So yesterday I went to Beamish – an “Open Air” Victorian Museum – and had such fun I knew I had to review it. For those who don’t have a clue where Beamish is (I can imagine most of you won’t…), it is in Northumberland… and for those who don’t know where Northumberland is, it is a county at the top of England. If you like your history or cultural bites, it is a great place to visit.
Paying entry, I wondered why it cost so much for the four of us, as three of us were on discounts! Yet after a few inquiries as to who we each were, the lady presented us with a card each which granted us a years entry.
I think this is a good and a bad thing – it’s great for the locals, but as for the rest of us who travel there… yet for how much you get to do, I suppose the price is quite reasonable for a day pass anyway!
A quirky note about the ticketing area was that, while the building wasn’t decorated greatly, the staff were all dressed up!
Once you exit the ticketing area, you enter a room that projects a map that tells a little Beamish story. Once you exit that area, you find yourself outside, looking down at a tram station. They supposedly run every 20 minutes, but perhaps on the busier days they run every 10 minutes. The 1-story (or should I say deck?) trams full up very quickly. We ended up on a double decker though! You never have to wait for the next tram if the double decker arrives for you! Woohoo!
We decided to sit on the bottom deck, and off we went for a glorious little ride through the countryside. The first stop was the stream train section, which we admittedly never visited. (The place is so big). The second stop was the Georgian house and farm, but we didn’t stop until the third stop, which was… The Town!
I guess now is good time to mention that all the buildings in Beamish aren’t actually from Beamish. They were all moved there, and re-built to resemble a typical life in the Victorian (and Georgian) age.
The Town is full of shops, a pub, a grand park and a few houses. We started with the houses (they were opposite the town’s tram station), then made our way to one side of the shops before stopping in the Grand Park for a picnic. After that, we made our way down the other side of the street and to the Town bank and council hall.
The first house we visited was really smoky. That chimmy needed a good cleaning. Had Alice been a boy I’m such we could have sent her up.
The next house was the Dentist’s. I think had I been Victorian I’d have wanted to marry a dentist (if a Prince or Duke weren’t available, of course). The Dentist was the only one to have an inside toilet. He also had a house next door to his practice, so he knocked down the inside to join them. He had a lovely nursery for his children too, full of toys and white frills and high chairs and all the lovely things you take for granted until you see the next houses.
The young boy playing the dentist was really great; he was so informative in his role. He told us all about the various treatments we could get and how much they’d cost us (in addition to how much the miners got paid). For young women – around my age – he suggested all teeth were removed and replaced with dentures. Dentures were attractive for suitors, and would ensure my future husband need not pay dental fees for me. As a bonus, the procedure would be less painful than childbirth, so I’d be all set for my wifely duties.
If you marry the dentist will he do that for free?. Well, those are the benefits should I survive the dentist chair anyway.
To have all my teeth removed would have cost me 10 pounds. Miners use to earn a pretty reasonable (at the time) wage of 2 pounds… so that sort of treatment was out of their budgets. They should go to their local barber or butcher for a few shillings and get their teeth pulled out with pliers, or for free if travellers were in town. Travellers would instead charge the people who wanted to watch. They may also take one or two healthy of your healthy teeth for good practice beforehand. All share a few things in common however; they sterilize the equipment once a day (or maybe that’s just the dentist), and will take your money before they treat you, just in case you don’t survive either.
Why wouldn’t you survive? Urgh, the details were just appalling. Simply put, you could die from the gas, blood loss or “post-operative shock” (pain). I’m sure another is inflection, but that will take a few days of pain as opposed to the length of your doctor’s appointment. 3% of patients – so 3 in 100 – would die from one of the first three. I won’t spoil the other interesting (and painful) facts I learnt… so you’ll have to visit Beamish or read on Dentistry if you want to find them out!
A few honourable mentions in the town are the paper shop, park and of course – the favourite of children and adults alike – the sweet shop!
After a good hour or two in the town (it’s easily possible to spend far more here), we moved onto the next place – the pit village and Victorian farm. On the way, we passed a Victorian carnival field. Note to self in future; check out the map in more detail. You have to walk to the Victorian carnival from the Town.
We choose to see the farm area first, which is honestly probably the best way to see them. The pit village is much bigger, although both share great amounts of detailing. I noticed in the smaller farm houses, although you can’t enter, they leave things like bread by the window. (Actually, come to think of it, maybe people live there? It is a working farm!)
There was lots of animals, and the main farm house was beautiful! There was a woman dressed up sewing by the fireplace, all of which were lit with real fires. In the farm house, they were drying some sort of cakes (Mum knows the name!) on a rack above the fire place. There is so much detail you must be sure to look out for it all!
The Pit Village is the main attraction (other then the sweet shop I hear…), as it is the only original aspect of Beamish. Alice, my sister, and my granddad went into the mining shaft and saw the drill, but mum and I stayed outside. Apparently – and easily understood – the conditions were awful. Honestly, everything seemed out to kill people back then.
If the miners put up with the conditions however, they earned themselves a free house. The free house measured two rooms down, and one room upstairs. Parents would sleep in the front room, and the toilet would be like a cupboard outside. No bathroom. For a bath, they would fill up a tin one, and take it in turns to wash themselves. The eldest (or youngest) would go first, so if you’re last, in a family of 14, you get the cold and dirty water. Nice. It’s a hard knock life indeed!
A good perk to the houses would be the front gardens, which go on quite some length. They allowed space for growing plants and herbs, and one ‘family’ even placed birds at the top of them! The down side would be that, if you were too ill to work in the mines, you would have a week to move out your house. I can imagine men would prefer to die in the mines then admit they were ill, with those sort of conditions.
On a more cheery note, the Georgian house was our last stop, and was just as beautiful. There was a woman making fresh bread in the kitchen, which everyone was welcome to try. This house was by far the most… interactive? There were no ropes to limit your entry in the room, and only the cupboards were closed off/locked. There are plenty of walks around that house too, but we just didn’t have any time!
All areas are well equipped with toilets, picnic benches, and a food/snack shop of some sort, so are really family friendly. There was also staff placed well around each area, usually involved in some sort of activity relevant to their character. They were all really friendly and full of jokes and information for everyone.
If I didn’t live so far away, I’d love to go back for their Christmas Fair!
|Senior (60 years) / Student*||£13.00|
|Child (5 – 16 years)||£10.00|
|Child (Under 5)||FREE|
|Family (1 Adult + 2 Children)||£32.00|
|Family (2 Adults + 2 Children)||£46.00|
Regional Resource Centre,
0191 370 4000
10am to 5pm, open all week during main season (Summer).
(Last entry 3pm)
While there is plenty to do indoors, a lot of the outdoor beauties would be missed in heavy rain. Light rain, with rain coats, would be manageable however.