Monday, 1 November 2010


Happy Monday morning, readers. We're reversing a bit today as I have one final post about our recent trip to Yorkshire which I didn't want to miss. Many moons ago, I went to university in the North East so I have a special fondness for the area and whilst studying there, I went to a wonderful place called "Beamish" a couple of times. I have always wanted to return and thought it would be a great experience for the Munchkin so although the museum is about 2 hours drive from where we were staying in Pickering, it was obviously far closer than making a special trip from London, so on a beautiful bright morning, off we set.

Beamish, the "living museum of the North" occupies a huge site in stunning open countryside in County Durham. It is a museum with a difference, now open for 40 years, which hopes to preserve and recreate the story of life in the North East through the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras. What makes the museum special is that you are allowed to wander freely, enter all the buildings and nearly all of the rooms in them, touch and see things close up and chat with the staff there who are all dressed in appropriate period costume and very knowledgeable about their subject matter. To me, this is a wonderful thing, I don't enjoy stuffy museums where you can't touch anything, the exhibits are roped off and there are new fangled touch button screens and audio tape commentaries!

Here we are then, ready to go in.

Now very excitingly, especially for Master Munchkin, you have the option to ride round the site by vintage tram (it is a one-and-three-quarter mile trip in total). I love trams, they remind me of trips to Blackpool to see the Illuminations when I was little! This local Gateshead tram was built in 1925 and remained in service until 1951. There are several other trams here, including a double decker one.

It appears we have a new driver!

Our first stop is at the Pockerley Waggonway. Waggonways were built in the region to move coal from pit to riverside for further transportation. This waggonway is based on one in Georgian times, and part of an original ironworks from Newcastle-upon-Tyne is incorporated into the fabric of this building. The boys loved the waggonway with its steam engines, of course!

The best bit for me was the bothy with its roaring fire, so cosy!

Off we set on foot down the track, through the farmed landscape which was laid out as would have been typical in the early nineteenth century.

Our destination is Pockerley Old Hall, a building original to this site, retaining roof timbers from as far back as 1440. It is the type of building which would have been occupied by a yeoman, miner or tenant farmer in the early 1800s. Pretty nice, hey?

The inside is rather special, too.

I particularly love the upstairs rooms with their beautiful period wallpapers, fabric hangings and quilts.

As we leave, in the distance, an engine is chugging along the waggonway. Like I say this is a real museum where things really work!

On then to one of my favourite parts, the recreation of a typical North Eastern market town in the run up to the First World War.

Guess which shop was the Munchkin's favourite? Hmm, might that be the sweet shop? You can buy real sweets in the front shop and at the rear, you can watch them being made in the traditional way. The smell was heaven!

There is also a pub, the Sun Inn. This inn dates back to the 1860s and was moved here from Bishop Auckland. The interior has been rebuilt much as it originally would have been. Well, it would have been rude not to have partaken of a small jar whilst warming by the fire, don't you think?

For me, there was the haberdashers, swoon!

There are many other typical high street buildings here: a printers, the Co-op, a garage, a bank and even a Masonic hall. There is also a recreation of a typical row of early Victorian houses, "Ravensworth Terrace", originally built in nearby Gateshead between 1830-45. Don't you think it marvellous that they have moved these wonderful old buildings brick by brick and perfectly reconstructed them?

In most of the open buildings, there were roaring fires, such as in this kitchen. Cosy and very welcome after the bitter cold outside! In many of the houses they were also undertaking activities, this lady had made toast and in Pockerley Old Hall they had made biscuits, all using traditional ingredients and methods, cooked in the old bread ovens or ranges, and which you were invited to try.

I loved this cute nursery in one of the terraced houses.

A posh "parlour".

Also within the terrace was a dental surgery (ouch and eek, I've spared you the photos of that!) and a solicitor's office.

On then to the Beamish Railway Station. You see, I said there was something for all of us here! This station is as it would have been about 1910. It came from Rowley, near Consett. On occasions, a steam train runs for short journeys but sadly was not running on the day we visited.

No matter, having dodged the rain, we cheered ourselves up with a ride on the steam gallopers.

Then it was back on the tram for a ride to Home Farm. This is how a farm would have been in the early 1870s and this farm was once part of the Beamish Estate. It is wonderful that there are real animals in the barns, including two very cute calves.

It was the interior though, which really delighted me. This is just a kitchen to die for! There was even a cat curled up by the fire ready to be stroked and purr in return.

I especially love it when I see that one of the things which goes on here is patchwork!

There was also a beautiful antique quilt over the settle, absolutely huge and all English paper pieced by hand.

We had to hurry though as there was still yet more to see! Off on foot to the pit village just across the way, then. Collieries were such a huge part of the landscape of the North East and this village is a recreation of a typical pit as it would have been in the early 1900s.

One really wonderful place to visit is the Beamish Board School which once stood in nearby East Stanley. It opened in 1892 and closed nearly a century later.

This naughty pupil seems to have been kept behind to write his lines!

I loved visiting the row of pit cottages though sadly it was late in the day and some were closed (some are also used for educational purposes for visiting schools). The pit cottages were built in the 1860s in nearby Hetton-le-Hole, for use by pitmen and their families. Houses and coal were provided free in exchange for labour.

However, there were a few we could go into where I enjoyed seeing the antique quilts in particular. I was surprised to learn that in 1913, pitmen's wages were relatively high so they could afford expensive furniture.

I think I would have been happy, with all this crafting going on!

This quilt was really beautiful, so nice to see the real thing.

We quickly nipped over to the colliery which the boys found interesting.

You can see the entrance to the Mahogany Drift Mine first opened in 1855. You used to be able to walk into the coal seam underground but I think this has been closed. Nearby, there are also engine sheds to house steam locomotives once used in the colliery.

All too soon, it was closing time and so we caught the replica vintage bus back. The Munchkin insisted on sitting up top in the open air. Brrrrr!

If you are ever able to visit this museum, I cannot recommend it highly enough, it is certainly my favourite and a very special place indeed.


  1. I am drooling!
    I'd love to go there, its on my list of places to visit!
    Olly keeps complaining, thats its too far to go....stupid man!
    I'm hoping to go to the village where Victorian Farm was filmed, this year, if Olly moans, I'm going with my parents!
    Thanks for another great trip out Henxx

  2. Oooh Hen what a fantastic trip, thank you for the tour around i thoroughly enjoyed it..I am so glad you used the cloth i sent, i knew you would create something wonderful with it :)
    Mantha xx

  3. Isn't it wonderful, we live quite near to Beamish and we visit at christmas when every house has a christmas tree and streamers and big swags of holly....magical, glad you all enjoyed yourselves, Lucey xx

  4. Every post of yours makes me wish that i'd live in England... You have such lovely corners in your country :)

  5. We live quite close to Beamish, and I have been there many many times, and I never tire of visiting it, I love this museum. xxx

  6. Looks like you had a lovely visit - really enjoyed reading through and looking at the pictures -thanks for posting!

  7. Looks like you had a fabulous time Hen. Must put it on the places we must visit.
    I love the photo of you and the munchkin on the steam gallopers - gorgeous!!!!
    Kerry xxxx

  8. When you said "museum" I was visualizing one big building...but EGADS! What an experience!! This is going on my list of to-do & see's if I ever make it across the pond!
    ¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•´♥ Lori Lynn ♥

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  10. I love Beamish, it is my sort of Museum, we have also been to Ironbridge too, have you been to that one?
    Julie xxxxx

  11. What a fantastic day for you all.
    I love the pic of Munchkin sitting at the desk, and Mr Hen in the snug bar.
    It was lovely to finally meet you properly, even though very briefly.
    T X

  12. Beamish is just a half hour trip from our home and we were there for a Halloween special on Saturday.


    Hugs, Jane x

  13. Hi Hen, So many posts to catch up with since I took a break from blogging. You've had so many great outings! I really must go to some of these places, I know I'd like them.
    It was great seeing on Saturday!
    Will you be uploading some things on your shop soon? I didn't really get the chance to browse properly in the end. I whizzed round really...
    Take care
    Isabelle x

  14. Once again, I'm completely jealous Hen! That looks like a fabulous place to visit!

  15. oh it looks lovely but where you and munchkin the only ones there?
    Pene x

  16. Fabulous!
    I havent been there for years, The last time was on a school trip!
    It is just how I remember it but there seems even more!
    I must visit again, i'm not too far away here in Yorkshire.

  17. How I would like to visit your lovely country, sigh...Thanks for sharing your pictures with me.
    Anne in Minnesota

  18. Brilliant pictures, I've never been, but it looks a wonderful way to spend a day.
    Love the picture of you and Munchkin on the gallopers!
    Linda O xxx

  19. It must be thirty years since I last went to Beamish ! I can't believe how much bigger it is, I think there was just a few shops and a couple of cottages, time for a revisit I think ...

  20. Great post on Beamish....the farmhouse kitchen is my favourite place. I love sitting on the green settle by the fireplace soaking in the atmosphere. We are lucky to live close by, so I think another visit is in order very soon. Thank you for reminding me with your great photos.
    Julie x

  21. I was truly intriqued with this post and have to confess that I knew nothing about this fantastic place - it is now definitely on one of my places to visit, thank you so much for sharing this with us - I loved it so interesting. Brilliant!

  22. another amazing outing!!

    do you know? i think i may have been there when i was younger, i'll have to ask my mum x

  23. This is making me really homesick - we used to go to Beamish on school trips all the time!!
    I remember that sweet shop was so exciting when we were little - I'm not surprised your munchkin loved it. I was always too scared to go down the mine though...
    It makes me happy that it hasn't changed (not that a museum based on an pre-war town would!)

  24. I want to move to Beamish!

    Thanks for sharing all of your lovely photos. There used to be something similar in Australia called Old Sydney Town. Sadly, it is no more. I would have loved to taken my children there, it was fantastic.

    I have just discovered your blog. It's lovely. I'd better go get a cup of tea and check out the rest of it:)

  25. Thanks Hen, I've always wanted to go to Beamish. Thanks for taking the time to write such a lovely post.


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