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Blists Hill Victorian Town is an open-air museum built on a former industrial complex located in the Madeley area of Telford, Shropshire, England. The museum attempts to recreate the sights, sounds and smells of a Victorian Shropshire town in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is one of ten museums operated by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.
Originally Blists Hill was an industrial region consisting of a brick and tile works, blast furnaces and coal, iron and fire clay mines. The museum was opened in 1973 and has been growing ever since. The museum's buildings fall into one of three categories, buildings that were already part of the industrial site, buildings that represent a generic type and original buildings that have been relocated to the museum.
The museum has three districts, a town area with Victorian era shops such as a bank, bakery, bicycle shop and post office. An industrial district that provided various employment from a blast furnace and wrought iron works and a countryside district with buildings such as a squatters cottage and tin roof church. The museum has been used as a venue for various TV and film programmes including Doctor Who and Blue Peter.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Blists Hill was an industrial region consisting of a brick and tile works, blast furnaces and coal, iron and fire clay mines operated by the Madeley Wood Company. A short section of the Shropshire Canal ran across the site to the Hay Inclined Plane, which transported boats up and down the 207 ft (63 m) tall incline from Blists Hill to Coalport.
Blists Hill Victorian Town, originally called Blists Hill Open Air Museum, was opened in 1973, and has been slowly growing ever since. The museum's buildings fall into one of three categories: buildings that were already part of the industrial site (e.g. the brickworks); buildings that simply represent a generic type (e.g. the sweet shop), some adaptively reusing existing premises on site or being replicas of those still standing elsewhere; and original buildings that have been relocated to the museum (e.g. The New Inn public house, which originally stood between Green Lane and Hospital Street in Walsall).
Each building is manned by one or more costumed demonstrators, who have been trained in the skills and history of the profession they re-enact. For example, in the printshop, visitors can watch posters and newssheets being printed. The demonstrators normally talk in the third person, referring to the Victorians as "they" or "them" (rather than in the first person "I" or "we" which some similar museums employ): the museum management believes that this allows greater scope for comparing modern techniques with those re-enacted at the museum. Staff may also be seen performing such diverse tasks as operating stationary steam engines, iron founding and mucking out pigs.
The first building visitors see in the museum is the bank (modelled on the still-standing Lloyds Bank branch in Broseley), at which they can change modern coinage into token coinage that represents the predecimal farthings, halfpennies, pennies, threepenny bits and sixpences, at an exchange rate of 40 new pence to 1 old penny. They can then use the token coins as an alternative to modern currency for buying goods whilst visiting the museum (the gift shop at the museum entrance operates only in modern currency).
The High Street area of the Upper Town has been developed around a London and North Western Railway interchange siding with a plateway which is an original feature of the site. Shops erected on the site include a chemist (with fittings from Bournemouth), butcher (from Ironbridge), grocer (replica of a building from Oakengates), and printer (with equipment from Kington, Herefordshire). Small crafts include an iron foundry, a shoeing smith, bootmaker, locksmith, decorative plasterer (with equipment from Burton upon Trent), builder, and sawmill.
Premises in Quarry Bank include a tallow candle manufactory (from Madeley), a bakery (from Dawley), a physician's surgery (in a Sutherland Estate cottage from Donnington), and a Board School (from Stirchley).
Recent new developments have included the addition of 'Canal Street', which was a new build closely modelled on extant and historic buildings in the Telford area. This area includes a new Fish and Chip Shop, Drapers shop and Post Office, as well as an enlarged Sweet Shop. A walkway is located at the end of Canal Street, which leads visitors to the ruins of the brick and tile works. 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge track. The original locomotive was the world's first steam locomotive on rails and was commissioned by the Coalbrookdale Company, which was located nearby (however, no record exists of this locomotive ever being successfully run). In 2015, the Trevithick Shed was built to house the locomotive when not in use.Adjacent to the ruins, and on select days, an operational replica of a steam locomotive designed and built by Richard Trevithick in 1802 runs on a short segment of
The original Madeley Wood Company blast furnaces produced pig iron from 1832 to 1911. Their remains have been conserved and a blowing engine from the Lilleshall Company’s Priorslee Ironworks installed in one of the houses. Nearby are displayed a pair of beam engines from the same location, alongside a wrought iron works using equipment from Thomas Walmsley's Atlas Forge in Bolton in an iron-framed building designed by Rennie for Woolwich Dockyard.
The more remote parts of the site demonstrate natural recolonisation of an industrial landscape. Amongst buildings re-erected in this area are a corrugated iron tin tabernacle, (St Chad's Mission Church from Lodge Bank), a squatter cottage (from Dawley), and a toll house (designed by Telford for the Holyhead Road at Shelton).
In 2009 a £12 million programme of redevelopment was completed which included the previously discussed buildings on Canal Street, a new World Heritage Visitor Centre, a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge Mine Railway, and a 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge Inclined Lift. The mine railway is intended to represent a 1920s clay mine, although the rolling stock is modern and the mine is formed by a concrete bunker. The inclined lift is entirely modern, and enables visitors with restricted mobility to access the lower part of the site. The project did not fund the restoration of the Scheduled Ancient Monuments and associated archaeological features on the site.
The Hay Inclined Plane is a canal inclined plane with a height of 207 feet that is located on a short stretch of the Shropshire Canal that linked the industrial area of Blists Hill with the River Severn. The inclined plane was in operation from 1792 to 1894 and can be visited as part of the Blists Hill Victorian Town and is also a waypoint on the South Telford Heritage Trail. In operation box-shaped tub boats 20 feet long were taken up and down the plane on twin railway tracks, an empty boat would be loaded into the river at the bottom and a full boat would be loaded into the canal at the top, a rope would connect the two so that gravity would drop the loaded boat down to the river counterbalanced by an empty boat being raised to the canal. At the bottom of the incline the rails went underwater allowing the boats to float free.
Blists Hill has been used as a filming location on several occasions. In 1979, the children's television series Blue Peter included an item shot at the museum. The director of the piece subsequently chose it to be the principal filming location for the 1985 Doctor Who serial The Mark of the Rani .The 1995 film Feast of July was shot at Blists Hill. An episode of Antiques Roadshow was filmed at the location in September 2009. In 2010, Victorian Pharmacy , which was a historical documentary looking at life in the 19th century, used Blists Hill to recreate the scene at an everyday pharmacy.
Shropshire is a county in England, bordering Wales to the west, Cheshire to the north, Staffordshire to the east, and Worcestershire and Herefordshire to the south. Shropshire Council was created in 2009, a unitary authority taking over from the previous county council and five district councils. The borough of Telford and Wrekin has been a separate unitary authority since 1998 but continues to be included in the ceremonial county.
Ironbridge is a town on the River Severn, at the heart of the Ironbridge Gorge, near Telford, Shropshire, England. It lies in the civil parish of The Gorge, in the borough of Telford and Wrekin. Ironbridge developed beside, and takes its name from, The Iron Bridge, a 100-foot (30 m) cast iron bridge that opened in 1781.
Telford is a large new town in the borough of Telford and Wrekin and ceremonial county of Shropshire, England, about 13 miles (21 km) east of Shrewsbury, and 30 miles (48 km) north west of Birmingham. With an estimated population of 175,271 in 2017 and around 155,000 in Telford itself, Telford is the largest town in Shropshire, and one of the fastest-growing towns in the United Kingdom.
The Ironbridge Gorge is a deep gorge, containing the River Severn in Shropshire, England. It was first formed by a glacial overflow from the long drained away Lake Lapworth, at the end of the last ice age. The deep exposure of the rocks cut through by the gorge exposed commercial deposits of coal, iron ore, limestone and fireclay, which enabled the rapid economic development of the area during the early Industrial Revolution.
Coalbrookdale is a village in the Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire, England, containing a settlement of great significance in the history of iron ore smelting. It lies within the civil parish called the Gorge.
The Hay Inclined Plane is a canal inclined plane in the Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire, with a height of 207 feet (63 m). It was located at the end of the Shropshire Canal, part of a network of canals that linked the industrial region of east Shropshire with the River Severn. The inclined plane was in operation from 1793 to 1894. It can be visited as part of the Blists Hill Victorian Town and is also a waypoint on the South Telford Heritage Trail.
Broseley is a small English town in Shropshire, with a population of 4,929 at the 2011 Census. The River Severn flows to its north and east. The first iron bridge in the world was built in 1779 across the Severn, linking Broseley with Coalbrookdale and Madeley. This was part of the early industrial development in the Ironbridge Gorge, which is now part of a World Heritage Site.
The Madeley Wood Company was formed in 1756 when the Madeley Wood Furnaces, also called Bedlam Furnaces, were built beside the River Severn, one mile west of Blists Hill.
Madeley is a town and civil parish in Shropshire, England, now part of the new town of Telford. The parish had a population of 17,935 at the 2001 census.
Coalport is a village in Shropshire, England. It is located on the River Severn in the Ironbridge Gorge, a mile downstream of Ironbridge. It lies predominantly on the north bank of the river; on the other side is Jackfield.
The Iron Bridge is a cast iron arch bridge that crosses the River Severn in Shropshire, England. Opened in 1781, it was the first major bridge in the world to be made of cast iron, and was greatly celebrated after construction owing to its use of the new material.
The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust is an industrial heritage organisation which runs ten museums and manages multiple historic sites within the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site in Shropshire, England, widely considered as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.
The Tar Tunnel is located on the north bank of the River Severn in the Ironbridge Gorge at Coalport, England. It is one of ten Ironbridge Gorge Museums attractions administered by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.
Jackfield is a village in Shropshire, England, lying on the south bank of River Severn in the Ironbridge Gorge, downstream from Ironbridge.
The Shropshire Canal was a tub boat canal built to supply coal, ore and limestone to the industrial region of east Shropshire, England, that adjoined the River Severn at Coalbrookdale. It ran from a junction with the Donnington Wood Canal ascending the 316 yard long Wrockwardine Wood inclined plane to its summit level, it made a junction with the older Ketley Canal and at Southall Bank the Coalbrookdale (Horsehay) branch went to Brierly Hill above Coalbrookdale; the main line descended via the 600 yard long Windmill Incline and the 350 yard long Hay Inclined Plane to Coalport on the River Severn. The short section of the Shropshire Canal from the base of the Hay Inclined Plane to its junction with the River Severn is sometimes referred to as the Coalport Canal.
The Wombridge Canal was a tub-boat canal in Shropshire, England, built to carry coal and iron ore from mines in the area to the furnaces where the iron was extracted. It opened in 1788, and parts of it were taken over by the Shrewsbury Canal Company in 1792, who built an inclined plane at Trench. It lowered tub boats 75 feet (23 m), and remained in operation until 1921, becoming the last operational canal inclined plane in the country. The canal had been little used since 1919, and closed with the closure of the plane.
The South Telford Heritage Trail is a circular, waymarked walking route that passes by forty-nine heritage sites in the English town of Telford.
The Coalport branch line was a standard gauge London and North Western Railway branch line in Shropshire, England, which ran between Hadley Junction near Oakengates on the Stafford to Shrewsbury line and a terminus at Coalport East railway station on the north bank of the River Severn at Coalport.
The Museum of the Gorge, originally the Severn Warehouse, is one of the ten museums of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. It portrays the history of the Ironbridge Gorge and the surrounding area of Coalbrookdale, Shropshire, England.
William Reynolds was an ironmaster and a partner in the ironworks in Coalbrookdale in Shropshire, England. He was interested in advances in science and industry, and invented the inclined plane for canals.
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