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Jackfield Tile Museum (Telford)

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2 Reviews

A wonderful historic building steeped in the history of Tile Making, when you step back in time here you will be surprised how much you will recognise.

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    2 Reviews
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    • More +
      14.09.2011 10:52
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      A museum dedicated to tiles

      This unusual museum is on the site of a former tile factory in Ironbridge, and another influential manufacturer was nearby. The museum acknowledges the work these two businesses (Maw & co and Craven Dunnill) did from the early Victorian era till the 1960s when demand declined. Car Parking is outside for a nominal fee. The ticket is re-usable in most other Ironbridge museum car parks for the same day. It is signposted throughout the small town of Ironbridge and from other historical sites in the area so you should have no trouble finding it.

      You enter via the shop which shows modern tiles and associated gifts for sale and also has a small coffee shop. To visit this museum only costs £7.40 for an adult (discounts for the Over 60s and children available) or can be visited free if you have purchased the Ironbridge Passport which is £21.95 per adult. We had the passport so just handed it over for checking before proceeding into the museum. there is also a small coffee shop here.

      The first part we saw contained a video and photos of a local town that was destroyed by a landslide in the 1950s possibly caused by industry in the area. It is only a small section but quite interesting nonetheless. We then moved on to learn more about the history of the two tile making giants mentioned in my opening paragraph and how the business grew and its contribution to the area and its welfare. Craven Dunnill's factory was an early example of a model factory - where manufacturing and production was organised in a logical and consecutive order to speed efficiency. The business was also an example of how quality goods could still be achieved with the new mass production methods and at affordable prices. Partner Henry Dunnill lobbied for improvements to the living and working conditions in the area as well as building a reading room for his staff and an early profit sharing scheme and there is lots of info on this on the walls written in an accessible style that kept your interest.

      The factory also had a showroom on site and we had a chance to see this as well as view the different design styles that were popular at the time. There are also reproductions of some of Craven Dunnill and Maw and Co's finest works that were sold throughout the British Commonwealth as well as typical images of scenes created for butcher shops, hospitals and pubs. They have even created a small London Underground platform.

      Visiting in early January was an off-peak time. Come the half term holidays and warmer weather they have events planned aimed at children, giving them the opportunity to decorate tiles. If you visit in the week you can also tour part of the factory and see it in operation, but as we visited on a Sunday this option wasn't available to us.

      I think the price to visit on its own was quite expensive, but if you have an interest in history of the era and/or design then I think you will get something out of it. I think we spent about an hour here. Open Daily 10am to 5pm.

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      17.03.2011 14:44
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      Educational, family friendly and wheelchair friendly, its also interesting and historic

      Jackfield Tile Museum

      I saved this one until near the end of our passport visits to the 10 Ironbridge Gorge attractions; if I am totally honest I was not really that enthusiastic about going, as again I had done no research and just expected to look at tiles. We did actually look at lots of tiles but the presentation made a large difference and it turned out to be a really exciting visit that both my husband and I really enjoyed.

      ~~A Little History~~

      According to old maps the site where the museum now stands was once a place where local pottery was made, as it was in 1728. A few years later in 1793 it was used to make porcelain, by John Rose and Edward Blakeway, but they eventually moved there business to nearby Coalport. From around the 1870's right through to the 1930's Jackfield and Broseley were well known for making bricks and roof tiles and build up an excellent reputation world wide, at first they were made by hand and later by machinery. It was during this time that encaustic tiles were starting to get made and experiments with new designs were about. In the 1870's Henry Dunhill inspired by what he had seen and bought the Jackfield factory and totally rebuilt it. His encaustic and decorative tile works officially opened on 25th February 1874, the new Benthall works for Maw and Co's was just feet away from it down the road; with the railway and the River Severn close by it had ideal transport links to take it across the country.

      Work thrived through the Victorian era as tiles were very popular, especially the extravagant and decorative ones (which are becoming very popular again today). Their popularity started to dwindle around the time of Queen Victoria's death in 1901 and times started to change, by the time of the first World War the encaustic tiles were no longer fashionable, but the tiled fireplaces stayed around until the 1960's, but that wasn't enough to keep the factory open and the Jackfield factory closed in 1952 followed by the Maws factory 17yrs later in 1969.

      The site was bought by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum in 1983, it was a bit run down when they purchased it and it had been used as an iron and bronze foundry for a number of years after the tile factory closed down, so it was in need of some restoration work. The restoration was on ongoing project and they opened the doors to the public at the start, so if you visited here prior to 2007 when they finally completed everything, you may like to visit again and see the lovely finished result.

      I will point out here that I visited the Maws Centre which is the old Benthal works next door a few years ago (definitely before 2007) and my daughter who loves art went up the stone stairs to an art gallery (the Maws Centre is now full of craft shops). Whilst there she had a nasty fall down the stairs and we had to take her to the hospital where we were told she had tore a ligament. We visited here on the same day and those stairs have now been made a lot safer.

      ~~Our Visit~~

      We live on the Ironbridge side of the River Severn and the Jackfield Tile Museum is on the Broseley side of the river, so we had to cross over the river at the New Jackfield Free Bridge; this is a fairly modern bridge which replaced the original 'free bridge' in 1994 (for those that want to know the original toll free bridge {as you had to pay to cross the Ironbridge further up the river} was sponsored by donations and built of concrete in 1909). The new bridge still has some of the old bridge incorporated into it and displays a plaque on the side with a little history. It is a good start to the visit as it brings your journey into your whole experience. After coming over the bridge and turning left we drove past a lovely pub called the Black Swan with tables outside looking over the River Severn, I made a mental note to come back here and try their fare one day soon on a sunny day so I can enjoy watching the river.

      We drove down the road that leads to the tile museum and the Maws & Co Benthall Works, this road in itself is an experience, the old tram lines or rail lines are still in the road, but are covered over with wooden slats, the road is extremely uneven as this area is terribly unstable and known for its subsidence. You will also notice large pipes going along the roadside in the wooded area, which would normally be found underground, these are on top. I will point out that apart from this road, the other roads each side of the river here have recently been redone and pinned making them more secure as with the flooding the other year they had subsided quite a lot and the uneven road even sliced through the exhaust on my car one year; but that problem has now be rectified.


      Gosh so much to share with you and we haven't reached the tile museum as yet. We decided to have a quick look again at the Maws Benthall works first, but were very disappointed as it appeared that it was all closed, we had a short walk round and noted the stops I mentioned earlier, and took a few photos. There are lots of small craft and gift shops in the units, but like I said sadly the majority of them were closed today.

      We went back up the road approx 20yds to the entrance of the Jackfield Tile Museum; the first thing I noticed was the really small entrance door way that is in a giant door which is open. Obviously the giant door opens to let carriages etc to come in and out for deliveries with the little door for the workers; were people really that short in the Victorian times. It always amazes me that not only has technology, architecture and other things changed in the world over the centuries, but people have evolved too change in shape and size; just look how tall children are these days to see what I mean.

      Anyway, I have digressed again, we walked through the big red door and noticed that on our right was an extremely modern looking glass building with 'Fusion' written on it and to our left was the modern entrance with stairs and a ramp to the Tile Museum. We decided to see the tile museum first and then move onto Fusion when we had finished.

      As this wasn't our first visit of the day we decided to take a short break first so we walked through the gift shop to the café, this was found in the far corner of the gift shop and reception area. We stopped here and had a tea and coffee, plus a lovely cream scone and hubby had a Cornish pasty. I loved the way they used decorative encaustic tiles to display the special offers. We both enjoyed our little rest and my husband said it was the best pasty he had eaten in a long while and would happily pop back here again. The café and gift shop were very much done in an art deco design with V shape lights and blue and white clean looking design.


      After finishing our drinks we went to reception, which like all the Ironbridge Gorge Museums is also where you pay for any memorabilia you may wish to purchase. I may as well mention here that the gift shop focused mainly on different tiles you could buy as well as some of the cast iron gifts and general nik naks you would expect from an Ironbridge attraction. The lady behind the counter noticed my walking stick and mentioned the lift system, which was a little strange itself, but we had a our passport punched and went around the back to watch a short video before coming over to the other side of reception to take the lift up one floor.

      The video I found rather fascinating and rather sad, as it showed an old news real footage where some properties fell in to the river and people lost their homes. I always find these disasters extremely sad, but it was also part of the history so it needed to be seen. After moving on from here we went over to the lift to get to the first floor only; it bought us out to some beautiful rooms all set out with some of the most beautiful decorative tiles. Let me tell you about a couple of the displays as there were many and I am sure it would spoil it if I told you about them all, but I do have a few favourites I would like to share with you.

      One of the first rooms that they restored was the Tile Museums Drawing Office (as the first one I feel it needs a mention), it has two lovely large Georgian windows bringing in loads of light and it was used once as a design studio where many were trained in the Coalbrookdale School of Art; today it has display cabinets showing information and tile designs.

      They have a replica of the Covent Garden underground station with displays the tiles which were originally fitted in 1907. There is a wonderful butchers shop display which shows hand painted tiles, one is a picture of a cow and some sheep which came from a butchers in Rochdale, the other part of it which is a freeze with pigs heads displayed came from a butchers shop in Ripon.

      One of our favourites was the bar area it really was truly pretty; it is actually a replica of the one that was in the Mountain Daisy public house in Sunderland (I wonder if the original is still there); this replica was made for the museum in 2004. Another lovely display which I thought was fantastic in the hospital tiles for the children's wards. The two displays were both saved by the museum from the Bernard Baron Children's Ward at Middlesex Hospital in 1988. So if any of you were in there before that date you may remember 'All the fun of the fair' and 'the Maypole' tiles which were also winning designs back in 1929.

      Other displays were bathrooms, showers, a church, doorways, halls, fireplaces, even a living room set up with a mural after the window showing sunshine during the wartimes, fantastic displays of such wonderful designs, we really enjoyed everything we saw on this floor.

      When we got to the other side of this floor there was another lift for me to use, to take us to the next level, this is one of those open lifts that take you up a few feet you hold the button in until you reach the spot to smoothly walk out onto the floor. This took you to a very modern display of Maw and Co tiles, there were tile pictures on the walls, tall displays showing you tiles and information for you to read. Also on this level there were puzzles for you and the children to enjoy, several ones involving logic and tiles, there was even a computer with a puzzle for you to have a go at. Whilst I am touching the subject of children, you can pick up a leaflet when you get your ticket or your passport stamped. It is an easy to read booklet comprising of 4 A4 size sheets of cards; it has information about the Jackfield Tile Museum and the tiles with some activities on it as well for you to do. It is centred around the children and will cost you £1.00 if you want your children to have their own info sheet.

      You would think it would end here but it didn't, you were led out of this floor past a room full to the brim with tiles and past some workshops where people were working, you were not allowed to take photos here. The museum does rent space out to other craft persons to work here; you can watch through the window, but not go in. From here we went into the courtyard and had a look around.

      You could see a sign saying Robert Harrup Collectors Club Shop and workshop, but sadly this was closed. We also noticed a play centre for children where they can design their own tiles (this is charged for and I think it comes at around £7.00). They hold various classes throughout the year, but as there was only the two of us we didn't investigate this further, we did mention it to our daughter in case she wanted to take the children over the holidays. You could also wonder around the old buildings where you could see the remnants of the old kilns and some old machinery still in situ. They did have plaques about so you would know what you were looking at.

      To finish off our visit we had a look round Fusion which is free to enter, this is a very modern building with all glass frontage; the staircase is metal with big blue triangular shaped pieces of 'macarno'; there was also a lot of chrome about as well. It is over two floors and the design of the building goes well with the shops they have inside, it is full of units with modern artists at work, as well as some traditional ones. There is a modern glass studio showing work by David Keenan, Nikki Williams has a 'Kinki Glass Studio', there is also Malcolm Sier who is a sculptor and letter carver, his is the footprint gallery. The cat on the wall (which sell various items to cover many interests), a bike shop and a tandum shop, I have never seen so many tandums.

      There is a big car park at the back of fusion so there is plenty of parking available. We had a lovely visit and this was maybe my second favourite of all the museums.

      ~~ How to get there ~~

      Take junction 4 from the M54 and follow the brown signs for the Ironbridge Gorge, it is sign posted from Ironbridge.

      For your sat nav - the post code is TF8 7LJ

      ~~ Prices~~

      2010- 2011 prices

      Your best option is the PASSPORT which allows repeat daytime admission for 12 months to all the 10 Ironbridge Gorge attractions.

      Adult £21.95

      Age 60 plus £17.60

      Child or Student £14.25

      Family ticket (2 adults and 3 Children) £59.95

      These prices are valid from 20th March 2010 right up to 8th April 2011.

      ~~ Opening times ~~

      It is open 7 days a week between 10am and 5pm

      ~~ Did You Know ~~

      In 1883 Jackfield Tile Factory was in fact the largest decorative tile works in the world. This meant that it well and truly rivalled Stoke on Trent as the centre for global tile production during the Victorian era.
      It is also the only museum in the country that has totally dedicated itself to the decorative tile industry and it hosts a marvellous display of tiles which are very unique..

      ~~Overall Opinion~~

      As mentioned earlier we both really enjoyed this, we enjoyed the interesting information we had at the beginning of our tour, loved seeing the display of old equipment which was used. Absolutely loved all the tile displays, it was worth visiting just for these, everything else was simply an added bonus.

      It is really quite exciting to discover all this on our doorstep; what makes it even more exciting was that I have recently found out that my fathers ancestors actually come from this area, so they would have lived around here during this revolutionary time. Isn't it strange that I am the only family member (in my immediate family) that seems to have returned to their roots, thanks must go to my sister who discovered this information for me after my mother passed away.

      I do recommend a visit here, but please take advantage of the passport ticket and enjoy the whole Ironbridge experience.
      Many thanks for reading

      Arnoldhenryrufus (Lyn x)

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    • Product Details

      Location: Coach Road, Coalbrookdale, Telford, TF8 7DQ