Beamish Museum is an open air museum in the North East of England, situated in Beamish near County Durham and the town of Stanley. The museum’s aim 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”. The estate spans an area of 350 acres, that includes original and replica buildings, working vehicles and many artefacts alongside livestock and people in character from the period. Beamish opened to the public in 1972 and welcomes over 350,000 visitors annually, it was the brain child of Frank Atkinson.
This is not my first visit to Beamish Museum, I remember fondly the school trips to here and visits with my parents as I was growing up. The very thought of Beamish fills me with joy and happy memories. Although it has been many years since my last visit, being 33 years old now, I jumped at the chance last sunday to relive those memories.
Admission to Beamish Museum is now on an unlimited basis, which means once you pay you can visit as many times as you wish within that year. No need to worry about rushing around and missing out at things. The only time you can’t use the pass is for night events.
Senior (Over 60) £13.50
Family ( 1 Adult + 2 Children) £34.50
( 2 Adults + 2 Children) £48.50
( 2 Adults + 1 Child) £42.50
The best way to navigate around Beamish is to follow the marked footpaths, it is all easy to follow. You can either walk, which I did, or take a tram or bus which stop off at each area of interest. The transport is all free around the estate.
What is there to see I hear you ask?
1900s Town, experiencing how families lived and worked in the period before the First World War. Within the town there is a garage, W Smiths Chemist, Co-op Store, The Sun Inn Pub, Town Stables, Barclays Bank, Fairground and a Masonic Hall, to name a few. As this was and still is my favourite area of Beamish, the best bits for me are Ravensworth Terrace. This is a street originally from Gateshead, where the dentist’s surgery is located, this always used to scare me as the dentist tells you all the terrifying tales from the past in removing teeth. Alongside the music teachers house and a solicitors office. The beauty of this street is you can pop in and out of the houses and really get a glimpse of what life was like for different types of people. The sweet shop is a must visit, queuing up for some sarsaparilla sweets and white mice never gets old, measuring it all out for you. Price wise it is £2 for 400 grams of sweets. A new addition since my last visit is the bakers, Herrons Bakery where you can watch rock buns, breads and biscuits being made in front of you whilst you queue. The cinnamon stars were lovely! 80 pence and well worth it.
1940s Farm, finding out what life was like on the home front during WW2. Make sure you look out for the home guard and the land girls. There is a farmhouse, where you can see how a family lived during wartime. Orchard and Garden Cottages, the land girls and a family of evacuees live here. Orchard cottage is also used to host events for older people living with dementia and their families to enjoy. The farm itself and all its animals ands equipment to look at and if you are feeling peckish you can stop by the British Kitchen for refreshments, this is based on british restaurants set up by the government during wartime.
1900s Pit Village experiencing life in the colliery community at the time of heavy coal production on the North East. Like Ravensworth Terrace in the town, you can go into the pit cottages and look around the homes and backyards, make sure you see the communal bread oven in the back lane! There is another new addition in the form of Davy’s Fried Fish Shop, using the older methods of cooking in coal fired ranges. The highlight was the Pit Pony Stables, getting to pet the ponies and learn about their importance down the mines. You must visit the school and explore the classrooms and playground too.
1820s Pockerley, where you can visit the new house of a tenant farmer and a old house dating back to the 1440s. The gardens, georgian landscape and the steam train ride at the Waggonway are all here to enjoy!
1900s Colliery is perfect example at Beamish, as collieries played a great role in the working lives of many families in the North East of England during this period. The museum wouldn’t be complete without it! Take a trip down the drift mine and realise what each working day was like for the miners. Guided tours run regularly throughout the day. Alongside the mine is a lamp cabin, winding engine house and a colliery railway. I was drawn to the Colliery Blacksmiths and watched him make pokers and other bits of equipment, whilst explaining what he was doing. You can have a go yourself if you wish.
Beamish Museum was the first English Museum to be financed and administered by a consortium of local councils, Durham, Cleveland, Northumberland and Tyne & Wear. It is now operated as a charity, but still receives support from the local councils. Now the museum is 96% self funded, due to admission fees. The future is also looking bright as there are plans to improve Beamish and add new additions to the museum, watch this space.
If you have never visited Beamish or you like myself went as a child, please visit you will throughly enjoy yourself immersed in history for a morning or afternoon visit. I spent a good three hours on the estate and left feeling as happy as I did as a young child!