Another posting of dubious interest!

"What's that?", I can almost hear you asking. Well, it's a (former) giant steam hammer, and it now serves as an arch over the entrance to one of the North East's best visitor attractions: Beamish Museum! You certainly wouldn't have wanted to get your thumb in the way of that, would you? I cannot imagine what it was used to hammer, or the noise and shakings that would have been associated with its use; to use a much overused word, I suspect it would have been 'awesome'. But now it's just the first oversized monument, of the bygone ages that are represented at this wonderful museum, that the visitor comes across.

Although I've never actually paid to get into this place, I've been there on a number of occasions and always enjoyed it tremendously.  Our connections to the museum go back a long way, in fact they go back to when there was no museum at all!
When the site was originally being cleared, a gentleman named Albert Watson was contracted to do away with all the trees, which would otherwise have been in the way of the construction plans.

Funnily enough, Albert Watson was from the "Felling". A place which was originally named after the main occupation of the place; felling trees! (Like Windy Nook, the Felling only now exists as part of the greater "Gateshead", which in turn is being subsumed by the even greater socialist soviet republic of "Newcastle/Gateshead")

I remember Albert distinctly; thinnish, with a moustache and a characterful 'outdoor' type of face. He also had a dodgy leg (the right, I think) which he seemed to have to throw around from back to front when he walked. He seemed to be permanently enshrouded in a mud-splattered donkey jacket, with wellies sticking out at the bottom! At the time, he was (like many of us) 'living from hand to mouth', and struggled to keep his tractors and wagons etc. running, while undertaking this massive job. This is where my father came in! Dad was the only man carrying out repairs on commercial diesels in the area, apart from the 'big boys', like Adams and Gibbon and R H Patterson and Co Ltd, whose labour rates put them out of contention! They were also more specialist, in that they were main agents for Bedford and Ford respectively, and didn't have men with the required skills with heavy plant and earthmovers etc., which dad also had. So, our dad was often to be found in the snow and rain and mud up at Beamish, howking out a back axle or gearbox while trying to keep Albert Watson's enterprise going. A good many years later, and a good many years after dad had died, I found a small bundle of unpaid invoices for such work! I had thought of seeking out Mr Watson and presenting them to him for payment, but by that time he was prominent in local politics (or something!) and I didn't think it worth the bother and upset.

Our next connection to the museum was during the 12 years, or so, that we had the 1955 Morris Oxford. We were members of the "North East Club For Pre-War Austins", even though our car wasn't an Austin or pre-war! The club held annual rallies at Beamish, which meant that participants didn't have to pay! We went every year as the kids were growing; apart from showing off the car to hundreds of nostalgic visitors, we used to enjoy the picnics and the fascinations to be found at the ever growing museum.

This pic was taken at a show at Washington, and the next was taken just after we had won some rally or other, showing off the cup, standing on the bonnet with two other winner's plaques at the sides:

Eventually, of course, the kids started to lose interest in going to these 'old people's do's', and work commitments meant that I could no longer look after the car properly, or indeed, make the time available for such gallivanting, and the car was sold.

Not to worry! Our chapel organist and choir master, the redoubtable John McKie, arranged for our choir to sing in the Methodist Chapel, which had been rebuilt within the museum, one Saturday! Again this meant free entry, and the chance to have a nosey around, as we would only be singing for two, one hour, slots during the day.  It was great! The choir have been every year since, I believe, but I have been in Egypt on those particular weekends, so haven't been able to join them for the past five years. Nevertheless, yesterday my wayward kid brother (Richard, he's only 50) had arranged for his Springwell Village Methodist Church Choir to also sing at Beamish. It turned out that it was a bad week, and most of his choir wouldn't be able to make it! He was left with only about 7 or 8, so he was frantically phoning around to find helpers. It's a measure of how well thought of he is, that he ended up with a choir of over thirty! (Me included.) Here we are, well, I'm taking the picture.

The back row is taken up with the men, and the people facing the camera from the floor of the chapel just couldn't fit into the choir stalls! The visitors came and went throughout our allotted times, the next picture is typical of the numbers in the congregation during our two hours:

It was a very enjoyable time! Of course we didn't have some imbecilic theological new-age-know-it-all of a preacher picking the hymns, so we just had those which we love to sing! (Strangely enough, there were none by F Pratt-Green!) Hymns which speak of our experiences of God's love, and how He sustains us in adversity and the like. Some of the visitors were quite taken with emotion, and left in tears. (I hope it wasn't the quality of our singing!!!) There were many words of appreciation from members of the crowds, as well as from museum staff who invited the choir back next year, I do hope it's while I'm here!

Brother Richard had someone taking videos with his compact camera, one of them can be seen at  It's actually "When I survey the Wondrous Cross" and we sang it unaccompanied. I don't think it's all that good, but we enjoyed singing it, anyway.

During our break, I had a wander around, and as you know by now; I've had a love affair with motors which has endured longer than my 40 year marriage! So it's to be expected that most of my pictures will be in that sphere. Here's a selection:

This is in the reconstructed car repair workshop, I can vividly remember seeing most of the equipment in my youth, as dad and I visited other people's places. We had quite a bit of the same old junk ourselves! All I have to say about it now is, "Thank heaven for the importation of 'Snap-on' tools!"

This last car, which runs up and down through the museum all day, must be one of a very few in existence, or perhaps the only one! It's an Armstrong Whitworth, built at Armstrong's factory on Scotswood Road in Newcastle, more famous for it's military manufacturing of tanks and other fearsome weapons of death and destruction!

I would recommend Beamish Museum to anyone visiting the North East, there's so  much to see that you'd be struggling to get around it all in just one day! (It's a bit like Luxor in that respect!)

There's a complete village, reconstructed with shops bursting with produce and manufactured goods of the era, a Barclays Bank before the likes of Bob Diamond got his hands on it, and a Masonic Hall for those who hanker after the days of  filial 'preferment'. The museum truly is a marvel, a real monument to some person's fabulous vision! There's the 'Home Farm' with farm house and everything, and the 'Pit Village', complete with the Chapel, School, Pitmen's Houses Allotment Gardens, and the Pithead and the small Drift Mine. There is even the old Manor House, which I haven't actually been to yet. The various (working) trams and buses, vans and wagons, the Railway Station. Honestly, the Edwardian (is it?) era is all here, in all its glory and sentimentality. The staff all look like extras from a Catherine Cookson film!

Here are a few more shots from yesterday:

Tom Cowie's Garage

The once ubiquitous 'Store'

Pelaw Polish was manufactured right by where we used to live. 

The 'best room' or 'front parlour'; we all had them, remember?

The only man in the world of whom everyone was frightened!

Probably a poor ex-soldier, down on his luck!

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