Thousands of people descended on the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution for the ninth Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Festival.
Ironbridge was a hub of activity on Saturday as the sun shone for the heritage day, and visitors from Shropshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire and beyond enjoyed the glorious sunshine and a street market which had about 40 stalls.
Residents said the day had helped raise the profile of the town and its history, while organisers of the event – which is a joint venture between Telford & Wrekin Council and Ironbridge Gorge Museum – hailed it as a success.
As part of the increased emphasis on heritage people were also able to enjoy two free talks in the Museum of the Gorge auditorium.
The first was by industrial heritage officer Ian Bapty, and the second by Professor Mike Robinson of the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage.
There was also a guided walk from the Toll House which explored the bridges of the Ironbridge Gorge and the Coalport area.
Michael Bufton only had to walk two minutes from his home in the Wharfage to be in the centre of the action.
He said: “Once again the festival has been very good and I’m glad they keep it going. Considering the economical times we live in it’s great to have such a big event once a year.
“For local businesses it is fantastic. They shut the road which means everyone can walk around freely.
“It’s great for me because it’s only a short walk and I get to taste the food at all the eating stalls. I’ve had a really nice sausage sandwich.
“Ironbridge is unique, for me it is the focal point of Shropshire not Shrewsbury or Telford and events like this add to that.”
Alan and Louise Richardson from Madeley went to the festival with their teenage daughter Amy.
Mrs Richardson said: “We really enjoy the festival and come down every year. We came on the Park and Ride which was really handy and straight forward.
“I bought some candle light holders, curry mix and stuffing – but we’re not going to have them together at the same meal. We come just to have a look around and support our local traders, they are all from Shropshire and its beautiful weather so we’ve had a lovely day.”
Sisters Ann Catullo and Kay Emery had been browsing jewellery and sweet stalls.
Kay, who lives in Mansfield, was visiting her sister who lives in Dawley.
She said: “I walked all the way here but it was worth it because it is really good with lots of different stalls.
“Sometimes you can get lots of similar stalls but that’s not the case here – there is a good variety.
“I’ve also really enjoyed popping into the little shops which are really nice. I’ve never been to Ironbridge before to look around but it is really nice. The people are really friendly and it’s nice to have the street closed off and be able to walk up and down without getting run over.
“The food was also very nice. There was lots of choice and it all smelled delicious.”
Joyce Piper and her husband Geoff, from Much Wenlock, enjoyed the free talks in the Museum of the Gorge.
Mrs Piper said: “We know quite a bit about the Iron Bridge but it was nice to come and listen to a talk from an expert.
“The whole day was really nice. The crowds got bigger and bigger throughout the day.
“There was a real nice mixture of stalls and the weather has been excellent which makes all the difference.
“There was lots going on, lots of music and entertainment and we bought some fudge and had a really nice lunch at the Malthouse.”
Richard Eley owns Darby’s 1779 tea room in Tontine Hill. He said the festival is great for local traders.
Mr Eley said: “We were blessed with the weather and it was great to see so many people here to browse the stalls and shops.
“Everyone contributed together to make it a lovely day. The festival has gone from strength to strength every year.
“It’s a great day for traders and a good showcase for Ironbridge, it’s great for everyone to come down and see the Gorge looking so pretty.
“We all want the festival to continue for many years to come.”
Paul Gossage, spokesman for the event, said: “It was wonderful to see the world heritage site filled with not only glorious sunshine but also thousands of people keen to enjoy the event.
“The festival is a wonderful showcase that reminds both Telford residents and visitors from across the world what a wonderful place the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage site is to not only visit but also live, work and shop.
“After nine years the festival has grown into the largest event which take places in the world heritage site.
“We are incredibly grateful for all the hard work, support and co-operation of everyone who helps make the event possible such as the volunteers, performers, bus drivers, police, Ironbridge traders and the local community.”