Two Open Air Museums

Blist’s Hill

Situated in Ironbridge Gorge, the putative birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Blist’s Hill was going when I was here last in 1988 … and it’s now bigger, or at least as more buildings on display.

Lots of active and static displays dating back to the late 18th century but mostly 19th century … very well presented, with lots of re-enactors around manning the place. Not as many as there would be in ‘high’ season, but the crowds were also much less. Much less.

The Blacksmith’s Shop

Even so, it was infested by at least four school groups … and avoiding them was a chore in and of itself.

Candle-making (don’t use pig fat!), blacksmiths casting iron at the ironworks, making horseshoes and other doo-dads at the forge (separate), a late Victorian Fun Fair (guess which was most infested?!?) and interiors fitted out in period style with re-enactors to answer and explain (assuming you managed to get in between the kiddies).

Baking Bread in a Victorian era oven (tasty!)

Black Country

The Black Country Living Museum (Dudley) is very similar, but looks at the industrial heartland as it developed after Ironbridge Gorge was out-developed.

The name comes from a comment made by a distinguished victorian era visitor who said ‘it’s black [smoke from forges and furnaces] by day and red [ditto] by night’ … eight hour days were well into the future!

It covers from the late 17th century through to the mid 20th century – and has an actual section of one of the canals that criss crossed the region with period canal boats as well as a ‘working’ coal mine (they’ve re-dug the shaft but they can’t actually mine unless they get government approval as the Coal Board owns all the rights).

Several Steam Engines, some working, some not (or at least, not on the day when I was there) including a model/reconstruction of a Newcomen Atmospheric Engine.

Lots of obscure marks of car and commercial vehicles that were manufactured locally by engineering companies right through to the early 60’s all of whom died because they couldn’t compete even with the big UK manufacturers who, in turn, had a problem competing with Ford etc.

One of the unique cars at BCLM
The local Chemist’s

Blenheim Palace

I remember visiting here in 1988 – and it seems even bigger than I remembered. But the externals are much more worn. Of course, it’s over 250 years old!

It’s the only non-royal Palace in the UK … and it’s huge. Set in ~2000 acres of estate … all of which belongs to HM The Queen and which is leased for as long as the Churchills pay a nominal rental of one guidon with an embroidered french Fleur-de-lis on it every year. If they forget, well, it escheats back to the Royals.

The main carriage entry (main Entrance to right)
The main entrance to the Palace (carriage entry to left)
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