Beamish Museum is a great attraction and visitor numbers have built up over the years as they have increased the number of historic elements that have been rebuilt and/or refurbished.
The Durham Region, for all its natural beauty now, has a heritage of heavy Industry with Mining and Coal and Steel production. In the early days of coal production a small pit would be established and a community built around it with cottages being provided for the miners and their families by the Coal Pit owner. Many flourished and villages were created that eventually grew to a thousand dwellings housing around 2-2,500 inhabitants.
The mines were either deep or drift and access was by two completely different methods. Both are on display at Beamish to give you a feeling for the way of life, which was hard, dangerous and dirty work. There is a display of terraced colliery cottages that consist of a yard with two outhouses - one for coal and the other the toilet. You entered the house primarily immediately into the kitchen, where the first thing you saw was the fire range for heating and cooking. The oven was attached to the side of the fire for baking and roasting and the fire had various metal platforms for boiling. There were no fridges and so a larder was used to keep things cool and for ingredient storage. You went through the kitchen to the hallway and the 'best room' would be off there, where you took visitors, which was very rare. Going up the stairs you had 2 bedrooms with the main bedroom above the kitchen which was much warmer in winter.
A Group of Miners
This display gives you a flavour of life in those times, which I recognise from my youth. In addition they have created a schoolhouse of the times and built a complete 'front street' with a pub, Co-op retail shop, a dentists and a blacksmith and saddler just behind as well as a train station and office.
Durham Miners Gala
They are in the middle of building a 1950's themed attractions to bring it up to 'modern times'.
There is quite a bit of walking but you can catch a touring bus, ride on the railway or just take the weight of your feet in the pub or the centres cafeteria.
Well over 500,000 people visit this attraction each year and it is the second most visited place behind Durham Cathedral at over 660,000.
We people of Durham feel very proud of these two outstanding visitor attractions but we are also blessed with the 3rd oldest University in England of Durham University, which was first set up as a seat of learning by the Monks in 1342. Only Oxford and Cambridge are older.
My own heritage is through 6 generations of miners on my Mother's side and 7 generations on my Father's side of our family. My cousins and I were the first to break from going 'down the pit'. However, I remember well that, as a miner, my Father would get 'free coal'.
This was usually dropped on the front drive and my job was to shovel it into the coal bunker at the back of our house and fill two large hessian bags to be transported to my Uncle Tommy draped over my bike to their colliery cottage at the other end of our village, which were described earlier. My reward was a glass of Fentiman's Botanically Brewed Ginger Beer in a stone flagon kept cool in the larder.
I nearly bought Fentiman's in 1990 but that is a different story.
Enjoy our rich Industrial Heritage - it is different.