After the reworking of our previous day out, this day’s activity was what I had originally scheduled for the Monday and this was a visit to Blists Hill Victorian Town in Madeley. Blists Hill is open air living Museum and is one of the museum’s of the Ironbridge Gorge set. A number of the buildings are genuine Victorian Buildings though some are recreated frontages, but these are mostly on the expanded street.
Heather and I arrived around half past 11 and duly made our way through the check in and into the Town itself. Over the years, the layout has changed somewhat and the current entry point now is shared with a café whereas it use to be further back alongside the small bout of Railway Line, the reason for this I believe is to start off visitors under ground in order to reflect that the area was principally used for mining and furnacing in the Victorian Age. Once out in the light were treated to a map by a lady in Well-to-do Period Clothes which detailed the various exhibits. As this is an interactive museum it many of exhibits often open on different days with the main focus being the weekend for the small exhibits, so the purchase of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum passport is a very worthwhile investment. The big practical demonstration of the day was the forging in the Ironworks which despite the summer heat was still taking place and we both felt the heat even from the viewing area. It was interesting to see the old fashioned style (even if a few concessions had been made to appease current Health and Safety Law) and I believe it was the first time Heather has seen liquid metal in the flesh. After this we went to the candlemaker store where another practical demonstration was taking place, now this wasn’t a 100% accurate as the candles were being made with Wax as opposed to Tallow, a substance made with various animal fats, the reason for this is that Tallow pongs to high heaven and original attempts to work the demonstration with prompted serious complaints from passing visitors and a lack of visitors to the exhibit. The process was basically the same and takes a long long time with twelve wicks dipped on a rotation wheel (manually rotated) which means the wax builds up very gradually. Two colour of candle were made, white for home use and green for use in the mines. The miner’s candles were green for two reasons: 1. There is a poison in the candle which means that when the candle is spent, the left over is dumped and eaten by rats and it kept infestation down. 2. It also was to prevent the miner’s from stealing the candles for home use as if the Pit Owner came by the miner’s home, he’d recognise the candle as work property.
We left the demonstration and chilled out watched a stablehand washing down a horse who was later going to be used in a horse dressing demonstration (which we missed). We went on to the Bakery which is active everyday and we were told that the buns would be ready around 2pm, I could already see Heather’s lips beginning to salivate. I don’t blame her really, there is nothing quite like freshly baked bread and buns.
We visited various buildings such as the Doctor’s surgery, the Solicitor’s office (which had a very Victorian portable radiator not very successfully hidden from view), the Squatter’s Cottage (a tiny place which housed a family of 9) and watched a bit of fair ground attractions. Sadly there was no Carousel here this time. We went up along the old canal and had a look at the old pit head and ventured across to a recently opened bit and looked at an old steam engine which predated Stephenson’s Rocket. After this we went to the sweet shop and I bought a quarter of Aniseed Balls before we ventured to the pub where a singsong was taking place in the backroom. I suspect the singer had been on the Mild before hand as he was a little slurred, but equally that could be part of the act. Finally we visited the local shop and I purchased a bottle of Root Beer tonic which was nice.
It was a nice day out and we’ll definitely be revisiting a few times on different days to catch up on the bits we missed or focus on the items we skipped over.
The Victorian School house in the Town was moved brick by brick to Blists’ Hill from where we now call Stirchley Grange which is a five minute walk from my home.
Blists Hill (along with the China Museum in Coalport) was used as a location in the 1985 Doctor Who story “The Mark of the Rani” which starred Colin Baker as the Doctor and was notable as Colin Baker did a number of his own stunts for the stories including the dramatic cliffhanger to part one. Though it is worth noting that since 1985 certain aspects part of the place have changed due to evolution of the place and some problems with Landslides.