Telford Business

Ironbridge Antiques Arts & Crafts Centre Campaign

Ironbridge Antiques, Arts and Craft Centre and Riverside Tea Room needs signs - Nigel Byard
Ironbridge Antiques, Arts and Craft Centre and Riverside Tea Room needs signs – Nigel Byard

From flood barriers being erected to landslides, it seems like the Gods are conspiring against businesses in the world famous Gorge. Getting visitors from near and far to the huge Ironbridge Antiques, Arts and Crafts Centre has proved a real challenge over the past few weeks, but one small thing the council could help with is  to erect a brown tourist sign to help direct visitors.  Owner Nigel Byard has been campaigning for a tourist sign with little success and we caught up with him this week to find out his story.

Tell us about your business

We run the Antiques, Arts and Craft Centre and Riverside Tea Room tucked away right by the river at the rear of Merrythought Village (some of you may be thinking what or where is that) and have been there since October 2011. We have over 60 different traders who rent space to display their Antiques and locally made Arts and Crafts so we are supporting the local economy and we are open 7 days a week as we believe this is right for a tourist destination and for visitors to the town.

What kind of visitors do you attract?

Over 60 stalls
Over 60 stalls featuring local businesses

Tourists and locals who do manage to find where we are LOVE what we do and we have built up a steady local customer base (something we wanted as part of our business model) and we know from comments from our customers that they visit Ironbridge specifically to come to us, then go for a walk elsewhere.  We have had visitors who come from Cheshire/Staffordshire/W Midlands to visit us as they like the variety of things that we sell. We are probably the biggest business in Ironbridge outside of the Museums and provide local employment.

Everyone knows where Ironbridge is, why do you need the brown signage?

Our biggest problem is people finding us when they get to Ironbridge and considering that it attracts over a million visitors a year, we believe that the majority don’t even know we are here so we asked the council for some brown tourist signs to help visitors find us as we have lots of complaints directed as us from customers about the lack of signage; I always ask them to contact the council to complain to them.

So have you applied for your signs?

This is where the problems have started as they say we “don’t meet the criteria” and have refused our application.

Why have you been refused?

This is the information given on the Telford & Wrekin website regarding Brown Signs –  “Tourism signing provides an important opportunity for both tourism businesses and local economies and will be implemented positively and constructively.

There is an advertising element as it helps to generate more visits. The primary purpose is to safely guide those wishing to visit a tourist destination along the most appropriate route for the final stages of their journey, or to indicate facilities that a tourist would not reasonably expect to find in that location.

I want to make a few points in public about this as this is the reason why I want to start the petition.

1)      One of the criteria is you have to have parking facilities – We are right in the middle of 2 car parks

2)      Item 2.1 states a list of likely places that would meet the criteria – historic building, areas of special interest, visitor centres – we meet all of these criteria.

3)      Item 2.4 – Toilet facilities including disabled- we meet all of these criteria

4)      Item 2.3 – These lists are not exhaustive and each application will be judged on its own merits

We actively promote Ironbridge via social media sites, have our own website and we believe we offer Ironbridge something different.

The following businesses around Ironbridge currently have a brown sign.

  • All of the Museums
  • The Valley Hotel, top of Jiggers bank and Buildwas Road
  • Maws Craft Centre – (similar to us but we are much bigger and a some of the crafters there display in our place) This is not always open – we open 7 day a week
  • Robert Harrop Figurines – A small business in Jackfield – seems to do most of its business online
  • The Black Swan Public House
  • The Boat Public House
  • The Half Moon – This sign was recently approved at about the same time that we were rejected
  • The Greenwood centre – 2 or 3 signs for this

What I am campaigning for is Brown Signs at the following locations:-

  • Top of Jiggers Bank (can be joint with Valley Hotel)
  • Buildwas Road at the bottom of Much Wenlock Road  (can be joint with Valley Hotel)
  • By the Robin Hood Pub (Joint with Greenwood/Museum Signs)
  • On the sign halfway up the wharfage directing traffic to the Museum of the Gorge

The Sign should say “Antiques Arts & Crafts Centre”

The council have said they might consider a sign for Merrythought Village but I’m sorry, Merrythought Village will mean nothing to visitors, lots of locals don’t even know what it is.

How can people help get your signs approved?

The people who will benefit from this are the 60 traders who display their items and not us directly so I am asking for help by signing the petition below to allow us to have these brown tourist signs and help people find us.

[emailpetition id=”1″]

13 thoughts on “Ironbridge Antiques Arts & Crafts Centre Campaign

  • That’s not my website, but I know Amanda, who runs it – I’ve sent her the link to here, she may have some helpful ideas!

  • Amanda works at IAAC as with 8 other local people whom we employ, all our staff would be more than happy to help with any enquiry, please do come and see us we are open 7 days a week.

  • Yes a brown sign would be a great idea, people love walking around the area and need to know where everything is so they can enjoy browsing!!! The “Ironbridge Antiques Arts & Crafts Centre” is a real gem and has so many interesting stalls in it, it also supports small local artists and small businesses, the council should do everything to direct people into it! Good luck guys I hope it gets approved you more than deserve it, great place!!!

  • As a massive brown sign nerd it seems to me that you fit the criteria, the powers that be even brought in a new antiques centre symbol in 2004 to indicate the difference between them and craft centres. I’ve signed the petition and good luck with the appeal. I’ll sing your praises on my website when you get one of course 🙂

    • Thanks Amanda,thanks for signing! We already have a website . We are very frustrated with the councils approach to this. We have LOTS of visitors who come to Ironbridge specifically to see us and we are definately a destination place but in their wisdom don’t see it like that. Considering we are one of the biggest places to visit in ironbridge outside of the “Museums” (The Ironbridge and surrounding facilities including the River Severn were ALL built around the Museums in their eyes) we feel we meet all of the criteria set out in their “rule book” ( the book that ignores common sense) 🙂 Nige x

  • I struggled to find you & a ‘brown sign’ would have helped 🙂 Your shop definitely adds to a lovely day out in Ironbridge.
    Let’s get you a Brown Sign!

  • As a business it is your responsibility to advertise and get customers to your shop. If you can have a brown tourism sign then every other business in Ironbridge or even the UK would be entitled to one.

    It is not the responsibilty of the council and tax payer to promote your business. You offer nothing educational and your only reason to exisit is to make money. You are aprivate business. If your current location is not suitable for the type of business you run, you should move. If you want a sign get it yourself.

    I run a business myself and do not expect the council and tax payer to contribute to my advertising costs. I could give the same reasons as you.

    • I’m not sure you understand how the brown sign system works. The business has to pay for the sign, and also an annual fee for its maintenance and upkeep. It’s certainly not taxpayer funded.

    • I can assure you that there is no cost to the council, the signs are to help tourist find places that are of interests in a tourist area. If you think we are making lots of money here take a look at the account when they are published, we are supporting 60 plus LOCAL traders and is a place of interest adding to the attraction of visiting Ironbridge. Regarding the “educational ” comment, what about the B&Bs,Hotels,Pubs, Maws Craft Centre who ALL have a brown sign?

      The council are spending lots of money promoting the area this year as a place to visit which means people come and visit, spend money and it benefits the LOCAL economy and not items imported from china.

  • But if every business had a brown sign then every lampost would be covered in them. There are enough signs already on the roadside. If there is to be a sign then let be for the merry thought village.

    • I agree that not every business should have a brown sign that would be ridiculous, but as this is a tourist area any business that enhances the visitor experience (something we passionately believe that we do) should be eligible for one surely?
      To have a sign saying “Merrythought Village” would be pointless, let’s stop 100 visitors in the street shall we and ask “do you know what this sign means” 90% would say NO, some might think it’s a building development for new houses ( lots of local people do not know what it is either), if there was a sign saying “Antiques,Arts,Crafts Centre” then 90% of people would probably say “let’s go take a look “
      We have nearly 500 signatures, most people think it’s wrong that a place like ours have been refused a sign, the majority have signed it without prompt or pressure and support us with this and think we are an asset to the Ironbridge offer.

  • Interesting, another comment/ “complaint” from a couple who have come to Ironbridge for the weekend from Suffolk “you should get some signage for this place we’ve been driving round for ages trying to find you” . They spotted the petition on the desk and promptly signed it.


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