We have visited Beamish in the North East of England and St Fagan’s in Wales but were curious to see what Blists Hill offered that was different and with children in mind.

We arrived around 11am and parked in an overflow car park.  There was a £3 all day parking charge, however, Blists Hill is also a charity. There was a slight queue to gain entry for people purchasing annual tickets but there was a separate till area with no queue for people who just wanted to buy a day pass to Blists Hill.

blists9You head straight from reception into a room with information boards and screens which were informative of life in a working class mining town known as Blists Hill around 1900.  We explained to the children they were going to travel back in time to around 1900 and visit a working class Victorian town.

As we walked out of the train station into the Victorian town the girls couldn’t believe that they were suddenly back in time as they saw  the old fashioned streets, houses and shop fronts.

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Our first visit was to Lloyds Bank, where we had to change our modern day decimal money into old money in the form of farthings, halfpennies, pennies, silver threepenny bits and sixpences which we could use to spend around the town of Blists Hill.  The bank manager was really engaging with us explaining about the money and how it relates to today’s money.

blists41The girls thought this was amazing as they left the bank with their pounds and shillings from the £5.00 each that they changed.  There was also a guide to help you convert to the modern money equivalent.

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You could use the money to buy goods from the shops in the town.

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The 52-acre site is crammed full of the sights, sounds and smells of Industrial England and is much more than a museum, you are truly  immersed into the reality of how it would have been to life back in 1900.

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blists16There was lots of activities for children to take part in and  the girls loved dipping their own candle.

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What I really liked about Blists Hill was the amount of interaction that the girls could have with the characters in the town and from the purchases they could make from the many shops in the town.

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They bought bread from the bakers, a hand made leather bracelet from the ironmongers and pies, pasties and sausage rolls from the butcher.

At the plasterer they liked spending the time learning how the products were made before choosing their plaster ornaments which we took home to paint to paint.

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blists1The activities and produce sold in the town were very reasonable and ranged from 20p to around a few pounds.  What the children made or bought have made lovely unique keep sakes and memories.

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In the post office the postmaster explained to us how the post office would have operated over 100 years ago and the clothes store was really popular with the girls.  They loved trying on the hats before buying handkerchiefs and a lavender scented bag.

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The girls, as you may have guessed, loved the sweet shop and enjoyed queuing up and asking the shopkeeper to weigh out 1 and ½ penny worth of sweets (60p).  When we were in the shop a pretend policeman and dog came into the shop to solve a crime. It’s these little touches which add to the realism to your visit and especially for the girls who thought that were in a town from yesteryear.

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The town was very busy during our visit and queues for the fish and chip shop and bakers were extremely long, but I can understand why as the smell from the fish and chip shop was just amazing.  We did go back to the bakers later on in the day and purchased some wonderfully tasting fresh bread.

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My youngest daughter loved the wood turner’s workshop.  The craftsman was extremely friendly and interesting and made hand carved wooden birds for both the girls to take home.

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A few of the places we visited were the doctors surgery, candle makers, iron mongers, blacksmiths, chemist, printers, post office, grocers and the village pub.

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Holly loved getting to smooth Casey the shire horse.

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There were many buildings and houses to explore all offering different learning experiences such as the squatter’s cottage.  Going inside this house was really interesting as it showed the difficult living conditions that the residents faced during this period of our history.blists30

What caught the girls attention was the sign in the bedroom, which said “Children should be seen and not heard” which brought on lots of questions from them asking why and how..

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We visited the school in the town which at various times of the day ran Victorian school lessons that you could take part in.

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To explore other historic industrial areas of Blists Hill such as the blast furnaces you can ride on the incline railway or take the train into the mine shaft.

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The Victorian funfair was brilliant and the girls had so much fun on the chair’o’plane ride.  The member of staff who was running the ride was brilliant with the children telling them to kick their legs and flap their arms to go faster and higher which just added to their excitement.  They enjoyed this attraction more than a theme park that we had visited the day before.

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Blists Hill is not a traditional museum, but a very accurate representation of what life would have been like in Victorian times.  Finding a historic attraction that has the ability to engage and educate children is fantastic.

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As soon we stepped through the door of the old train station it felt like we were transported back in time and we had such a fantastic day out.  As the majority of the attraction is outside do make sure you dress for the weather but we thoroughly recommend a family visit to Blists Hill.

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After our visit to Blists Hill we managed to fit in a visit to the  UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ironbridge (England’s first such structure, cast in nearby Coalbrookdale in 1779) that gives the town its name.

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The village is very quaint with chocolate box type of buildings and lovely tea rooms.  We enjoyed a late afternoon snack here and a wander through some of the lovely unique shops.

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Blists Hills is part of Ironbridge Gorge, a collection of ten varied museums all set close together by the original Ironbridge.  We bought an annual passport ticket at a cost of £68 (using our Tesco Clubcard vouchers) for a family of four which provided unlimited access to any of the 10 museums at Ironbridge which I think is really great value

I’m told that Enginuity is amazing too and the kids would have loved the hands-on science learning there, but we ran out of time during our visit.  We plan to visit this beautiful area of the country again soon to make the use of our annual pass so we can visit some of the other attractions available at the Ironbridge Gorge musuems.

 

 

 

 

 

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