Beamish, the Living Museum of the North, made a very exciting announcement on 27th May 2014, confirming that a bid for finance from the Heritage Lottery Fund has been successful. The hugely popular open-air museum has been awarded an initial grant of £603,800 to progress its plans to create a new 1950s-themed area as part of a massive proposed expansion planned to be implemented over the next 12 years.
Once the museum’s plans are further developed, the Heritage Lottery Fund will consider their application for funding of over £10 million to expand the attraction. The main aim is to construct a 1950s town and farm, expanding the scope of the museum using currently unused land. If the scheme goes ahead, it is expected to create 95 new jobs, as well as opportunities for apprentices and it is hoped to attract many more visitors to the region.
The ambitious proposals would see a second period town created on the large museum site, providing a massive contrast with the present Town area which is set in the Edwardian era. Some buildings have already been collected for potential re-use in the new 1950s area, and would enable the museum to bring to life a time period which many of its visitors are still able to remember. As well as houses, shops and street furnishings, it is hoped to operate trolleybuses through the heart of the new area and plans being finalised could see Beamish become the home of the longest trolleybus circuit in the country, complimenting the longest museum tramway in the UK. Other plans include the creation of an Aged Miner’s Centre offering day therapy to people who are coping with dementia, and the provision of overnight accommodation on-site for visitors who wish to spend more than a single day at Beamish.
Whilst the Beamish tram fleet does not feature directly in these initial plans, any increase in visitor numbers brought about by the expansion plans is likely to have a positive impact on the trams, whilst expanding the scope of the museum in terms of the time period it aims to represent could also reflect on its transport collections. One possible outcome could be a return for Sheffield ‘Roberts’ car 513, which had previously been considered too modern for the museum’s current image, and is currently based at the East Anglia Transport Museum following a loan period at Blackpool.
A final decision on the request for the full £10.75 million grant funding is expected next year, with construction work expected to commence late in 2015 if the green light is given. Having proved itself to be one of the most progressive museums and visitor attractions in Great Britain many times in the last few years, Beamish is clearly aiming higher than ever before and we wish everyone at the museum well with their latest ambitions.