Considering I wasn’t a history fan at school, I do enjoy living museums and looking back at old streets and houses. We’ve been to Black Country Living Museum in the past and I really wanted to visit Blists Hill Victorian Town in Ironbridge. N wasn’t keen – he always moans about visiting places, but I decided to give him a choice of trip. Either Blists Hill and Enginuity as they’re both in the same area, or a National Trust property. He made the decision so over the Christmas holidays we made the trip up the motorway to Blists Hill..
Blists Hill Victorian Town, near Telford, is part of a group of museums – The Ironbridge Gorge Museums. They’re based around the World Heritage Site of Ironbridge which tell the story of landscape, life and industry over the years.
Visiting Blists Hill
You can buy tickets online for single museums or an annual passport which lets you into all the museums for one price, over a year. We opted for the single adult family and I could state how many children that would include (just need to remember where I put the pass to get the most out of it over the year, and not just use it for that one day!).
The museum is easy to find, and well signposted. Each museum provides the best postcode online for sat nav users, and also advises which signs to look out for, for which set of museums.
The car parks are a flat charge of £3 for the day, but you can use the same ticket for all the museums which have car parks owned by the group. There are only a couple which aren’t included.
What’s at Blists Hill Victorian town
I really liked the way the museum was done. You started off being introduced to some videos of the mining workers and the types of people who would have lived in the town. Then move through to an area which tells you the timeline of the coal mining in the area, and a video of people walking the street – it makes you feel like you’re walking alongside them before you enter into the Victorian town behind.
As you’re walking around outside, it can get chilly so in winter coats are needed. Parts down to the bottom of the hill are quite hilly so be prepared to walk some way. It’s fine for pushchairs outside, but getting in and out of the shops and houses, it’s advisable to keep them outside as not all are large enough or wide enough for some to get through.
Because it was out of season when we went, it was quite quiet, and there wasn’t much going on outside the basics. If you’re at Blists Hill in the summer months, there’ll be the fairground rides and other activities taking place. As the weather was cold, most of the shop doors were closed, so it was a little awkward not knowing if all were open or not. We just had to try where we couldn’t see people inside.
The first building on arrival is the bank. Here you can change money into old coins to spend around the town. (You can still spend normal money, but it’s nice to try and work it out in old money). This started a huge conversation on the way home about decimalisation with N and how hard it must have been for teachers and children to switch between learning at that point!). We changed £5, but only ended up spending around £1 worth – you can change money back, but you won’t necessarily get the exact equivalent back.
There’s plenty to see around the town. Many of the buildings have people ‘working’ in them, or doing displays, and they’ll answer questions about the work that would have been done in those houses.
The grocery store was a favourite, with its huge till and a chance to spot brands that are still around today. The shop assistant told us all about how people would have shopped in Victorian times.
The candle maker’s workshop was in action, and the girl there showed us how candles would have been made, and explained why they were made in different colours (and how – bleurgh to the pink ones which would have been made with tallow and a bit of remaining animal blood!).
Of course we had to buy some sweets from the confectioners – N’s never bought ‘a bag’ of sweets before so it took a while for him to decide on fruit pastilles, and paying with a thrupenny.
From the doctor’s to the estate office, the farrier and carpenter/funeral director. A look inside the houses, and past the walls of advertising and posters.
Past the iron works and blast furnaces we walked down to the school. There wasn’t anyone around, and no Victorian class was taking place as it was early. N was getting a bit bored by that stage, although we’d taken in a lot. He was interested in the butcher’s shop and wanted to know if people could buy the game hanging up (the answer was no, it’s plastic).
There’s also a fish and chip shop you can buy lunch from, a pub which hadn’t opened when we were there. There’s also a café down at the bottom of the town as well as a more modern one by the exit.
We whizzed round, trying to point out interesting things to N. He likes Horrible Histories, but oddly, put him in a real life setting and he moans. Sigh. We did find some places that he was more interested in like the shops, so he was entertained, whatever he told me!
Before we left, we changed our money back into modern currency, then stopped for a hot chocolate. It was super hot so we had to top up with water, but it was nice to get in from the cold, and other visitors were doing the same. The café sells a limited choice of meals, snacks and there’s also a children’s lunchbox option which was a bargain costing under a fiver.
We said goodbye to the steam engine at the entrance, before heading off to Enginuity for some lunch and an afternoon of science fun.
Tips for your visit to Blists Hill Victorian town
- Look out for event days and children’s activity workshops.
- Go in summer for the fairground
- Allow time to see everything and go in every shop. When it’s busy allow for having to go back when places are less busy, as shops and houses can be a tight squeeze
- Get the children to ask questions to the victorians living and working in the shops.
- Use the free map they give you to check out where you want to see. There’s a lot.
- Plan your visit to try more than one museum. The annual passports are great value if you can fit 2 in one day.
- Arrive early before it gets too busy. There are overflow car parks around some of the museums. The car park machines were cash only
Despite N’s moans, I think he did enjoy learning about the Victorians and about the businesses that were going on in those days. I’d like to think we’ll visit again, maybe on one of the events days – we’ve had a steam day recommended, and possibly taking a friend as well.
Have you ever visited?