Notification Settings

Subscribe to one or all notification sources from this one place.


Subscribe to our newsletter to get the day's top stories sent directly to you.

Your chance to book your family in for special year at the Ironbridge Gorge's award-winning venues

It’s English Tourism Week – the annual celebration of the quality, range and value of visitor destinations both to our economy and our way of life.

Blists Hill
Blists Hill

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Blists Hill Victorian Town, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust’s biggest attractions, we take a look at how the development of the ‘new’ old town and its sister museums within the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site have helped to transform the region’s tourism economy.

More than £100 billion was spent on tourism in England in 2019. The sector supported 2.6 million jobs and is a major employer of school leavers and young people, as well as an incubator for entrepreneurs and innovation.

In the West Midlands, tourism generated £6.2 billion. Telford & Wrekin alone welcomed six million visitors, including 1.4m people who headed to Ironbridge. As one of the West Midlands leading cultural attractions, the 10 sites run by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust attracted over 400,000 visitors, half of those at the star destination of Blists Hill Victorian Town. In total, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust is estimated to have contributed more than £6 million to the Telford & Wrekin and Shropshire economies in 2019.

Blists Hill

When Blists Hill opened as an outdoor living museum 50 years ago, it was a very different story. The beautiful Severn valley had been a magnet for tourists for centuries, particularly since the late 18th century when visitors were enthralled by the contrast of iron furnaces and steam engines in the beauty of the Gorge. But by 1973 it had been in steep decline for decades. The twin developments of Telford New Town and the evolution of the recreated historic town at Blists Hill, together with the growth of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum radically changed the public view of an industrial landscape in decline.

Telford Development Corporation was quick to embrace the value of the heritage on its doorstep and played an instrumental role in founding the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, and in 1986, securing UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the six square miles recognised as a world-renowned symbol of the 18th century Industrial Revolution. Fifty years ago Blists Hill welcomed 78,000 visitors. Numbers climbed steadily to peak in 2009 at 236,000, while total visitor numbers across the charity’s 10 museums reached half a million for the next five years. Telford & Wrekin Council has continued to invest steadily over the past 35 years. Tourism and leisure is now the fifth largest employer in the region, supporting tens of thousands of jobs.

Blists Hill

Covid has, of course, dealt a severe blow to tourism everywhere. For the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, one of the largest independent museums in the world and reliant on visitors for 75 per cent of its income, it resulted in drastic losses. With funding support from Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF), The Marches LEP and Telford & Wrekin Council, the Trust has put in place a three-year turnaround plan and a 10 year strategy to secure its long term future as an iconic destination.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Blists Hill, The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust is running a competition for Star readers to win one of 50 Golden Tickets offering unlimited family entry to all 10 of its award-winning museums for a year, which will be marked by some fantastic celebratory events.

To be in with a chance of winning, collect three out of seven tokens printed in the newspaper every day until Saturday, March 25, and send them in with the entry form included. Entries close at 5pm on Thursday, March 30.

Most Read

Most Read

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News