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Blists Hill Victorian Town

Ironbridge, Shropshire

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"A part of the World Heritage Site Ironbridge Gorge"

Blists Hill is an open air museum in Shropshire and one of ten museums operated by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust in the area, and has working factories, shops and cottages, in fact 47 exhibits set in 50 acres of woodland. It attempts to recreate the sights, sounds and smells of a Victorian Shropshire town at the end of the 19th century using gas-lit streets, past railway sidings, yards and pigsties, shops and offices, you can hear the hiss of steam and clank machinery, taste the butcher's pies, drink beer in the pub and smell candles in the candle factory.

During the 18th and 19th centuries Blists Hill was an industrial area with brick and tile works, blast furnaces and coal, iron and fire clay mines. A short section of the Shropshire Canal also ran across the site and the Hay Incline Plane was used to transport boats up and down the 207ft incline from the canal to Coalport and then onto the River Severn.

It's buildings fall into one of three categories:

  • buildings that were already part of the industrial site

  • buildings that simply represent a generic type, some represented by reusing existing premises on site or are replicas of others that stood elsewhere

  • original buildings that have been relocated to the museum.

Each of the buildings is brought to life and life in Victorian times is re-enacted by townsfolk who wear the attire of the day and who go about their daily lives in the shops and workplaces. For example, in the print shop, you can watch posters and newssheets being printed. You will also find them operating equipment such as stationary steam engines, iron founding and even mucking out pigs and horses.

See Larger Image The School

See Larger Image The Iron Foundry

Once through the visitor and information centre the overall site is split into three areas:-

See Larger Image The Main Street

The Town. This has been modelled around the London and North Western Railway interchange siding and goods shed and the first building you come to is the bank which has been modelled on the still-standing Lloyds Bank branch in Broseley). In the bank you can change modern money into money that represents the pre-decimal values of the time which you can then use throughout the site when buying goods (the main gift shop at the museum entrance operates only in modern currency).

Other shops within this area include:

  • chemist

  • butchers

  • grocer

  • sweetshop

  • printer

See Larger Image The Printers See Larger Image Inside the Chemist

There is a craft section which explains and shows the workings of an

  • Iron foundry

  • cobblers shop

  • slaughter house and stables

  • locksmith

  • decorative plasterer

  • builder

  • sawmill and undertakers

  • Canal Street


See Larger Image The Sweet Factory

Premises within Quarry Bank include a

  • tallow candle manufacturer

  • harness maker

  • a draper

  • a baker

  • a Dr's surgery and

  • a Board School

  • and also discover what life was like for a Victorian housewife in the three cottages

  • Victorian Fairground

  • a typical Victorian photographers studio, a typical sitting would consist of four poses and cost between half a crown (12.5p) and five shillings (25p).

See Larger Image The Candle Maker

The Ironworks Area has the original blast furnaces used to produce pig iron from 1832 to 1911, with a blowing engine installed in one of the houses. There are also a pair of beam engines 'David & Sampson' and a working wrought ironworks and a blacksmiths. Also within this area are the buildings associated with the day to day running for the ironworks including the ironworks office.

The Countryside Area demonstrates the re-colonisation of an industrial landscape using buildings such as a corrugated iron mission church, a squatters cottage (where once a family of 2 adults, 6 children and a visitor all lived) and a toll house.

See Larger Image See Larger Image
Squatters Cottage The Toll House


See Larger Image The Mine

The furthest exhibit from the entrance is the Hay Incline Plane, built to connect the Shropshire Canal with the River Severn. It was the final feature to be finished on the canal and was in operation until 1907. The inclines on this canal were the first of their type to be build in Britain, they transported tub boats in special cradles up and down the hillside.  At the top of the incline was a steam engine and acted as either a brake or as a hoist for the full tub boats ensuring a continuous flow of traffic.

See also
Hay Inclined Plane   

See Larger Image Top of Hay Incline Plane


See Larger Image

During the summer months you may get to experience a horse and cart ride, using one of their heavy horses, and other activities as well as many events and some hands-on activities. There is so much to see and do it is worth allowing at least 2-4 hours for your visit although from my own experience this is an all day experience, minimum of 4 hours to be able to take it all in. A great day out, and with their Annual Passport you can go back as many times as you like within a 12 month period.





The Winding Gear


Click on the smaller images to get see a larger version

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 2 adults and up to 3 children 54.95.

New Developments

Easter 2009 saw the opening of the extended Canal Street, with more shops and row of terrace houses. By the end of 2009 there will be an incline plane that you can ride on, a narrow gauge railway and other developments.

Further information Grid



Blists Hill, Ironbridge, Shropshire

Ceremonial County: Shropshire

Grid Reference:


Map Link:


Aerial photo: Google Aerial Photo



Best Times to Visit:

Anytime although more activities take place during the summer months, and if you can avoid a wet day as it's all outside and the paths can get a bit muddy.




Blists Hill - Ironbridge

Blists Hill - New Developments

Other useful websites:

wiki   wiki2

Nearby Locations:

Bedlam Furnaces

Broseley Pipeworks

Coalport China Museum

Darby Houses


Hay Inclined Plane    Hay Inclined Plane Gallery

Jackfield Tile Museum  

Iron Bridge and Toll House

Museum of the Gorge Ironbridge

Museum of Iron

Tar Tunnel

Other Relevant pages:

Living History Section

List of Living History Museums

Living history museums introduction

World Heritage Sites     

World Heritage Sites - Further Information

World Heritage Sites in the UK

Industrial Heritage

Anchor Points and The European Route of Industrial Heritage  

The Industrial Revolutions

Technological Developments in the Industrial Revolution

Transport in the Industrial Revolution 

Further Information on Industrial Heritage 

European Route of Industrial Heritage - UK Sites   



Planning Grid


Blists Hill, Ironbridge, Shropshire

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

5 miles south of Telford take junction 4 or junction 6 off the M54. Follow signs for Ironbridge Gorge. Then follow signs for Blists Hill Museum.




Free parking


3 eating places, toilets, picnic areas.

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Lots see the above write up

What to take:


Nature highlights:



Blists Hill






01952 884391

Opening times:

Open 7 days a week Apr-Oct 10am-5pm and Nov- Mar 10am-4pm


Use the Annual Passport as detailed above or for entry to Blists Hill only prices are: Adult 13.25; 60+ 10.50; Child 8.50

Photo Restrictions:


Other Restrictions:  
Special Needs Access: There is disabled parking in the car park. Ramp to entrance building, level within shop, cafe and toilet. On site all attractions are accessible via hardcore paths, so should be okay for wheelchair users although they can become muddy when wet. Some of the buildings have steps to get into them and a steep hill splits the site into Upper Town and Lower Town - but the majority of the site can be accessed.
Special Needs Facilities: Disabled toilets in the entrance building and Forest Glen Pavilion. The horse drawn cart or Model T Ford Bus when operating is free for visitors with disabilities. Wheelchair loan.
Children Facilities: Lots of space and activities to entertain children, including a Victorian fairground in the summer. Mother and Baby room in the entrance block. Also changing facilities in the New Inn pub and Forest Glen Refreshment Pavilion.
Dogs Allowed: Must be kept on a lead

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Tracey Park Section: Living History Key:
Page Ref: blists_hill Topic: Living History Last Updated: 10/2009

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