Today I have a smile on my face. Beamish Museum in County Durham has been awarded a staggering £10.9M grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help develop a new exhibit, the 1950s Town. It is an ambitious development by any stretch of the imagination and the Remaking Beamish project also includes an area from the 1820s which will feature a Coaching Inn from the Georgian era, along with Craftpeople’s Cottages and a Windmill.
However, it is the 1950s town that I find particularly exciting, possibly the most exciting development since I first went to Beamish in the 1970s. This is because I grew up in a 1950s designed town. We had our allotments, our bowling green (where my Grandpa used to take me and my brother), the Police Houses used to be on a local street and were one of the few to have reserved parking spaces outside them. The former Grand Electric Cinema in Ryhope, Sunderland is being transported to the new site, whilst a Community Centre, Miners’ Cottages, housing and shops will be replicas of real sites of the era across the northeast of England.
It is the start of exciting phase of expansion for Beamish and I think you can tell that by the smiles on the faces of the staff and volunteers in the video below, holding their celebratory street party in a back lane.
Even better news is if you haven’t been to Beamish lately, there is still loads to see and do, today, right now. Whilst other museums offer up exhibits, at Beamish you become part of the museum as soon as you cross the threshold at the visitor reception centre. It is a living, breathing environment.
My favourite place remains the Printer’s workshop. The clatter of the printing press, the sheer mechanical magic of it all and the smell of the ink.
Of course when the press falls silent the Master Printer is always available to chat about printing. He’ll show you how little blocks of metal become words on the page but like most of the staff and volunteers, he’ll rise to the occasion if you throw in a curveball question or two.
Here’s a couple especially for the printer:
- We used to call them small letters and capitals when I was at school. Now the bairns call them lower and upper case. Why is that? (It goes back way before computers arrived)
- My grandpa would forever tell me I’d got the wrong end of the stick when I didn’t understand something as a child. He said it was a printer’s term. What did he mean?
Don’t worry about catching the printer out. He will be delighted to tell you all about it.
You can find out all about Beamish Museum by visiting their website. If you find yourself in County Durham you will probably want this as the number one place to visit on your list.