Most of the friends spent the afternoon at the Blists Hill Victorian Town in Ironbridge. The streets, shops and factories were brought alive by a varied group of characters dressed in late Victorian-Edwardian costume. However, this is not a "Costume Drama" but an actual working community, such as existed before the pace of modern life began to accelerate. With my industrial training I was able to relate to much that I saw, indeed many of the items of industrial plant were little different than that in use at the ship repair company in which I served my time. The shops and offices were also familiar, being in almost all respects similar to those in Llangollen in the late 1940s and early 50s.
The shops included a bakery, confectioners, butchers and a cobblers, all authentic to the last detail. At the bank the present day visitor could exchange modern cash for facsimile Ironbridge Tokens - pennies, half pennies, farthings and silver 3d pieces, exchange rate 90 new pence to the old Victorian penny.
At the school, the headmaster was stern but kind, with his ultimate authority a genuine cane hanging on the wall behind his dais. One item that was missing was the wall map of the British Empire, obligatory in pre-first world war Britain. The school would very much like one, has any one any ideas?
Many of the buildings in the town have been reconstructed, having been dismantled at other sites and transported to Blists Hill but, sufficient of the original industrial complexes remain to give scale to Victorian heavy industry and transport. Ranging from the mighty Blast Furnaces with their enormous steam powered blowing engine, the great tile works on the hillside and, of course, the canal with its locks, and the great Hey Incline that linked the upper canal with the lower. One comment I heard more than once was the size of everything.
Not only heavy industry was represented, light industry such as candle making, locksmithing, harness making and blacksmithing were present.
All the townsfolk were easily approachable, friendly and informative. On the Green there was an old time fairground, with its coconut shies, swinging gondolas and merry-go-round, with music provided by a steam organ. Next to the fairground was a display of various traction engines - all restored and fully operational.
Also taking place on Saturday was a Victorian wedding so, there were a number of people, including children, dressed in the finery of the day
Finally many of us went to the Town's Victorian "karaoke" in the New Inn Pub, before travelling on to the Swan Inn for a final get together before wending our way homewards. It should be added that the Swan Inn was originally a Malting House, and much of the structure dating from that time has been beautifully preserved during the restoration work recently undertaken. Special thanks are due to Fiona, the manageress, for allowing us sight of the furnace for the old malting kiln.
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