Beamish Museum is one of the most unique museums in the country telling the story of life in the North East over three unique time periods; 1820s, 1910s, 1940s and 1950s.
Originally the brainchild of Dr Frank Atkinson; former director of the Bowes Museum, it has grown from an idea to a 300 acre open air museum.
Original local 1900s trams, from Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland (and some from further afield),
Replica and original motor vehicles from 1890s to 1950’s,
Steam locomotives for individually distinct time periods; 1820s and 1910s-1930s,
Collections of objects ranging from tea kettles and sewing machines to entire buildings.
Explorable areas of Beamish
Beamish museum has 6 main areas connected by multiple walking paths and Tramway loop.
Town - 1900s
From a visit to Barclays Bank to a swift one in the Sun Inn, there are lots of interesting attractions on this Edwardian era street.
Many of the buildings have been moved from their original locations and reconstructed brick by brick:
Ravensworth Terrace originally stood on Bensham Bank, Gateshead,
The Annfield Plain Co-operative Society Store is as the name suggests from Annfield Plain in County Durham,
The Sun Inn was originally located on Bondgate in Bishop Auckland, County Durham.
Rowley Station - 1900s
The Edwardian station was moved from Rowley near Consett, County Durham. Accessed from the town via a wrought-iron footbridge from Howden-le-Wear and past the 1896 Signal Box from Carr House East, also near Consett.
The goods yard also features a goods shed from Alnwick in Northumberland, a coal office from James White of Hexham and coal drops from West Boldon.
At the far end of the station is a large red building presented as Beamish Iron Works. This is a museums store shared with Tyne and Wear Museums and houses some large items, there is a small windowed area where visitors can have a glimpse inside; alternately there are guided tours that can be arranged with Beamish Museum.
Pit Village - 1900s
As with the Town; the pit village is not original to the site and is made of a mix of replica and original moved buildings.
The main street we find Francis Street; a group of 6 (from 27) cottages built in the 1860s by Hetton Coal Company in Hetton le Hole.
Opposite the cottages we see the Chapel and School.
The Capel originally stood in the now Beamish Village (out of the entrance turn left) with one of the stained glass windows from a chapel in Bedlington, Northumberland.
The School originally built in East Stanley it is a traditional late 1800s style building with traditional chalk boards and writing slates in the classrooms. Out in the playground there are some wonderfully traditional school games for both children and adult-children to have some fun with.
Behind the chapel we find Davey’s Fish shop, while the building is a replica, it is dedicated to the last coal fired fish and chip shop in Tyneside, in Winlaton Mill.
There is nothing like the taste of fish and chips fried in coal fired beef dripping. While neither vegetarian or gluten free; the traditional flavour cannot be beaten.
Colliery and Mine - 1900s
Mahogany Drift Mine is original to the site being opened in 1855; it is low, dark and cramped. The height of the mine set by the height of a pit pony about 40 inches/1 meter tall. If you are taller than that expect to stoop slightly.
The Winding house and engine were also built in 1855 but not at their current location; they were originally from Beamish Second or Chophill Colliery approximately 1200m/3800ft away (just north of No Place). The Heapsted building is from a little further away, Ravensworth Park Mine, Gateshead; this is where the cages, miners and tubs would be transported down the mine shaft. Tubs full of coal would also be weighed, logged, screened and sorted; before the coal was loaded on a railway waggon below.
Home Farm - 1940s
Most of Home Farm is original to the site and is representative of a North East farm during the Second World War. When first opened as a display in 1983 it depicted a 1910s farm, with most of the farm complex having been rebuilt in the mid 19th century.
Alongside Home Farm we also find Orchard and Garden Cottages. THese cottages would have housed farm labourers, but here demonstrate a different use.
Orchard Cottage with its evacuee family and Garden Cottage housing a group of Land Girls.
Pockerley Hall and Waggonway - 1820s
Pockerley is the oldest part of Beamish Museum in both age and demonstration.
Setting the scene in an 1825 Georgian landscape is Pockerley Hall the first mentions of a building here are in the 1183 Boldon Book (currently in the British Library). THe building has been added to since then with the sand stone Old House being dated around 1440 and the New House dating in the late 1700s replacing a medieval manor house.
The Vaulted undercroft of the Old House has walls over 1m thick. This is similar to the construction of Tithe Barn Cottages dating from a similar period.
One of the most popular parts of Pockerly in the Waggonway. Set in 1825 the year the Stockton and Darlington Railway opened, the Great Shed incorporates parts from Robert Stephenson and Company’s Newcastle Works (Just behind Newcastle Central Station). Visitors can ride a replica steam powered train pulled by the Steam Elephant or Puffing Billy. The original Puffing Billy locomotive can be seen in the London Science Museum on static exhibit.
Joe the Quilter’s Cottage is an interesting recreation of the “lost” building. Demolished in 1872 parts of the cottage, located in Warden north west of Hexham, were uncovered as part of an archaeological dig; this included flagstones where Joe would have stood.
St. Helen’s Church was rescued from a demolition order in 1996; being moved from Eston, near Middlesbrough, it lay around the Beamish Museum site for 15 years before reconstruction.
I remember going though where the 1950’s town in being built (in 2008) and seeing piles of stones and being told there were several buildings just waiting to be rebuilt.
New Buildings at Beamish Museum
The newest addition to Beamish Museum is the 1950s town.
From what they have published between Facebook and their website, we understand there will be 13 new exhibits.
The first of the exhibits was completed in 2019; a replica of Leasingthorne Colliery Welfare Hall and Community Centre
Built in Leeholme near Bishop Auckland, County Durham in 1957 the building on Leeholm Rd is still in use today as Coundon and Leeholme Community Centre – Welfare Hall.
Notably the kitchen worktops were made by the Formica Group using a 1958 design.
What about four legged visitors?
At Tithe Barn Cottages we do welcome pets (with well behaved owners), so it is important that locations we recommend visiting; also allow our canine friends.
Well-behaved dogs are welcome at the museum and entry is free for dogs! If you’re a dog owner visiting Beamish with your four-legged friend:
Please keep your dog on a lead and accompany them at all times.
Dogs are welcome around our open-air museum’s large grounds. Dogs are usually allowed on transport (lower deck, not on seats, at conductor’s discretion) and in the following buildings and areas (however, there may need to be exceptions during particularly busy times): 1820s Waggonway and Great Shed, The 1900s Colliery Yard, including engine shed and lamp cabin (excluding drift mine), Rowley Station, The Sun Inn pub, Entrance Building.
Only assistance dogs are allowed into all other buildings, exhibits and catering areas. Visit our Accessibility page to find out more about access at Beamish Museum.
Please don’t leave your dog unattended at any time. We’d also advise against leaving your dog in your car for even a short period of time.
Water bowls for dogs are provided around the museum – please let our staff or volunteers know if a refill is needed.
Please pick up after your dog. Dog waste bags are available from our Entrance Building, if needed.
Dogs aren’t allowed at evening events, e.g. Christmas Evenings, Halloween Evenings.
– Beamish Museum Plan Your Visit – Dogs