I had the pleasure of visiting Beamish Open Air Museum, a fascinating destination that offers a unique glimpse into the past. Located near Chester-le-Street in County Durham, England, the museum is renowned for its immersive and authentic representation of life in the North East of England during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
This living museum takes visitors on a journey through time, showcasing various aspects of everyday life, including homes, shops, farms, and even a working steam railway. It serves as a significant historical landmark, preserving and celebrating the heritage of the region for generations to come.
A huge location that I found would be a great day out and learning experience for all the family, children and adults alike.
History and Background
The idea for Beamish Museum was that of Frank Atkinson, who at the time of its founding in 1970 was the director of the nearby Bowes Museum. He was noticing the disappearance of remnants of the industrial age and tirelessly sought to collect items and machinery from the time. He basically collected ‘anything’ from the early 20th Century and earlier.
If you ever walked around it you could think it was all a real town that had been preserved in time, but no! All these items and buildings were moved here over time.
The land was selected and the museum opened in 1972 with just the railway station and a basic colliery. Over the next few years the miners cottages were rebuilt in situ, the trams had a demonstration line which today is now the longest preserved tramway in the country.
The 80s brought the town, Co-op, the pub, the farm and more. Even right up until recently you have a rebuilt church, a working chippy and so much more you really need to see for yourself.
Beamish Open Air Museum holds great significance in preserving and showcasing our rich heritage within a historical context. The museum takes visitors on a captivating journey through time, allowing them to experience and appreciate the way of life in the North East of England during the 1820s, 1900s, and 1940s.
At Beamish, you discover the importance of preserving our history, as it provides a tangible connection to our roots. By showcasing heritage, the museum educates and inspires visitors, ensuring that our past is not forgotten.
It offers a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the daily lives, customs, and traditions of the people who lived and worked in the area during these specific time periods.
The museum’s historical setting plays a vital role in creating an authentic experience. Each area within Beamish is carefully crafted to accurately represent the architectural styles, landscapes, and social structures of the past.
From the bustling town streets to the quiet rural landscapes, every detail has been meticulously designed to transport visitors back in time.
Preserving and showcasing heritage at Beamish Open Air Museum is not only a means of preserving our past but also a way to understand and appreciate the progress we have made as a society.
It fosters a sense of pride and gratitude for our ancestors’ hard work and sacrifices, and allows us to reflect on the lessons they can teach us.
Attractions and Exhibits
As I said, Beamish offers visitors a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience life in the North East of England during different eras. It is 350 acres! With old fashioned trams to help those that want to take a break from walking.
There are so many attractions to see now and as soon as you walk in you feel you have stepped back in time into a whole new area. Here are some of the key attractions and exhibits at Beamish:
1900s Town: This exhibit recreates a typical North East town as it would have been in the early 20th century. Visitors can explore various buildings, including a school, a bakery, a sweet shop, a bank, and a pub, to get a glimpse of the daily life and culture of the time.
Colliery: The colliery exhibit showcases the region’s rich coal mining heritage. Visitors can see the pithead baths, the winding engine house, and the pit ponies. There are also interactive displays and demonstrations that provide insights into the challenging work of coal miners.
Farm: The farm exhibit gives visitors the chance to experience rural life from the 1940s and 1950s. It features traditional farm buildings, farm animals, and agricultural machinery. Visitors can get hands-on with activities like milking cows, grooming horses, and feeding animals.
Rowley Station: This exhibit is a fully operational railway station from the early 1900s. It provides a fascinating insight into the heyday of rail travel and features historic locomotives, carriages, and a ticket office. Visitors can even take a ride on the heritage steam train.
Pockerley Old Hall: Pockerley Old Hall is a medieval manor house that reflects the lifestyle of the gentry in the 1820s. Visitors can explore the elegant rooms, beautiful gardens, and enjoy demonstrations of traditional crafts.
There is also plenty of open countryside within that really does give the sense of realism and space. The view from the homestead is spectacular and the scene broken up occasionally by a working steam elephant powering up the hill.
The staff are so very knowledgeable too! They open your eyes further if you wish to ask questions. In one row of terraced houses it all got a bit dark and real. Tales and visuals of going to the dentist, all the original kit on display.
Practical details for visitors:
- Opening Hours: Beamish Museum is open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, daily.
- Admission Fees: The admission fees for adults are £19.50, for seniors (60+) £14.50, and for children (5-16 years) £11.50. Children under 5 years old get free admission. Family tickets are also available at £54 for 2 adults and 2 children or £64 for 2 adults and up to 4 children.
Accessibility information and facilities for disabled visitors:
- Wheelchair Access: Beamish Museum offers wheelchair access throughout the site, including ramps and lift access to all buildings.
- Disabled Parking: Designated disabled parking spaces are available near the entrance for visitors with disabilities.
- Wheelchair Hire: Wheelchairs are available for free on a first-come, first-served basis at the Entrance Building.
- Accessible Toilets: Accessible toilets equipped with handrails and wider doors are available at various locations across the museum.
- Assistance Dogs: Registered assistance dogs are allowed throughout the museum.
Please note that the information provided is subject to change, and it’s always a good idea to check the Beamish Museum website or contact them directly for the most up-to-date visitor information.
My visit to Beamish Open Air Museum was a fascinating and immersive experience that provided a glimpse into the past. I had heard so much about it and honestly was not expecting such a huge scale with so much as what was on offer. A gem of a destination that must be seen by all the family.
The museum’s attention to detail and authenticity created an engaging atmosphere, making it an enjoyable and educational outing for all ages. Overall, Beamish Open Air Museum is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in history and cultural heritage.
All in all it was terrific day. I learnt a lot, I saw a lot, I had walked a lot, what could be better?