Industry News

Beamish Museum prepares to open new 1950s and Georgian exhibits

Publication Date: 24th Jun 2024

Beamish, The Living Museum of the North is preparing to open its newest exhibits - a Georgian tavern and pottery, and 1950s cinema and shops, marking the culmination of the biggest capital development in the museum's history.  

The Drovers Tavern, serving a Georgian-inspired menu, and pottery, where visitors can have a go at the traditional skill, will open to visitors on Friday, 21 June at 11am. A weekend of opening celebrations, from 21 - 23 June, will include music dancing, traditional skills and a Drover's Challenge activity.  

It will be followed next month (6 July) by the opening in The 1950s Town of the recreation of the Grand cinema, from Ryhope in Sunderland; a toy shop named after the Romer Parrish shop in Middlesbrough; A Reece Ltd Radio and Electrical Services  electrical and record shop, named after Alan Reece, founder of the Reece Foundation;  milk bar and STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) learning space.

The new exhibits are part of The National Lottery Heritage Fund supported Remaking  Beamish project which, in addition to The 1950s Town and Georgian developments, also included a 1950s Farm and bus depot. This summer, the museum will open its first two Georgian-themed self-catering cottages, in original farm buildings, allowing visitors to stay overnight at the County Durham museum for the first time.  

Rhiannon Hiles, Beamish's Chief Executive, said: "This is a major moment in the museum's history and an incredibly proud and exciting time for Beamish, as we prepare  for the opening of these fantastic new exhibits.  

'Our Remaking Beamish project is the biggest capital development in Beamish's history and has brought many new experiences and co-curated stories to the museum. This includes a new 1950s era, including a space for our award-winning health and wellbeing work, along with new Georgian exhibits and activities at our stunning Pockerley Old Hall, and overnight stays for the first time.  

"A huge thank you to everyone who has been involved in this ground-breaking project, including our teams of brilliant, dedicated staff and volunteers, the communities who  shared their heritage and memories, and our supporters, funders, including The National  Lottery Heritage Fund, and visitors, this support is vital to us, as an independent charity.

"At Beamish, We welcome over 800,000 visitors a year from across the UK and the world  and we can't wait for everyone to experience these fantastic new additions. Working with our partners from across the North East, we're continuing to drive visits to the region, helping to showcase what an extraordinary place the North East is to visit, live, learn and work in."  

The Remaking Beamish project is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, with thanks to National Lottery players.

In The 1820s Landscape, near Pockerley Old Hall, the Drovers Tavern will bring to life the important story of the drovers who walked hundreds of miles moving livestock and carrying goods across the country, stopping off at taverns such as this to rest.

Beamish visitors will be able to dine like Georgians from the tavern's menu, which is inspired by popular Georgian food and drinks, including potted ham, rarebit, soup, stew and salmagundi (a Georgian salad).  

At the pottery, visitors will be able to see the traditional skill and have a go at making their own creation.  

Seb Littlewood, Senior Keeper of Georgian and Farm Life, said: "The story behind droving is little known but hugely important to the region's past agricultural economy."

"The movement of tens of thousands of cattle, and later sheep, from certain regions of Scotland and across the Cheviots into the north of England added to the prosperity and growth of numerous market towns in Northumberland and Cumberland in the 18th and 19th century; towns and cities such as Carlisle, Hexham, Morpeth and even villages nestled at the foot of the Cheviots like Elsdon."

As the drovers travelled the Iength and breadth of these routes, they needed sustenance and rest, so a network of inns and taverns grew up along these routes to provide for them and other travellers."

He added: "The pottery tells the story of a small independent potter, who would produce wares to be used locally by local people. He would be producing what people needed, so domestic items; bowls, pancheons, beakers, candlesticks etc. He would also be able to make small quantities of bricks and possibly pantiles for local buildings as well as drainage tiles for farmers' field drains."

On 6 July, the 1950s Town exhibits are due to open with a weekend of celebrations with more details to be announced soon.

At the recreation of the Grand cinema, from Ryhope in Sunderland, people will be able to enjoy a 1950s trip to the cinema, watching Pathé News, adverts and films.

Beamish has been working with community groups and schools in Ryhope to explore 1950s life and create films and adverts to be screened in the cinema. Individuals and companies have sponsored cinema seats in support of the project.

The Grand was hugely popular in its heyday in the 1950s. It later became a bingo hall before closing and was donated to the museum by Angela and Gary Hepple. The original building underwent a full architectural survey to assess which materials were suitable for salvage and re-use and a record made of any items that could not be saved. In 2020, the Grand was dismantled, with re-usable parts and features incorporated into the cinema at Beamish.  

Bill Mather, who was a trainee projectionist at the Grand in Ryhope, from 1950 to 1955.  has been working with Beamish and will officially open the cinema next month.  

He said: "I feel like I'm back standing in the Grand in the 1950s. I'm back in my palace of  dreams, it's like being lifted up and being put back into the 1950s."  

Bill has worked closely with the museum, sharing memories of the Grand during the  decade, and is looking forward to the opening at the museum.  

He said: "It's been a pleasure working with Beamish. It will be taking visitors back to the  era of 1950s cinema. At the Grand, we got regulars who would come three times a  week."  

The Grand ignited Bill's love of cinema and was the start of a 53-year career that led to  him running cinemas around the country.  

He added: "The Grand was the embryo of me starting in cinema - being in the Grand and  all the things I learned there, I carried it on right through my 53-year career in cinema."  

The 1950s toy shop is named after the popular Romer Parrish toy shop in Middlesbrough. Visitors can see toys on display from the museum's collection, discover the dolls' hospital, as well as purchase 1950s-style toys. Although not a replica of the original Romer Parrish shop, as these 1950s shops are more modern in style, it is inspired by and named after the original and will tell the story of Romer Parrish, the shop and life in Middlesbrough in the 1950s. Beamish has been working with Romer's son Brian on the exhibit, and with Teesside communities to gather memories and create a  children's film that will be screened at the museum.  

A Reece Ltd Radio and Electrical Services has the latest in 1950s appliances from the museum's collection, ranging from TVs and radios to vacuum cleaners and cookers.  Upstairs is a record shop where visitors can hear the latest in 1950s tunes in the  listening booths  

The STEM learning space, sponsored by the Reece Foundation, aims to inspire the  engineers of the future and will be used by children taking part in activities led by the museum's Learning Team. The exhibit is named after North East engineer Dr Alan Reece, who founded the Reece Foundation.  

The latest exhibits have also been funded by the UK Government through the Rural England Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), Sir James Knott Trust and the Friends of Beamish.  

The Remaking Beamish project has been designed with sustainability in mind, with many of the buildings heated by air source heat pumps, more than 1,500 trees have been planted, reclaimed stone and paving have been incorporated, water refill stations and  reusable cups have been created and electric vehicle charging points have been  installed at the self-catering cottages. 

The Georgian and 1950s exhibit opening celebrations are included in admission to Beamish and are free to Beamish Unlimited Pass holders and Friends of Beamish members - pay once and visit free for a year, including daytime events.