The first building in a new 1950s Town being created at Beamish, The Living Museum of the North, has opened to the public.
The new ‘welfare hall’ is the start of the £20million Remaking Beamish project - the biggest development in the attraction’s history.
Visitors will be able to enjoy a host of 1950s activities, including music, dancing, crafts, keep fit and amateur dramatics. The new exhibit, at the open-air museum in County Durham, also features an NHS clinic.
Beamish’s director Richard Evans said it was an “important milestone” for the museum as it expands the stories it tells of “everyday life in the North East”.
He added: “It’s a fantastic addition to Beamish for visitors to experience – a lasting tribute to the hard work of all our staff and volunteers as well as the people of Coundon and Leeholme who have helped us.”
Highlights of the new attraction
- Discover the birth of the NHS through the mother and baby clinic – how many ways can you fold a Terry towelling nappy? Enter a rehearsal session for the upcoming play, brush up on your 50s dancing skills while listening to live music, join in with the skiffle songs, or head along to the youth club and play the unusual sounding “socks in a saucepan” game.
- Get creative with the sketching club, join in with 1950s exercise regimes, including ribbon, baton and hula hoop activities, try your hand at Subbuteo and other football-related fun and learn how to play whist.
- Younger visitors can enjoy a 50s-inspired play group with crafts, rhymes and music.
The hall is a replica of Leasingthorne Colliery Welfare Hall and Community Centre, near Bishop Auckland, which opened in 1957. Beamish worked closely with the community members at the original hall, now known as Coundon and Leeholme Community Centre, who shared memories, stories and objects.
Pam Hymas, trustee and treasurer of Coundon and Leeholme Community Centre, said: “We have felt proud and privileged to have worked with Beamish and the community. This has preserved the heritage of what the miners, their families and villagers achieved and now so many more will be able to see the hall at Beamish.”
About the Remaking Beamish project
It’s a major project for the attraction, made possible by £10.9 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The welfare hall is the first building to open as part of Beamish’s 1950s Town which will also include a cinema, houses, shops, café, fish and chip shop, hairdresser’s and bowling green. Aged miners’ homes will provide a centre for older people, including those living with dementia.
The Remaking Beamish project also features a 1950s Farm and an expansion of the Georgian area, featuring a coaching inn, where visitors will be able to stay overnight, and early industrial buildings, including Joe the Quilter’s cottage, which opened last summer.
Information for groups
Groups can be a part of history and the welfare hall during a visit to Beamish Museum as they take a tram ride back in time and experience the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of 1820s Pockerley, The 1900s Town, The 1900s Pit Village, The 1940s Farm and The 1950s.
Free coach parking is available as well as free admission for coach drivers and group visit organisers (minimum of 15 paying visitors).
For more information about group visits to Beamish or the Remaking Beamish project, visit www.beamish.org.uk