Work is underway at the museum on the £20million Remaking Beamish project, the biggest development in Beamish’s history.
The exciting project includes a 1950s Town, 1950s Farm, bus depot and expansion to The 1820s Landscape, including a Georgian coaching inn where visitors can stay overnight and examples of early industry.
A £10.9million grant has been awarded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund – a major milestone in Beamish’s history and the largest single investment ever seen at the museum.
The funding will help us add to our existing attractions, creating a range of new ways for people to experience the heritage of the North East. Buildings from throughout the region are being moved or replicated, and we have been working with communities to share their heritage.
The centrepiece will be the reconstructed 1950s Town – meaning that alongside existing attractions depicting life in the early 19th and 20th centuries, Beamish will once again include a period within living memory.
The welfare hall was the first building to open in The 1950s Town. The exhibit is replica of the Leasingthorne Colliery Welfare Hall and Community Centre, which is now known as Coundon and Leeholme Community Centre. Community groups from the area have been involved with the project since the decision was made to replicate the hall at Beamish. Visitors to the welfare hall at the museum can enjoy 50s dances and games, explore the story of the NHS and get creative with seasonally-themed art classes.
Alongside The 1950s Town, we will also show what life was like in rural areas in this period, by rebuilding Spain’s Field Farm, which has been collected from Weardale in County Durham.
We will also expand the stories that we already tell from the early 19th century as part of the project. Plans include reconstructing a former coaching inn from the Great North Road at Scotch Corner (on what is now the A1M), which will be open for visitors during the day as well as offering overnight accommodation.
The first Remaking Beamish exhibit to open was Joe the Quilter’s recreated Georgian cottage, which opened in 2018. The cottage shares the story of poorer working class people in the 1820s.
A 1950s bus route will transport visitors around the expanded museum, and a bus depot and workshop will help ensure the retention of heritage engineering skills.
The impact of the project is expected to be significant. Up to 100 new jobs will be created alongside more than a thousand training opportunities, including apprenticeships, and the project is expected to attract 100,000 more tourists to the region.
Work on the Remaking Beamish project is continuing, with the museum remaining open throughout the construction period. Updates will be posted on our Facebook and Twitter pages, or look out for stories in the Beamish Magazine. There will be plenty of opportunities to get involved throughout!
Take a look at our 1950s Town and 1820s coaching inn artist’s impressions below:
The 1950s Town
Welfare Hall – OPEN
Visitors to the welfare hall at Beamish, which opened in June 2019, can join in with 1950s dancing, crafts, keep fit activities and amateur dramatics, plus the building also features an NHS clinic.
The replica of the Leasingthorne Colliery Welfare Hall and Community Centre tells the story of community life in the 1950s. The original hall, now known as the Coundon and Leeholme Community Centre, opened in 1957 and is still at the heart of its community.
The replica includes the distinctive “glulam” (glued, laminated timber) roof trusses, which can be seen in the original hall, and includes 4,500 bricks, which are colour-matched to the originals, 7,430 tiles, timber cladding, timber-framed windows and a sprung wooden floor.
Of note is the hall’s 1950s-style kitchen, including replica worktops made in the Formica factory in North Shields. This Formica® laminate was manufactured using a design from 1958 and is synonymous with kitchen furniture from the period and beyond. There also two 1950s wall units from our collection and a Dovedale sink, made in a former Spitfire factory after the war.
The exhibit also includes a Changing Places facility, including an accessible toilet, hoist, changing bench and adjustable basin.
The welfare hall received an award from the Banks Community Development Fund, via the County Durham Community Foundation.
The former Grand Electric cinema from Ryhope, in Sunderland, will be restored to its former glory and preserved for future generations at Beamish, screening films, period newsreels and adverts.
The Grand, which was built in 1912, closed in the 1960s and later became a bingo hall. It was donated to the museum by Angela and Gary Hepple.
Dozens of 1940s and 1950s film reports that were saved from the grand cinema in Ryhope, Sunderland, have also been donated to Beamish. More than 100 documents were rescued from a skip by Matthew Bateley, who worked at the cinema from 1985 to 1991.
Nearly 600 cinema seats have been donated to the museum from the former Palladium Cinema in Claypath, Durham, by Student Castle, which is working with NLP Planning. The rebuilt cinema will feature a 1930s projector that was collected from Durham University.
Aged Miners’ Homes
A space for older people, including people living with dementia, and their families and carers is set to be created in The 1950s Town in a replica of aged miners’ homes.
A terrace of four houses from Marsden Road in South Shields has been chosen to be replicated at the museum. The space of two of the replicated homes will host pioneering sessions, building on the acclaimed work Beamish already does in Orchard Cottage at The 1940s Farm.
The Marsden Road homes are owned by Durham Aged Mineworkers’ Homes Association (DAMHA) which is working with Beamish on the project. We’re speaking to residents and other community groups to gather their memories of the 1950s.
Aged miners’ homes were some of the earliest forms of social housing to help elderly members of mining communities. The first Marsden Road homes were opened in 1914 and had indoor toilets when they were built, demonstrating the commitment to high quality care that the Aged Miners’ Homes Association had from the outset.
The 1952-built semi-detached house of Esther Gibbon, daughter Linda Gilmore and their family is to be replicated in our 1950s Town after more than 7,000 people took part in our “Nominate Your House” vote.
The house, in Red House, Sunderland, was picked from nine North East finalists. The nominated houses had to be built in the 1950s as social housing.
Esther and her family were delighted their home was chosen and we’re working with them and the Red House community to explore life in the 1950s. We plan to build two 1950s semi-detached houses.
From ice cream and Oxo to rock ‘n’ roll and courting couples, the interior of John’s Cafe, a popular ice cream parlour from Wingate, County Durham, is set to be given a new home in The 1950s Town.
The cafe, owned by John Parisella, was popular with young people in the 1950s. Former customers have been sharing their memories of the ice cream parlour.
We will use original elements from the interior of the front of the cafe, which will form part of Front Street Terrace, including the wooden booths, bar, display units, frosted glass windows and interior doors.
Visitors will have the chance to enjoy ice cream, traditional drinks and confectionery, while sitting in traditional booths and listening to rock ‘n’ roll playing on the jukebox.
Fish and Chip Shop
A fried fish shop from Middleton St George, near Darlington, will be replicated at the museum to serve up this popular 1950s food.
The shop will form part of The 1950s Town’s Front Street Terrace and will allow us to tell a very important post-war story, of a trade hugely popular amongst the working class.
Hairspray, hours of sitting underneath a hairdryer and tricky home perms, hair was big in the 1950s… literally!
Beamish’s 1950s Front Street Terrace will include a hairdressers in a replica of an end-terrace shop from Bow Street in Middlesbrough.
The Remaking Beamish Team has been visiting local communities and gathering memories and photographs of 1950s hairdressing. This research will shape the stories we will tell in the exhibit.
No. 2 Front Street
Beamish is building an exhibit which will tell the story of the Spennymoor Settlement of artists, writers and poets, and will include the former home of celebrated North East artist Norman Cornish.
The Spennymoor Settlement was part of a wider national movement and nurtured the talents of artists Norman Cornish, Tom McGuinness, Bob Heslop and Burt Dees, and playwright Sid Chaplin among others.
The building will form part of The 1950s Town’s Front Street terrace.
A bowling green is set to be built at Beamish, to help tell the story of leisure pursuits and community life in the 1950s. The replica of Billingham Bowling Green from John Whitehead Park will be built in The 1950s Town.
Bowls was, and often still is, a popular past-time in working class communities, and was especially popular during the 1950s.
A pair of police houses from Heworth, Gateshead, and their associated single-storey office, are set to be recreated at the museum. The introduction of these exhibits in The 1950s Town will help to tell the story of law and order during the decade.
Some of the features collected from one of the original houses and the office are set to be included in the new exhibits, such as a front door, police desk and counter, windows, door surround and clock.
Transport and Industry
The museum has expanded its fleet of buses with the addition of a Darlington Corporation Daimler CVG5, which will be used in the new 1950s Town. It complements Beamish’s existing 1950s Daimler CVG6. Keep an eye out for future transport additions.
Work on our Northern General Transport bus depot is now well underway. The bespoke depot and vehicle workshop will have an eight-berth garage area and two servicing pits – through which we will tell the rich and diverse story of transport in the region.
The 1950s Farm
Spain’s Field Farm
While our 1940s Farm shares stories of wartime life in the rural North East, The 1950s Farm will tell the story of upland farms in post-war Britain. Visitors can discover a decade of change in rural life and find out why many farms of this type were abandoned.
Spain’s Field Farm from Eastgate, Weardale, has been moved stone by stone to the museum, and is being rebuilt on land between The 1950s Town and the Regional Resource Centre as part of the Remaking Beamish project. Over 1,170 tonnes of Spain’s Field Farm’s stone and timber was moved to the museum. The farm was carefully recorded with the help of 3D laser technology, photography, detailed notes and architectural drawings before being taken down.
A Georgian bread oven and remnants of an earlier roof were discovered during dismantling. Other objects found included a 17th century cannonball, 1950s Women’s Weekly magazines, furniture, farm tools and horse tack. Samples of the remains of internal paint, lino and wallpaper were also taken and recorded.
The Jopling family very kindly donated the farm to Beamish. It was bought from the Church Commissioners by Alan Jopling’s grandfather and father in the mid-1960s.
Spain’s Field Farm is made up of the main house, kitchen, two upstairs bedrooms, main byre, cow byre, stirk byre, dairy, pantry, stable, cat house, pig sty and outside toilet. The stirk byre was nicknamed the “ham and egg house” as pigs were kept downstairs and chickens kept upstairs.
Joe the Quilter ’s Cottage – OPEN
Joe the Quilter’s cottage, which opened in July 2018, shows one of the many cottage industries that could be found in the 1800s – quilting. Joseph Hedley’s work was reportedly sent as far as America and he was well known for using a border pattern, which became known as “Old Joe’s Chain”. We are fortunate to have, in our collection, one of just three remaining quilts thought to have been created by Joe.
At the exhibit at Beamish, visitors can discover the interesting story of cottage industries, have a go at quilting, explore the world of 1800s crime and punishment, admire the vegetables growing in the garden and see the chickens in their coop.
Joe was murdered in 1826 in an appalling crime that shocked the nation. It is because of this crime that we know so much about Joe and his life – something very unusual for an “ordinary” person of Georgian times.
The museum carried out an archaeological dig with community volunteers at the site of Joe’s cottage in Warden, near Hexham, in September 2015.
The excavation found extensive remains of the building including the lowest courses of three of the four walls, a fireplace, the internal wooden partition and a section of the flagstone floor, as well as animal bone buttons, a horseshoe and a large number of iron nails.
The cottage was recreated at Beamish with traditional techniques and skills, using local materials. Around 1,400 bales of heather were sustainably sourced from near Rothbury, Northumberland, and a master thatcher taught his craft to museum staff and volunteers. Stone dating back over 200 years and 23 tonnes of oak for the roof frame also came from Northumberland, near where the cottage once stood.
The museum worked with members of the local community at every stage of the project to develop the cottage.
Georgian Coaching Inn
Our Georgian coaching inn will give visitors the chance to experience Georgian life in a unique and unforgettable way – by staying overnight in a Beamish exhibit!
The inn is inspired by The Three Tuns which once stood on the Great North Road at Scotch Corner, near Richmond, North Yorkshire, and will include taprooms and an 1820s kitchen.
A variety of Georgian food and drink will be available. Seasonal dishes that would have been enjoyed around the region in the 1820s will feature on the menu, following research carried out by the Remaking Beamish Team.
Plans for this exciting exhibit have been drawn using two early 20th century photographs and a handful of archive documents, including the demolition plan for the original coaching inn which was knocked down in 1938.
We would like to thank the following trusts and foundations for their contributions towards Remaking Beamish:
Banks Development Fund ǀ Barbour Foundation ǀ Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust ǀ Charles Hayward Foundation ǀ Co-op Funeralcare ǀ County Durham Community Foundation ǀ Esmee Fairbairn Foundation ǀ Finnis Scott Foundation ǀ Garfield Weston Foundation ǀ Go North East ǀ Hadrian Trust ǀ Henfrey Family Foundation ǀ Hobson Charity ǀ John Ellerman Foundation ǀ Northumbrian Water Green Fund ǀ Reece Foundation ǀ Rothley Trust ǀ Shears Foundation ǀ Sir James Knott Trust ǀ Sir Tom Cowie Trust ǀ Sylvia and Colin Shepherd Charitable Trust ǀ The Foyle Foundation ǀ The Leverhulme Trust ǀ Wolfson Foundation