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What's in Store for Beamish?

By John Grundy (Summer 2004).

First published in the Friends' Newsletter Summer 2004.

We had our AGM recently. A satisfyingly respectable number of you will know that because you were there. It was my second in the chair and I think I can honestly say that I maintained the standard of interest that we have come to expect of AGMs over the years.

The treasurer's report was as gripping as ever, of course, and in general things went swimmingly. I mention the AGM, because after it we went for a walk. We were due to be led by John, the Deputy Director but he had been sent off to a conference somewhere so the redoubtable Robert the projects Director leapt into his shoes and led us instead.

Are there no limits to this man's talents? He turns out to be, on top of everything else, an accomplished tour guide. He led us off at a smart pace, waving his gladioli above his head in the time honoured fashion so that we would all stay in touch and led us round the back!

We sort of turned left at the main car park and found ourselves in what, to me, was uncharted territory. We crossed a field in which lay the stones of a medieval church awaiting reconstruction. They are the stones of the church of St Helen from Eston on Teesside and Robert led us down the hill to show us where they will eventually be reborn.

We came down (by mysterious ways) to the end of the 1820s waggonway and saw that already an early 19th century coalmine is under construction. Around it, in the fullness of time, will emerge a village. We were shown where the village pond is to be and where the church and the village cottages will go and we got all excited.

This is going to be such a superb area of the museum in the future. The waggonway is already splendid, Pockerley Manor too; but as this 1820's valley develops, well I can hardly wait.
I mention all of this, of course,to remind you, as if you needed it, that we are the Friends of a still developing and very exciting museum.

One final thing. John told me the other day that Tommy Armstrong, the bard of the Durham Coalfield, court jester at the court of miner's leader, Tommy Hepburn, and the writer of such wonderful songs as The Durham Lockout and The Trimdon Grange Explosion, lived for part of his life on the site of the museum. You probably knew that, but I didn't and I was fascinated.
To me it seems to make Beamish even more central to the history of the North East.

John Grundy
Summer 2004


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