Sunday 25 February 2024 marks the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Craven Dunnill tile factory, now Jackfield Tile Museum. To celebrate, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust is hosting special free tours and offering £1.50 entry to all visitors over the anniversary weekend.

Jackfield Tile Museum is the oldest surviving purpose-built decorative tile factory in Britain. In 1871 Henry Dunnill commissioned architect Charles Lynam to build a new, modern factory. A Broseley-based brick manufacturer called William Exley was given the construction contract and work began that year. The building finally opened on 25 February 1874. According to the Ironbridge Weekly Journal on Saturday 28 February 1874, a “warehouse warming” celebration was held and the event featured “speeches, refreshments, songs, ventriloquism, a lantern slide slow and dancing until midnight”.

The museum’s collections tell the story of British tile manufacturing in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As well as themed displays of tiles spanning hundreds of years of design history, including Maw and Craven Dunnill tiles made locally and tiles designed by world-famous artists like William Morris and Salvador Dali, visitors can walk through recreations of period interiors made using original tiles, see period offices showing what it was like to work there in the past, and get a glimpse of now unused factory spaces.

On this celebratory weekend staff and volunteers will run special guided tours of the museum. They will talk about the history of the company and building and highlight some of the many significant tiles in the museum’s collections.

Craven Dunnill, which still operates today in an adjacent building, will run tile decorating workshops where visitors will be able to create their own unique tile designs using the traditional process of tubelining, a fashionable Art Nouveau technique. (Places limited and must be pre-booked. Fee payable.*)

Kate Cadman, Collections Curator, said: “The Craven Dunnill factory building itself is a unique example of industrial architecture, and the most complete survival of this type of complex. Add to this a collection worthy of the building, not only chronicling the noted decorative tile makers of the Ironbridge Gorge but celebrating the wider English Victorian tile industry, from domestic bathrooms to London underground stations, and there is something to interest all visitors.”

Entry to Jackfield Tile Museum is £1.50 per person on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 February only. Entrance is free for PASS and PASS PLUS holders. Discounted tickets can only be bought onsite (not online). Free guided tours will leave from the shop at 11am, 12.30pm and 2pm.

*Craven Dunnill tile decorating workshops can be booked online here. Advance booking required. £12.25 per tile + Eventbrite booking fee.