A Visit to Beamish Museum: Part 2

There is so much to see at Beamish Museum in County Durham that I’ve had to split my post about it into two parts. Part 1 was an introduction to the museum in general and a look at the first of the four main areas on the site: the 1900s Town.

In this post I’ll show the three other main areas of the site: the 1900s Pit Village, the 1940’s Home Farm and finally the 1820s Pockerley Hall. Between them, the four sites give visitors a good overview of the life and work of people in the North East of England over the centuries.

The Pit Village naturally sits alongside the Colliery. It is opposite the town and is the closest of the sites to the entrance on the above map. As most villages, it catered for the immediate needs of the people who would, perhaps, take trips into the Town for goods that couldn’t be bought in the village, or go to the bank, or to visit professionals such as the dentist or solicitor. For a special treat they may well head to the Town Park on a Sunday to listen to the brass band play.

These are a few photos of the Pit Village, the biggest attractions there being the old school, the Wesleyan Chapel (in which Sunday School was held) and the Village Hall. One group of visiting primary school children were dressed up in period costume for their lesson with a rather strict schoolmistress.

And these are a few views of the colliery:

We didn’t go into the drift mine on this occasion, or into the winding engine house and adjoining heapstead building where the coal was weighed and the large lumps separated from the  fragments and dust. Time was ticking on and we’d been in these places a couple of times on previous visits.

Next we moved on to Home Farm, which represents farm life in the area during the 1940s. and, of course, WW2. In the photos below, the bedroom shown had two single beds to accommodate two land girls. In one of the outside barns was a cafe for visitors to buy tea, coffee and small snacks, decorated as cafes had looked during wartime.

We then hopped on another tram and headed to Pockerley Hall, which represents the house of a well-to-do tenant farmer in the 1820s. The lands around the hall that he would have farmed can be seen on the plan above. A house has stood on this slight hilltop since 1183, and its defensive location suggests there could have been an Iron Age hill fort there long before that. I won’t go into the history of the families who have lived in this hall, except to say that it was linked to the de Pockerleys in the 13th century, as well as several other families over the years. A tenant farmer lived in the hall until 1990 when it became part of Beamish Museun. After restoration work, the hall opened to visitors in 1995.

The following picture shows how Pockerley New Hall (red-brown roof) was built to adjoin Pockerley Old House (right hand side of photo).


These are a few more photos of  the 1820s hall and gardens:

The adjoining Old House is a medieval strong house, dating back to the 1440s. It would have been a place of refuge during conflict and raids (border reivers) and boasts very thick walls and small windows. It was very dark in most of the rooms inside so I’m afraid some photos aren’t very clear.

And finally we headed over to the 1820s Pockerley Waggonway. It represents the year 1825, when the Stockton and Datlington Railway opened.

The first waggonways opened in Britain around 1600 and by the 1800 they were common in industrial areas. The North East was Britain’s biggest coal producing area and coal was taken to rivers like the Tyne and the Wear by waggonway. After 1800, iron rails and steam engines started to replace horse or gravity powered ones: the modern railway had arrived.

We saw replicas of three different early engines there, including the famous Puffing Billy. The engine in use for pulling the little train on the day we visited was the Steam Elephant.

About milliethom

I am a reader and writer of historical fiction with a keen interest in the Earth's history and all it involves, both physically and socially. I like nothing better than to be outdoors, especially in faraway places, and baking is something I do when my eyes need respite from my computer screen.
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21 Responses to A Visit to Beamish Museum: Part 2

  1. Amazing visit, I could spend hours there and even not notice 🙂

  2. MG WELLS says:

    Enjoyed this. Looks like fun. Enjoy the day.

  3. anroworld says:

    A place to be lost de to many corners to be looked at!

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you. Ann. Yes, there are lots of things at Beamish that can be overlooked if you visit in a rush. As you rightly say, there are so many corners to be looked at, and tours into mines etcetera to enjoy. It’s a great place for school parties to learn about those periods in history.

  4. Murielle Cyr says:

    Wonderful post.

  5. milliethom says:

    I’m glad you liked it Murielle! These living museums are amazing places and families love them. The costumed staff are so helpful, too.

  6. draliman says:

    So much to see. Looks like a two-dayer!

  7. milliethom says:

    It’s easily a two-dayer, Ali. if you want to see everything there and perhaps go into the drift mine, and/or take a ride on the little Pockerley train etc. Then you need to allow time for lunch. We’ve been four times now and tried just about everything. That will change in future, though, as they are planning to build a 1950s town on the open land in the middle of the site in the near future.

  8. Christy B says:

    I can only imagine how time would fly there… and about the “man traps” sign, I just have to ask about them.. Was that for a trespasser on the property? I’m trying to figure it out – ouchies!

  9. milliethom says:

    Yes, man traps were definitely ‘ouchies’, They consisted of a barbaric metal foothold trap which had a spring so that when someone trod on it, a metal ring with teeth-like spikes sprung back to clamp round and cut into the leg. Sometimes people caught in them bled to death if they weren’t freed in time, others were crippled for life. They were well disguised in the vegetation. The traps were aimed at poachers, generally on the farms and estates of rich landlords where there was plenty of game/livestock to be stolen. Poor people often resorted to poaching, usually at night, because they were starving, and often knowingly took the risk of getting caught in the traps. I believe they became illegal in England around 1827. Man traps were a vicious and cruel form of deterrent to poachers. Many of the things people did in the past seem horrific to us now. Thank you for reading my post, Christy.

  10. leggypeggy says:

    What a wonderful place to explore. I can see how it would take many visits to enjoy it all.

    • milliethom says:

      It’s a fair-sized site, Peggy and each part is jam-packed with things of interest, especially for a photographer like you. I had to do two posts and I could have easily made it into four. I think tickets cover two visits, which is fine if you’re staying in the area. They say average visits are 4 hours and we were there for a single 5-hour visit (with roughly half and hour to throw some lunch down our throats. 😀 ) Fortunately, we’d already visited three times in the past and knew what to look for. I love living museums and we have a few in the UK. Thanks, Peggy.

  11. Joy Pixley says:

    So much to see and explore, how wonderful! What strikes me is how so much of it looks “normal” — because we (or at least, some people in England) still live in buildings like that and still have furniture and decorations very much like that. And then suddenly you see the kitchen and wow, what a reminder of change over time! So of course, the kitchens are my favorite parts. I could watch people demonstrating old cooking and food preparation techniques all day. That schoolyard struck me as amazingly bleak and not especially conducive to playing. As I said in Part 1, fascinating stuff, and I would want to spend days here! Thanks so much for sharing, and for including all these photos, they’re wonderful!

  12. milliethom says:

    You’re right about many houses in England, Joy. So many in all types of settlements date back hundreds of years and are still lived in, though often brought up to the 21st century inside, which sort of ruins the whole effect, but is necessary I suppose. The buildings at Beamish were transported to the site from all over the north-east of England and they’ve made everything look as though it were always there. Kitchens are amazing, I agree. Cooking methods and appliances over the centuries fascinate me, too. As for the school playground, the primary school I went to was really old and we had a playground like that one. We never had problems amusing ourselves with skipping ropes or made-up games of all types. Having nothing more sophisticated made us very inventive – and I could skip anyone else well ‘under the table’. Skipping was definitely my ‘thing’! (Probably the start of my knee problems even that early on! Lol.
    I’m really glad you liked these posts, Joy, because they’re very long. I just hoped people would realise that they’re nearly all photos. (Hours of editing and resizing…groan.) Why I can’t do anything simply, I really don’t know. 🙂

  13. Did you do Chinese bands too with those elastic bands your friends had around their legs and you jump over and on them and rise them higher and higher. Fab photos and visit.

  14. milliethom says:

    No, I didn’t do the elastic bands but my two daughters did. Elastic wasn’t the thing in the 1950’s – at least in Southport, where I lived. We used any kind of ropes for skipping we could find. Most girls would generally have at least a long piece of clothes line in their school bags. Thanks for the nice comment, Charlotte. Beamish is well worth a visit – or two.

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