If you want to find out about the history and traditions of Weardale, this is the place to visit. The museum was established and is run by a small group of volunteers to preserve the heritage of Weardale. It is worth visiting just to talk to the volunteers who are very welcoming, enthusiastic and keen to impart knowledge.
The museum is in the old Manse, next to the High house Chapel which is the oldest purpose built chapel in the world still with a Sunday service. Entry also includes a visit to the chapel, which still looks very much like it must have done when built in 1761 with big pulpit, galleries and box pews. It was one of the largest chapels in the circuit and visited by John Wesley thirteen times.
In the Manse are displays on archaeology, rocks, minerals and lead mining.
There is a display on Weardale railways which were among some of the earliest to be built and were originally used to carry minerals and ores, before carrying passengers.
The Wesley room on the ground floor tells the story of methodism in the valley and the visits of John Wesley. It contains memorabilia from chapels and homes in the valley. Methodists placed great importance on education and learning and the 1788 subscription Library was established by a small group of Methodists in Westgate, lower down the valley. Originally it contained mainly works by Wesley by as membership grew it included a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica as well as classics, poetry and books on history, science and geography.
The Weardale Room also on the ground floor, contains a reconstruction of a typical Weardale kitchen from about 1870. This has a cast iron fireplace, scrubbed deal table and small galvanised bath, very important in mining areas.
Entry is £3. There is no tea room, and the stewards can recommend local eating places.
There is parking at the back of the museum with dedicated disabled parking. Alternately disabled visitors can be dropped off by the door by the main road which has the best access for wheelchair users. There is level access to the two downstairs rooms and the chapel. A big A3 picture book covers the upstairs galleries. Stewards will, if possible, bring smaller items down for visitors to see. There is a disabled toilet.