Tag Archives: Beamish

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hunting for Coaching Inns: Finding more details

The former coaching inn The Queen's Head

The former coaching inn The Queen’s Head

Our continued quest to find out about North East coaching inns led us this week to Alderman’s Fenwick’s House on Pilgrim Street in Newcastle. As part of our Remaking Beamish project we are planning to recreate a lost coaching inn (learn more about the project here). While we always use lots of archival research when recreating a building that has both been demolished and disappeared from memory, we are often left with gaps and have to make informed guesses (click here to find out more about that process). To help fill in these blanks we’ve been visiting local buildings.

The oldest parts of Alderman’s Fenwick’s house are medieval, but the majority of house as it stands today was largely developed during the 1700s. It became prominent locally as the home of the merchant family, the Fenwicks, including Alderman Nicholas Fenwick who lived there between 1747 and 1750. By 1782 the house had been bought by Charles Turner, a local innkeeper, who began converting the building into a hotel. In 1783, Turner publicly advertised that the inn was now ‘fitted in a genteel manner’ and that it had been considerably enlarged to accommodate a dinning room, stables and coach house. Many of the features in the building date from this period of refurbishment. The inn became famous as the most fashionable in the city, holding balls and exclusive auctions and won a contract to become a posting house. Amongst its many illustrious guests was Charles Dickens.

Cassie and John standing on the grand 17th century staircase.

Cassie and John standing on the impressive 17th century staircase.

The grand principle chamber

The grand principle chamber

By far the grandest room in the house is on the buildings first floor, now used as a board room, it would have been the main reception space when the building was a house and probably acted as the lounge or parlour for the hotel. It has under gone many alterations, which illustrate the history of the building. The beautiful decorative plaster ceiling, dates from the mid-17th century and is of a style that is typical to the Newcastle area (similar examples can be found in the Parlour of the Guildhall on Sandhill and at Bessie Surteess House). The bolectian moulded panelling was probably added towards the end of the 17th century or early 18th century. The shutters on windows and the two round top doors either side of these are late 18th century in style and were probably part of Turner’s refurbishments. However, while this principle chamber is beautiful, its grandeur would have not of been typical of most coaching inns. The things that we were interested in seeing were the everyday and functional features of the inn. In the cellar remains the shelves that were used to store barrels on, made from stone slabs and supported by handmade-brick piers. Many of the former bedroom doors still retain their original locks and hinges, and the fireplaces their Georgian hob grates. Hidden away in what was a servant’s bedroom are the remains of hand-printed early 19th century wallpaper, which has been restored and replicated by the Tyne and Wear Buildings Preservation Trust who look after the building. All of these small details will help us when making design decision about what our recreated coaching inn  should authentically looked like.

The hand printed early 19th century wallpaper in a former servant's room.

The hand printed early 19th century wallpaper in a former servant’s room at The Queen’s Head. 

While we were in the city, we also visited the Old George, the oldest still operating pub in Newcastle and another former coaching inn. It’s small yard still provides clues as to its former use, blocked up arches are visible in what must have been the coach house and stables. Inside the pub, there is a large recess supported by a huge stone surround, where the kitchen range and oven once stood.

The inside of the Old George Inn, which must have once had a large kitchen range and oven.

The inside of the Old George Inn, which must have once had a large kitchen range and oven.

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Hunting for Coaching Inns: Finding the details

Cassie standing outside of Allington House on the North Bailey in Durham.

Cassie standing outside of Allington House on the North Bailey in Durham.

As part of our Remaking Beamish project we are planning to recreate a lost coaching inn (look out for an announcement about exactly which inn it will be). While we always use lots of archival research when recreating a building that has both been demolished and disappeared from memory, we are often left with gaps and have to make informed guess. Often, it is the smaller architectural details that are unrecorded, such as window glazing bars and door surrounds, which may seem unimportant but can make all the difference in making a building feel authentic. Sometimes, there are larger chunks missing, such as the rear of a building, which may be out of shot of a photograph. Here it could be an entire facade that we have to make a well founded inference about.

The former Georgian front door of Allington House.

The former Georgian front door of Allington House.

Yesterday Clara and our newest member of the team, Cassie, went in search of some local examples to help fill a few of the blanks that are missing on our design for our coaching inn. We headed to Durham to visit Allington House on the North Bailey, former home of the architect Ingnatious Bonomi, which has been gradually developed and expanded from the 1700s right up to the 1950s. Here we found a hidden Georgian front door with a beautiful classically carved hood canopy, lopsided sliding sashes, 17th century roof trusses and plenty of wonky corridors.

A typical Palladian style Venetian window on a Georgian building in Durham.

A typical Palladian style Venetian window on a Georgian building in Durham.

The city of Durham itself provided some useful inspiration with all its moulded doorways and Georgian windows with typically distorted glass.

One of the many Neoclassical carved doorway of Durham.

One of the many Neoclassical carved doorway of Durham.

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