Review: The Revamped Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron
Forging a family day out at the newly refurbished Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron, Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire.
The clothes you wear, the fork you eat with, your TV you like to watch your favourite programme on and the smart phone you can't tear yourself away from - all are the products of mass production that can ultimately trace their origins back to Ironbridge Gorge.
It is this story of why the industrial revolution began in Shropshire more than 300 years ago that is told in the Museum of Iron which reopens this Easter (Sat April 8 2017) after a six month refurbishment.
The revamped museum, which is housed in a Grade II listed warehouse dating back to 1838, is now light, bright and airy with striking wall displays, giving the feel of a modern art gallery while showcasing the star of the show - iron!
As you would expect there's lots of items made of iron on display from household items such as cooking pots to an anchor from a Napoleonic warship to highly decorative items such as dog statues.
Children can follow an interactive trail around the museum and discover many of the fascinating stories through interactive games and puzzles.
Historic images can be viewed on a digital table' which functions like a giant tablet computer allowing visitors to see dozens of historic scenes, which can be expanded to view the smallest details.
The museum takes visitors on a journey through time to explore how Coalbrookdale became the centre of the Iron Industry.
It explores how the area's history was shaped by the remarkable geology as well as the entrepreneurial people - including the Darby family - who developed techniques that changed the world.
The birth of the industrial revolution at Ironbridge is traced back to Abraham Darby I who in 1709 perfected the technique of smelting iron with coke, rather than charcoal, a major step forward which changed the course of the iron industry. It allowed him to mass produce' iron products on a commercial scale for the very first time.
His old furnace is just a few metres away from the Museum of Iron and can be explored as part of your visit.
The Museum of Iron is one of 10 award winning museums that collectively tell the story of the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site.
The museum is open daily from 10am-4pm and entry to the Museum of Iron is £9.75 for adults, £8.75 for 60 plus and £6.25 for children aged 5-16, with under 5s free.
But we've found it's well worth buying an Annual Passport ticket that allows unlimited entry to all 10 museums which is £68 for a family of two adults and all their children and £50 for a family with one adult - it's especially good value if you have lots of children.
This also allows you to head across the courtyard next to Museum of Iron and visit Enginuity which kids love as it is packed with lots of interactive exhibits, hands-on activities and hosts regular workshops during school holidays.
Just up the hill from Ironbridge are the Darby Houses - Dale House was built for Abraham Darby I, where children get the chance to dress up in Georgian costume and see what life was like for the pioneering families behind the discoveries.
We find all these can be visited in one day, whereas a visit to Blists Hill Victorian Town needs a whole day, especially when the weather is fine and you wish to take part in the workshops.
The refurbishment of the Museum of Iron is one of a number of events to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust - which has grown into one of the largest independent museums in the world.
It also marks the launch of a 15 year masterplan to tackle new projects and refurbish key buildings and monuments which will also see Enginuity expanded and a new destination' cafÃ© created.
The Trust's ten museums, which can all be visited with the Annual Passport Ticket, or individually are:
Blists Hill Victorian Town, Coalport China Museum, Jackfield Tile Museum, Museum of the Gorge, Broseley Pipeworks, The Iron Bridge and Toll House, Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron, Darby Houses, Enginuity and the Tar Tunnel.
For more information visit: www.ironbridge.org.uk
Jo Messinger is Editor of the Wolverhampton & South Staffordshire Edition of Raring2go! A wife and mum to two lively boys who love living life to the full - just how it should be!
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