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Beamish - The North of England Open Air Museum

Beamish, Co Durham

Beamish, The North of England Open Air Museum is an open air museum opening to the public in 1972. It's guiding principle is to show what life was like in urbanised North East England at the climax of industrialisation in the early 20th century,  much of the restoration and interpretation is specific to 1913, together with portions of countryside under influence of the Industrial Revolution in 1825. It covers 300 acre and uses a mixture of translocated, original and replica buildings, a huge collection of artefacts, working vehicles and equipment, costumed interpreters, and livestock to show what life was like during this time. The first buildings to have been erected on the site were the railways station and colliery winding engine.
The site is made up of 5 main regions linked by a system of trams which goes round the whole site and replica buses and cars. It is a 20 minute walk from the entrance to the town, and 20 minutes from Pockerley Manor. If you were to walk the site in a clockwise direction you will get the areas in the following order:

Home Farm is a model estate farm and illustrates farm life in 1913. It has:

  • a farm cottage where you can see how the farmers wife spent her day in the farmhouse kitchen
  • a long cart shed and blacksmiths forge
  • a 'gin gan' horse powered engine and a steam-powered threshing mill.
  • a 2 storey building called a 'poultiggery' by staff as it houses chickens upstairs and pigs downstairs.

Animals you may see on the farm either in the fields or buildings include Shorthorn Cattle, Saddleback pigs, Teeswater sheep and a range of geese, ducks and farmyard poultry and three breeds of heavy and half heavy horses which are used for industrial and agricultural work around the museum.

For all images on this page

Click on images to see larger version

The Colliery Village around 1913. Coal mining had a major impact on this region of England and Beamish exhibits a number of buildings and artefacts to demonstrate this. These include:
  • a coal mine originally opened in the 1850's and was closed in 1958. Here you can  take an underground tour of the Mahogany Drift Mine which is an original feature of the site. Hard hats are provided.
  • the regularly-steamed 1855 vertical winding engine, screens, and waste tip
  • Pit buildings
  • Engine shed
  • Powder House
  • a number of chauldron wagons (the regionís traditional type of colliery railway rolling stock, which became a symbol of Beamish)
  • There is usually a pit pony on site.

The surrounding village includes:

miners' cottages and their backyards

a Wesleyan Methodist chapel

East Stanley Board School where you can have a go with a booler ( a ringed hoop with a rod attached) made at the onsite Blacksmiths forge.

Making our way onto the town you get to the traditional fairground, the centrepiece being the traditional "Galloper", there is also a coconut shy, hall of mirrors and Shuggy Swing Boats as well as wooden Helter-Skelter. The cost of the rides on the fairground are not included in the entry fee.

The Town - a recreation of Victorian buildings around 1913 and here staff recreate the history dressed in costume carrying out the activities of the day. The buildings you will find amongst it are:
  • Annfield Plain Co-Operative Store (with operating cash carrier system)
  • a terrace of professionalsí houses, occupied by a music teacher, dentist's surgery and family home, and solicitorís office
  • the Sun Inn public house
  • town livery stables and carriage house housing an extensive collection of horse-drawn vehicles;
  • a branch office of the Sunderland Daily Echo
  • a stationerís and printshop
  • a sweet shop and factory - see here for traditional sweets you can buy online
  • a motor and cycle works
  • a branch of Barclays Bank
  • a Masonic Hall - telling the history of Freemasonary in the North East in 1913.

In the Sweet Shop

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There is a bandstand in a town park, together with drinking fountains and other examples of street furniture.

The Railway Station is a typical North Eastern Railway station on the edge of town, and it recreates a typical branch line country station. It has a:-

  • passenger building dating from 1867 with a ticket office and a ladies only waiting room
  • signal box
  • weighbridge house
  • goods shed
  • Coal Cells

Within the station area there is also a variety of rolling stock including coal wagons and an NER Class C060 tender loco, but they are not usually in steam at the station.

At the station

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Pockerley Manor 1825. There have been people living at Pockerley for over 1000 years and was an original part of this site. The small Manor House today represents what it would have looked and felt like in the early 1800's when occupied by a yeoman landowner with his family, servants and labourers. Also in this area is:

  • The Old House - which would originally have form a strong-house wing of an earlier larger manor. It is lit by candle light and you may get to see candle making on your visit.
  • Manor Gardens - contain a formal garden, cultivated vegetable plots and orchards.
  • The Horse Yard and stables - During the 1800's horses were an integral part of life being used to work on the land, as pack animals and to pull carriages, gigs and carts. They have Clydesdale Heavy Horses here, but they also breed Cleveland Bay Horses, now a rare breed.

Pockerley Waggonway of 1825. Here you get to ride in replica carriages behind The Steam Elephant (a replica of George Stephenson's Locomotion No. 1, the first public passenger carrying steam train. But also in this area you can see:

  • A period Running Shed
  • The Engineers Drawing Office
  • Engine Drivers' bothy.


The museum contains as variety of transport and they make use of much of it to get visitors around this large site.

The Tramway fulfils a dual function, a transport system which links the whole of the site from the entrance and also gives visitors the chance to experience an authentic tram ride. The tramway is one and a half miles long with stops at the Town and near the other main areas running every 20 minutes.

Replica Bus. During the summer season you can also take a ride on a replica bus from The Town to the Colliery Village. The bus is a copy of a double-deck bus owned by Gateshead Tramways in 1913.

Horse-drawn buses and charabancs were once a common site and during the summer seas you can often ride over part of the site in one of two charabancs the museum has.

Click on images to see larger versions

Different forms of Transport that can be found at Beamish

Other Activities

As well as all this there are also demonstrations taking place during the summer season, these might include:

  • Steaming in the Station
  • Brass Band concerts in the Town Park bandstand
  • Chapel Choirs in the Colliery Village Chapel
  • Harness Making in the carriage house in the Town
  • Lace Making in the Town
  • Concertina Player in Home Farm Kitchen
  • Basket Making at Home Farm
  • Corn Dollies at Pockerley Manor and Home Farm



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There are also lots of events running most of the time from April through to end of October see their website Special events page for details.

Further information Grid



The North of England Open Air Museum, Beamish, Co Durham

Ceremonial County: Durham

Grid Reference:


Map Link:


Aerial photo: Google Aerial Photo



Best Times to Visit:

Summer season when complete access is available to the site.





Other useful websites:

Beamish Collections Online

A detailed write up

Nearby Locations:  
Other Relevant pages:

Living History Section

List of Living History Museums

Living history museums introduction


Living History

Date Updated: 07/2008


Planning Grid


The North of England Open Air Museum, Beamish, Co Durham

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

12 miles north west of historic Durham City and 8 miles south west of Newcastle upon Tyne. From A1M J63 follow the tourist signs.


Once inside they run a regular Tramway and Bus service around the site. The last tram from the town back to the entrance is 5pm.


Free large car park on site. Car Park for people with disabilities


Souvenir Shops, Picnic areas, Toilets in most areas, 4 eateries with at least one being open during the winter period.

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Lots of things to photograph

What to take:


Nature highlights:

Farm animals, horses and some visiting wildlife


Beamish Museum


County Durham




0191 370 4000

Opening times:

Summer Season 2008 15th Mar-2nd Nov Daily 10am to 5pm, last admission 3pm

Winter Season 2008/2009

3rd Nov-3rd Apr 2009 10am to 4pm, last admission 3pm

Closed Mon and Fri.  Closed 8th Dec-2nd Jan 2009 inclusive.

A winter visit is centred on The Town and tramway only. Other areas of the Museum are closed and admission charges are reduced.


Summer: Adult £16; 60+ £13; Child (5-16yrs) £10; Family (2+2) £46

Winter: Adult £6; 60+ £6; Child (5-16yrs) £6.

Also have annual passes see this link for details.

Fairground rides not included in entrance fee and costs £1.20 a ticket

Photo Restrictions:


Other Restrictions:  
Special Needs Access: steps into many period buildings. Drift mine is not accessible to wheelchair users
Special Needs Facilities: Wheelchair accessible toilets in most areas. Have photographic files available for visitors unable to view the actual building inside.
Children Facilities: Baby Changing Facilities
Dogs Allowed: Must be kept on lead. Only guide dogs and hearing dogs are allowed into buildings and catering areas.

CIN Page Ref:


Date Updated: 07/2008

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