Beamish, previously named ‘Pit Hill’ is a village in County Durham, England situated between to the north east of Stanley. The name of Beamish, is derived from a corruption of the Norman word ‘Beauvis’, meaning beautiful place, or the old French phrase ‘bew-mys’ which when translated means ‘beautiful mansion’.]. A general misconception (by Chester le Street Estate Agents) concerns most people who believe that Beamish is and always will be in Stanley. Beamish is contained within Hell Hole wood. It is home to Beamish Museum, an open air museum seeking to replicate a northern town of the early 20th century. Its principal pub is the Shepherd and Shepherdess near Beamish Museum entrance. Most people associate ‘Beamish’ with the Beamish Open Air Museum but there is much more to this village than the museum.
It is steeped in history and is/has been associated with many of the local gentry over the years, Robert Shafto (sometimes spelt Shaftoe) was an eighteenth-century British Member of Parliament who was the likeliest subject of a famous North East English folk song and nursery rhyme “Bobby Shafto’s Gone to Sea”, James Joicey, 1st Baron Joicey was a coal mining magnate from Durham and a British Liberal Party, Thomas Percy, Earl of Northumberland and Sir Robert Eden.
It was also the victim of a German bomb raid on 1st May 1942, 3 people died during the raid, however a bigger tradgedy was waiting to happen. one of the bombs was a time bomb , it had gone thru the roof of a house and lay undetected. It went off llater that day and killed a further 5 people , injuring many more.
As well as the museum it also boasts several pubs, the Sustrans c2c cycle route passes through[Whitehaven to Sunderland], nearby Tanfield Steam railway and of course the Metro shopping Centre is nearby. One of the pubs is named Peggy’s Wicket. The name comes from a well known local landmark, which is said to have been the scene of local anger when the North Eastern Railway cut through the area blocking access from Peggy’s Wicket, or gate as it was known.
There is also the recently refurbished Beamish Hall Hotel, Beamish Park Hotel and the Beamish Golf Club. Each of these are set within stunning scenery. Beamish Hall has recently added a Wild Bird of Prey Conservation Centre and a Ropes Activity Centre – [a highwire adventure course].
Beamish was a mining village with several seams being worked in the area.The pits opened in 1763 and closed in 1966. The c2c sustrans cycle track uses what used to be the rail track that was used to take the coal from the various pits to the central yards. The pit was originally owned by Sir J Eden, then by James Joicey and eventually by the National Coal Board.
The local wood offers great walks , all of which are well signposted. A lot of these pathways are also used by off road cyclists.
Beamish is easily accessible from Durham, Newcastle & Gateshead
Thanks for the article contribution from the editor of the Beamish Bugle Peter Elliott