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!
Reg was busy on site earlier today inspecting Paul’s pointing on back of the Hearse House . He seems to have approved!
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.
John was very excited at the remains of the dome of the oven still being able to support itself
One of the early stages of the deconstruction is to strip the roofs of the buildings of their heavy stone slabs.
Work begins to take down Spain’s Field Farm
Paul and John recreating the ‘Channel Tunnel’ moment as the infill from the back of the oven was removed.
In October of last year, after completing work on St Helen’s Church, the Buildings Team began work beside the church’s graveyard on a Georgian Hearse House. It will help us to tell a more complete and in-depth story of our Georgian area. When finished, it will house one of the rarest objects in our collections; probably Britain’s oldest hearse, built in 1828. The simple two-wheeled hearse was collected by the Museum in the 1960s from Marrick Priory, a former Benedictine nunnery in the Swaledale area of North Yorkshire. This early and vernacular horse-drawn vehicle is exceptionally rare, and perhaps more so, as we are aware of its origin and history. We even have a record of its very first occupant, as the Marrick Priory registry records: ‘1828 April 2nd, Mary widow of Thomas Hillary [a farmer], Lanehead House, aged 67, Hearse first time used’. The completion of the hearse house at St Helen’s Church will mean that this amazing object will now have a permanent home of its own and be on display to the public for the first time in decades.
The Marrick Priory hearse, built 1828
Our stone-built hearse house is a copy of the one at Marrick Priory which originally housed this hearse and is contemporary with our church, although it incorporates earlier elements of the Priory church.
Marrick Priory Hearse House, North Yorkshire
The building is progressing quickly and the main structure is now complete. Paul and Cos have finished all of the stonework, while Shaun and Dan were responsible for the joinery in the building, including the roof structure and doors. The roofers are now busy working on laying the stone slab for the roof.
The completed building, just waiting to be roofed
Once the exterior of the building has been completed, we will then turn our attention to the interior. Our newest team member, Shannon, has been researching the interiors of these kinds of buildings in order to inform how our own will look when finished.
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.
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.
Shaun peeking out from one of the newly installed windows at our Tearooms.
While our masonry team are busy at Spain’s Field, the joinery team have also been working hard to replace the old and rotting box sash windows at our Tearooms. This has taken a number of weeks as every window frame has had to be constructed, glazed and the sashes weighed to ensure that lead weights hung from the sashes provide the correct counter balance to allow them to be held open.
The word ‘sash’ is derived from the French ‘chassis’, meaning frame. However, sash windows have a long and noble history in this country. The earliest weighted box sash windows appear in 17th century country houses such as Chatsworth and Newby Hall, as well as in royal palaces such as Kensington. Some believe that the box sash was invented in the studio of the famous Christopher Wren, and sashes appear in the gallery of St Paul’s Cathedral and at his extension of Hampton Court. Wren loved the sash because unlike a the frames of a casement window which would project from the face of a building when opened, the frames of sash could be opened vertically and therefore did not disturb the appearance of the facade. The use of a timber frame and glazing bars instead of lead also allowed for larger quantities of glass to be used, letting more light into buildings. By the mid-Georgian period box sash windows were extremely prevalent and popular in British architect and remained so until the Art and Crafts movement of the late Edwardian era, which saw the revival of the casement window.