The Ironbridge Gorge Museums to reopen on 4 July

The world-famous Ironbridge Gorge museums today confirmed they will start to reopen their doors on July 4 – and revealed they have been inundated with a huge demand for tickets.

Tickets went on sale on Tuesday as the Prime Minister announced a new easing of the lockdown restrictions – allowing a safe, phased reopening of the historic museums in line with Government guidelines on July 4.

The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust – a registered heritage conservation and education charity which cares for 36 listed buildings in the Gorge – says Blists Hill Victorian Town, Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron and Toll House will lead the reopening. The Museum of The Gorge, which suffered damage during the floods of February, will also open as a free entry Visitor Centre, whilst the Furnace Kitchen opened for takeaway food earlier this month.

Strict social distancing measures will be in place along with an enhanced cleaning and hygiene regime, measures to control visitor numbers, clearly marked routes through the sites and timed entries.

Tickets and timed entry slots went on sale on 23 June at www.ironbridge.org.uk and are already selling at record-breaking pace.

Trust chief executive Nick Ralls said: “We are delighted to finally be reopening after a long three months in lockdown and have been astounded at the number of tickets we have already sold.

“In the first 48 hours since tickets went live we have already taken more than 1,000 bookings for people to visit in early July but there’s still plenty of space for lots more people to come. We are incredibly grateful for the support we have been shown by people from right across the country.”

Blists Hill Victorian Town will be open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am until 7pm, Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron and the Furnace Kitchen will be open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am until 5pm. Museum of The Gorge and the Iron Bridge Tollhouse will open Monday to Sunday, 10am until 5pm as visitor information hubs with no admission charges.

Mr Ralls said the opening followed extensive work by museum staff to ensure the sites could reopen safely and in line with all the current lockdown restrictions and still offer a high-quality experience for visitors.

“We are delighted to finally be able to open up again to the public after an incredibly difficult period for both us and the whole country,” he said.

“We are focussing our initial reopening on those sites where we can fully maintain social distancing and visitor safety and still offer a terrific experience for everybody who comes.

“There will be some changes at the sites to ensure everyone can enjoy them safely and we will be asking people to pre-book tickets and arrive at a specific time so that we can control numbers at all times.

“But Blists Hill and the other reopened sites will offer the absolutely fantastic day out for families that they always have – and with schools being locked down for so long will also offer some excellent educational opportunities for parents too.

“We are lucky that Blists Hill Victorian Town is an open-air museum with lots of outdoor spaces. We’re planning to open most of our Victorian exhibits with one-way routes through buildings. In a few cases this won’t be possible so we will ‘fishbowl’ those buildings so visitors can still see inside from the doorstep. With the addition of queueing systems and enhanced hygiene, we will actually be able to open as normal.

“And we have also created a special Victorian Market area in the Goods Shed which will give a taste of what life was like for retailers in the period. It promises to be a real favourite.”

A special audit of toilet facilities had been carried out to ensure they could be used safely, new hand-washing sites would be in place across the sites and cleaning arrangements had been increased to offer extra peace of mind for visitors.

The Trust says special ticketing and car parking arrangements will be put in place and multiple entrance and exit points have been carefully considered to prevent pinch points building up.

The museum – in a World Heritage Site and Shropshire’s most important visitor attraction – has been closed since the lockdown was announced in March having earlier been hit by the floods along the Ironbridge Gorge in February.

Mr Ralls said that the Trust will consider opening other sites at the museum later this year and that all arrangements would be kept under constant review and in line with Government guidance.

“I want to thank all our staff and volunteers for the work which has been going on behind the scenes to get to the point where we can reopen, and also thank all our supporters for the way they have helped us through this really difficult time.

“The combination of the pandemic and the floods has created the biggest challenge for the Trust and the local community. We are just happy to be playing our part in bringing people back to the Ironbridge Gorge.”

For more information on the reopening visit https://www.ironbridge.org.uk/

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