Beamish Open Air Museum, County Durham
Beamish is a world famous open air museum. It tells the story of the people of North East England at two important points of their history - 1825 and 1913.
In 1825 the region was rural and thinly populated. The industrial revolution, especially the coming of the railways, accelerated change. By 1913 the region's heavy industries were at their peak.
The Town of Beamish
The town in Beamish has been recreated from real buildings from across North East England that have been dismantled and rebuilt at Beamish.
Trams bring visitors from the museum entrance to the cobbled streets of 1913. Shops, houses, banks and parks help recreate the experience of life just before the First World War.
Some of the shops are open for business. The printers and stationers sell cards and posters, the sweet shop sells traditional boiled sweets and the Sun Inn serves beer and food. The only concession to 21st century Britain is the cost!
Other exhibits include a bank, a dental surgery, stables, the Co-op, a motor cycle store and the Masonic Hall.
Home Farm shows rural life in 1913. Farm buildings include the stables, a bull pen, blacksmith’s forge, a cart shed and the farmhouse kitchen with coal fire where the farmer’s wife goes about her routine. The farm is still a working farm keeping pigs, cattle, sheep and poultry.
The Colliery Village
Coal mining played a big part in the industrial development of North East England. The colliery village recreates the conditions a typical mining family would experience.
Pit cottages, from nearby Hetton-le-Hole, show the cramped conditions and poor sanitation that miners regarded as normal.
The school has three classrooms where up to 200 children between 5 and 11 would learn to read and write.
The Methodist Chapel would have been a central feature of village life. Visitors can see inside the church and local churches sometimes help recreate the atmosphere with choir recitals and traditional services such as the Sunday School Anniversary and Harvest Festival.
The Engine Shed and railway sidings show how the coal mined was transported from the pit to local towns and cities. Beamish is built on the site of a Mahogany Drift Mine, which was a working pit from 1855 to 1958. Underground guided tours allow visitors to get a better idea of how coal was mined and the working conditions of the miners.
The Railway Station
The railway station is next to the town. This is a typical early 20th century suburban station which originally was built at Rowley, near Consett. There are two platforms connected by a wrought iron footbridge, a signal box, a goods yard and a selection of rolling stock. There are no regular train services, but occasionally there may be visiting steam locomotives.
Pockerley Manor recreates the life of a wealthy farmer in the early 19th century. The two storey house has a number of rooms including a parlour and a stone flagged kitchen. The house was built in its current location in the 12th century and demonstrations of traditional skills such as candle making, wool carding and baking oatcakes are often held.
Sample rail travel in the early 1800’s on the Pockerley Waggonway. Three working replica models, including George Stephenson’s Locomotion, and a set of recreated carriages carry visitors on a one kilometre trip.
All photos by John Oyston under a Creative Commons License