This is the first phase of a massive £12 million development and includes an entire new Victorian street and artisans' quarter. Canal Street, which will be officially opened on Thursday, 30th April will be lined both sides with a wonderful parade of shops, including a Drapers and Outfitters, Post Office, Photographers, Sweetshop and Fried Fish Dealers while the artisans' corner will include plumbers, tinsmiths and decorative plasterers.
From Saturday, 4th April visitors will be amongst the first to admire the hats and gowns in the Outfitters and Drapers, have their portraits taken in the Photographers, mail their letters and post-cards in the Post Office, select from a massive range of Victorian treats in the Sweet Shop and enjoy a delicious portion of traditionally prepared fish and chips in the Fried Fish Dealers. What's more visitors will be able to watch traditional skills in action in the plumbers, decorative plasters and tinsmiths.
The shops along Canal Street have been designed and built with the greatest of care to ensure that they are authentic copies of buildings from the locality. Existing buildings have either been copied or archive materials, such as old photographs and postcards, have been studied to ensure that all the architectural details are correct. A variety of different styles of bricks have been especially made and mortar depths have been measured and replicated, bespoke window frames have been created and Victorian shop fittings have been sourced from across the country.
Traci Dix-Williams, Blists Hill Victorian Town Manager commented, "The team and I are delighted to see Canal Street almost complete. We have been working on this project for many years and it's wonderful to see everyone's hard work pay off. Visitors to Blists Hill Victorian Town will gain an even greater insight into the world of a small working town at the turn of the last century. Visitors are already getting very excited about the new exhibits, especially the Post Office. I think this could largely be due to a recent television programme being set in a Victorian Post Office. Once Canal Street is open the hard work continues as we will be opening the new Visitor Centre for the summer and other attractions in the autumn.
"This project has been a labour of love for all the project team including our main contractor Mansell. We could not have achieved these remarkable results without their help and the ongoing support of our major funders Advantage West Midlands and the European Regional Development Fund" concluded Traci Dix-Williams.
Landmark Visitor Centre
Due to open in time for the summer school holidays, the new Visitor Centre will be housed in a remarkable modern landmark building, which will also act as gateway to the World Heritage Site. It has been designed with the environment in mind and inspired by many historic references such as the mammoth blast furnaces, which once dominated the local landscape; the building will also be adorned with giant fly wheels, cranes and boilers. As visitors ascend through the Visitor Centre they will be transported from the modern world back to the Victorian period by a variety of state-of-the-art exhibitions and displays. And as they leave the town, via the building, clever exhibitions will prepare them for a visit to the rest of the World Heritage Site.
In order to improve access at Blists Hill Victorian Town a new Mine Railway will carry passengers through the woods into a 'mine' experience. Here visitors will gain an understanding of the importance of mining to the area. Inspired by the famous Hay Inclined Plane, a smaller version will be built to transport visitors up the gorge side from the Village Green to the canal, once again making the site easier for all visitors to access.
Visitors to special events at Blists Hill Victorian Town will see a big difference to the Village Green, which will be extended to create a much improved space for the many spectacular events that take place across the year, such as outdoor classical concerts, steam weekends, Victorian wedding recreations and the annual firework display.
Blists Hill Victorian Town is one of the ten Ironbridge Gorge Museums. A Passport to all ten valid for twelve months and multiple return visits costs £19.95 for adults, £15.95 for the sixty plus and £12.95 for children (up to 18 years in full time education) £54.95 for families. For those on a shorter time scale, individual admission is available into any of the sites.
The museums are open seven days a week from 10am until 5pm; activities and workshops vary day-to-day and some carry an extra charge in addition to the museum admission fee, for further information, contact the Ironbridge Tourist Information Centre on Tel: 01952 884391 or visit www.ironbridge.org.uk.
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