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Beamish Museum celebrates golden jubilee

Beamish Museum is celebrating its Golden Jubilee. The attraction, in the heart of the County Durham countryside was founded in 1970 by museum curator Frank Atkinson.

Frank's vision followed a visit to an open-air museum during a trip to Scandinavia in 1952. He wanted to preserve the North East's everyday way of life for future generations to experience, including its customs, traditions and dialect.

Frank had observed dramatic change, with industries such as coal mining, ship building and manufacturing disappearing, along with the communities that served them. In 1958 he handed a report to Durham County Council, plans were drawn up and the rest, as they say, is history.

A double decker bus at Beamish Museum Credit: PA

The costumed staff and volunteers bring this history to life, with objects and even buildings donated from across the region. There's 1820s Pockerley, the 1900 Town and pit village and the more recent additions - the 1940s Farm and the 1950s Welfare Hall.

The 50 year celebrations come as the museum welcomed record visitor numbers of 803,148 in 2019.

1900s tram at Beamish Museum Credit: PA

All of us involved with Beamish Museum are immensely proud of how much the museum’s activities and exhibitions have developed over the last 50 years.

“Beamish is truly a living museum belonging to our communities which has allowed us, over the last 50 years, to enhance our visitor experience and we will continue to do this in future years.

“I am looking forward to celebrating our achievements with the trustees, staff and visitors.”

– Councillor Ossie Johnson, Chair of Beamish Museum
Horses at War 2016 at Beamish Museum Credit: Beamish Museum

Rhiannon Hiles, Beamish’s Deputy Director, started as a volunteer at the museum 25 years ago – and is also celebrating her own 50th birthday this year:

We are so excited to be celebrating Beamish Museum’s Golden Jubilee with all of our visitors, staff, volunteers and supporters and what a year we have in store!

“With record visitor numbers of over 800,000 last year, we are looking forward to a year to remember with activities and celebrations to mark our very special Golden Jubilee.

“Beamish is everyone’s museum and we are honoured to be part of the region’s heritage, it is the stories and memories of the people of the region that make Beamish what it is.

“l am very proud to be part of the museum’s history and we are looking forward to hearing more stories and memories.''

– Rhiannon Hiles, Beamish’s Deputy Director
1950s at Beamish Credit: Beamish Museum

The Golden Jubilee celebrations begin February Half Term, from 15th to 23rd February. Visitors will be able to join in with birthday parties, games and activities across the museum.

The 50th anniversary celebrations will continue throughout 2020, with events, exhibitions, competitions and special souvenirs. Visitors are being asked to share their own memories of Beamish, from family days out to school trips.

1900s sweet shop at Beamish Museum Credit: PA

Despite being a living history, Beamish Museum is still moving forward. A £20million Remaking Beamish project is currently underway. It is the biggest development in its history, featuring a 1950s Town, 1950s Farm and expansion of The 1820s Landscape, including a Georgian inn where visitors can stay overnight. The project was awarded £10.9 million by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Pit houses, Beamish Museum Credit: PA