Thursday, October 11, 2007

Blists Hill - Shropshire

Anytime you can take me into something remotely Victorian, I'm happy. Blists Hill was just such a place. Designed to give us modern folks a glimmer of what life was like in Shropshire during the late Victorian Era, it does the job quite well. The only downside is that it does it so well that school groups were touring the place at the same time as us. One clue: British school kids, at least the younger ones, aren't any better behaved than their Yank cousins. The older kids were well mannered and that was a plus. We just kept working our way around the groups so we could have more time to talk to the inhabitants of this little village.

I spent considerable time in many of the shops taking reference photos. I use them as I write to get the flavor of the time or a particular place. The chemist's shop is a good example. I spoke with the chemist who referred me to a book that laid out practices and procedures for dispensing medications. It included a section on therapeutic and lethal dosages. Contrary to what you read, Victorian chemists were very cagey about how bought poisons from them. They needed to either know the person or have someone recommend that individual before they'd hand over the arsenic or the strychnine. Sales of poisons were logged in a ledger. This chemist shop also included a corner where a dentist could ply his trade on certain days of the week. Now that is a gruesome thought.

We also visited the printing shop where my husband and the printer discussed the finer aspects of typesetting (hubby learned some of that in high school) and then we were off to the equivalent of their grocery store where I indulged myself in even more photos.

Hubby was also tickled to find two of his favorite things at Blists Hill: steam engines and draft horses. He spoke with a couple of the older gents about some of the early engines. Though he is a computer wizard, he does have experience dealing with steam-powered threshing machines in Iowa. And as for the draft horses, we used to own a pair of Belgians. We were pleased to find a pair of Shires at Blists Hill. The younger one (below) was being trained to deal with the noise and such that goes with the visitors. His handler didn't use blinkers or blinders, feeling it was better for the horse to be able to see what was approaching him. Sound reasoning.

It was suggested we budget at least two and a half hours for Blists Hill. It took four. It was a marvelous treat. Tomorrow we're off to Wolverhampton and the UK Jack the Ripper Conference. Now that will be a change of scenery.

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