Ironbridge is one of the Midlands most well known attractions, but did you know it's more than just the bridge? Well, I didn't, so I was amazed to find out there are TEN museums, each detailing a different part of this area's important past.
I was a little nervous about mentioning the word "museum" to my boys when discussing our plans, but I needn't have worried. As soon as they saw the Ironbridge leaflet, a lively discussion broke out about where we would go and what we would do. We only planned a day trip - not long enough to visit all ten museums - but the handy timings guide helped us decide that we would do Blists Hill Victorian Town in the morning and The Museum of the Gorge and Enginuity in the afternoon.
Blists Hill is a recreated Victorian Town, where you can meet some (almost) real Victorians in their authentic shops and cottages, buy curious goods from a bygone era and watch tradespeople in action in their atmospheric workshops and factories. We all found the whole place fascinating. There were so many things to do and see that we were spoilt for choice and could have done with more time. There are various activities for children taking place across the day, as well as talks and tours of the place in general. My boys loved building their own miniature steam engine (and seeing it work!); building walls; watching full sized steam engines at work; and just generally taking in all of the amazing details. We followed our own path around the town but there are two family trails that take you around the village, each with it's own additional activities for children to complete. Perhaps the favourite part of the day was exchanging current money for old coins from the Victorian era. These could then be used to buy items in some of the shops in the village (sweet shop included!) or just to keep as a souvenir (we did both). With two more museums to visit, we had to move on after a few hours, but we could have definitely stay there longer. First museum done and a massive thumbs up from us.
We drove the short distance to the river and the Museum of the Gorge. On our way, we walked over the bridge itself (sadly, mostly under cover for restoration) and through the small village of Ironbridge (home to some lovely cafes and shops, stopping for a homemade sausage roll each!). The Museum of the Gorge is supposed to take about 45 minutes to visit as it contains essentially a model of the river, bridge and the various mines, ironworks etc that would have been operating in the Victorian age; followed by a short film of the history of the area. This was the least interactive place we visited so I wondered what the boys would think, however, they loved the model and spent their time trying to spot the many intricate details such as mine openings, boats and pack horses. For me, I was right back to school and history lessons and found the whole museum fascinating. There were many artefacts from the era which tied into the other museums such as tile and china as well as quirky objects such as the model of the largest fish caught in the River Servern (it was big!!) or the points on the walls showing where the various floods of different years have come up to in the building. All in all, another hit with all of us.
After our short visit to the gorge, we headed to the greatly anticipated Enginuity. A family favourite of ours is a place in Cardiff called Techniquest and Enginuity is very similar, so the boys were very excited to get in and get involved. The museum focuses on engineering, design and technology and most of the displays are interactive from generating electricity through kinetic energy or using water, to replicating the mining process or building an arched bridge. All activities are accompanied by lots of interesting and fun facts, with the odd interactive quiz thrown in. There was so much for the kids to do here and we were all having such fun that we lost track of time and ended up leaving as it was closing! Top marks from all of us.
We were tired but very happy on our trip home (and under an hour journey time made the whole day very accessible) and there was much talk of when we could go again. A really great day out for everyone!
Mum of two boys and editor for Coventry & Nuneaton.