Blists Hill to host heavy horse weekend

The sound of hooves will ring out on the cobbled streets of Blists Hill Victorian Town this Bank Holiday weekend as the popular attraction hosts a heavy horse weekend to celebrate May Day.

Shire horses with Steve Ledsham
Shire horses with Steve Ledsham

The event, running from Saturday to Monday, will showcase the vital roles that heavy horses played in Victorian times.

Blists Hill, which is one of 10 museums run by The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, has recently gained accreditation from The Shire Horse Society, of which it is now a member.

The society aims to protect and conserve the breed, which is an important part of British national heritage.

The museum’s much-loved resident Shire horses, George, Casey and Bernie, will be joined by several other heavy horses across the weekend who will demonstrate the work of horses in industrial times.

Visitors will be able to watch the powerful animals pulling trade vehicles and will be able to see horses wearing a variety of harnesses, including those used for shunting on the railways and pulling barges on the canals.

Horses will also be on site alongside the vehicles and tools used for agriculture, including a horse logging demonstration in the woodlands.

One of the Shire horses will also be turned out in a full show harness, complete with gleaming brasses, to celebrate May Day - as would have been the tradition on high days and holidays in Victorian times.

People will also be able to learn about the art of plaiting a horse’s mane ready for showing, and how to harness a heavy horse.

Demonstrate

On Sunday and Monday, a farrier will show the skills needed to shoe a horse, while on Monday, a wheelwright will be on site to demonstrate his craft to visitors.

The horses will be on site on all three days across the Bank Holiday weekend and to ensure appropriate social distancing measures can be maintained, all tickets need to be pre-booked ahead of the day with no entry available on the door.

Justin Tose, visitor engagement director, said: “Our resident shire horses are incredibly popular with visitors, so we can’t wait to welcome the additional heavy horses this Bank Holiday weekend. They are magnificent, powerful and gentle animals that will enthral visitors young and old alike.

“We’re very proud to have recently received accreditation from The Shire Horse Society. Shire horses played a fascinating and vital part in the history of The Gorge and of the wider industrial revolution, from drawing large wagons and drays to pulling barges along the network of canals, and it’s only right that we celebrate this.

“Once again, we’re asking that visitors pre-book their entry time lots ahead of their visit to ensure we can manage demand and keep our visitors safe.”

The trust has put a number of enhanced Covid-safe measures into place to ensure people can visit with full confidence.

In addition to the heavy horse activities, visitors will be able to enjoy all of Blists Hill’s outdoor spaces, alongside the entrance visitor centre and gift shop.

Many visitors’ favourite traditional shops will be open too, including the chemist, grocers, printers, sweet shop, bakery and Victorian market.

To book a timed entry slot for the heavy horse weekend, visit ironbridge.org.uk

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