down to the River Severn for delivery; the area of Coalport itself became famous in its day for its brick making, rope works and boat building it was the hive of a very busy industry.
After Rose's death his work continued under the management of his nephew William Rose, who took a partnership up with William Pugh. Together they developed a highly polished design which was influenced by the famous Sevres factory in France, this style was very evident in Coalports Rococo range with its colours like the turquoise of its Bleu Celeste or the pinks called Rose du Barry named after Louise XV's mistress; these were shown in the Great Exhibition in 1851.
After the introduction of the Severn Valley Railway system production picked up with William Cook being famous for his naturalistic flower painting and John Randall being famous for his images of exotic birds; around this time Coalport also became famous in America.
At the time of Pugh's death Coalport went through some difficult times financially and even went into receivership at one point. A new art director named Thomas Bott was appointed in 1890 and the company started to move forward again; sadly this was really enough and during the 1st World War and followed by the economic crash of the 1920's it was forced to sell to Cauldron Potteries Ltd of Stoke on Trent. Today Coalport China is still running but now it is under the ownership of Waterford-Wedgwood.
Although it was the start of the summer holidays when we visited here, it was not overly busy and we managed to get a car parking space very easy. The car park is very big, so plenty of room for lots of visitors, which is really handy as the lane this is off is very narrow and no room for cars to park on it.
To get in and out of the museum you have to enter and exit through the gift shop, which is full of wonderful Coalport wears, as well as other Ironbridge Gorge memorabilia. The bargain here is the Guide Book, as it covers both the China Museum and the Jackfield Tile Museum. There is a ramp for wheelchair use and steps for the able bodied visitors.
Once you have either showed your ticket or purchased your ticket you go to the museum which is situated behind the reception desk. The first part of this is wonderful displays of Coalport china throughout the ages, you get to see the different designs and shapes relating to different periods of history. You even get to see some pieces from the period I mentioned earlier in the history. Alongside all the amazing display cabinets, you will find information sheets and boards telling you about the history of the items you are viewing. I was a little surprised of the lack of figurines on display, I expected to see some, but the displays all centred around their plates, vases and tea sets etc.
When you have finished here there is a staircase that leads you to the next area of your visit. For those that cannot manage the stairs there is a lift available.
It was quite easy at first to think 'this is it', but when you follow the route out of this display you are led through to so much more. As you walk through the buildings lower down, the first thing I noticed was the age of the buildings themselves where the workshops were, as anyone that has read my previous reviews will know, I do love old buildings and even these held their own distinct character.
As you work your way around the grounds you will go through various work stations where at different times there will be someone there to give a little demonstration, or you can simply read the information boards at each stop. You can see various sections like throwing, mould making, casting, flowers, transfer printing etc, etc.
One section called Gilding and Burnishing describes what it is, for example; Gilding is where gold is added to the porcelain, they use sheets of gold leaf, powdered gold and liquid gold, which is applied and then fired, this was done by the Gilders and they had five working for them in 1841.
The Firing caused the gilding to go dull and so they employed around 45 ladies to be burnishers and it was their job to polish over the gilding to make it shine again.
Glaze dipping was another area in here; this is where the pieces of china were dipped in glaze by 'a glaze dipper' after its first firing (called biscuit firing) and after the transfer painting. The glaze starts off as a milky liquid which when fired it forms a clear, waterproof and glassy type finish.
During our visit there were not many of the sections manned so we had to rely on the samples and info boards at each point to tell us more about the section. There was one lady doing plate painting and you could order specific plates which were embossed with names from her.
There was also a large area where your children could spend time designing their own plates or painting small ceramic flowers.
When you leave the workshops you find yourself back on the courtyard, from here you can pop into other buildings each giving you something to look at; these include a lovely children's gallery. Although we didn't have our grandchildren with us I had to explore it for this review and the lift is in there as well to get me back upstairs to go out later. I thought this area was great being both fun and educational, near to the entrance you were facing a glass cabinet with a Disney style ceramic jug called Jolly the Jug with a little bubble message saying look out for him as you go around the room, next to Jolley was a ceramic plate showing your children other things as well to look out for. There was a wall with large wooden pieces of ceramics which you fit into the corresponding shaped holes; you could spin a story with the old spinning machine that makes the photographs come to life, there were books, soft furnishings, dressing up and loads more activities for your children to explore and enjoy.
Round the back of this area is another adult museum display showing you the life and times of Coalport china with posters and artefacts from its history. I always find it interesting when you look at these, as they show you a little insight on what life would have been like, some displays were really simple like an old table with a small china tea service displayed, to the display of a workers cottage kitchen with its tin plates and the laundry hanging up to dry (sounds like my living room on a washing day drying the washing if front of the fire).
One of the other areas I enjoyed looking at was the old Smugglers Kiln which they believe was built with the bricks from the Coughley Porcelain works in Broseley around the 1820's. It was called 'smugglers kiln' because the workers were known to sneak out to the pub and smuggle beer back in. Workers thought that drinking beer was better for them than the unpurified water of the time; they also thought that it would protect them from lead poisoning. They took a big risk smuggling beer into the kiln because if they got caught they would be fined half a crown which was the equivalent of a week's rent on the workers cottages.
Inside one of the kilns they lit it up in sections so you could see what it would have looked like working. We continued to look around and there were a couple more craft units where you could buy small items which were made here. There was another small exhibit called Chinese Whisper which displayed the influences of the orient on Caughley Porcelain.
After viewing as much as I would without driving my hubby mad as he patiently waited for me to click away with my camera a look at everything, we decided to have a cream tea in the café next to the main car park before heading home. It was late afternoon when we arrived and there was not much left, but I did manage to get my fresh cream scone and a lovely cup of tea. The inside of the building (which looks like a converted barn) was modelled to a contemporary design, with the brick laid floor painted black and the brickwork walls painted white. It was very comfortable and the small snack we had was very pleasant, you had a great feeling of space with the very high ceilings as well; plus the fact there was only one other couple in there at the time of our visit.
~~ How to get there ~~
Take junction 4 from the M54 and follow the brown signs for the Ironbridge Gorge, all ten attractions are sign posted around the area. If you are using a sat nav, I have the postcodes for each of the attractions to get you there.
Coalport China Museum - TF8 7HT
~~ Opening times and prices ~~
It is open 7 days a week between 1000hrs and 1700hrs
Adult Passport Ticket - £22.50 all 10 sites passport ticket (This museum only - £7.60)
Over 60's passport ticket - £18.25 all 10 sites passport (This museum only - £7.10)
Child and Student ticket - £14.75 all 10 sites passport (This museum only - £5.10)
Family Ticket (2 adults and 3 children) - £61.50
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.
We really enjoyed our visit and we were very surprised how they made it enjoyable for children as well; although we didn't take any children with us we could see other families enjoying the facilities. It is definitely worth a visit and has a little something for all age groups. We are really glad that we went to see here.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my review
Lyn x (Arnoldhenryrufus)
Summary: A great afternoon out for both parents and children