Monday, 12 June 2017

Travelling Back in Time with Blists Hill Victorian Town - A Review

Blists Hill Victorian Town is a replica of a small industrial town set in the year 1900 which has been recreated by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. It features a wide range of exhibits and demonstrations by knowledgeable members of staff who really get into character. The demonstrators all take the time to explain their roles or tell you a little bit more about the Victorian community making it not only a fun attraction, but also a learning experience too.

Some of the monuments on the site are original, others have been re-located brick by brick and some of the buildings have been copied and erected using traditional building materials.


Location

The attraction is located in Madeley, Telford. We used the postcode provided on one of their leaflets for the sat nav system, however we found it to be well signposted along the main roads. We were staying in a cottage in Coalbrookdale and it took us less than ten minutes to reach the site. When we arrived we found there to be plenty of parking, but it is important to note that it is a pay and display car park which costs £3 for the day. The machine currently accepts old pound coins only whilst waiting to be upgraded, but you can purchase a ticket from inside the shop if this is a problem. There is no charge for parking for blue badge holders.

The Attraction

We received a nice welcome from the gentleman in the visitor centre reception and we were provided with a map of the site. We made our way into a large room which was showing a film about the Victorian era, we stayed here for a short while before making our way up the staircase and to the main part of the attraction. As we made our way through the door we were taken back in time as we stepped through onto the classic 1900's street.


Our first stop was to take a look in the bank where you can also exchange some modern day currency into old money that can be used in the shops. It was interesting being able to compare an old Lloyds Bank to the modern facilities that we are used to. We were only here a short while as the bike shop next door soon caught the children's attention and they were fascinated looking at the weird and wonderful bikes that were available back then.

We took a look inside the Chemist which featured a variety of lotions and potions. In the corner was also a dental area. To say this looked a little scary would be an understatement. I definitely wouldn't have fancied a trip to the dentist in Victorian times!



Next up we visited the photography suite. This was my favourite part of the attraction which allowed you to dress up like a Victorian and have a family portrait. Sue, who was running this experience was fantastic, as well as being really kind and helpful. My youngest son Riley didn't want to take part in dressing up and she was very patient with him and tried to provide some gentle encouragement to get him to join in. Unfortunately he wouldn't give in, but Emma, Ben, Mr F & Grandad all got dressed up and played their roles really well and definitely looked the part.

To begin with they were taken to a large dressing room area where they each selected their outfits. My daughter was given a choice of several dresses to choose from and there was a wonderful selection of hats. Sue made sure that all the costumes were fastened up correctly and we were then led through to the studio where the photographs were taken.




The pictures were taken against a traditional Victorian back drop and the clever use of props helped to hide anything that would have been 'out of era' such as my daughters minion socks! Sue then took three photographs, with the first being a serious pose that we were told would have been typical of the Victorian period. The second photograph had a relaxed smile and then the third was full on cheesy grins! Once all the photo's had been taken we were shown the pictures and given the choice of which we would like to buy. The cost of the images was £15 for the first print and then £10 for any additional prints. They came in a choice of three different sizes which was a singular 10 x 8 inch print, 2 small prints on one sheet, or 4 smaller prints on one sheet. We chose to purchase two of the large 10 x 8 prints and we all felt that this was good value for money. I feel that £15 was really reasonable as the whole experience in the studio took around half an hour and it was great fun watching the children get dressed up and the print is a fantastic memento from our trip.


Directly opposite to the photographer was the sweet shop where my children purchased some lollipops to eat whilst we continued our walk through the town. Emma enjoyed reading through the list of sweets available and looking at the old prices.


After the sweet shop we made our way down the hill and past the G R Morton Ironworks. My children had spotted the Victorian Fairground on the map and so we decided to spend some time down there and then work our way back up. The fairground featured some swings and some stalls such as a coconut shy and darts game. This is seasonal so isn't open all year round and I'm not sure if there are more rides in the school holidays, but it would have been nice to have seen a nice traditional carousel here or an alternative ride suitable for younger children as unfortunately Riley was a bit too small for the two rides that were available. As you can see though, my son Ben loved this swing ride! Whilst Riley wasn't quite big enough for the rides, he did enjoy the games stalls and was lucky enough to win a prize on his very first go.


Opposite the fairground is a nice cafe area with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. We all enjoyed a hot drink here and they also had a lovely selection of food available too. The prices were reasonable for what was on offer and it was a nice spot to have a quick break before we ventured over to the school house to take a look.

Unfortunately we didn't get the chance to see a class in action or meet the renowned Mr Stern! The school looked great though and we had a good nosey inside at the layout of the building and all the desks inside. My kids enjoyed comparing it to their own school, but said that they definitely prefer the more modern environment and technology that is on offer today.


We spent a bit more time in this part of the attraction and walked over to the nearby Squatter Cottage. This was a very small home, which the lady told us would have housed a family of 9! It certainly made my daughter think as she often complains that her bedroom is too small, yet this entire house wasn't much bigger. My children certainly weren't fans of the outside toilet and it definitely made them wonder about how different life would have been.


As we began to head back up the hill we visited the Ironworks and had a good look around. A short way up from this was a lovely cottage that was also the Doctor's surgery. It was very strange to see all the old medical instruments that were on display and we also noticed that the surgery was only open for 90 minutes in the morning and 90 minutes in the afternoon. Our doctors surgery is open 9 til 6 and we still struggle to get an appointment!


As we returned back to the main street we noticed a horse and cart ride about to set off, so my children and their nana climbed onboard and went for a lovely ride around the town. This carried an additional charge of £1 per person so it would be a good idea to take some loose change with you. It was only a short ride but my kids really enjoyed it and it definitely added to the experience.


We took a further wander around the shops before visiting the fried fish dealers where we enjoyed the most delicious portion of chips which we ate outside in the beer garden a short distance away. These were a lovely treat and at £2.40 for a cone it was a very reasonable price too.




Overall, we had a great day out. We visited as a group of 7 ranging from ages 4 to 68 and there was something for everyone. Our family really enjoyed the photo experience, as well as exploring the old shops and houses. It provided us with a great insight into how life would have been in the early 1900's and it was great fun speaking to the demonstrators who all played their roles really well. We will be visiting the area again during the school summer holidays and will definitely be making a return visit to Blists Hill Victorian Town.

Important Information

Entry prices are as follows:

Adult Entry with Gift Aid - £17.95
60+ with Gift Aid - £13.75
Child with Gift Aid - £11.85

Adult Entry Non Gift Aid - £16.25
60+ Non Gift Aid - £12.50
Child Non Gift Aid - £10.75

You can also purchase Annual Passport Tickets which includes admission to all 10 Ironbridge Gorge Museums for 12 months. For further information please visit the website here: Ticket Information

Opening times: The attraction is open 7 days a week from 10am til 4:30pm.



Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary admission for the purpose of providing an honest review of our experience. All opinions and photographs are my own, unless otherwise stated.

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