tickets were gifted for purpose of review
Sometimes you revisit places from your childhood and discover that they aren’t as shiny as your memories recall. And other times you’re simply blown away by how amazing it all is. Blists Hill Victorian Village definitely fell in the latter camp.
If you grew up round Derbyshire (and Birmingham, Telford, and the Midlands in general probably…..) chances are you’d have taken a school trip over to Ironbridge. Coalbrookdale formed the basis of my entire GCSE coursework and the last time I ran through Blists Hill was with my history class back in 1999.
Fast forward twenty years and three children later my mum and I headed back with the boys one rainy day.
And what a day
So often I see attractions steeped in history and think how much *I* would love to visit and learn. Then I remember at 6 and 4 chances are that they’ll get bored and wander off as I’m soaking up all the information.
They get frustrated, I get frustrated. And it’s temper tantrums all round.
Though I persist. And I’m glad I do because more often than not gems appear out of the blue that I never expect. Places such as the Tram Museum in Crich.
Bringing history to life
Walking through the entrance into a large room with a film playing on loop about the iron industry my six year old quickly ushers us away, scared by the flames on the screen. Taking his lead we carry on, open the door and step out into the year 1900.
An eerie silence in the street as we walk forward, the boys asking questions in hushed silence. The tone set by the misty weather.
We quickly divert to our first stop, Lloyd’s bank, ready to change our money into Victorian pennies.
Handing over £5 per child we got back 12½d. A silver sixpence, a silver three pence, two pennies, two half pennies and two farthings.
We were ready to explore.
First stop the sweet shop
Ignoring all the enticing shop fronts along from the bank, my four year old raced ahead, knowing that somewhere would be a sweetshop.
He wasn’t disappointed.
Heading in, clutching his pennies, he quickly decided that he wanted a quart of dew drops. Parting with his silver three pence to do so. His brother quickly followed suit opting for jelly babies. Then Mum and I each bought a bag, instead of dipping into the boys Victorian Pennies paying in sterling.
Once we had the sweets in hand we were able to explore at our leisure – never underestimate the power of bribery.
On we went to explore
With sweets in hand we carried on through the village, which has grown since I last visited, adding a plethora of shops on site.
Depicting life in 1900, with staff walking the street and manning the shops in traditional dress of the times.
And it is the staff and volunteers that make Blists Hill Victorian Village stand out from the crowd. Knowledgable, approachable and brilliant with the children. Nothing was too much trouble, no question went unanswered.
From the candle makers where we learnt that they used to be made from tallow, which is sheep fat. Found out that it would have been really stinky. Watching as the candles were dipped in (thankfully not tallow) wax and feeling that they were instantly dry.
To the bakery where the smell of fresh bread enticed us inside. The lovely ladies told us that the bake was almost ready to sell. Peering over into the kitchen watching as the biscuits for the next day were being prepared.
And we couldn’t leave without buying a loaf of bread, a honey biscuit each and a currant biscuit for me. We set off back the the start to refuel with a cup of tea and start again from the beginning.
A quick cup of tea and we were off again
At the cafe indulging in a cup of tea and a juice we were fortified and ready to start again.
Taking our time and heading into the shops that we missed in my four year olds rush to get to the sweet shops.
A magical shop full of potions and powders. An eye chart on the wall that showed that I am still as blind as I thought, not being able to read any of the letters from six foot away.
The lovely lady working behind the counter showing the boys how pills were made, by crushing, grinding, rolling and powdering.
And of course the scary looking dentist chair.
They were particularly interested in the carbolic soap for some reason, even though they avoid it in the present day.
We darted in and out of stores.
Learning about the sailor suits in the drapers, and pocket watches. The lovely man, showing the boys how to open and close it. Letting them have a go and posing for a photo.
To the post office where we discovered the Penny Stamps and wax seals.
The grocery shop where they learnt how scales weighed out goods, and that each paper bag was made from a separate piece of paper, like wrapping a present, around a block of wood.
The photographers, were we discovered that cameras actually show you upside down! And that children were doped with laudanum to keep them still to take a photo….
The doctors surgery, where we not only sheltered from the rain, and my four year old was given a knitted dishcloth.
The plaster carvers, where we were able to help undo a mould and came away with plenty of plaster carvings to paint at home.
Walking down to the toll house, a quick peek in the school house.
And a tour at the iron forge, where we discovered that my nearly seven year old would soon be headed out to work if we really did live in 1900.
All the fun at the fair
And of course – the piece de resistance. The Victorian Fair.
Brightly coloured carousels that the boys were able to go on.
And of course because fun fairs weren’t actually for children but for adults who had the money, even I got a go on the swinging chairs.
Looking around at everything we had done, the little faces of the children who had soaked up all the history around us, the museum was closing around us.
We had to abandon our plans to visit Enginuity, where we missed HRH Princess Alexandra, because I couldn’t peel the boys away. But knowing what an amazing time, and what amazing people work at the Ironbridge Gorge Musuems, I’ve penciled it in for another day in the school holidays with high expectations.
Need to know: Blists Hill Victorian Village
Tickets cost from £18.50 for adults, £11.50 for children at Blists Hill. You can also buy annual passports which offer day time admission to all 10 museums for a year.
tickets were gifted for purpose of review