Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron

As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the opening of Blists Hill Victorian Town, Sir Neil Cossons, the first director of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (1971 – 1983) and Britain’s leading authority on industrial heritage, will give a public talk on the creation and early days of the award-winning museum.

When Blists Hill Open Air Museum opened to the public on 1 April 1973 it was an immediate sensation as a radical new kind of living museum on a grand scale. An extraordinary project to capture and preserve Britain’s industrial heritage and the way of life in late Victorian Britain fast vanishing beneath the bulldozer of deindustrialisation and urban renewal. In the first year the site welcomed 78,000 visitors – since then over 10 million people have visited.

Ahead of the opening in 1973 hundreds of volunteers had laboured for years to clear 42 acres and unearth the remains of the industrial structures original to the site - a section of the Shropshire Canal, the giant Madeley Wood Company blast furnaces and brick and tile works. Volunteers continue to play an important role bringing Blists Hill to life for visitors.

Nearly half of Blists Hill’s 40 shops, businesses and homes were relocated brick-by-brick, timber-by timber.  Most came from areas of dereliction and demolition around the Ironbridge Gorge, Telford and the exhausted East Shropshire coalfields.  Where whole buildings could not be saved, recreations were built using the Museum’s vast collection of original fittings and complete interiors.  

In this special anniversary lecture Sir Neil will talk about the foundation of Blists Hill, its early years and how the ambitious concept came to fruition.

This lecture, starting at 7.30pm, is held in conjunction with the Friends of The Ironbridge Gorge Museum. Tickets are £5 per person, £3 for PASS PLUS holders and free for Friends of The Ironbridge Gorge Museum.