I woke up Saturday morning and looked out of the window hoping that the weather man was wrong and that I would see bright sunny skies, but no, it would appear that Saturday 22nd June 2013 was a momentous day in the history of the world – it was the one day where the weather man got it right! It was raining – heavily!!
The wonderful thing about archaeologists is that no matter what the weather, we’ll always brave the elements and Saturday was not going to be an exception. We arrived at Coalbrookdale and by 10am we had 15 people and 1 dog ready to embark on this adventure whether the rain poured or the sun shone. Luckily as we set off on our walk the clouds started to depart and the sun guided our way.
We started at Coalbrookdale, the site of a munitions factory during the First World War and from there visited the Lancaster bomber wing shop and the Coalbrookdale War Memorial where I told the story of the tragic death of Maurice AA Darby, the great-great-great-grandson of Abraham Darby I, at the battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915. From there we visited the Ironbridge War Memorial and everyone heard the tale of when they Nazi’s nearly blew up the Iron Bridge. We also visited anti-tank defences in Jackfield, a Gun Emplacement or Pillbox at Coalport East station and the group were told about the various buildings used as Air Raid Shelters during the Second World War, including pub cellars, a drying kiln at Doughty Tile Works and the famous Tar Tunnel at Coalport. I’m not sure which of those I’d least like to have been in if there had been a direct hit!! I also told the story of local hero, George Gough, who on the night of 15th October 1940 risked his life to remove incendiary bombs from the roof of Gitchfield Tile Works, which during the war was being used at an ammunition store. If that place had gone up it would probably have taken the whole of Coalport with it, if not the entire Gorge! We finished our walk on the Jackfield and Coalport memorial bridge, the only war memorial I know of that is a bridge! It was a fantastic couple of hours, the rain stayed away and I think everyone, including Sally the dog, really enjoyed it.
After the end of the walk my day was not done however. From Jackfield I headed up to Blists’s Hill Victorian Town as that evening IGMT were going to create Blitz Hill. All evidence of Queen Victoria needed to be removed and so between 3pm and 6pm staff and volunteers at IGMT entered the time warp and Blist’s Hill was catapulted 40 years into the future to become 1941 Blitz Hill. We had the Home Guard on site training up recruits, there was also a concert which replicated the BBC’s Workers Playtime. We had so many visitors once the doors opened at 6pm the town was buzzing, and many of them had even made the effort to come fully dressed in 1940’s attire – including many of the staff! It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening!
Pictures will follow.