Tag Archives: Remaking Beamish

Exciting discovery at Spain’s Field

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The remains of a Georgian beehive bread oven has been discovered at Spain’s Field

Last Friday we made an exciting discovery at Spain’s Field. After taking out the mid-Victorian range in the main living room, we found behind it the remains of a Georgian brick-built beehive bread oven. These types of bread ovens were known as beehives because of their conical form – the traditional shape for a beehive. It is similar in construction to the one at Pockerley Old Hall back at Beamish. Originally, the rear of the oven would have bulged out beyond the gable wall, as the one at Pockerley does, but at Spain’s Field, this was destroyed and filled in when the kitchen and additional bedroom were squeezed in between the older house and the cow byre. The front of the oven has been largely destroyed with the insertion of the newer range.

pockerley-bread-oven

The exterior of the beehive bread oven at Pockerley Old Hall is visible just behind the hedge. 

We suspected that there might be a beehive oven present because of the of the visible scarring in the stone work that could be seen behind the Victorian range, as well as the odd building lines in the exterior wall of the gable end. Additionally, the large bressumer (load-bearing) beam that ran from the interior of the external wall to the doorway, indicated that there had been an open inglenook hearth before the range, possibly with a peat plate and oven crane. The bread oven seems to date from the mid-Georgian period given the bricks used to make it.

 

range-and-oven

In this photo the remains of the bread oven can be just about seen in the top right corner, with the Victorian range in front. 

We also uncovered the stone shelves of a former salt cupboard behind the later Victorian kitchen cupboard, which were built into the gable end wall. The salt cupboard would have been used to store and keep dry salt, spices and potentially other valuable items. The discovery of the oven helps to confirm our feeling that the older section of the farm house is early to mid-Georgian, and adds another layer of understanding to the story of the farm and its occupants. Beehive ovens were common in farms and houses in the area, indeed Thrush Nest (eventually owned by the same family who lived at Spain’s Field), which is just down the valley has one too. However, as happened at Spain’s Field, many were buried or destroyed by the addition of later ranges, making Spain’s Field’s a fairly rare survivor. The mid- Victorian range that was installed in front of the oven was made by Altham’s of Penrith, who were a well known local ironmongers that were established in 1831. Though damaged by rust and vandalism, the range was clearly high-quality and suggests that the occupants of Spain’s Field at that time were not too badly off- indeed they had enough money to purchase the range and make improvements to their farmhouse.

The oven and range have now been carefully recorded in situ and dismantled as part of the translocation of the farm buildings.

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The daily grind at Spain’s Field

Paul and CosAs well as recording the buildings at Spain’s Field Farm, we’ve been recording us at work on the project. Here are a few of our favourite photos of life as we know it at Spain’s Field – in all weather!

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Work begins at Spain’s Field Farm

Work begins to take down Spain's Field Farm

Work begins to take down Spain’s Field Farm

Work has begun of taking down Spain’s Field Farm in Weardale. It will be moved stone by stone to Beamish in order to be rebuilt as part our our Remaking Beamish project. We will use the buildings to tell the story of uplands farming and rural life in County Durham. The farmhouse was gradually abandoned from 1957 onward when the three siblings who lived there (Elizabeth, George and Joseph Raine) were asked to return to their parents farm on the other side of the valley, following their mother suffering a stroke.

Like most early vernacular buildings, the farm would not have been designed by an architect or even planned, but would have grown gradually  depending on the needs and fortunes of the farmers living there. Therefore the farm buildings are a really wonderful jumble. They comprises of a late 18th century house that was extended during the second half of the 19th century so that the house conjoined with the adjacent byre. The earliest stonework of this Main Byre probably dates from the 1700s or even earlier, but was later remodelled in around the 19th century during the completion of a domestic extension to the older farm house. Next to this, is another smaller byre (the Cow Byre), built sometime during the early 19th century, along with a later extension to the south that houses another byre (the Stirk Byre). Along the north side of the range there are a series of lean-to buildings dating from the latter half of the 19th century and early 20th century. There are other outbuildings including a pigsty, coal house and privy.

Recording of the farm has taken place over the last three years.

Recording of the farm has taken place over the last three years.

Since the farm was donated three years ago by the Jopling family (who now own the land it is situated on), the Buildings Team have been carefully recording the farm buildings in order to be able to accurately reconstruct them back at Beamish. This process has taken advantage of the various different skills that the members of the team have. The process started with John, who is a trained archaeologist, working with Clara and other members of the team to shovel through the layers of mud and sheep poo that had accumulated on the ground floor of the farm. Underneath, we discovered stone flags, which in places were covered with the original lino flooring. Additionally, mixed in with the mud and poo were lots of objects left by the family when the farm was abandoned. These were catalogued and sent to Beamish to be cleaned and recorded by Cassie and some of our volunteers. Clara, our buildings historian, then continued the process of recording by taking detailed notes and sketches of the farm buildings, looking for clues about the age of the various buildings and the stages in which they were constructed. During this initial period of recording, a LiDAR survey of the farm was undertaken by Geospatial Research, which created a 3D image of the farm buildings – you can view the survey by clicking here. More recently our in-house conservation architect Steve Elliot has conducted an architectural survey of the buildings and will be creating detailed drawings. We have also had rectified (or scaled) photographs taken by Peter Rickman from Kevin Doonan Architects, which will help us to accurately record the character of the masonry that makes up the walls of the farm.

Clara working with Mary Raine to collect her memories of the farm.

Clara working with Mary Raine to collect her memories of the farm.

When the farm is rebuilt at Beamish we will be returning it to how it looked in  the 1950s before it was abandoned. Therefore, as well as recording the standing structure, we need to find indications of what the building looked like before it began to decay. We have taken samples of the paint, wallpaper and flooring left at the farm, as well as looked at scars in the masonry and joinery which may suggest what is missing. The objects found at the farm will be crucial to helping us when we come to select objects from our collections to fill the farm with when it is rebuilt. However, most useful of all are the fantastic memories of Mary Raine (the younger sister of the three siblings who lived at Spain’s Field), who can remember how the farm looked in the 1950s. She has also inherited lots of the items that were originally in the building that her siblings took with them when they moved out. We will be working very closely with her to make sure we get the details right!

 

 

One of the early stages of the deconstruction is to strip the roofs of the buildings of their heavy stone slabs.

One of the early stages of the deconstruction is to strip the roofs of the buildings of their heavy stone slabs.

Over the last few weeks, Paul, and Cos (both of whom are experts in trans-locating buildings, having worked on the reconstruction of St Helen’s Church), have begun the exciting task of physically taking down the buildings. This began with deconstructing the pigsty and coal store that were outbuildings next to the main range of the farm. We needed to do this first as it was the only flat are on the hillside on which to situate our site compound! We then needed to remove internal joinery, such as the floorboards and remains of animals stalls in the byre in order to construct a scaffold inside and around the buildings. Next, with the help of contractors Sid Lee Ltd., we stripped the roof of its heavy stone slabs, to reveal the very crude timber roof structure – which seemed far too spindly to have ever supported the slabs! Throughout the next few months, the walls will be coming down course by course until we reach ground level. All the while John will be on hand to physically number key features such as the door lintels and window jambs, and to record the dumpy bags of stone that will be making their way to Beamish, so that we can keep track of the materials. Clara and Steve will also be helping with the continued process of recording the structure of the buildings. Keep following our blog for updates on our progress!

The recording work is one going at every stage of the deconstruction.

The recording work is one going at every stage of the deconstruction.

A key part of the process is physically numbering key features so that we can keep track of where they were on the building

A key part of the process is physically numbering key features so that we can keep track of where they were on the building

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Finding Joe the Quilter’s Cottage: Success!

We’ve been posting a reasonable amount about Joe the Quilter recently, and I won’t go over his story, our initial investigation last year, or the plans we have to replicate it (Clara also posted some pictures of initial progress of the excavation a few weeks ago), but we have managed to find Joe’s cottage!

Not only find it, but excavate it to the base of the walls and the sub-floor level, as well as dig the gardens at either end of the building. The image below shows three of the walls and some of the flagstone floor. The field-boundary cuts across the cottage at about two-thirds of it’s width – the front wall would have been right next to the road.

Excavated Joe's Cottage foundations

Most of the flagstones and walling stone had been robbed away, but enough remained for us to be able to work out the size of the building and something of the construction and destruction sequences. It turns out that the plan from 1826 is slightly misleading, and the building was actually a meter and a half longer than we’d initially thought. What is very exciting is that we’ve been able to find one side of the brick-built fireplace, as well as some evidence of the wooden partition between the main and ancillary rooms.

The remaining flagstones, with the brick wall of the fireplace in the centre of the image.

The remaining flagstones, with the brick wall of the fireplace in the centre of the image.

The spots of black that are in a line to the right of the flagstone, indicated the line of a burnt wooden partition between the main room with it's flagstone floor, and the ancillary room, which just had a packed earth floor.

The spots of black that are in a line to the right of the flagstone, indicated the line of a burnt wooden partition between the main room with it’s flagstone floor, and the ancillary room, which just had a packed earth floor.

We also found a number of really exciting finds! There were hundreds of pieces of pottery, dozens of iron nails, a handful of buttons (brass and bone ones), a 1690s silver 4d coin, and a copper alloy name badge belonging to a clergyman who knew – and on one occasion, saved Joe’s life!

This William and Mary Silver 4d dates from 1689-1694 and was issues as 'Maundy money' - how it came to be at Joe's cottage we've no idea!

This William and Mary Silver 4d dates from 1689-1694 and was issued as ‘Maundy money’ – how it came to be at Joe’s cottage we don’t know!

This name plate - we think it might be from a saddle, but we're not sure - belonged to 'Rev R. Clarke, Walwick - who, according to late accounts, battled through the snow in 1823 to save Joe, who was 'perishing of want'!

This name plate – we think it might be from a saddle, but we’re not sure – belonged to ‘Rev R. Clarke, Walwick – who, according to late accounts, battled through the snow in 1823 to save Joe, who was ‘perishing of want’!

We’re just in the final process of moving the numbered stones and bricks to the Museum, where they’ll be stored in advance of the cottage being built in several years’ time. In the intervening period we’ll be putting more information about these finds on here as we have research done on them, writing the excavation up for academic publication and having a shorter booklet about the cottage’s history and the excavation created for general interest. There will also be opportunities to be involved in further research and reconstruction of the cottage – so watch this space!

We’re really happy with the findings of the excavation and I’m very thankful to all those who’ve been involved – well done everyone!

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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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