Beamish Open Air Museum

1128 Reviews

Star Travel Rating


Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

August, 2018

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Product country

Product city

Travelled with

On your own

Reasons for trip

In the C19th, mining increasingly dominated the economy of the North East, with the Durham and Northumberland coal fields producing about 25% of the country’s supplies. Coal really was carried to Newcastle from the ever increasing number of pits. Miners were relatively well paid with their wages being double that of agricultural workers. But it was a dangerous job with over 1000 miners being killed in 1913. Children could be employed at 12 but could not work underground until the age of 14.

Beamish is built on the site of a closed colliery. The Mahogany Drift Mine was opened in 1855 and part of the drift has been reopened with guided tours for visitors.

The main part of the site is occupied by the winding gear from a deep mine along with the associated wooden buildings called the Heapstead.

The tall stone built winding house came from Beamish Chophill Quarry. It was in use from 1855 until the colliery closed in 1962. The winding house contained the steam engine responsible for taking miners and coal trucks up and down the main shaft in the adjacent Heapstead building.

It was a complex and very responsible job and it is worth joining one of the talks given by an ex winding man to understand the significance of the building and how it operated. who explains the significance of the building and how it worked. I have written this up as a separate review.

The Engine shed is a reconstruction of a shed at Beamish secondary pit and is used to house the museums collection of steam locos and chaldron wagons. There is a growing and comprehensive network of sidings around the site, along with different types of trucks.

Pit ponies were used underground to haul the coal tubs. An Edwardian stables has been built using reclaimed bricks. Pit ponies working in the deep mines spent all their working life underground, only coming to the surface when the mine was closed for annual holidays or when there was a strike strike. Those working in the Mahogany Drift Mine would return to their stables at the end of every shift.

The site also includes the Lamp cabin, again a recreation. The Mahogany Drift Mine was free of gas and naked lights such as candles, oil lamps or carbide lamps were used. Deep mines were more likely to suffer from gas, and miners used safety lamps. These were kept in the lamp house with each miner having his own lamp.

A colliery village has been reconstructed next to the mine and again that is reviewed separately.

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

The full account of my visits with all the pictures can be read “here.”:


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