Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Birmingham is not known for being one of the garden spots of England but there are lots of things to see in the surrounding area. Some years ago we passed through the little town of IronBridge and we have wanted to go back. Marianne particularly wanted to go to the china and tile museums.

If you don't know about Ironbridge or how it got its name, you should read the Wiki article.

We first visited the Coalport China Museum.

The museum is housed in the former factory beside a small canal. The Severn River is also close by but it is not navigable at this stage.

You now get a bunch of photos of various china pieces.

This was unusual.

Another building had rooms showing how they made the pottery.


A woman painting some pottery. 

A glass blowing area next to a shop that sold glassware. Below are some of the items you could buy in the shop. They were expensive as you might imagine.

Inside one of the bottle kiln chimneys.

They are still making pottery here though obviously not in the quantities of years ago.

I had no idea what a saggar was but you can read about them here. Essentially they are used in the firing process to protect the pottery pieces from the flames.

Making a pot.

Inside another kiln chimney.

A kiln inside the chimney showing how they would have stacked pieces to be fired.

Both chimneys had ladders up the sides. I would not have wanted to climb them.

I went to the bathroom and my initial reaction was that this was a communal urinal. Fortunately I noticed the usual devices in the background. Marianne said that the ladies also had one of these.

I quite like Wedgewood.

Some bored bloke.

Closeup of a kiln chimney.

Having finished with the China museum, it was time to visit the nearby tar tunnel so we strolled by the canal for a hundred yards or so.

A group of school kids having lunch beside the canal.

Duck rests floating in the canal.

The inclined plane tracks used to haul canal boats up and down the hill from one canal to another.

We got to the Tar Tunnel where we both were given hard hats. Marianne looks quite fetching in her chapeau.

The tunnel. You can read about it here.

The ceiling is quite low and since I am 6' tall, my hard hat was constantly scraping or banging on the roof.

Tar still oozing from the wall.

This is as far as you can go but the tunnel goes on another half mile.

It reminded me of the Oil Storage Tunnels in Darwin. I came out of the tunnel bent over like an old man. Marianne did not have the same height problem.

We crossed the river to go to the tile museum.

A group of fisherman relaxing by the river.

Before we got to the tile museum, we briefly looked in this old factory turned into a craft centre.

None of the shops would have been making much money this day. It was deserted.

We did stop in the cafe to have lunch, for me a ham and cheese sandwich. Very exotic.

Note the steeple which you will see again a few photos down.

We stopped in to look at the church in the little village of Jackfield.

We finally reached the Jackfield Tile Museum. This is what Marianne really wanted to see.

Bike rack.

Now that would have been quite a repair job.

As befitting a manufacturer of tiles, there were tiles everywhere.

This was the display room for the former Craven Dunhill factory.

Marianne drooled over this chest of drawers where samples of tiles were kept. 

Below are photos of a few of the tiles on display.

London Underground tiles.

The Wiki article about George Selwyn. I must admit I had never heard of him before but the tiles looked interesting.

The old molds used to make the encaustic tiles.

Base of a former kiln.

Much of the factory is in very poor condition. We tend to forget how dismal the conditions were here. Smoke from the coal burning furnaces would have been everywhere. Child labour was common. I saw one sign stating that children would work twelve hours a day, six days a week.

This probably was the old train track to the factory.

The remains of the Bedlam furnace used to smelt iron.

The town of Ironbridge.

The road over the bridge, now just for cyclists and pedestrians.

Toll charges.

Tour boat turning around on the Severn. A little further along are rapids.

And here is the bridge itself, the first bridge made out of cast iron in the world.

It was about two miles from where we parked the car back at the china museum so I got some exercise by walking back to get the car. I left Marianne to wander around and look at the village itself and picked her up after about 45 minutes. It was quite a warm day by English standards, so we were glad of a cool beer when we arrived home.

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