1950s cinema and shops underway at Beamish Museum

17th March 2023

Work is beginning on a cinema, toy shop and electrical shop in Beamish, The Living Museum of the North’s 1950s Town.

The museum is recreating The Grand Cinema from Ryhope in Sunderland, where visitors will be able to enjoy a 1950s cinema experience.

A toy shop named after the popular Romer Parrish store in Middlesbrough, and an electrical shop and repair workshop, A Reece Ltd, are also being built on The 1950s Town’s Front Street terrace.

Construction work is now underway on the exhibits, which are part of the Remaking Beamish project, the biggest development in the museum’s history. This comes as work nears completion on 1950s semi-detached houses, police houses and office, bowling pavilion and green, and aged miners’ homes, which are due to open this summer. The cinema and shops are due to be open to visitors next year.

Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the Remaking Beamish project was awarded £10.9million by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2016.

Rhiannon Hiles, Beamish’s Chief Executive, said: “We’re very excited to be starting work on The Grand Cinema, Romer Parrish toy shop and A Reece Ltd electrical shop and workshop, in our wonderful 1950s Town.

“We can’t wait to welcome visitors to experience a trip to the cinema, and discover popular toys and the latest in 1950s technology in the shops.

“Our Remaking Beamish exhibits that have already opened are proving very popular with visitors. There is so much to look forward to at the museum, with the completion of our 1950s Town, and work on the expansion of our Georgian area, including self-catering cottages and a tavern, which will be starting soon.

“This is a very exciting time for the museum and we are extremely grateful to our visitors, staff, volunteers, funders and partners for their support.”

Among those who visited Beamish to see work getting underway was Bill Mather, who was born in Ryhope and was a trainee projectionist at The Grand cinema between 1950 and 1955.

He said: “I’m really looking forward to the cinema being completed.

“You’re going to have thousands of people who have never seen a cinema of the 50s, who are going to be coming just to see what it’s like.

“They’re going to feel as if they are in magic land in my opinion.”

The cinema will be a recreation of The Grand cinema, from Ryhope in Sunderland, which was donated by Angela and Gary Hepple. The Grand will incorporate as many elements and features of the original building as possible.

Visitors will be able to enjoy a 1950s cinema experience, such as short features and films, and some feature-length film opportunities.

A Reece Ltd, Radio and Electrical Services, will include a showroom featuring the latest 1950s technology and domestic appliances. The exhibit, which has received a £100,000 grant from the Reece Foundation, will have a repair workshop, which will help inspire the next generation of engineers as part of our STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) projects. The exhibit will be named after North East engineer Dr Alan Reece, who founded the Reece Foundation.

The toy shop will be named after the popular Romer Parrish toy shop and newsagent in Middlesbrough, after a vote by people on Teesside for the museum to recreate a toy shop in The 1950s Town. Visitors will be able to discover popular toys from the decade and also see repairs underway in the dolls’ hospital.

Helen Featherstone, Director of England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We are excited to see another element of the Remaking Beamish project get underway, which has been made possible thanks to National Lottery players. It is fantastic to think our investment will help to showcase the unique retail and cinema heritage of the North East, by providing visitors with captivating, immersive experiences, which will also inspire young people through the dedicated learning activities.”

The Remaking Beamish project has also been supported by the Friends of Beamish. Construction work on the cinema and shops is being carried out by North East firm, Brims Construction. Space Architects, who are working on the project, have produced images of what the completed exhibits will look like.

This summer, the museum is due to open replicas of 1950s semi-detached houses, from Red House in Sunderland; a pair of police houses and office, replicated from Heworth in Gateshead, and the replicated Billingham Bowling Green and Pavilion from John Whitehead Park. Aged miners’ homes from Marsden Road, in South Shields, are being replicated to provide a space for people living with dementia and other long-term health conditions, and are due to be opened later this summer.

Beamish’s 1950s Town already features Elizabeth’s Hairdresser’s, John’s Café, a recreation of artist Norman Cornish’s house, and Middleton’s Fish and Chip Shop, which opened in February 2022. A replica of the Leasingthorne Colliery Welfare Hall and Community Centre was completed in 2019, and Coronation Park and Recreation Ground opened alongside the hall in May 2022. Spain’s Field Farm, which was moved to the museum from Weardale, opened at Beamish in March 2022, and the Northern General Transport Bus Depot opened in November 2019.

The Remaking Beamish project will also include an expansion of the museum’s Georgian area, featuring overnight accommodation in self-catering cottages, a Drovers’ Tavern, pottery and toll house.

To find out more about Beamish, including updates on the Remaking Beamish project, visit www.beamish.org.uk.

Media contact: For more information, please contact Julie Wilson, Head of Communications, email juliewilson@beamish.org.uk or tel. 01910 370 4034, or Francesca Boyle, Communications Officer, email francescaboyle@beamish.org.uk or tel. 0191 370 4325.

Beamish Museum, Beamish, County Durham, DH9 0RG.  Tel. 0191 370 4000 or email museum@beamish.org.uk  www.beamish.org.uk.         

About Beamish, The Living Museum of the North

Beamish, The Living Museum of the North, which was founded in 1970, brings the region’s history to life at 1820s Pockerley, 1900s Town, 1900s Pit Village, 1940s Farm, 1950s Town and 1950s Spain’s Field Farm. Visitors to the award-winning open air museum, in County Durham, meet costumed folk and discover fascinating stories of everyday life in the North East through time.

For latest information about visiting the museum, please go to www.beamish.org.uk.

About the Remaking Beamish Project

The Remaking Beamish project includes a 1950s Town, 1950s Farm, transport developments and expansion of The 1820s Landscape, including examples of early industry and overnight accommodation.

Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the Remaking Beamish project was awarded a £10.9million grant by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2016 – a major milestone in Beamish’s history and the largest single investment ever seen at the museum.

Beamish is still fundraising for the remaining project match funding, and there is a fundraising plan in place to guide this work.

Keep an eye on Beamish’s website, social media and Remaking Beamish blog for more updates on the project. Visit www.beamish.org.uk/remaking/about-remaking-beamish.

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. www.heritagefund.org.uk.

Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund

Since The National Lottery began in 1994, National Lottery players have raised over £43billion for projects and more than 635,000 grants have been awarded across the UK. More than £30million raised each week goes to good causes across the UK.

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