Tag Archives: Translocation

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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Piecing together pre-fabs: reconstructing the Kibblesworth Airey Houses at Beamish

In the summer of 2012, Beamish collected a block of four Airey Houses (no. 38-41) from Coltspool, Kibblesworth (Gateshead). Airey Houses were a type of permanent pre-fabricated house, which were developed to help solve the housing crisis that followed the Second World War due to bombing, baby booms and the continued clearing of inner city slums.

The Airey Houses in Kibblesworth before Beamish dismantled them

The Airey Houses in Kibblesworth before Beamish dismantled them.

The first prefabs were never intended to be permanent homes, but to relieve the immediate housing shortages, and as such they only had a planned life of approximately 10 years. Crucial to the design of the prefabs prototypes were that they could be constructed by unskilled labourers using non-traditional building materials. Immediately following the War, there were brick and timber shortages as suppliers, yards and factories had been requisitioned during the conflict to help with the war effort. Equally, the heavy losses, injuries and dispersion inflicted on the male population (who had prior to the war almost exclusively dominated the construction industry) meant that there was a lack of skilled craftsmen to build housing.

While temporary pre-fabs went someway to relieving the demand on new homes, only 156,000 were ever actually built under the Temporary Housing Programme during the 1940s and 50s, and the government was still required provide quick long-term solutions. As the economy began to recover in the late 1940s, the temporary houses actually ended up costing more than traditional builds. However, pre-fabrication was seen as the only way to deliver the number of new houses needed quickly. Architects, engineers and planners were therefore tasked with coming up with system builds that could be permanent homes.System builds differed from the earlier pre-fabs in that the pre-fabricated panels that made up their walls were attached to a frame rather than being self-supporting, making them more structurally durable. Additionally, they included more traditional construction features such as brick-built chimneys and pitch roofs with timber trusses. However, like the temporary pre-fabs, these houses were intended to be easily assembled using a relatively unskilled labour force. As they were long-term family homes they were generally designed to have two storeys with the basic inclusion of kitchen, living room, hall, bathroom and at least two bedrooms. This meant that for many moving into the prefabs, they had far more space and amenities than ever before!

An early Airey, built in 1947.

An early Airey House, built in 1947.

Although they shared similar specifications, as stipulated by the government, each type of temporary pre-fab or permanent system builds differed depending on which individual or company designed and manufactured them. Government contracts to supply system builds were a lifeline in the struggling post-war economy. Often existing companies that had supplied wartime products adapted means of manufacturing in order to produce the new homes. This was not entirely the case with Airey Houses. Although designed by Leeds industrialist Sir Edward Airey (1878-1955) in 1947, the technology itself (the ‘Airey Duo slab’), of using concrete frames, clad with pre-cast concrete slabs had actually been developed by the firm in early the 1920s. During the War, it had been used to build temporary barracks for American soldier who were posted at British bases.

Normally built as semis, the basic structure of the post-war Aireys consisted of walls made of pre-cast reinforced concrete upright posts, clad with pre-cast concrete slabs. The weather-boarding effect of the slabs, along with the houses’ conventional pitched roof was intended to make the pre-fabs look like traditional homes. Convincing people of this seems to have concerned the government, as a propaganda film entitled Country Homes was released in 1947. As well as footage of how the system builds were constructed, this film included scenes of a happy family enjoying a traditional rural life in their Airey, as emphasised by lines such as ‘a home a man can be proud of’.

The houses in Kibblesworth were carefully dismantled by the Museum and are now in storage. They will be rebuilt as part of the planned 1950s Town, in order to tell of the story of post-war austerity and the subsequent changes to social housing.

No. 37- 40 Coltspool are unusual in that they are a block of four with an alley between the two central houses, instead of the more common semi-detached Aireys. Built in 1951, they also included modern luxuries such as a back boiler and downstairs toilet, which the earlier Aireys did not have. In addition to this, these Aireys had a different floor plan to the one suggested by Airey factory plans.

Norma Bolton moved in no. 39 with her parents in 1951 (the rest of the street was still being built!). She has been helping us piece together what her home looked like. Previously, Norma and her family were squeezed into an upstairs flat in Gateshead. Their only source of water was one outdoor tap – which they had to share with their neighbours! She remembers moving into a brand new Airey as an enormous and very exciting change. We are planning to speak to many more members of the Kibblesworth community who lived in or remember the Aireys.

Clara talking to Norma Bolton about her memories of the Airey House that she lived in as a child.

Clara talking to Norma Bolton about her memories of the Airey House that she lived in as a child.

Please do get in touch with us if you have any memories of these or other pre-fabs in the area.

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