Artist Norman Cornish's home set to be replicated at Beamish

August 13th 2015

The former home of artist Norman Cornish is set to be replicated at Beamish – complete with his studio that was donated to the museum.

Norman’s paintings captured everyday life in Bishop’s Close Street, in Spennymoor, where he lived both as a child and later with his wife Sarah and their children.

Now the former pitman’s home at 33 Bishop’s Close Street, where he lived in the 1950s, is set to be copied in Beamish’s planned 1950s Town, including the contents of his studio.

The house, which was demolished in the 1970s, will tell the story of Norman and his family, as well as life in the town, including the Spennymoor Settlement, which he joined at the age of 15. The Settlement provided free classes and community groups and was an outlet for creativity in an area affected by unemployment and poverty. Writer Sid Chaplin and artists Bob Heslop, Tom McGuinness and Bert Dees were also part of the Spennymoor Settlement.

Before his death at the age of 94 in August 2014, Norman arranged for the contents of his studio, including some unfinished work, and some furniture from his home to be donated to the museum.

Beamish is holding a 1950s community event on Friday, 14th August from 1pm to 4pm at St Paul’s Centre in Spennymoor. Items from Norman’s studio and the Berriman’s chip van – which features in his paintings and is part of the museum’s collection – will be on display. There will be 50s crafts, fashion and food, plus the Spennymoor Brass Band, images from the Everyman Theatre and work from the Spennymoor Quilters. Beamish also wants to hear people’s memories of 1950s life in Spennymoor.

Lisa Peacock, Remaking Beamish Project Officer, said: “We’re delighted to be sharing the story of Norman Cornish and the Spennymoor Settlement in our planned 1950s Town. We’re honoured to have received these amazing pieces of history from the studio and home of Norman, who so skilfully captured everyday life in the North East.

“We’d love to hear people’s memories of Spennymoor in the 1950s and we’re really looking forward to working with the community to explore their heritage.”

The replica of 33 Bishop’s Close Street is part of Beamish’s £17million plans to create a 1950s Town and farm, and expand its Georgian area, including a coaching inn where visitors can stay overnight. The museum has received initial support for a £10.75million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. A decision on the grant award is due to be made in May 2016.

Norman Cornish was born in Spennymoor in 1919 and his family moved to Bishop’s Close Street when he was a few months old. At the age of 14, Norman started work at the Dean and Chapter Colliery near Ferryhill.

In May 1953, Norman and his wife Sarah moved into another colliery house in Bishop’s Close Street.

Norman worked in the pits until 1966 when he left due to a back condition. He became a full time professional artist. The Cornish family lived in Bishop’s Close Street until 1967, when they moved to Whitworth Terrace in Spennymoor, where Norman lived for the rest of his life.