BRINGING HISTORY TO LIFE AT IRONBRIDGE
By Ann Evans
Photos courtesy of Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust
It will be full steam ahead at Ironbridge Gorge and Blists Hill Victorian Town in Shropshire when 32 historic steam engines rumble in for a fantastic weekend of steam on 13th-14th May.
On the Saturday, starting from Blists Hill, which is one of ten Ironbridge Gorge Museums, these powerful steam machines will take part in a challenging road run, when engines and drivers will be tested with steep climbs and gentle descents around the cobbled streets of this historic town.
The spectacular Steam Road Run will also visit many of the Museum’s sites and historic monuments in the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site.
The 32 steam machines will include a variety of makes and types ranging from traction engines and steam lorries to road locomotives and ploughing engines with Sentinels, Fodens and Fowlers. Some of these engines are especially rare, particularly The Chief, a huge early Victorian ploughing engine, as well as the Lord Doverdale, one of the last commercially working steam road engines. The only surviving Agri Tractor from the six originally built will also be joining the Road Run along with the Gold Medal Tractor, which took part in the Land’s End to John O’Groats race.
Many of the drivers will be wearing Victorian costume and some will be pulling period living vans and tractors. The crews and engines will also be judged by roving assessors on their historical accuracy, time keeping and even crew cleanliness.
All the engines will be available to view on Sunday, 14th May to visitors at Blists Hill Victorian Town where steam enthusiasts get to meet the crews and see the magnificent machines.
The Road Run is all part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust’s 50th anniversary celebrations. But not only does 2017 mark 50 years since the founding of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust in 1967, but 2017 also celebrates 300 years since the death of Abraham Darby I (1678-1717) the man widely recognised as the person who started the Industrial Revolution.
If you’re visiting Ironbridge, be sure to stop by the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron which has just had a massive refurbishment. The museum opened its doors again at Easter revealing the complete history of the iron industry, from how the geology of the Gorge provided all the raw materials needed for iron to be made there, through the medieval times and right up to the modern steel industry.
Visitors can learn of the lives of the people involved in this industry including the Darby dynasty of ironmasters and ‘Iron Mad’ Wilkinson. Discover too the important role played by the women in the management of the Coalbrookdale factory and the hard conditions that the workers faced to help make Ironbridge one of the most important industrial locations in the world.
You’ll also find wonderful examples of the varied ironware made in Coalbrookdale such as a giant whaling pot, an anchor from a Napoleonic Warship as well intricate and beautiful statues, furniture and everyday household goods like door stops, cooking pots and flat irons. Plenty of activities for the children to take part in too.
For further information, including the great value Annual Passport Ticket, call the Ironbridge Tourist Information Centre on 01952 433 424 or visit www.ironbridge.org.uk