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Sunday, 4 August 2013

For Northern social history, The Beamish is the museum to beat!

I’m a big fan of museums – I have been since I was a child. They are a great place to learn about a subject and wander around on a Sunday afternoon. 

But since I have become interested in family history, I have realised that they are as important as documents, archives and record offices in telling a story and often “fill in the gaps” around a certain subject. They also provide context and a wider description of an area or historical timeframe.

No visit to the North of England would be complete without a trip to the Beamish Museum, described as “the living museum of the North”, so we pencilled in a trip whilst we were in the North East.

Situated between Newcastle and Durham, the museum is much more than you would expect from the word museum. It is set over several acres of open countryside and is actually a series of small villages and buildings that recreate a time gone by in fantastic detail so that you can walk around and totally immerse yourself in the rich history of the North.

Particularly of interest to my family history research was a recreation of a colliery and pit village – you could smell the coal by the colliery and sense the danger that lay underground and then go into the immaculate terraced houses of the pit workers and their families. The houses were very cosy!

Colliery at The Beamish Museum

There was also an opportunity to visit the Edwardian town and browse the shops such as the Co-Op and sweet shop whilst admiring Suffragette posters that called for women to have the vote.

Some vintage transport can take you between the sights at the museum, or you can walk around the paths leisurely and enjoy the magnificent views of the Durham countryside. We walked around mainly, before boarding an old fashioned Blackpool tram to take us back to the museum entrance.

Vintage transport at The Beamish Museum

At £17.50 for an adult ticket (10.00 for children, with a family ticket also available), entrance to the museum isn’t cheap but you can return free throughout the next 12 months (if you live near enough to do so!) and there is enough to do and see to warrant a full day out.

Like all good museums there is a well stocked gift shop for both souvenirs of your visit and historical books and DVDs, as well as a restaurant and tea room for refreshments. We got the “Waggonway” bus from Newcastle city centre which took around 40 minutes but did give us a 25% discount on our entrance to the museum. Also luckily for me, it took us through Lanchester (another place on my ancestral trail!). There is also ample car parking available at the museum.


The Beamish Museum was a favourite stop on our trip and I would recommend it to anyone who has Northern ancestors or is looking to learn more about Northern social history. Both young and old would enjoy the museum and as long as the weather is OK, you would have a great time.

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