Beamish Museum farm takes a step forward into Second World War era

Home Farm at Beamish Museum is to relaunch in 1940s wartime mode having been previously set in Edwardian times

Beamish staff as Land Army girls at the museum's Home Farm
Beamish staff as Land Army girls at the museum's Home Farm

It’s not just the seasons which change on one North East farm – the centuries do too.

Time travel is part of the mix at Home Farm at Beamish Museum in County Durham.

The original farm dates back to the 18th Century when it was part of the estate attached to Beamish Hall.

When the museum took it over, the farm was based in Edwardian times.

Later it was placed in a Victorian setting.

Now it has been projected forward to represent farming in the North East during the Second World War.

On Saturday it will be launched with its 1940s look – a time when agriculture played a vital role as Britain faced the threat of being starved into submission with German U-boats taking a terrible toll on shipping bringing in supplies.

The museum researched what farming was like in wartime with communities across the region, including the flood of evacuees from urban to rural areas and the arrival of Land Army girls to work the fields.

The wartime-look farm now has tractors from the 1940s and 1920s.

The farmhouse has been re-equipped with items and furnishings from the 1930s and 1940s, including a period radio, which in wartime was a crucial source of news and entertainment.

In the kitchen, the farmer’s wife works out how to feed the family and workers with rationing in place. Solutons include dishes such as mock apricot pie, carrot fudge and rabbit pie.

Two farm cottages have been brought into use for the first time, with one being used to house an evacuee family and the other Land Army girls.

The museum already has an Anderson air raid shelter from Crook in County Durham and has installed a pillbox, or guard post, fashioned by the Home Guard from a large colliery boiler, which came from a farm at Belmont in Durham.

There will also be a starring role for Molly, the farm’s huge pig.

“During the war, commercial pig production fell because land was needed to grow crops,” said Beamish curatorial assistant David Rounce. “But there was a big increase in pig clubs, where several families would get together to feed and raise an animal.”

The new role for the farm will allow the expansion of the museum’s evacuee programme.

Schools which have taken part in pilot all-day evacuee activities include Castle View Academy, Thornhill School and Red House Academy in Sunderland, St Benet’s Primary in Ouston and East Stanley Primary.

“The key was to encourage pupils to empathise with children in 1939 who were taken away from their families at the outbreak of war,” said Katy Wood, Beamish learning co-ordinator.

Beamish’s half-term activities will focus on the 1940s, including the role of Bevin Boys in the site’s drift mine.

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