Beamish Museum - History and Facts | History Hit

Beamish Museum

Beamish, England, United Kingdom

A living, open air museum in County Durham with loads to do for the whole family, the Beamish Museum recreates what life was like in the industrial age of Victorian and Edwardian Britain.

Lily Johnson

16 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Beamish Museum

The lively and fascinating open-air museum at Beamish in County Durham brings to life the cultural and industrial traditions of northern England over the last 200 years. Its reconstructed streets, shops, and landscapes allow visitors to physically walk through some of Britain’s most significant modern periods, in a historical experience like no other.

Beamish Museum history

The idea for an open-air regional museum was first considered by Frank Atkinson, the then-director of the Bowes Museum, upon realising that the industrial and cultural traditions of the North East were fast fading away. Inspired by the folk museums of Scandinavia, he endeavoured to set up a museum to represent everyday life in the North, and began collecting objects on an ‘unselective’ basis, stating – ‘you offer it to us and we will collect it’.

Soon he had a vast amount of donated items, and in 1966 Beamish Hall was selected as the first location of the museum, where the introductory exhibition ‘Museum in the Making’ was opened in 1971. From 1972, the museum was opened on its current site with the first translocated buildings, the railway station a colliery winding engine, appearing the following year.

Over the next 50 years Beamish Museum was expanded to include a Georgian landscape, 1900s Town, Pit Village, and Colliery, and 1940s Farm, with further plans still underway.

Beamish Museum today

Within the Beamish complex there are lots of areas to explore. The museum tracks how life in the north of England changed during the industrial revolution and focuses on how the region was transformed through each of the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian periods.

Its status as a ‘living museum’ allows visitors to truly engage with the history around them, as they wander around reconstructed buildings and streets, from pubs to school buildings to a real 1900s colliery! Why not try some wholesome baked goods from the traditional 1940s farm as you discover how families lived during World War Two, or grab a ride on stunningly restored original trams and head to the Georgian landscape, depicting life in the 1820s. The pit cottages also give an authentic picture of life in one of Britain’s most gruelling industries, with its communal bread ovens and pit pony stables a reminder of the hearty communities that grew up around it.

As well as its permanent exhibits, there are also several seasonal activities available at Beamish, with special events taking place throughout the year from the steam fair to the electric transport exhibition. Mixing history with plenty of fun, Beamish is a great day out for all the family.

Getting to Beamish Museum

Beamish Museum is located in County Durham on a minor road off the A693. A number of buses are available to the area, with the nearest stop directly outside the Main Entrance Building, while the nearest train station is Chester-le-Street, a 15-20 minute bus journey to the site.

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