A day out in the 1900’s – Beamish Open Air Museum

I’m always a bit envious of mummy bloggers who produce seemingly effortless blog posts about family days out, interspersing fun facts about the place they’ve visited with adorable photos of their offspring.  Every time we have a family trip somewhere I think ‘maybe I should blog about this’ but somewhere in amongst the bad-weather-lost-gloves-feeling-travel-sick-want-an-ice-cream-I’m-BORED chaos that accompanies all our trips out, I invariably end up losing the will to blog, if not to live, and by the time we get home I just need to lie down.

Anyway, Easter Sunday saw the kirstwrites family at Beamish Open Air Museum, as part of a weekend away in County Durham. If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know that I’m always banging on about how much I like museums, but Beamish really is brilliant. It’s not so much a museum as a huge historical theme park, with a painstakingly reconstructed town, colliery and pit village from the 1900’s, a 1940’s farm and much more.  Which means you get history and a nice walk in the fresh air rolled into one – perfect!

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The park bandstand in Beamish 1900’s town – with terraced housing behind

Unfortunately I can’t give you much in the way of fun facts (unless I was to spend the next hour reading up about it on the Beamish website). This is because on day trips, my family all seem compelled by their own inner demon to walk at precisely their own pace and in their own chosen direction  – which of course bears absolutely no relation to any other family member’s preferred destination.  I’d use the phrase ‘herding cats’ here, but I’ve always imagined cats meandering aimlessly, whereas my family are usually hell bent on heading in the opposite direction from each other as quickly as possible.  This means that any opportunity for me to look at a display or read an information board is usually curtailed by the need to race after whoever looks most likely to disappear over the horizon.

In this respect our trip to Beamish was no different to any other family day out.  We hadn’t been there an hour before Husband was deep in conversation with an incredibly helpful and well-informed staff member in period costume,  while 5YO was three houses down the terrace looking for the one with the inside loo, and 11YO was bounding excitedly from one place to the next on a mysterious mission of her own – gathering ideas to write her own 1900’s story as I later found out. In trying to keep track of all of them, there was very little chance of looking round at my own pace.

Despite all this it was still a really interesting and enjoyable day out. It was a typical chilly spring day – sunshine and showers with icy blasts of wind.  The tang of smoke from all the coal fires was crisp in the air, and the absence of any traffic apart from the old buses and trams, and the occasional vintage truck, made it very peaceful despite the fact that there were plenty of other day trippers there.

Here are a few photos which show how well Beamish captures the Edwardian era.

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NUM banner on display in Beamish 1900’s pit village

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No interactive white boards here! We spent ages writing on slates at these old desks.

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I loved the level of detail in the displays at Beamish: this is a public notice board in one of the buildings

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Minister’s office in the Beamish chapel

An added bonus is that you travel around the site on genuine old trams, buses and even a steam train – all of which the children really enjoyed.


waiting for the steam train

We spent nearly 5 hours there and could have spent much longer. Another good thing about Beamish is that our tickets are valid for a year so we could easily go again, so it didn’t seem to matter too much that the  cold and rain eventually sent us scurrying back to our holiday cottage, to light a fire of our own.

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2 thoughts on “A day out in the 1900’s – Beamish Open Air Museum

  1. We loved Beamish too, when our girls were young. If you are ever in Shropshire, one of the Ironbridge museums, Blists Hill I think, is a similar Victorian town, with working schoolroom (!) and lots of other interesting stuff.


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