Two sisters will unveil a recreation of their childhood home when Beamish, The Living Museum of the North opens 1950s houses, police office, and a bowling green this week (9th June).
This Friday (9th June 2023), we will be opening replicas of semi-detached council houses from Red House in Sunderland, police houses and office from Leam Lane in Gateshead, and a bowling green and pavilion from Billingham in The 1950s Town.
Linda Gilmore and Brenda O’Neill’s childhood home won a public vote to be copied after being nominated on behalf of their mother Esther Gibbon. The sisters worked with the museum to recreate the semi-detached house they grew up in at Rochdale Road in Sunderland and they will officially open it to the public during Friday’s ceremony, which starts at 11am.
The second semi-detached house will tell the story of Polish migration into the region following the Second World War. We have been working with Ray Malecki, whose late father Roman was born in Poland and settled in the North East after the war.
Also being opened are a pair of police houses and office, replicated from Leam Lane in Gateshead, and a bowling green and pavilion from John Whitehead Park in Billingham.
The new 1950s exhibits are part of the Remaking Beamish project, which is the biggest development in Beamish’s history. Thanks to the money raised by National Lottery players, the Remaking Beamish project was awarded £10.9million by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2016.
Rhiannon Hiles, Beamish’s Chief Executive, said: “We’re thrilled to be opening these wonderful exhibits in our 1950s Town.
“It has been such an honour for the museum to work with families and communities to share these important stories of life in the region and preserve this heritage for future generations.
“A huge thank you to everyone who has been involved in this project and to The National Lottery Heritage Fund and all of our supporters and funders.
“We’re really looking forward to welcoming our visitors to explore the newest additions to Beamish.”
The new exhibits will be officially opened on Friday by families and communities connected to the buildings.
The Rochdale Road houses were chosen in a public vote after we asked people to nominate 1950s-built council housing to be replicated. In the 1950s, the North East undertook one of the largest expansions of council housing in Britain. Esther’s home, which the family moved into when it was built in 1952, was picked. Beamish worked closely with Esther and her daughters Linda and Brenda, gathering memories of their time living in the house. Sadly, Esther died in December 2019 but the museum continued to work with her daughters.
Linda, who was born in the house in 1958, said: “It’s absolutely amazing. Coming into the house has brought back so many memories.
“It’s very emotional for me. I was born into a very happy family and to actually be able to have this house rebuilt and the history of our family kept alive forever – it is a very emotional moment for me.”
She added: “The staff and everybody involved in the project, they’ve done a fabulous job, a great big thank you.”
Brenda added: “It’s such a massive privilege. My mam absolutely loved this house, it was like somebody gave her the best thing ever in her life. That’s just so important for me, that my mam will be remembered for who she was and the kind of life she had and it was a happy place and that’s wonderful.”
The second semi-detached house will tell the story of Polish migration after the Second World War. We have worked with several families on the project, collecting their stories, experiences and objects. They include Ray Malecki whose late father Roman left Poland as a teenager and fought with the Free Polish Forces during the Second World War, later settling in the North East with the support of the Polish Resettlement Corps. Roman trained as a miner and worked in the North East, in Ashington Colliery.
Ray said: “It’s wonderful to be able to share my dad’s story. He was a lovely guy, got on with people very, very well. I’ll be delighted to bring my family and see the exhibit.”
Two police houses and their associated office, from Leam Lane in Gateshead, have been copied to tell the story of 1950s policing and the lives of officers and their families. The museum worked with Councillor John Shuttleworth who, as the son of a police officer, grew up in one of the police houses replicated by the museum. The museum also worked closely with the North East Police History Society (NEPHS).
The bowling green and pavilion, which have been replicated from John Whitehead Park in Billingham, will give visitors the chance to try this popular 1950s sport. The John Whitehead Park Bowling Club was built in the early 1950s by Billingham Urban District Council. A men’s club formed in 1953, followed two years later by a women’s club, and the teams later merged to become Billingham Bowling Club, which is still in existence.
Beamish has worked with the club to learn more about its history and the pavilion, as well as speaking to other local clubs, who have all shared their knowledge to help tell the story of bowling in the 1950s. Billingham Bowling Club will take part in the first official game on the new green at the opening celebrations on Friday.
The Remaking Beamish project’s 1950s Town also includes a replica of Leasingthorne Colliery Welfare Hall and Community Centre, Coronation Park and Recreation Ground, Front Street terrace with Elizabeth’s Hairdresser’s, Middleton’s fish and chip shop, John’s Café and a recreation of artist Norman Cornish’s house. Work is underway on a 1950s cinema, toy shop and electrical shop. The Remaking Beamish project also includes 1950s Spain’s Field Farm, transport developments and will also feature an expansion of The 1820s Landscape, which will include examples of early industry, a Drovers’ Tavern and self-catering accommodation.
Helen Featherstone, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We are very excited to see another element of the Remaking Beamish project come to life, thanks to National Lottery players. These amazing new exhibits that have been created by working with local people to uncover stories, will give visitors the chance to explore the heritage of the North East and truly understand what life would have looked like in the 1950s.”
Beamish is currently open daily from 10am to 5pm. With the Beamish Unlimited Pass visitors pay once and get 12 months of visits, including daytime events. Find out more at www.beamish.org.uk.