A farm that has been moved stone by stone and rebuilt at Beamish, The Living Museum of the North will open its doors to visitors this weekend (Saturday, 19th March).
Spain’s Field Farm originally stood for centuries in Eastgate, near Stanhope in Weardale, before being dismantled and transported to the museum, where it had been carefully rebuilt by Beamish’s team to show life in the 1950s on the region’s upland farms.
The farm will be officially opened on Saturday, 19th March at 1pm by Yvonne Forster, whose late mother Mary Forster (nee Raine) is among generations of the Raine family who lived at Spain’s Field Farm.
Spain’s Field Farm is part of the Remaking Beamish project – 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. Spain’s Field Farm has also been supported by the Sir Tom Cowie Charitable Trust and Friends of Beamish.
Rhiannon Hiles, Beamish’s Chief Executive, said: “We are so pleased to be opening Spain’s Field Farm, with the support of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Sir Tom Cowie Charitable Trust and the Friends of Beamish, as part our Remaking Beamish project at the museum.
“Bringing the story of this farm and its location in the Durham Dales to the museum has been such a wonderful experience and a real labour of love, from the initial discussions around the potential for bringing Spain’s Field to the museum, to recording and taking down the farm.
“We carefully recorded the farm as it stood on its original site before taking it stone by stone and rebuilding the beautiful farm house and outbuildings in their new setting looking down across the Beamish valley. The stories that we are able to tell here have been shaped by the people who lived, worked and farmed at Spain’s Field and the surrounding area. With its quirky features and wonky chimney pot, we hope that we have done this lovely farmstead justice in our recreation of a small piece of the dale.”
Around 1,170 tonnes of Spain’s Field Farm’s stone and timber were moved to the museum after the farm was kindly donated to Beamish by the Jopling family. The building was thoroughly recorded before being dismantled and among the objects discovered were a Georgian bread oven, 17th century cannonball, fragments of 1950s Farmer’s Weekly magazines, furniture and farm tools. Samples from the remnants of internal paint, lino and wallpaper were also taken.
Beamish’s team carefully rebuilt the farm and also worked with the Raine family and the Weardale community to gather stories and memories. Generations of the Raine family lived at Spain’s Field from the 1870s until they moved out of the farm in the late 1950s although they continued to use the buildings into the 1970s. The farm at Beamish features furniture and other items from Spain’s Field that were donated by the family. Mary Forster (nee Raine) lived there from the 1920s until she was married in the 1940s. Mary, who passed away in 2020 aged 101, laid the first stone of Spain’s Field at Beamish and her memories helped to shape the stories the museum will tell at the farm.
Her daughter Yvonne has memories of staying at Spain’s Field as a child in the 1950s. She said: “It’s a privilege to have the house rebuilt, it’s a wonderful thought that Spain’s Field is going to live on.
“My mum was absolutely thrilled. I realise how unique it is to have this happen, it’s very special.
“Spain’s Field now opens the door to generations of many more people who will have the opportunity to appreciate how these hardy and resilient people lived and worked in Weardale in the past.
“I have had the unique privilege of being part of this project, witness to the dedication of the team who have restored our much-loved old family home for posterity.”
Visitors to Spain’s Field Farm at Beamish will be able to see what life was like for families living in upland farms during the 1950s. Spain’s Field had no electricity, and water was sourced from a nearby spring. The family was almost self-sufficient, growing their own food and making butter, bread, cheese and jams. Visitors will be able to see traditional rural skills and discover the farm kitchen produce.
The 1950s was a period of change for agriculture, with new legislation and regulations affecting farming. Many upland farms during this time were being abandoned following this, as well as for other reasons, and have since become ruins.
The earliest recording of the farm was in 1382, with the earliest stonework on the existing building thought to date from the 1700s. The main house was built in the late 18th century and extended during the second half of the 19th century.
Spain’s Field Farm will open to visitors at Beamish this Saturday (19th March) at 1pm, when there will be a procession led by Stanhope Silver Band. There will be choir performances, demonstrations of traditional skills such as dry stone walling, bee keeping and basket making, as well as a display from Weardale Museum.
Spain’s Field Farm is part of the Remaking Beamish project, which also includes a 1950s Town, bus depot and transport, and expansion of the 1820s Landscape, including Georgian industry and overnight accommodation.
David Renwick, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We’re excited to see another element of the Remaking Beamish project come to life thanks to National Lottery players. The painstaking process of moving 1,170 tonnes of stone and timber to recreate Spain’s Field Farm has paid off.
“This new attraction gives visitors a chance to explore the important rural heritage of Weardale and understand what life would have looked like on an upland farm in the 50s. We know that sharing and showcasing heritage can play a huge part in bringing people together, and the opening of Spain’s Field Farm and its work with the community to unlock those stories, is a fantastic example of that.”
Spain’s Field Farm will be open on weekends from 19th March. Visitors to Beamish will need to book a timeslot ticket, including Friends of Beamish members and Beamish Unlimited Pass holders. You can book your timeslot tickets here.