Just a ten minute drive from the M54 sits a wonderland so integral to the industrial revolution yet so pretty and quaint with a laid-back ambiance all of its own.
Welcome to Ironbridge!
Our day out begins at the Blists Hill Victorian Town, and our first head-scratcher of the day – exchanging our 21st Century pounds into Victoria pounds, shillings and pence. Strangely enough, there isn’t an iPhone app to help us so we have to rely on good old-fashioned brain power (together with the conversion tables in many of the shops!) It really is like stepping back in time, with the Victorian characters going about their daily business. It doesn’t feel like a museum – although we are learning so much as we make our way through the 52 acre site. Oh yes, flat shoes are a must! Having worked up an appetite, we treat ourselves to some “real” ice cream before heading off to our next destination – the Museum of Iron.
One of the best things about Ironbridge is that once you’ve paid car parking in one location, you can use it all day in any of the other locations within the Ironbridge Museums – which is just as well as the museums are spread quite a distance from one another.
And so we find ourselves at the Museum Of Iron in Coalbridge, a true homage to the early days of the iron industry and Quaker, Abraham Darby, the man who developed blast furnacing, which was so important to the industrial revolution. The gift shop sells some beautiful cast-iron kitchen accessories – yes, cast iron CAN be beautiful! Cookery book stands, kitchen towel holders, spoon rests and door stops are all hard to resist but you may want to buy them at the end of your visit and put them straight in the car – cast iron is very heavy to carry around!
Just around the corner from the Museum of Iron is Enginuity; a scientific playground for children of all ages …… yes, even those of us who left school in the 1980s! Here we used a pully to pull a steam train engine, we got wet trying to figure out how to turn water into electricity and we saw the insides of many everyday objects with the brilliant giant x-ray machine. We also loved the scan and learn terminals, where you can pick a nearby object, scan it with your own scanning hand-terminal and learn more about it. Absolutely brilliant!
Our final stop of the day was the Darby Houses, also located at Coalbridge. A five minute uphill walk from the Coalbridge car park (the views are stunning, by the way - see below!) takes you to the Darby Houses, where the rooms have been recreated and set back to the time when the Darby family inhabited them. And who said historical houses can be dull? The final room in the main house is devoted to the art of dressing up! Hats adorn tables, and grand dresses for the ladies and frock coats for the chaps await! Don’t be shy – they’re there for a reason! The curators within the house will even help you into the costumes and let you have your pictures taken in the grand kitchen – so much fun!
Sadly, we ran out of time to explore the main centre of Ironbridge but I am confident that the many gorgeous boutiques and artisan cafes will receive our patronage later on in the summer months when we go back to this beautiful Shropshire gem called Ironbridge.