Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site received its latest accolade at London’s Goldsmiths Hall on 3 March, winning the Best Family Day Out prize at the prestigious Hudson’s Heritage Awards.
To score well sites must meet stringent criteria based upon the philosophy ‘To experience is to understand’. Sarah Greenwood, publisher of Hudson’s Historic Houses & Gardens, noted that ‘The judges consider everything about the visitor experience from what you can do to the refreshments, toilets and merchandise as well as innovative events, exhibitions, weddings and celebrations.’
The 2015 judging panel featured a range of industry experts: heritage expert and Chairman Norman Hudson OBE; Simon Foster, consultant to Channel 4’s Country House Rescue; Ken Robinson CBE, tourism business consultant; Jeremy Musson, architectural writer, and Lucinda Lambton, writer and broadcaster. All were impressed by the cross-generational nature of activities at the site, recognising the considered appeal of a family outing that offers tile decoration and mug painting, alongside demonstrations of historic crafts and exhibitions. The award comes before the opening of a new gallery later this year at Jackfield Tile Museum, one of the site’s ten visitor attractions, which will hold a rare collection of decorative tiles for public viewing.
Ironbridge Gorge is no stranger to innovation. Known as the ‘Birthplace of Industry’, its name comes from the 378-tonne cast iron bridge framing the River Severn that runs through the site. As the world’s first iron structure, it once represented the area as the most technologically advanced site on earth. Its early character is preserved throughout the museum complex. The Blists Hill Victorian Town includes original buildings, such as the brickworks, and allows visitors to purchase goods from the museum with contemporary coinage they can exchange with ‘modern currency’. To complete this immersive experience, staff wear period dress on site at all times.
The Ironbridge Gorge is open from 10am to 5pm Monday to Sunday. These opening hours may vary between museums.