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Midlands - Ironbridge Gorge

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Top 100 places to visit in the midlands

Ironbridge Gorge

1. The Iron Bridge and Tollhouse

Follow in the footsteps of millions of tourists who since 1779 have journeyed here to marvel at the world's first cast-iron bridge. Built by Abraham Darby III and now recognised as one of the great symbols of the Industrial Revolution, this remarkably elegant structure still dominates the small town that bears its name. The secrets of how and why it was built are revealed in an exhibition housed in the original Tollhouse on the south side of the Bridge.

2. Blists Hill Victorian Town

Blists Hill Victorian Town consists of reconstructed Victorian buildings, with costumed staff providing a warm welcome and a fascinating insight into how life was lived here. Exchange your money in the Bank, and admire the goods in the Grocers, Bakery and Sweetshop. Find out about curious remedies in the Chemist, and see the printer and candle maker in action. Discover what life was like for a Victorian housewife and in the summer enjoy a journey on a horse and cart and a ride on the fairground.

3. Jackfield Tile Museum

The excellent Jackfield Tile Museum provides a potted history of the Maws and Craven Dunhill tile factories. You can walk through an Edwardian Tube Station, the bar of an Hotel, a children's hospital ward and a 1930s 'front room'. Huge panels depicting mediaeval stories and nursery rhyme scenes have been rescued from buildings and now grace the walls of the galleries. Special workshop days are often held during school holidays, when you can have a go at decorating your own tile.

4. Maws Craft Centre

Jackfield is now a sleepy hamlet, but was once a grimy place that hummed to the tune of two large tile factories, Maws and Craven Dunmill. Both were built in the middle of the 19th century to the latest industrial design, a fully integrated manufacturing system that produced thousands of tiles at breakneck speed. The Maws factory has been sympathetically converted into Maws Craft Centre, containing over 20 individual workshops housing a variety of Art, Craft & Design businesses.

5. The Darby Houses

Experience the everyday life of Coalbrookdale's Quaker ironmasters in the former homes of the Darby family, Rosehill and Dale House, located 100 yards or so from the Coalbrookdale Iron Foundry. From their doorsteps you will get a grandstand view of the restored Furnace Pool which once helped power the ironworks. Step inside the houses and you will discover rooms packed with original family furniture, china, mementos, costumes and family papers.

6. Coalport China Museum and Tar Tunnel

See the National Collections of Caughley and Coalport china in the magnificent old Coalport China works. Coalport china was at its heyday from 1820 to 1890, with rich colours, bright glazes and exquisite decoration. Watch demonstrations of traditional ceramic techniques which reveal the secrets of production. Nearby is the Tar Tunnel, where over 200 years ago natural bitumen trickled like treacle into pools. Now you can walk along this brick-lined tunnel where the bitumen still oozes through the walls.

7. The Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron

Explore the site where Abraham Darby I perfected the smelting of iron with coke instead of charcoal. This secret made iron the essential material of the Industrial Revolution. In the Great Warehouse, models, films and artefacts bring to life the revolutionary techniques that made Coalbrookdale the most famous ironworks in the world. See the skill of the Coalbrookdale craftsmen in the display of domestic and decorative ironwork. A gift shop sells cast-iron goods and souvenirs.

8. Museum of the Gorge

The Museum of the Gorge is located in the Old Severn Warehouse, a short walk along the River from the Iron Bridge. See what the Gorge was like in 1796 with the help of a giant 12 meter long model. Spot a Royal carriage crossing the Iron Bridge, the cargo on a Severn Trow and a tiny figure toiling in a coalmine. Understand more about the area's history and discover why the Gorge was made a World Heritage Site during a short film. Activities and demonstrations vary from day to day.

9. Enginuity

A visit to this new hands-on interactive centre unravels the workings of everyday objects in four zones - Materials, Energy, Design and Systems and Controls. Look inside common objects such as teddy bears, mobile phones and loo roll holders by pulling a simulated x-ray machine over them. Pitch your dexterity and speed against a robotic arm, pull a locomotive weighing several tonnes and control the flow of a "river" to generate electricity or flood the surrounding villages.

10. Ironbridge Gorge Walks

Ironbridge Gorge is the collective title for a cluster of small villages huddled in the densely wooded Severn Valley to the south of Telford. Take a walk along his five mile stretch of the River Severn Valley, under the famous bridge and along the river through attractive Shropshire woodland and countryside. Stop off at the excellent Coalbrookdale Inn, a traditional pub offering real ales and delicious bar food, situated on the main road accross from the Coalbrookdale iron foundry.
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