Thursday, 21 June 2012

Masters’ Visit to Ironbridge

When you meet other Masters during the year, one of the questions is always “Are you going to Ironbridge?” Every year Masters (and their consorts) of the Livery Companies go with the Lord Mayor to the Ironbridge Gorge Museum for the weekend.  It is an excellent opportunity, not only to see one of our great heritage sites, but also to meet your fellow Masters.

We drove up and decided to use our new Satnav, which stopped receiving a signal just north of Watford and didn’t work again until reset from our computer – not very helpful if you are away!  Fortunately, being a travel pessimist, I also printed out instructions so we managed to make our way to the Holiday Inn in Telford without too much trouble.

The weekend was launched on Friday June 8, with a Livery Dinner at Coalbrookdale where we heard some background to the Museum and the tradition of this visit – bringing ancient and modern livery companies to a significant player in the birth of the industrial revolution. 

We spent Saturday touring the museum sites including the eponymous Iron Bridge – the world’s first cast iron bridge built over the River Severn in 1779.  It had a far reaching effect, not only on the local economy but also on bridge design and the use of cast iron in building.

We also visited the national collections of Coalport and Caughley China in the listed buildings that were home to the famous Coalport China Factory until 1926. It included a fabulous collection of tiles and one wonders how many millions have been destroyed during the years by updating Victorian houses. We watched a demonstration of the making of china flowers by a marvelous young woman who turned out exquisite flowers at huge speed equaled only by the speed of her very engaging chat! Her introduction to the craft was watching someone doing it and saying, “I can do that” and then proving she could.

I also enjoyed the visit to Blists Hill Victorian Town, popping in to the pharmacy (prompted by a colleague who used to work there in summer holidays, dressed in full Victorian kit) where they also have a dentist’s chair and instruments – life is better now!

Saturday ended with a Ball at the Enginuity museum - the Ironbridge Gorge Museum's hands-on design and technology centre which opened in August 2002.

Sunday rounded off the weekend with a behind the scenes tour of the costume project with an exhibition of costumes and where the more adventurous tried on corsets, hooped skirts et al.  This department makes modern replicas of historic dress for other museums as well. We then went to the Darby Houses - one of which Dale House was built in 1717 by the founder of the Coalbrookdale Company, Abraham Darby I, and lived in by five generations of the Darby Family. It overlooked the Upper Furnace Pool and its associated blast furnace, and was the place where hospitality was extended to visitors to both the family and the ironworks. I think this is true hands-on management.

Thanks to the initiative of Piers Nicholson, the current Master of the Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers, we were all provided with a very useful leaflet with photographs of most of the Masters – I am now at the stage where the faces are familiar but the names are not.  The website he has created is very useful with a complete list of all the London Livery Companies; the names of Masters and Clerks and pictures of the Master and Master’s badge. It also has very useful links to detailed maps to show you where all the Livery Halls are.

No comments:

Post a Comment