What a brilliant concept, this is a true step back in time. Beamish, the North of England Open Air Museum is an open-air museum. The museum's guiding principle is to preserve an example of everyday life in urban and rural North East England at the climax of industrialisation in the early 20th century. Much of the restoration and interpretation is specific to the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, together with portions of countryside under the influence of industrial revolution from 1825. On its 300 acres (120 ha) estate it utilises a mixture of translocated, original and replica buildings; a huge collection of artifacts, working vehicles and equipment; as well as livestock and costumed interpreters. The town area, officially opened in 1985, depicts chiefly Victorian buildings in an evolved urban setting of 1913. These include the Annfield Plain Co-Operative Store (with operating cash carrier system); a terrace of "professionals"’ houses (from Gateshead), "occupied" by a music teacher, dentist's surgery and family home, and solicitor’s office; a pub (the Sun Inn from Bishop Auckland); town stables and carriage shed (utilising iron roof trusses from Fleetwood) housing an extensive collection of horse-drawn vehicles; a branch office of the Sunderland Daily Echo, stationer’s and printshop; a sweet shop and manufactory; a garage; a branch of Barclays Bank (using components from Southport and Gateshead), and a masonic temple (from Sunderland). There is a bandstand (from Gateshead) in a public park, together with drinking fountains and other examples of street furniture. The bakery opened in 2014, and future plans for the town include a shopping arcade, dispensing chemist the groundwork for which has started in 2014 on the corner between the garage and new bakery(using fittings from Stockton-on-Tees), as well as fire and police stations and other municipal buildings. The museum also has the components of an early cinema, and those of a gasworks from Milnthorpe.
A typical North Eastern Railway station is reconstructed on the edge of the town. The station building itself came from Rowley which originally lay on the Stanhope and Tyne Railway. The signal box came from Carr House, near Consett; the goods shed from Alnwick; and coal drops from West Boldon. The station is dominated by the Regional Museums Store (completed in 2002, and externally disguised as "Beamish Waggon and Iron Works, estd 1857"), which Beamish shares with Tyne and Wear Museums. This houses, amongst other things; railway rolling stock and other vehicles; a large marine diesel engine by William Doxford & Sons of Pallion, Sunderland (1977); and several boats including the Tyne wherry (a traditional local type of lighter) Elswick No. 2 (1930). The store is only open at selected times, and for special tours which can be arranged through the museum; however, a number of viewing windows have been provided for use at other times. Adjacent is an events field and fairground with a set of Frederick Savage built steam powered Gallopers dating from 1893. In view of the impact that coal mining has had on its region, the museum has major collections related to this industry. Exhibits include the museum's Mahogany Drift Mine, a coal mine original to the site where it is possible to take an underground tour. The colliery is dominated by the regularly steamed 1855 vertical 'Crowther' winding engine (from the nearby Beamish 2nd Pit), screens (from Gateshead) and a waste tip. There are a number of industrial steam locomotives (including rare examples by Stephen Lewin, from Seaham, and Black, Hawthorn & Co), and many chaldron wagons (the region’s traditional type of colliery railway rolling stock, and which became a symbol of Beamish Museum). There is usually a pit pony on site and the museum has a significant collection of safety lamps. The surrounding village includes miners' cottages from Hetton-le-Hole, the Wesleyan Methodist chapel from Pit Hill, and East Stanley Board School (which has led to a special relationship between the museum and the successor primary school). Evidence can be seen of traditional pastimes such as pigeon racing and quoits. An Edwardian coal-fired Fish and Chip shop, Davy's Fried Fish named for Edwardian chip shop owners the Davy Brothers of Winlaton Mill, Gateshead, opened in Summer 2011 next to the Chapel. It serves fish and chips cooked in traditional beef dripping. The locomotive Coffee Pot No 1 is often in steam during the summer.
The Home Farm complex, preserved in situ, was rebuilt in the mid-nineteenth century as a model farm incorporating a horse mill and a steam-powered threshing mill. It is a base for some of the museum’s agricultural activities. In early 2014 Home Farm was converted to represent northern rural life in the 1940s. The eastern side of the museum site is based around the original Pockerley Manor farm, a 15th-century foundation with a domestic wing of c.1720. The back part of the house was a bastle house, with ceiling beams carbon-dated to the 14th century, although the structure is believed to be older. The surrounding farmlands have been returned to a post-enclosure landscape with ridge and furrow topography, divided into smaller fields by traditional riven oak fencing. The land is worked and grazed by traditional methods and breeds. Through this scene passes a pack pony track and the recently constructed wooden- and Pockerley waggonways serving a replica coal pit with horse-worked winding gin. It is intended to expand this area by the restoration of an existing watermill on the Beamish Burn (River Team) (where there are also remains of forges), and the development of a rural community including the re-erection of St Helen’s Church from Eston in North Yorkshire. In the railway station yard, a variety of wagons are on display. Under the footbridge (from Crook) the line extends to the far end of the town, a distance of ¼ mile. The line used to connect to the colliery sidings until 1991 when it was lifted so that the tram line could be extended. Regular steam operation ceased in 1995 due to the lack of permanently available working locomotives. From the nearby Bowes Railway, Andrew Barclay locomotives No. 22 and W.S.T. have made visits in recent years. The museum’s restored North Eastern Railway coach was moved to the Tanfield Railway, also nearby, but it returned to Beamish in 2012 for restoration and use. Resident locomotives include NER Class C1 freight engine No. 876 (British Railways Class J21 No. 65033), built at Gateshead in 1889. After lying out of use since 1984 it was moved to the North Norfolk Railway for restoration and returning to steam in 2007. The museum also formerly operated its Hawthorn Leslie industrial engine No. 14. During 2009 the main running line to the far end of the town was relaid so that passenger rides could recommence from the station during 2010. In February 2011 the museum received a 1923-built LNER Y7 Class 0-4-0T engine on a three-year loan from the North Norfolk Railway. The engine will run a passenger service at Rowley Station on weekends during the summer season. Currently under restoration at the Severn Valley Railway is 0-4-4T Dunrobin, which Beamish purchased in 2010 for use on the Rowley Station line. In 2012 Beamish also purchased 0-6-0 Saddle Tank 'Newcastle'; restoration is planned.
In 1999 Beamish opened the Pockerley Waggonway, recreating a railway at the transition from wagonway to steam railway in 1825. There is a short length of track, and the locomotives are housed and maintained in a "great shed", inspired by lost buildings from Timothy Hackworth’s Shildon railway works and incorporating some material from Robert Stephenson and Company’s Newcastle works. Visitors to the museum can ride in an unsprung carriage behind one of three replica steam locomotives on the railway: George Stephenson's Locomotion No 1 designed for the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825 and recreated in 1975; John Buddle and William Chapman's Steam Elephant designed for Wallsend Colliery in 1815 and recreated in 2002 (based largely on material in Beamish archives); William Hedley's Puffing Billy designed for the Wylam Colliery in 1813 and recreated in 2006. Following creation of the Pockerley Waggonway, the museum went back a chapter in railway history to create a horse-worked wooden waggonway. Beamish is home to several electric trams, some of which operate daily on the track which makes a circuit of the museum site forming an important element of the visitor transportation system. It is also the longest preserved tramway in the country. The museum’s two farms help to preserve traditional northcountry and in some cases rare livestock breeds such as Durham Shorthorn Cattle; Clydesdale and Cleveland Bay working horses; Dales ponies; Teeswater sheep; Saddleback pigs; and poultry. Other large exhibits collected by the museum include a tracked steam shovel, and a coal drop from Seaham Harbour. In 2001 a new-build Regional Resource Centre (accessible to visitors by appointment) opened on the site to provide accommodation for the museum’s core collections of smaller items. These include over 300,000 historic photographs, printed books and ephemera, and oral history recordings. The object collections cover the museum’s specialities. These include quilts; "clippy mats" (rag rugs); Trade union banners; floorcloth; advertising (including archives from United Biscuits and Rowntree's); locally made pottery; folk art; and occupational costume. Much of the collection is viewable online and the arts of quilting, rug making and cookery in the local traditions are demonstrated at the museum. Beamish is a large open air museum with many historic buildings, some of which are not always completely accessible to visitors. It is a hands-on museum. Many sounds, smells, tastes and textures can be experienced; and objects, surfaces and textiles handles making for a multi-sensory experience. To create an authentic feel, there are a variety of ground surfaces, some of which are uneven by nature. There are steep slopes in places, and some buildings and exhibits have stepped access. There is an Accessible Bus, with a rear tail lift, which will tour the site. Assistance dogs are welcome throughout the museum.
Location : Beamish Museum, Beamish, County Durham DH9 0RG
Transport: Newcastle on Tyne (National Rail) then Service bus. Bus: Waggonway service 28/28A offers regular buses from Newcastle City Centre, Gateshead, Birtley, Ouston and Chester-le-Street. Service 128 provides a direct link with Durham City Centre. Coast & Country service 8 runs every 30 minutes Monday to Saturday from Sunderland Interchange, via Washington, Chester-le-Street and Stanley.
Opening Times: Daily 10:00 to 17:00.
Tickets: Adults £18.50. Senior £13.50. Children (5 - 16) £10.50
Tel: 0191 370 4000