My Favourite Place - Beamish

Historian feature

By Julie Wilson, published 6th February 2014

Beamish, the living museum of the north

Hopping off a tram at Beamish Museum, you're stepping straight into life in Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian times. What I really love about Beamish, the Living Museum of the North, is that it not only shows how communities in the region used to live - but also gives you a chance to experience it. You can hear the hiss of the steam engines, taste traditional fish and chips cooked on a coal-fired range, smell the carbolic soap in the Co-op and get a sense of life underground in the drift mine. Objects aren't encased in glass, there are no ‘please don't touch' signs (which, as a parent, I really appreciate) and the whole family can enjoy discovering their history by spending time in it.

Beamish, in County Durham, opened in 1970, and was the brainchild of Dr Frank Atkinson. Frank, keen to preserve the north-east's heritage at a time when traditional industries were disappearing, had a policy of ‘unselective collecting', meaning ‘you offer it to us and we will collect it'. Years of collecting had resulted in an amazingly rich archive of items, which have allowed Beamish to bring the past to life across its 350-acre site.

I have very happy memories of coming to Beamish as a child, on school trips, and I now love visiting with my own family. The ever-expanding museum is visited by about 500,000 people each year and has exciting plans for the future including a 1950s town, upland farm, and overnight accommodation. I think it's wonderful that many of Beamish's buildings - such as the school, church, Co-op, pub, terraces of houses and band hall - have been moved from their original locations across the north east and rebuilt at the museum, preserving them for future generations. It's always fun travelling around the site on the 1.5 mile-long...

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