Tag Archives: Joinery

Work continues on our Georgian Hearse House

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.


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Colour and detail arrives at the Chemist’s

As we hurtle towards our official opening in May, paint is going on the walls, the shop front is being sign-written, and the fireplace surround has been fitted.


Sarah working on the sign-writing on the Chemist shop front

Sarah Jarman, our contract sign-writer has been working through the cold weather to bring the shop front alive. Clara and Sarah’s design for the fascia boards and wall panels are based upon shop fronts from the period. Victorian chemist shops were often very elaborate and full of advertising, intended to promote the various remedies that they sold. The windows of our Chemist’s will also be covered in raised lettering to indicate that alongside more conventional medicines, chemists and pharmacies sold photographic materials, surgical appliances and veterinary medicines.

Chemist shop front examples

Examples of  late Victorian and Edwardian Chemist shop fronts

Inside the walls of the chemist have been painted a dark red by Neil Harker, our contract painter and decorator. The colour was very popular during the mid-Victorian era following the Gothic revival, lead by architects such as Pugin.Shaun has also made a beautiful surround for the fireplace which incorporates a pair of 1840s shop corbels. The botanical carvings on the corbels compliment the painted glass Tudor roses on the shelving unit that will be fitted  and the floral motifs on the column, which has already been installed in the corner of the shop.


Shaun standing with the new fireplace surround in the Chemist


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Progress on W. Smith’s Chemist and Photographer’s

As we head towards the opening of the Chemist and Photographer’s in late Spring, and despite the snow, the Buildings Team have begun work on installing the period fixtures and fittings that will help to bring the new exhibit to life.


Shaun standing behind the shop counter in the reception area of the Photographer’s Studio.

In the Photographer’s, Shaun and his team have nearly finished fitting the impressive mahogany panels that will form the divide between the reception and studio. The shop counter has also been installed, which  has been made from the bottom sections of more of the mahogany panels (learn more about the Joinery Team’s work on the Chemist and Photographer’s here). The panelling will also continue along the walls of the corridor of the reception up to dado rail height, with specially reproduced wallpaper above.

wallpaper 1

The wallpaper that will be used in the Photographer’s Studio will be a reproduction of this 1907 sample.

The wallpaper is a copy of a pattern that was available to purchase from the Co-op in 1907. Clara found it in a catalogue that is in Beamish’s archives. It was chosen firstly because of its colour – ‘pea green’ was according to P. C. Duchochois’ 1891 book Lighting the Photographic Studio, a favourite with photographers due to its light reflecting qualities. It also has an Art Nouveau motif printed on it. By the early 1900s Art Nouveau had evolved from being an avant garde style, which originated in Paris to being one of the most popular and fashionable styles of the era. In contrast to the fussy foliage of William Morris-type patterns, its sinuous lines were considered to be extremely modern. This was something which a photographer, whose business relied upon fashion and up-to-date technology would probably have appreciated, and therefore we have decided to decorate the studio in the Art Nouveau style.


Paul installing the Art Nouveau fireplace in the Photographer’s studio.

With this in mind, the fireplace that Paul and his team are currently fitting in the studio with its exaggerated recessed-dome opening is in high Art Nouveau style. The wallpaper and fireplace, along with other details such as a beautiful restored gas chandelier and reclaimed early 20th century door furniture will help to make the space feel at the height of Edwardian fashion.

In contrast, the Chemist will be decorated in a much older style to reflect that it is a more established and traditional business. This means that although set in the 1910s, it will seem as if it has changed little since the 1880s, and in parts will appear to be even older, given that the building we are copying was original built during the mid-Georgian era. This means that the interior will include heavy, dark wooden shop fittings,which Shaun and his team have been restoring and resizing ready for their installation (look out for a further post with more details of this). Instead, of the stylish fireplace in the studio, the fireplace in the Chemists is a decoratively fussy, reclaimed hob-grate. When finished, the walls will be a dark ‘Pugin’ red that would have been very fashionable during the mid to late Victorian period, with reproduction ‘Anaglypta’ (or  raised textured) wallpaper on the ceiling, that will become increasingly stained by the gas lighting.


The mid-Victorian hob grate fireplace in the Chemist’s. 

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Progress of W. Smith’s Chemist and Photographer’s


The nearly completed façade of W. Smith’s Chemist and Photographer’s

The scaffold at W. Smith’s Chemist and Photographer’s has been partially dropped, revealing the impressive façade for the first time.


The mahogany panels that will form the divide between the reception and studio in the Photographer’s, and which once re-glazed with fully transparent glass will allow the visitors to see the photographer at work.

Inside, the beautiful mahogany panels in the Photographic Studio are beginning to be installed. And in the Chemist, the wonderful carved column has been put in place. Although not actually structural, it is intended to help to portray the Chemist’s as much older establishment than the other buildings in the street, and hint at the original building on Elvet’s Bridge past as a Georgian inn.

Shaun and column

Shaun and the carved column in the Chemist 

At the rear of the building Paul, Cos and Kearon are busy constructing the base for the  wooden-framed conservatory, which Shaun and his team will be building. Photographic studios conventionally had a conservatory or large skylight to enable enough light for a good quality exposure. Just like ours will be, this would have been located to side of where the sitters were photographed, with the light coming from the North, to provide a constant, non-glaring light, which was best for taking photographs in.


Jim and Paul discussing the rear conservatory

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St Helen’s Church opens to the public

Eston interior

The finished nave

Over twenty years since St Helen’s Church was first moved from its original location in Eston, Middlesbrough, it has reopened to the public in its new home at Beamish.

To get the church ready for the opening, a lot of work had to be done to finish the interior. The vestry, which the vicar and church wardens would have used as their office, had to be furnished with everything one would have expected to find. This included a Georgian bureau from Hamsterley covered in replica paperwork, candlesticks and a capstan ink well and quills. The glazed cabinet in this little room was filled with a collection of 1825 Adam Clarke Bibles,  a pewter mug and a brandy bottle! The whitewash on the walls were given another touch up and a resplendent and newly restored Royal coat of arms was hung above the gallery.   The beautiful box pews that were kindly donated from St Andrew’s Church in Wiveliscombe were being installed by Sid Lee and his tireless team right up to the morning of the opening!


The fully furnished vestry

Outside, the remains of Revd Moyle’s 1870s Gothic style window (which was a later addition to the chancel) were laid outside to form a flowerbed. Our contract blacksmith, Andy Basnett, created a wonderful arch, which supports an oil lamp, to go over the main gateway to the church yard. Still to do is to install the whale bone arch at the yard’s rear entrance. The two whale jaw bones from two different whales came from a Lincolnshire museum. St Helen’s did originally have a whale bone arch, which is not surprising given Eston’s close proximity to the coast.

team at eston.jpg

Some of the members of the team who worked on the church

On Saturday 14th a special service was held in St Helen’s for its former parishioners and community members – it was wonderful to see the church come back to life again!

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Progress at W. Smith’s

Shaun, Dan and Keith insulating the roof.

Shaun, Dan and Keith insulating the roof.

Shaun and his team have been working hard at W. Smith’s installing the windows, the timber floor of the attic, the upstairs stud walls and all of the loft insulation.

Our contractors have also been busy slating the roof and the concrete screed floor has been poured on the first floor.

All this work will allow us to get the building weather tight and the internal surfaces ready for fitting out the downstairs shop and the upstairs stores and offices.


Our contractor Daniel slating the roof.


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The roof structure of W. Smith’s Chemist and Photographers’ is complete!

The completed roof structure of W. Smith's Chemist and Photographers'

The completed roof structure of W. Smith’s Chemist and Photographers’

After many weeks of hard work Shaun, Dan and Keith have finished the timber roof structure, complete with the curves and twists that mimic the roof of the building we are copying on Elvet Bridge in Durham. There is still much more to do before we can start on the interior of the shop. Paul and Cos need to build the building’s gable peaks and chimneys and the roof needs to be covered with reclaimed slates.

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Progress on the roof of W. Smith’s Chemist and Photographer’s

The heat seems to be going to Shaun and Dan's heads!

The heat seems to be going to Shaun and Dan’s heads!

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The roof is raised at W. Smith’s Chemist and Photographer’s

CB roofFriday was an exciting day for the Buildings Team, as a second enormous crane arrived on the site of W. Smith’s Chemist and Photographer’s. It’s job was to lift the sections of the roof structure (which had be prefabricated back at the Joiner’s Workshop) into place.

The crane lifting a truss into place.

The crane lifting a truss into place.

Shaun, finally able to relax once the roof structure was in place!

Shaun was finally able to relax once the roof structure was in place!

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Raising the roof of W. Smith’s Chemist and Photographer’s

The Beamish joinery team working on the first roof truss for W.Smith's

The Beamish joinery team working on the first roof truss for W.Smith’s

Over the last couple of weeks Shaun and his team have been busy hand making the roof trusses for W. Smith’s. They are traditional ‘Queen post’ trusses, meaning that the rafters are supported by two upright struts (the queen posts) rather than a central support. The first completed truss was put together outside of the Joiners’ Workshop before being dismantled and used as a template for the rest. Once the right height has been reached on the brickwork of the building, the elements of the trusses will be lifted onto the scaffold by crane and fully erected on site.

The first completed truss for W. Smith's, made by hand from Douglas Fir timber.

The first completed ‘Queen post’ truss for W. Smith’s, made by hand from Douglas Fir timber.

The trusses of the building that we are copying, which still stands on Elvet Bridge in Durham, are just about visible in the attic. These trusses probably date to the early 1700s and are what’s called a ‘raised collar’ truss meaning that the ridge beam (or the central spine of the roof) is supported directly by the rafters with the the ‘collar’ or the tie beam connecting the two opposite rafters to provide strength. Unfortunately, while we would have loved to have recreated these trusses, our version is effectively a modern building and using collar trusses on it would not have been allowed under modern building regulations. However, when ‘translocate’ or move an old building we do have greater flexibility to work with structural engineers and building control to reused, restore or replicate ancient materials – as happened at St Helen’s Church.

A glimpse of the 'raised collar' trusses in the attic of the original building on Elvet Bridge, Durham.

A glimpse of the ‘raised collar’ trusses in the attic of the original building on Elvet Bridge, Durham.

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