Broseley Pipeworks Museum
Sunday 10th June 2018
The Mistress and I broke loose from the Livery Company pack after breakfast on the Sunday of the Ironbridge weekend to visit the Broseley Pipeworks Museum. The small town of Broseley was once home to many pipeworks but just one survives, The Crown Pipeworks. It is this that our Worshipful Company has supported for a great many years and it is home to a collection of prints that we own and loan to the Museum. These have recently been reframed and some are now on display in a newly refitted section of the buildings, all beautifully curated.
Dating back, in part, to the 1700s, the buildings have served as cottages and, some believe, a cotton factory. However, in 1881, their use was turned to the making of clay pipes. Even then, Broseley had 200 years of history making fine clay pipes renowned around the world. This new venture was immediately successful and prospered for many decades until it finally closed its doors in 1960. Abandoned and untouched, the pipeworks is effectively a time capsule. The images shared here show the facilities as they were when the workers downed their tools and walked away. The traditionally styled bottle kiln has not been used since. Film footage taken at the factory after WW2 brings to life the way that the work was done and shows what skill was required to make the great variety of pipes produced.
An odd feature of the Broseley Pipeworks is the small graveyard at its entrance. It turns out that a Quaker meeting house once stood in today's carpark and so many Quakers were buried here in the 18th Century, largely in unmarked graves. Amongst them is Abraham Darby who died in 1717, father of the Industrial Revolution. His innovation to adopt coke rather than coal to fuel his iron blast furnaces turned history and enabled Ironbridge Gorge to gain global importance, driving industry forwards to the modern age. The juxtaposition between the man's achievement and his humble resting place could not be more stark.