Blists Hill opened to the public on April 1, 1973 and replicates life at the end of the Victorian era. Visitors can discover what it was like to live and work at the turn of the 20th century in Shropshire.
With an award-winning learning programme for schools that extends far beyond the classroom, the experience at Blists Hill is designed to supplement the National Curriculum in a creative and inspiring way.
Covering everything from history and art to STEM, students of all ages have the opportunity to expand their knowledge through a range of fun, immersive activities.
This starts with the activity that many local people will recall from school trips of years gone by – a lesson in the Victorian schoolroom.
Here students have the chance to experience what life was like as a child in 1900, donning Victorian costume before being met by school mistress Miss McCallum – otherwise known as Amanda Phillipson, the trust’s Lifelong Learning Manager.
“We aim to make our lessons at the Victorian schoolroom as authentic as possible to immerse the children in what it was really like to be a child in the Victorian era,” Amanda says.
“Everything from the 1881 school building itself – which was relocated brick by brick to Blists Hill from its original location in Stirchley, through to the slates and slate pencils on every desk – everything is historically accurate which really does add to the whole experience.”
Even Miss McCallum herself is based on a real teacher who taught at Stirchley School in 1900.
Channelling the stern school mistress can come as a bit of a shock to some, says Amanda.
“It’s a very different experience to modern school – and especially the younger ones can be a little taken aback at how strict I am. But there was no soft touch in Miss McCallum’s day!
“We can tailor sessions for younger groups, where I’m not quite as stern, but it’s all about getting a taste of what lessons were like in the age of industry.” Once school is out, the town offers plenty of opportunities to experience what life was like for the thousands of Victorian children in employment.
Unlike the digital world we’re used to today, hands-on workshops offer an insight into life as child labourer with brick making at the original Madeley Wood Brick and Tile works, life as a domestic servant doing laundry Victorian-style in the wash house and candle dipping at the town’s candle factory.
“The Victorian period was a time of huge progress, but it was also a time of hardship for many which is what we try to show with things like our brick making and laundry workshops,” Amanda explains.
“Before child labour laws, children as young as four or five could be expected to work which is completely at odds with what we know today.
“We want them to experience the reality of life before smartphones, games consoles and TV at the tap of a touchscreen – and that’s exactly what we recreate here at Blists Hill.”
To celebrate its 50th year, 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 whole year.
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.
For more information on learning at Blists Hill Victorian Town, visit ironbridge.org.uk.