"A part of the World Heritage Site Ironbridge Gorge"
This was the home of the Coalport China factory until 1926, today it is a museum and home to some exquisite highly decorative Coalport China examples. It is home to the National Collections of Coalport and Caughley China. Using displays and demonstrations the history and techniques of china making a explained, but also you get to see an insight into how a site like this may have operated during it's peak times.
Coalport were on this site from 1796 until 1926 producing fine bone china. Until the late 18th century Coalport as a place did not exist it was merely riverside meadows. Coalport came about through the efforts of William Reynolds who began to drive a canal through the meadows to connect with the Shropshire Canal with the River Severn to get coal from the Shropshire Coalfields to other places. The nearby Hay Inclined Plane was constructed to join the two. There is still a part of the canal running from the museum to the Inclined plane which you can walk along it's towpath if you take a visit to the Tar Tunnel.
China manufacturing came to Coalport by John Rose, who had originally been working for the Caughley Porcelain factory on the other side of the River Severn, before establishing his own factory at Jackfield. He later moved to Coalport, but the museum site today was in fact a rival coalport factory which was set up by his younger brother Thomas and others in 1800. Initially they produced similar products and designs but by 1814 John bought out his brother and merged the two factories together. The Rose era came to an end in 1841 when John Rose died, but the industry continued and a number of other owners until 1876 when it went into receivership. In 1881 it was purchased by a producer originally from Ipswich and it prospered again until the 1920's when it could not withstand the depression and changing perspectives of individuals after the first world war. The company was sold in 1925 to a factory from Stoke on Trent and this factory was closed in 1926 and all worked moved to Stoke on Trent. In 1967 Coalport China became part of the Wedgwood group and is still made today.
Your visit at this site today
The most striking feature of the site are the 2 Bottle ovens behind the main factory building. As you enter the building, the shop has examples of both glass, china and more, some of which is made on site by a small number of artists today. The museum starts off taking you through a specially lit room which contains examples of Coalport China including the Northumberland Vase which was the largest piece of Coalport China every produced. It was initially made for the 1862 International Exhibition in London, later it became the property of the duke of Northumberland. Once through this building you are taken outside into the courtyard.
Other buildings on site have workshops which display the Coalport Slip casting method, a Coalport pottery workshop where the items are painted and decorated, a social history gallery explaining what it was like to be working on site at the time, what hazzards there were and who would have been working. There are also other workshops operated to other artists, which on the day of your visit you are welcome to walk around those that are operating. One such building housed a potter who made and hand painted pieces, the workshop was full of moulds and some examples of what they did as well as various different pieces in different stages of their originating process. Another workshop had a glass blower, who took the time to explain how he went about making his pieces and the way in which he got the colours into the glass with finely ground up coloured glass. Fascinating and gorgeous pieces, he also had a small shop on site containing the pieces he made and were available for sale.
Through the exhibitions, galleries and workshops where demonstrations of pot throwing, firing, painting and finishing take place it gives an insight into the world of the potter and how a factory like this would have operated.
Allow one and half hours for your visit.
The Annual Passport. The Ironbridge Museums operate an Annual Ticket and Passport where for one price you can get access to all 10 of their sites with unlimited day time access during normal opening hours, so you can return as often as you like for a whole year. If after 12 months you have still not visited particular sites, you can return at any time in the future to make one free visit to the sites that you've missed. These tickets are sold at all the museums and the visitor information centre in Ironbridge itself or you can buy them in advance by phone. The 2009 prices for the Passport tickets are:
Adult £19.95; 60+ £15.95; Child £12.95 or a family ticket for 2A up to 3C £54.95.
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