Trip to Beamish Museum

The Orton and Tebay Local History Society left a wet and windy Cumbria to visit Beamish Museum , but by the time we arrived the sun was shining even though a gale was blowing.

Beamish depicts life from the early 1800's to the early 1900's including work and home life ,as well as shops, businesses, and travel.

We started our day at the Pockerley Waggonway which was built to move coal from the pit to the river. The Great Shed contains not just the managers office but the bothy with its coal fire where the men had their breaks.  

Shown here is the Steam Elephant leaving the shed to start its days work. 

Next onto Pockerley Old Hall with its medieval house with wood timbers dating from 1440's and the Hall attached which dates from the 1720's with the Georgian designed gardens and farm buildings. The hall would have been lived in by a yeoman farmer and the old strong house possibly by his gamekeeper and family. The large stone flagged kitchen contained a range with the beehive bread oven beside it. Upstairs the families bedrooms facing over the south facing gardens, and had Durham quilts on the beds.

We then moved onto the town and first visited the Masonic Hall and Barclays Bank. The Masonic Hall had been in use until the early 1930's and with the help of the Grand Lodge of Durham it was acquired for Beamish. A grand building indeed with some beautiful stained glass windows.


Bank Vault

Barclays Bank with its red granite frontage was next door. Inside the clerks worked at the ledgers while in the vaults money and and safety boxes were stored.

Now to the shops. First stop being Beamish Motor and Cycle works containing essential supplies for the cyclist, like puncture repair kits, and the motorists with horns and headlamps. Petrol was not supplied from pumps but in cans. Next door the co-operative, with one shop supplying dry goods such as tea and sugar, (the tins of broken biscuits brought back memories), the Drapery Department stocked with fabrics, haberdashery, button, collars lace, and fabric. (I could have spent hours here) and the Hardware Department with its black lead, pots and pans, candle and shovels. These shops all had the overhead cash system which carried money and your dividend number to the cashier by means of a hollow ball.

On the opposite side of the road we visited The Sweet Shop which was packed with traditional glass jars sitting on mahogany shelves full of sweet like soor plums, black bullets and pear drops. In the factory behind the shop a school party were watching the process of sweet making and enjoying tasting some of the sweets. Next we go to the printers. This would have been the distribution point for the local newspaper while upstairs they would have printed posters, business cards.

Through the archway to the Town Stables and Carriage House containing not just the horses but an impressive tack room and horse drawn carriages.


Time for a break so into The Sun Inn for a pint of Beamish Ale and a glass of Rose Lemonade in the Select, for a lady would not have sat in the public bar. This hostelry was originally in Bishops Auckland. The break over it is time to visit Ravensworth Terrace.

This is a row of early Victorian houses from Gateshead built in the 1830's or 40's. The first house was that of a piano and singing teacher. It felt cluttered and dark in the Victoria way. In the kitchen was a cast iron range where we were offered fruit scones freshly cooked that morning. Upstairs the bedroom had a four-poster bed which had a Durham quilt on it. These rooms contained wash stands as there were no bathrooms. Next onto the dentists (not my favourite place) where it was normal for them to set up practice in an upstairs room. The technicians room was the small bedroom next door where false teeth were prepared. It was normal in Victorian time for parents, on their daughters 21st birthday, to pay to have all their teeth removed and replaced with false teeth!

Next is the solicitors with a very large desk covered in documents and around the walls deed boxes from his clients. This is based on a Newcastle Quaker solicitor. At this time a solicitors was also the registrar of births, marriages and deaths.


Window on the stairs in the Music Teachers House

No time to go to the park and the band stand but we had a quick look at the railway station from the footbridge near the signal box that dates from 1896. On past the fairground to Home Farm.

Home Farm is set in the 1870's and was once part of the Beamish Estate. In the yards behind the farm house a blacksmith was working, and the farm buildings contain many horse-drawn farm implements. There was also a horse gin and thresher. In the midden yard were rare breed hens and Clydesdale Horses.

Into the farm house pass the cheese press and we were welcomed into the kitchen with its large range and this time apple pie was being offered. We sat for a while in front of the fire and spoke to the farmers wife of her life. On leaving we left for the pit village passing the geese and ducks, not forgetting the pigs.

The school was our first stop at the pit village. This was once at East Stanley and when it closed the three classrooms were rebuilt at Beamish. At the beginning of the 20th century it was compulsory for children to attend school until the age of twelve. Here they would have learnt the 3 R's. It one room schoolchildren were learning to write on a slate and here discipline was strict and they did not spare the cane or spoil the child. Next door is the Methodist Chapel built in 1854 originally at Pit Hill Inside it was set up ready for a magic lantern show.

Over the road to the Pit Cottages which were built in Hetten-le-Hole in 1860's for the pitmen and their families. Houses and coal were supplied free of charge in exchange for labour. The back yards had "netties" which were emptied weekly by a nightsoilman and they had 1 water standpipe between them. One house shows a proggy rug being made in the kitchen and in another the lady of the house was doing the washing as it was Monday. Pitmen were good gardeners and each cottage had a small garden with a good crop of vegetables in it


Pit Village

We were nearing the end of our time so just a quick visit to the Colliery winding engine shed where Tom ragalled us with tales of his experience of being the child of a mining family. Unfortunately no time to go to the fish and chip shop or the drift mine so we caught one of the buses back to the exit.

Beamish has several trams and buses that you can catch from place to place some of which are replicas and others carefully restored.

Just in time for a drink before the coach trip home and back to the rain. Every one enjoyed the day out and thank you to Wendy for organising it.





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