Thanks to its illustrious links to the industrial revolution, Telford is more flush with high-quality museums than you would expect from a rural town.
The Ironbridge Gorge Museums are the standard-bearers of Telford’s culture scene; a collection of ten museums giving visitors a glimpse into industrial Britain at the nearby World Heritage Site of Ironbridge. If you’re staying in our Telford Central hotel, the museums are just a 10-minute drive away. You can buy tickets for the individual attractions or opt for the annual passport which, for just a couple of pounds more, gives you access to all ten sites for the whole year.
Ironbridge is named after the famed Iron Bridge – the world’s first cast-iron bridge constructed in 1775, linking two important industrial towns across the River Severn Gorge. As well as visiting the bridge itself and the quaint village of Ironbridge, which is just a 10-minute drive from Telford town centre, the free Tollhouse Museum is an ideal starting point to learn about the history of the bridge. To get you started, read our page dedicated to the Iron Bridge and the Tollhouse.
Next on your list should be the Museum of the Gorge. Housed in an impressive building which looks like a miniature castle, the building isn’t the only miniature you’ll find here. The centrepiece of the exhibition is a sweeping model of the river valley, including the famous Iron Bridge and trade ships making their way along the Severn with loot from the neighbouring mining towns. You’ll also see a replica of an Ironbridge coracle; a bowl-shaped one-person boat used for crossing the river so people could go about their daily business without having to travel to the bridge. The Rogers family of Ironbridge were famed coracle makers, peddling their wares on the banks of the River Severn for generations and today, the coracle is celebrated at an annual regatta on the river.
After learning about the area, discover more about the metal that changed its fortunes. The brand-new Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron explores he material that sparked the most significant leap in modern industry, charting its history and the production process with hands-on exhibitions and a raft of early-industrial artefacts, including an original furnace.
As well as being the heart of iron production, the area was also famed for its Victorian decorative tiles. And there’s no better place to learn about the craft and artistry behind the beautiful ceramics than at the Jackfield Tile Museum. The museum interior is awash with tiled frescos recreating a London Tube station, a pub and a church, as well as smaller collections showcasing the best of the British Victorian tile trade. Interactive displays will keep little hands busy, the factory tour gives an insightful behind-the-scenes peek at the technology and craftsmanship that goes into making these miniature masterpieces, and you can try making one yourself in one of their workshops and take home your very own Jackfield tile.
As this was the era that invented the afternoon tea, it should perhaps come as no surprise that the Victorians made such a fuss of their teacups. The Coalport China Museum on High Street charts the renowned production of china in the area, showcasing some of the traditional decorating and production methods. Housed in former china factory buildings, visitors get the chance to go inside one of the cavernous 70 feet tall bottle-shaped kilns, which were used to fire the china at temperatures of around 1,230°C.
The vast displays of china include the iconic Northumberland vase; the biggest item ever made at Coalport and now a permanent feature of the museum thanks to a £14,000 fundraising drive from the local community, charities and foundations. You can also get to grips with the traditional production and decorating methods with demonstrations and workshops taking place in the museum’s riverside factory.
If you’re looking to take home a little piece of Ironbridge, the Ironbridge Fine Arts and Framing Gallery is a wonderful fine art printmaking gallery dedicated to the works of local artists, paying homage to the area’s natural bounty and displays rotating exhibitions showcasing the finest printmaking artists from across the world.
If you want to try your hand at printmaking, the gallery offers specialist workshops where budding artists can get to grips with the techniques, tools and production methods, and take home a personal piece of art from Ironbridge.
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