Category Archives: Buildings Team

Work begins on the Hearse House interior

With the Hearse House build finally completed, the team can now turn their attention to the interior of the building. Our Buildings Team Assistant, Shannon, has been collecting research on a number of similar buildings across the north of England in order to gain a better understanding of what the interiors of these buildings may have looked like in the Georgian period and what objects should be included to ensure historical accuracy.

img_7160

There are a good number of hearse houses still in existence across the region, often owing their survival to being tucked away on church property and frequently repurposed as storage space. There are in fact quite a few listed hearse houses in the country, though generally listed in association with the church itself and based on age, rather than on architectural interest. Where records do exist, they generally focus on the exterior of the building with little record of the interiors. For our purposes, rare surviving examples offer a good basis from which to start. For us, the well preserved Georgian hearse house at St Mary’s Church, Prestwich (Greater Manchester), with its lime washed walls and original fixtures and furnishings was an excellent source.

A number of the hearse houses have decorated or carved key stones, usually either inscribed with the date of the building inscribed with the date of the building (St George’s Church, Hyde, Cheshire) or with depictions of ‘momento mori’ style images, such as the skull and cross bones see at St George’s, Hyde; St George’s, Tameside and All Saints, Stockport.

skull and cross bones key stone

Skull and crossbones keystone, St. George’s Church, Hyde, Cheshire

Similar images can also be seen in the interiors of these buildings, as visible at St. Mary’s Church, Prestwich where an earlier tomb chrest and a medieval tomb slab have been incorperated inot the later Georgian building.

2016-11-06 11.53.23

1668 tomb slab incorperated into the late building. St. Mary’s Church, Prestwich

 

These buildings would have all had lime washed interiors. This was common for most vernacular buildings during that period, whether functional or domestic, due to the antibacterial properties of lime wash.

While preparations begin to lime wash our building’s interior walls, Shannon has been busy down in the museum’s stores. She has been working with Rosie from our Collections Team to identify relevant objects from our collections which will help to give life to our building and tell the story of our Georgian grave digger.

IMG_0612

Rosie from the Collections Team tagging objects from our stores for use in the Hearse House

 

These included some lovely examples of nineteenth century spades and shovels; the tools of the trade of a Georgian gravedigger. In the early nineteenth century grave digging was not a distinct profession as such, but often undertaken by a church sexton alongside their other tasks. The tools used by grave diggers at this time would therefore not generally be specialised for the task, but rather they would be general purpose farming tools of the day.

IMG_0615

Examples of 19th century shovels and spades for inclusion in the Hearse House

 

The tools will hang in the Hearse House ready for our imagined gravedigger to use, along with a number of other more individual effects and objects to add a more personal touch to our grave digger. These will be items he would require to conduct his daily business; candles, a tinder box, a set of keys, perhaps carried on his belt and a place to hang his cloak and hat when he has come in from the bitter wilds.

Contemporary images often hold a wealth of historical information and we will often refer to them when trying to get the right historical ‘feeling’ and look of a building. This was also useful in thinking about our Georgian grave digger. We looked at a number of eighteenth and early nineteenth century etchings and paintings, including this nineteenth century engraving by Edward Dalziel that encapsulates the Georgian grave digger; from the keys on his belt, to the tear dropped shaped spade he carries.

grave digger 18th c

19th century image of a grave digger painted by Edward Dalziel (copywright Harvard Art)

Obviously our church yard at St Helen’s will not be in use but the hearse house helps to broaden the story we tell of life in the Georgian North and further expands the understanding of what life was like for ordinary working people at this time. It completes the story of how people’s lives interacted with the church in the late Georgian period. From their first interactions through baptism in the font, through to the celebration of marriage and the ringing of church bells, to their final journeys as customers of the hearse and grave digger, the church as an ever-present part of people’s lives. It is often only through parish records, like the ones from Marrick Priory that first record the use of our 1828 hearse, that we know any details of a person’s life prior to census records beginning later in the nineteenth century.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Buildings Team, Hearse House, St Helen's Church

Shannon’s new assistant

Enzo the Chihuaua came to to the office yesterday to assist Shannon with some vital work. He’s taking his new role very seriously and making sure the office is kept clear of distractions and everyone is getting their work done! He got to meet all the team and get cuddles and treats and threw in the odd growl for good measure. He plans to pop by every now and again just to keep a watchful eye on us all.

Leave a comment

Filed under Buildings Team

Super moon over Beamish

dscn1056

Early yesterday morning Paul captured the magical spectacle of the ‘super moon’ sitting low over Beamish’s Town Street. The moon on Monday night was at its closest point in its elliptical orbit to the Earth – a mere 85 miles! Coincidentally, its proximity occurred at the same time that the moon was at its fullest in the monthly lunar cycle – which created the illusion of a larger than usual moon. This is something that has not happened since 1948 and will not happen again until 2034. So we have a while to wait until the next time we see a ‘super moon’ in the skies over Beamish!

Leave a comment

Filed under Buildings Team

Spain’s Field has gone!

dscn1039

We reached a huge milestone last Friday – work on Spain’s Field has finished until next summer’s archaeological excavation of the site. Following three years of careful recording work, the Team have moved 900 tonnes of stone, 50 tonnes of stone roof slates, 60 tonnes of rubble infill and 10 tonnes of timber over the last 17 weeks! This material will be used to carefully rebuild the farm at the museum as part of our Remaking Beamish project.

Next summer we will remove the final course of stone (which are acting as retaining walls) and lift the floor coverings that are protecting anything that might hidden underneath. We plan to conduct an archaeological investigation of the site to uncover if anything remains of an earlier farm building, as the land was occupied continuously from the mid-14th century.

The translocation of Spain’s Field has been a very exciting, long, and still ongoing journey for the team. Here are some of our best bits from the last few months.

Leave a comment

Filed under Buildings Team, Remaking Beamish, Spain's Field Farm

Welcome to another new member of the Buildings Team!

ben-with-door

The Buildings Team has grown again! Ben has joined us as our new Joinery Apprentice. While attending New College in Durham a day a week, he will be gaining hands-on experience through working with Shaun and Dan. Here he is standing with the Victorian four-panelled door that he has been restoring, trying out some of the heritage skills that he has been learning.

Leave a comment

Filed under Buildings Team, Joinery

Welcome to our new team member!

shannon-and-reg

Shannon has joined us from Beamish’s Town and Pit Life Team as our new Buildings Team Assistant. She will be helping Clara to research the materials and period details needed for our Remaking Beamish project. Here she is with Reg, standing in a recently uncovered doorway at Spain’s Field – probably the first two people to do so for over a hundred years!  Learn more about Shannon and her role on Beamish Buildings Team page.

3 Comments

Filed under Buildings Team, Remaking Beamish