We Stepped Back in Time to Visit a Victorian Village

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As a child, one of my favourite places to visit on holiday was Blists Hill Victorian Village in Shropshire, England. I loved the Victorian architecture, the dress, and the way of life. This place presented an opportunity to immerse myself in Victorian culture and experience it all first hand.

I visited with my parents, and returned as an adult with my husband — and a camera. The streets were alive with people playing out roles as Victorian Villagers, and it was wonderful!

I remember the first time I walked into the Victorian Bank, to change my money into old pounds, shillings and pence. Once I’d got some 19th century currency, I could go shopping in the old Victorian shops.

Among the first shops after the Bank is the chemist, which once featured on the BBC’s Victorian Pharmacy programme.

Inside the Victorian Pharmacy Blists Hill © Susie Kearley

Inside it’s a treasure chest of amazing Victorian cures and remedies. You can buy soaps and other bits and pieces to take home, and see some of the ancient remedies on the shelves and in the pharmacist’s working area.

Among the exhibits that weren’t available for sale was a cyanide compound. I asked the lady what this was supposed to cure. Unfortunately, I caught her on her first day and she didn’t know! I suspect it was thought to have antiseptic qualities. Apparently cyanide got into lots of everyday products at the time.

Blists Hill © Susie Kearley

We Carried on down the street and passed the pub on the way to the printers. Later that day, the local ‘Victorians’ were performing their song and dance routine in the bar, whilst one of them played the piano.

In the Print Shop, the printer showed us how he works the machinery and how he solves the problem when the ink starts to leach onto the wrong place. My mum ran a printing business for 20 years, so I’ve seen a lot of this in action and it was interesting to see how it was in Victorian times.

Blists Hill © Susie Kearley

The printer was selling postcards and posters he’d created, which people could take away as souvenirs. One read: “Fed up of your Stupid Parents harassing you? Take Action! Move out, get a job, and pay your own bills”. We thought it would appeal to people with obnoxious teenagers.

It was just coincidence that we were there during a Sherlock Holmes Weekend and had the privilege of watching Sherlock and Watson performing a play about a missing violin.

Sherlock Holmes weekend at Blists Hill © Susie Kearley

It was just as well we didn’t sit too close to the front of the performance because a ‘volunteer’ was later recruited to play the violin in front of the expectant crowd! The characters really embraced their roles and it was highly entertaining.

We continued through the village and called into the Victorian Drapery — a beautiful shop! She had hankies for sale for 2 old pence.

The Draper’s Shop Blists Hill © Susie Kearley

The best role play, however, was the school maam. The schoolmistress is really scary! We were reprimanded for not queuing straight, not standing straight, having dirty nails (even though they weren’t), one person was admonished for writing with their left hand, and we were all in the dog house for forgetting what we’d just been taught!

School Maam Blists Hill © Susie Kearley

There is a test. Students are asked to ‘repeat after me’ some dates and figures. Then they are expected to know the answers to: the date the Iron Bridge was built; how many tonnes of iron were used; and how much it cost. Were you listening?

Blists Hill fairground © Susie Kearley

Near the school is a Victorian fairground with a horse carousel, swing boats, and a coconut shy. We went for a ride on the miner’s train into the dark tunnels, and there’s a hill lift across the common, too.

As we headed back towards the main village centre, we came across the Estates office, the Bakery, and the Doctor’s surgery.

Estates Staff at Blists Hill © Susie Kearley

You can buy fresh bread in the Bakery but be warned they usually run out in the afternoon. We’ve never been there in time! We wandered through the cobbled streets and called in on the candlemaker who showed us her candle dipping process and explained how her trade is one of the best paying trades going.

Candlemaker © Susie Kearley

They sold thousands of candles every week in Victorian times because there was no electricity. The candles were made from animal fat, which smelt bad, but it made the candlemakers rich. That is why the term ‘stinking rich’ was coined. It applied equally well to people profiteering from the stinking tanneries of the day, too.

Blists Hill chickens © Susie Kearley

The villagers lead a self-sustained lifestyle with fruit and vegetables growing all over the place, chickens in the pub garden and pigs for meat — although I think they are a visitor attraction really.

It’s a wonderful attraction that’s great to visit if you’re ever in that part of the UK. Visit their website here!

© Susie Kearley 2024. All Rights Reserved.

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