Beamish Open Air Museum

1128 Reviews

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Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

August, 2018

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Travelled with

On your own

Reasons for trip

For centuries the border between England and Scotland was known as the ‘Debatable Lands”. As well as bloody battles between the English and the Scots, this was a lawless area with perpetual feuds between the major border families. Raiding (or reiving) of cattle was common during the winter months.

The population lived in fortified stone houses known as pele. These were defensive, stone built towers with very thick stone walls and were virtually impregnable. They were lived in by both rich and poor.

It wasn’t until the Union of the Crowns in 1603 when James VI of Scotland became James I of England that more settled times arrived and could build larger and more comfortable houses.

At Pockerly Old Hall, the new house was built attached to the original pele, which was probably let by the owners of the new house to a farm steward.

Peles had the same structure with the ground floor used for storage, or to keep animals safe if a raid was likely. The upper floors were the living accommodation and reached by a narrow internal spiral staircase.

The pele at Pocklington Old Hall has a vaulted undercroft with walls 1.5m thick. Family valuables would be stored here. It now contains a cheese press with massive stone weights.

Above it is the main living room which was used for cooking, eating and daily tasks. It is very dark with the only light coming from a small window.There is a tallow candle making rack in the window.

The open fire provided heat and all cooking would have been done above this. Above the fire is a rack for drying oatcakes. These were cooked over the fire and eaten as an alternative to bread.

The room is sparsely furnished and would have seemed very old fashioned even in 1820. Near the fire is a box bed with wooden doors that could be closed for extra warmth.

Behind is a small room which originally may have been used as a secure storage area, but is now furnished as a bedroom whic might have been used by the farm steward rather than the box bed. Furniture is basic and home made with a large Bible box on a cupboard. It has a very basic earth closet in the thickness of the wall.

This is one of a series of “reviews”: I have written about Beamish

A full account with all my pictures can be read “here.”:


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