Beamish Museum named most visited North East attraction

March 23rd 2023

Beamish Museum was the most visited attraction in the North East last year, according to a new report.

The County Durham open air museum welcomed 773,814 visitors in 2022, up 30 per cent on the previous year, the figures released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) show.

The report, released during English Tourism Week, showed Beamish was 33rd nationally in the most visited attractions among ALVA members, and the highest in the region. Topping the list was Windsor Great Park (5.5million visits), National History Museum (4.65million) and British Museum (4.1million).

Sally Dixon, Beamish’s Assistant Director Partnerships and Communications, said: “We’re delighted that the new ALVA report has named Beamish as the most visited attraction in the region.

“It’s fantastic to see so many visitors of all ages coming to experience the museum, which is testament to the hard work of our wonderful staff and volunteers.

“This is a very exciting time for Beamish, with the opening of six new 1950s exhibits last year, and more new additions to come this year as part of our Remaking Beamish project, along with a packed events programme.

“We’re proud to be part of our amazing region, which has such a vibrant tourism offer.”

Beamish staff celebrate the opening of Spain's Field Farm

Beamish staff at the opening of Spain’s Field Farm.

The museum’s successful year means it is nearing pre-pandemic visitor levels. Beamish is a charity that relies on visitors for 95 per cent of its income, so having to close three times during the pandemic had a huge impact.

During 2022, Beamish opened its 1950s Front Street terrace, which includes Elizabeth’s Hairdressers, John’s Café, Middleton’s Fish and Chips and a recreation of artist Norman Cornish’s home. Spain’s Field Farm, which was moved to the museum from Weardale, also opened its doors, followed by Coronation Park and Recreation Ground.

This year, the museum is due to open more of its 1950s Town, including semi-detached houses, police houses and office, and a bowling green and pavilion. There will also be 1950s aged miners’ homes that will provide a dedicated space for people living with dementia and other long-term health conditions. Work is underway on a 1950s cinema, toy shop and electrical shop, and work will also start soon on the expansion of the Georgian area, including self-catering cottages, a drovers’ tavern, pottery and toll house.

The new additions are part of the Remaking Beamish project, the biggest development in the museum’s history. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the Remaking Beamish project was awarded £10.9million by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2016.

The museum, which was founded in 1970, has 400 staff and 400 volunteers and gives visitors the chance to experience life in the 1820s, early 1900s, 1940s and 1950s. Beamish’s famous Tramway will this year be celebrating its 50th anniversary.

The ALVA report showed that the total number of visits to ALVA members’ sites in 2022 was 123.4million, which was up by 69 per cent on the previous year, but still 23 per cent down on pre-Covid levels in 2019.

Bernard Donoghue, Director of ALVA, said: “These figures show that visitors flocked back to their favourite places in 2022 to breathe, heal, repair and to enjoy special moments with special people in special places. The year ended strongly with attractions reporting a very busy Christmas, strong visitor numbers and strong retail sales. People clearly wanted to create special memories with their loved ones after two difficult years and a challenging economic climate.

“We are still experiencing the tourism equivalent of ‘long Covid’ with many attractions still not back up to 2019 visitor levels due, mainly, to the absence of international visitors, notably from China and the Far East, but I am confident that they will return this year and we will see a continuing healthy recovery.”

In addition to new exhibits, Beamish also has a packed year-round programme of events, which this year include the Steam Gala (1st & 2nd April), Fares Please transport event and Coronation Celebrations (6th to 8th May), Horses in Harness (10th & 11th June), Dig for Victory (31st August to 3rd September), Harvest Celebrations (30th September & 1st October), as well as its popular Christmas season.

Daytime activities are included in admission to the museum and are free to Unlimited Pass holders and Friends of Beamish membership.