By Natasha Anson, Remaking Beamish Project Officer – Community Participation
We’ve been very busy over on the Remaking Beamish construction site over the past few months, with lots of activity taking place to get our exhibits on Front Street terrace in our 1950s Town ready for opening next year. We thought we’d share a little sneak peek behind the scenes so you can all see what’s been happening.
The fence has come down between the terrace and the main road near The 1900s Town meaning you can get a great view of the team at work on the street – laying road surfaces, sign writing and adding street furniture is all in a day’s work!
Middleton’s Quality Fish and Chips
The team has been hard at work installing the wall and floor tiles in our new fish and chip shop, inspired by photos in our collection. The fetching colour scheme of “pistachio” and “sun haze” wall tiles complement our range, which is based on the original range donated to the museum from Middleton’s in Middleton St George. Our range in Middleton’s has now been installed. It is gas-powered, as opposed to the coal-fired ranges in Davy’s Fish and Chip Shop in The 1900s Pit Village, since gas had become the dominant fuel in new ranges by the 1950s. The old coal-fired range in the original Middleton chip shop took three days to remove!
We have been working with people in Middleton St George to produce articles for the newspaper that will be used to wrap the fish and chips we serve. Middleton St George Community Centre kindly allowed us use of their hall in November to chat to people about their memories of the village and about what we have been up to. We’ve heard some fantastic stories, including a story about the local pigeon club taking over the running of the cinema. We also heard that, should you be seen in Middleton’s, you would be refused service at the rival fish and chip shop, Mrs Green’s – it was clearly a fierce rivalry!
Our Joiner Shaun and his team have been busy in John’s Café, installing the original booths, counter and panelling. In order to improve accessibility, our café is slightly larger than the original which stood in Wingate, County Durham, and includes some wider and more accessible booths. To facilitate this, the Joinery Team has added elements of new panelling which have been painstakingly matched to the originals we collected.
The Collections Team has reassembled the seats from the café, which have been restored by an external company to the condition they would have been in in the 1950s. Researching through the layers of evidence on the objects, we have ascertained what we believe to be the original paint colour and vinyl covering, so have returned the seat brackets to a metallic gold, and the seats themselves to a reproduction claret red vinyl.
We have also been working on finalising the menu to be served in John’s, including the winner of our Design a Sundae competition – keep your eyes peeled for the winning sundae when the exhibit opens!
We will be working with community organisations in the new year to gather stories of John’s Café and Wingate. Remaking Beamish Project Officer Geraldine Straker has been working with John’s daughter Maria to create the mosaic tiled entryway for the building at Beamish. It’s believed that the original mosaic, made from small white pieces of tile, was made by John so it will be a lovely mirroring of history to have his daughter add her own stamp to the re-created café.
No. 2 Front Street
We have papered the walls in Norman Cornish’s house, working with external contractors to install wallpaper which has been made especially for the Remaking Beamish project. This was designed to match patterns described by family members and those who remembered the original building.
The wallpaper was used to cover the artwork created as part of Make Your Mark in the front room – over the summer we invited members of the Spennymoor community, as well as Norman’s family and people with connections to the exhibit, to create artwork directly onto the walls. This was inspired by a story we heard where Norman, on seeing that his wife Sarah had stripped the walls ready to add new wallpaper, started drawing on the bare walls!
We have also installed the range in the front room and fireplace in the upstairs bedroom, and work is taking place in the accessible art space above the hairdresser’s – this and the first floor of Norman’s can also be accessed by a lift we have installed to ensure that our upstairs spaces are accessible to as many visitors as possible. This work has been supported by the Banks Community Fund.
The panelling has been installed in our hairdresser’s, Elizabeth’s, along with a Formica counter made on-site by Shaun and the Joinery Team. This also includes support for our soon-to-be-installed back wash sink, to the right of which will soon be two hairdressing chairs where you can have your hair styled in the latest 1950s fashion!
The light fittings were selected by the Remaking Beamish Design Team and are from our collection, they are inspired by photos of hairdressing salons in the 1950s. The colour scheme and layout is inspired by oral history recollections and the advice of the Hairdresser’s Journal in the 1950s, which recommended a move towards lighter colours and away from the older “brown look” of the 1930s and 40s. There was a significant move towards more open-plan salons towards the end of the 1950s – younger clients preferred it, and it meant salons could accommodate more clients, so it was good for business!
We were visited in the summer by Ian and Betty Macpherson, who owned the original salon in Middlesbrough for over 30 years, to give them a behind-the-scenes look at progress. Ian said: “As you know it means so much to us, the cream on the cake so to speak, to think that our little shop has been recreated at Beamish. A world-famous museum that tells the tale of the North East from the 1800s and beyond. It is truly a great honour for us and future generations of our family to now become part of the story of this unique place.”
There will be lots more to do in the new year as we get ready to install our collections and prepare for opening, and we’ll be sure to share updates with you along the way!