23. Jun, 2021


WEDNESDAY  23-06-21

Fortunately the restaurant last night wasn't as posh as we had imagined and they were serving the usual burger & chips etc as well as some healthier options, the service was slow but the food was fine.

As expected the match between England and the Czech Republic was pretty dire, consisting of an awful lot of shirt-pulling and professional  fouling, knitted together with a little bit of proper football.

This morning we were up in good time and showered, though yet again we were on a slope, sufficient to yet again cause slow drainage problems in the shower tray. After today we're on campsite until the end of this trip in about ten days time and so we'll use the levelling blocks to try and correct the problem.

Having studied Google Maps this morning we worked out a different route to the Beamish Museum. When we arrived at The Black Horse from there yesterday we travelled along the most appallingly narrow twisting hilly route imaginable and there was no way we were going back that way today. This morning's route meant we turned right as we left the site and had a far shorter distance to travel before reaching a decent road. Although the route to the museum was further it was far better.

We arrived at The Beamish Museum just before 10:00 for our booked timed arrival of between 10:00 and 10:45. We again parked with the coaches and a couple of other motorhomes. There was plenty of room for us down there.

So off we trotted to join the back of the queue outside the headmasters office to be checked regarding track & trace, then we were in.

So a bit about The Beamish Museum:

The idea for an open air regional museum came from the then-director of the Bowes Museum, Frank Atkinson (1924-2014). Inspired by Scandinavian folk museums, and realising the North East's traditional industries and communities were disappearing, in 1958, days after taking up his post at Bowes, Atkinson presented a report to Durham County Council urging that a collection of items of everyday history on a large scale should begin as soon as possible, so that eventually an open air museum could be established. As well as objects, Atkinson was also aiming to preserve the region's customs and dialect. He stated the new museum should "attempt to make the history of the region live" and illustrate the way of life of ordinary people. He hoped the museum would be run by, be about and exist for the local populace, desiring them to see the museum as theirs, featuring items collected from them.

Fearing it was now almost too late, Atkinson adopted a policy of "unselective collecting" — "you offer it to us and we will collect it." Donations ranged in size from small items to locomotives and shops, and Atkinson initially took advantage of a surplus of space available in the 19th-century French chateau-style building housing the Bowes Museum to store items donated for the open air museum. With this space soon filled, a former British Army tank depot at Brancepeth was taken over, although in just a short time its entire complement of 22 huts and hangars had been filled, too.

In 1966, a working party was established to set up a museum "for the purpose of studying, collecting, preserving and exhibiting buildings, machinery, objects and information illustrating the development of industry and the way of life of the north of England", and it selected Beamish Hall, having been vacated by the National Coal Board, as a suitable location.

In August 1970, with Atkinson appointed as its first full-time director together with three staff members, the museum was first established by moving some of the collections into the hall. In 1971, an introductory exhibition, "Museum in the Making" opened at the hall.

The museum was opened to visitors on its current site for the first time in 1972, with the first re-located buildings (the railway station and colliery winding engine) being erected the following year. The first trams began operating on a short demonstration line in 1973. The Town station was formally opened in 1976, the same year the reconstruction of the colliery winding engine house was completed, and the miners' cottages were relocated. Opening of the drift mine as an exhibit followed in 1979.

In 1975 the museum was visited by the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and by Anne, Princess Royal, in 2002. In 2006, as the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, the Duke of Kent visited, to open the town Masonic lodge.

With the Co-op having opened in 1984, the town area was officially opened in 1985. The pub had opened in the same year, with Ravensworth Terrace having been reconstructed from 1980 to 1985. The newspaper branch office had also been built in the mid-1980s. Elsewhere, the farm on the west side of the site (which became Home Farm) opened in 1983. The present arrangement of visitors entering from the south was introduced in 1986.

At the beginning of the 1990s, further developments in the Pit Village were opened, the chapel in 1990, and the board school in 1992. The whole tram circle was in operation by 1993. Further additions to the Town came in 1994 with the opening of the sweet shop and motor garage, followed by the bank in 1999. The first Georgian component of the museum arrived when Pockerley Old Hall opened in 1995, followed by the Pockerley Waggonway in 2001.

In the early 2000s two large modern buildings were added, to augment the museum's operations and storage capacity - the Regional Resource Centre on the west side opened in 2001, followed by the Regional Museums Store next to the railway station in 2002. Due to its proximity, the latter has been cosmetically presented as Beamish Waggon and Iron Works. Additions to display areas came in the form of the Masonic lodge (2006) and the Lamp Cabin in the Colliery (2009). In 2010, the entrance building and tea rooms were refurbished.

Into the 2010s, further buildings were added - the fish and chip shop (opened 2011) band hall (opened 2013) and pit pony stables (built 2013/14) in the Pit Village, plus a bakery (opened 2013) and chemist and photographers (opened 2016) being added to the town. St Helen's Church, in the Georgian landscape, opened in November 2015.

Future plans for the museum include the creation of a 1950s area, plus additions to the 1900s Town and to the Georgian area. Set to take five years and cost £17m, the additions were approved by Durham council in April 2016, by which time only £2.4m in funding was still outstanding, £10.7m having been raised from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £3.3m from other sources.

The 1950s area will feature both an urban development and an upland farm. The urban development will feature social housing, a cinema, NHS clinic, shops and a park. The development will include Aged Miner's Homes, for uses as a ‘Homes For Memory’ dementia relief facility. For transport, the 1950s area could feature trams, trolleybuses and motorbuses. The upland farm will be based around Spainsfield Farm, relocated from Eastgate. The aged miners' homes will be replicas of Marsden Road, South Shields. The cinema will be the former Grand Electric Cinema from Ryhope, Sunderland, which will be demolished and re-erected at Beamish. The social housing will feature a block of four relocated Airey houses, prefabricated concrete homes originally designed by Sir Edwin Airey, which previously stood in Kibblesworth. Then-recently vacated and due for demolition, they were instead offered to the museum by The Gateshead Housing Company and accepted in 2012.

Stables, Tyneside flats and a Post Office are all planned additions to the 1900s Town. The Georgian landscape is to be augmented with the addition of a coaching inn, windmill, quilter's cottage and early industry such as candle making, potter, blacksmith and lime kiln. The coaching inn will also be used to provide overnight accommodation. The windmill will be the replicated Buck's Hill Mill from Blyth.

Other plans for the town include a shopping arcade, 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.

It is intended to expand the Georgian area by the restoration of an existing watermill on the Beamish Burn (River team) (where there are also remains of forges).

The site is basically circular and you just make your way round in either direction. To my surprise on the way round The Chef confessed she thought that the museum would be an internal affair with artefacts. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It was a very interesting visit, though I was disappointed that 'Puffing Billy' the steam train giving rides was not running, nor were any other trains nor trams, I think it was a bit naughty of them. Even if they'd had the trams on static display in the High Street they would have provided great photographic opportunities.  The interiors of the homes and businesses were full of genuine articles, in all it's a great collection.

I took an awful lot of photographs during the visit and I must try to reduce the sample to a minimum.

When we returned to the Black Bull I grabbed my camera and made my way just up the road to take a look at 'Aston Workshop' www.aston.co.uk . Sadly they were only allowing visits by appointment only, and that came from Bob the Boss, who owns not only a Aston Martin facility, but The Black Bull and the Car Barn as well. Good for him. Unfortunately most of the photographs had to be taken as best I could through the large windows, which is never successful.

This evening we dined again up at the pub and now we're sorted and just about ready to move on tomorrow when we'll make our way to Staithes in North Yorkshire. This will be the start of our home run and where we'll enjoy being on familiar territory.

We have found the folk up here to be friendly and helpful, and I'm impressed with the standard of driving. Having said that we don't plan to return.