Monday, July 30, 2012

Shrewsbury -- Week 4 (June 16-June 22)

Hey everybody-

Sorry for not posting last week. I forgot my laptop as I hastily packed last Saturday attempting to not miss my train. The good news is we barely made the train to Stansted airport and didn't miss our flight. The bad news is you guys had to wait another week before another exciting, riveting, and well-written blog entry was posted.

More good news! We all made it back from our independent travel week alive and well! It's nice to be back in Cambridge after bouncing around the continent for the week. Cambridge has a lot of perks compared to staying in cheap hostels from night to night. Specifically, we can do laundry, cook our own meals, and sleep in a bed without worrying about bed bugs. I've sent out e-mails to the larger student groups that traveled together asking them to write a brief summary of their adventures and will make a posting about their travels later on.

For this blog entry, I will be discussing about our trip to Shrewsbury two weeks ago. We had a normal class day on Monday before departing for Shrewsbury on Tuesday. During this trip we spent three days (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) visiting three different historical industrial sites that coincides with our course about the Industrial Revolution. On Thursday, we have a three-page paper due in which we have to write about our economic observations from one of these three sites and discuss why they were important to the Industrial Revolution. The trip was interesting and like nothing I have ever experienced before with Carleton course because although there are field trips from time to time, I have never had the opportunity to experience outside the classroom what we are learning about inside the classroom for an extended period of time, which was a great change of pace.

Our hotel we stayed at during our stay in Shrewsbury. Fortunate for us, there was a fantastic complimentary breakfast and we also did not have to pay for lunch. This allowed our wallets to remain fat before travel week and kept us from eating PB&J sandwiches three times a day.

Wednesday: Iron Industry
In the morning, we visited the Coalbrookdale Musuem of Iron where we learned about Abraham Darby's advances in casting iron, such as using cooked coal (coke) as the fuel put in the blast furnance to make pure iron as opposed to charcoal from wood, which was harder to acquire. At this site, we were actually able to view Darby's blast furnance and throughout the tour we were able to get a sense of how these advancements shaped the rise of iron in the late 18th century and 19th century. Before lunch, we were also able to walk across the famed Iron Bridge, which was a pretty impressive structure made from the iron produced in Coalbrookdale. Our last stop was at Blists Hill Victorian Town. At this site we saw what life was life back in the Victorian Age. More importantly, we also impressed the school children at the carnival games by showing them how fast and accurate we can throw a rock at a coconut.

Our tour guide pointing out how the melted iron came out of the blast furnance.

Andrew Tiano ('13) taking part in the wilder side of Victorian town.

Thursday: Pottery Industry
In the morning, we visited Gladstone Pottery Musuem. This site is the only complete Victorian pottery factory from the times when coal-burning kilns made world-class bone china. After the effects of burning coal was too much for the surrounding environment to handle, many of these factories were at least partially destroyed so it was really cool walking around the cobblestone factory and learning about the process of producing pottery in the Victorian Age. From there, we stopped over to visit the Wedgewood Visitor Centre in Straffordshire. In contrast to the morning tour, at Wedgewood we saw how pottery is produced in modern times. During that tour, we were able to hold some very expensive pottery, some of which was valued at upwards of £800.

At the Gladstone Pottery Musuem we were able to view demonstrations from mulitple facets of the production process. In this picture we watched as our demonstrator made incredibly intricate flowers in less than a minute.

Outside the Wedgewood Visitor Centre. I was too afraid to take a picture in the factory we toured because there was a chance if I made any sudden movements I could knock over some pottery that was worth more than the money I have in my bank account.
Friday: Textile Industry
On Friday we visited the Quarry Bank Mill near Manchester. Founded by Samuel Greg in 1784, the mill is now a musuem dedicated to informing its visitors about the cotton industry and textile production during the Industrial Revolution. Along with touring the old mill and seeing how textiles were produced (The factory did not close until the 1950's) we were also able to look around the old apprentice house in which young children lived in less than ideal conditions.
Inside the Apprentice House at the Quarry Bank Mill. Although they were able to eat as much porridge as the could, the working hours were long and the living conditions were difficult.

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