Arriving at Blists Hill was surreal to say the least, from the buildings to the people and even the smell everything felt rather authentic. As we strolled down the main street we visited the Grocers, selling a variety of cheeses, meats and other provisions. Next up was the Pharmacy and Dentist. The advances in Victorian medicine are not to be scoffed at, from John Snow proving that Cholera was a waterborne disease to the invention of the X-ray, however some of the quackery on display here was a little disturbing.
Next up, the Pub. Now the Pub was absolutely heaving with people singing a hilarious song about a graveyard that I cannot find online anywhere. There was a piano in the backroom and the gentleman playing it was doing a fantastic job of getting the usually reserved tourists and visitors to sing along.
We visited the Draper’s Dressmakers next to see how upper class women survived in the absence of Barbour. According to the dressmaker herself women would visit to browse, drink tea and have their measurements taken. They would also leave notices in search of “A sensible well educated steady woman of strict morals, healthy, and good humoured but above corruption” to work as a cook. My first thought was that my beloved Mrs Patmore from Downton Abbey would’ve been a perfect fit.
Feeling peckish we nipped into the Sweetshop and swam through a sea of small children all for a traditional bar of Cadburys.
At 12pm sharp we were ushered into a Victorian Schoolhouse by a man so strict he put my Nigerian father to shame. After having my knuckles rapped for daring to wear nail polish we all sang God Save the Queen looking rather like the England football team who often also don’t seem to know the middle bit. What followed was a brief lesson on empire and the Ironbridge and I must give an honourable mention to the child in the front row who was convinced that Ironbridge was built in 2002 and not 1775.
We ambled back up to the main street and had a fruit cob each from the Bakery, delicious and only 40p. I would have happily eaten four but I daren’t put that much bread into the Weight Watchers app for fear of crashing it.
Finally we visited the Printshop and Candlemakers both of which were hiring apprentices on salaries so low even staunch Tories would wince. The working week was Monday through Saturday and both jobs looked like exceptionally hard and repetitive work.
Blists Hill was a such an informative day out, we saw industry in action, had a school lesson and peered into houses of the different classes very present in the Victorian times. There was so much to see I ended up purchasing an annual pass and of course ransacking the giftshop.
All in all one of the best days out I’ve had in years.