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Coalport China Museum

Ironbridge, Shropshire

Location Guide

"A part of the World Heritage Site Ironbridge Gorge"

This was the home of the Coalport China factory until 1926, today it is a museum and home to some exquisite highly decorative Coalport China examples. It is home to the National Collections of Coalport and Caughley China. Using displays and demonstrations the history and techniques of china making a explained, but also you get to see an insight into how a site like this may have operated during it's peak times.


Coalport were on this site from 1796 until 1926 producing fine bone china. Until the late 18th century Coalport as a place did not exist it was merely riverside meadows. Coalport came about through the efforts of William Reynolds who began to drive a canal through the meadows to connect with the Shropshire Canal with the River Severn to get coal from the Shropshire Coalfields to other places. The nearby Hay Inclined Plane was constructed to join the two. There is still a part of the canal running from the museum to the Inclined plane which you can walk along it's towpath if you take a visit to the Tar Tunnel.

China manufacturing came to Coalport by John Rose, who had originally been working for the Caughley Porcelain factory on the other side of the River Severn, before establishing his own factory at Jackfield. He later moved to Coalport, but the museum site today was in fact a rival coalport factory which was set up by his younger brother Thomas and others in 1800. Initially they produced similar products and designs but by 1814 John bought out his brother and merged the two factories together. The Rose era came to an end in 1841 when John Rose died, but the industry continued and a number of other owners until 1876 when it went into receivership. In 1881 it was purchased by a producer originally from Ipswich and it prospered again until the 1920's when it could not withstand the depression and changing perspectives of individuals after the first world war. The company was sold in 1925 to a factory from Stoke on Trent and this factory was closed in 1926 and all worked moved to Stoke on Trent. In 1967 Coalport China became part of the Wedgwood group and is still made today.

Your visit at this site today

The most striking feature of the site are the 2 Bottle ovens behind the main factory building. As you enter the building, the shop has examples of both glass, china and more, some of which is made on site by a small number of artists today. The museum starts off taking you through a specially lit room which contains examples of Coalport China including the Northumberland Vase which was the largest piece of Coalport China every produced. It was initially made for the 1862 International Exhibition in London, later it became the property of the duke of Northumberland. Once through this building you are taken outside into the courtyard.

From the courtyard there are a number of buildings to visit including inside one of the bottle ovens, which today houses a display of some of the Coalbrookdale Ware pieces. It is a vast space, and a little chilly. Coalbrookdale ware was not very practical it was highly decorative and made stunning ornaments. A lot of the pieces are very floral and in the museums long workshop most days of the week there are live demonstrations on how these were made. A skilled flower maker could make one in 30 seconds. On the day of our visit the long workshop was demonstrating the painting techniques used and the painstaking work they have to go through to get to the final colours they want, there are numerous layers.

There is another bottle oven which houses an exhibit of how a bottle Kiln works. The Bottle Overs were the kilns in which the china was fired. The outer wall acts as a chimney, known as the ‘hovel’ and gives the oven its distinctive bottle shape. Inside the hovel is the kiln. The china would be placed in fire-clay boxes known as ‘saggars’ to be fired in the kiln. A kiln could contain up to 2,000 saggars. This kiln was a biscuit kiln, used to give the china its first firing. It shows you the inside and what it would have looked like, and taking a walk around this displays and boards explain how the workers would have worked the kiln to get to the right temperatures and to get all the pieces which needed firing inside.


The Courtyard and Workshops


See Larger Image See Larger Image
Inside the Bottle Oven Inside one of the workshops

Other buildings on site have workshops which display the Coalport Slip casting method, a Coalport pottery workshop where the items are painted and decorated, a social history gallery explaining what it was like to be working on site at the time, what hazzards there were and who would have been working. There are also other workshops operated to other artists, which on the day of your visit you are welcome to walk around those that are operating. One such building housed a potter who made and hand painted pieces, the workshop was full of moulds and some examples of what they did as well as various different pieces in different stages of their originating process. Another workshop had a glass blower, who took the time to explain how he went about making his pieces and the way in which he got the colours into the glass with finely ground up coloured glass. Fascinating and gorgeous pieces, he also had a small shop on site containing the pieces he made and were available for sale.

Through the exhibitions, galleries and workshops where demonstrations of pot throwing, firing, painting and finishing take place it gives an insight into the world of the potter and how a factory like this would have operated.

Allow one and half hours for your visit.

The Annual Passport. The Ironbridge Museums operate an Annual Ticket and Passport where for one price you can get access to all 10 of their sites with unlimited day time access during normal opening hours, so you can return as often as you like for a whole year. If after 12 months you have still not visited particular sites, you can return at any time in the future to make one free visit to the sites that you've missed. These tickets are sold at all the museums and the visitor information centre in Ironbridge itself or you can buy them in advance by phone. The 2009 prices for the Passport tickets are:

Adult £19.95;  60+ £15.95; Child £12.95 or a family ticket for 2A up to 3C £54.95.

Location: Coalport China Museum, Ironbridge, Shropshire

Grid Reference: SJ695024 Ceremonial County: Shropshire

Map Link: Multimap

Aerial photo: Multimap

Getting there: Exit J4 of M54. Follow signs for Ironbridge Gorge. Then follow signs for BlistsHill Museums. Continue past the town for about one mile.

Access: From the pay & display car park, building on the right is a cafe/education area, access to the museum is ahead just in front of the round chimney's.
Website: Coalport China Museum
Other Useful Websites:
Postcode: TF8 7HT Telephone: 01952 884391
Opening Times: All year - Daily 10am-5pm

Charges: Use the Annual Passport as detailed above or for entry to the Museum only prices are: Adult £6.75; 60+ £5.95; Child £4.50

Nearby Locations: Tar Tunnel
Other Location Pages:

Bedlam Furnaces

Blists Hill Victorian Town

Broseley Pipeworks

Darby Houses


Hay Inclined Plane    Hay Inclined Plane Gallery

Jackfield Tile Museum  

Iron Bridge and Toll House

Museum of the Gorge Ironbridge

Museum of Iron

Other Relevant Pages:

Living History Section

List of Living History Museums

Living history museums introduction

World Heritage Sites     

World Heritage Sites - Further Information

World Heritage Sites in the UK

Industrial Heritage

Anchor Points and The European Route of Industrial Heritage  

The Industrial Revolutions

Technological Developments in the Industrial Revolution

Transport in the Industrial Revolution 

Further Information on Industrial Heritage 

European Route of Industrial Heritage - UK Sites   




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By: Tracey Park Section: Heritage Section Key:
Page Ref: Coalport_China_Museum Topic: Industrial Last Updated: 10/2009


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