Spainsfield Farm set to go on display at Beamish Museum

Brick by brick, this traditional hill farm will be transported 25 miles to Beamish Museum where it will go on display to visitors

Alan Jopling, with his father Albert, at the remote farmhouse at Spainsfield near Stanhope
Alan Jopling, with his father Albert, at the remote farmhouse at Spainsfield near Stanhope

Every timber beam, flagstone and nail of Spainsfield Farm at Eastgate in Weardale, County Durham, will be uprooted and trundled painstakingly along the valley to a new rural setting.

Some books, a pair of old leather boots and even a swathe of 1960s lino will make the journey too.

After centuries sitting proud and imposing on a remote hillside, the Jopling family have gifted the building to the museum, and hope that it will give people a true reflection of farming life.

Alan Jopling, 56, said: “They have a farmhouse at Beamish that people look around and they’ll think all farms have these huge houses, but ours is a typical County Durham farm. A little, small house with some byres, not like the big Northumberland ones.

“It was subsistence living up there. There was no running water or electricity. There’s no road and they would have had to have carried water in from a spring.”

Parts of Spainsfield Farm date from the 1700s, with additions made in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Raine family, who still live and work in the valley, owned it for generations before selling the land to Alan’s father Albert Jopling, 83, in the 1970s.

Despite there being no road, it was still lived in sporadically by members of the Raine family up until the late 1960s and particularly at times when bad weather prevented them getting down to the main farmhouse.

John Castling, who is part of Beamish’s Future Leaders Programme, funded by the Arts Council, is part of the team recording the 18th-century farm in its current location before it is moved. Durham University’s geospatial research team are also helping to generate accurate 3D images using laser beams to measure each part of the building.

Mr Castling said: “It’s not on a main road, it’s not even on a minor road, it’s 150 yards down a grassy bank,

“That will be a challenge for us to work out how to get the material back up the bank and off to the Beamish site.

“Once there it’s got to be put on a south facing hill.

“It will be used as a 1950s farm to display that period of North East farming. It’s an interesting cross of the post-war farming world with very 19th-century ways of living.”

A land agent told Beamish Museum staff about Spainsfield after he heard the organisation was looking for a hill farm, and Albert and Alan Jopling were happy to hand over the building, which has been derelict for 40 years.

Alan, of Low Green Head, Stanhope, who is married to Coral and has three sons, said: “It wasn’t being used and it was just going to fall down.

“The Raines were living in it in the 1960s though. They would go and stop up there if they had livestock.”

Once everything is recorded, work to dismantle the building will begin in 2014.

Mr Castling said: “The Joplings think we are crackers because it’s falling down, but they are very supportive.”

The impressive plan is the latest in a line of heritage projects undertaken by Beamish which involve moving entire buildings.

Last year, a block of four Airey houses from Coltspool, in Kibblesworth, Gateshead, was deconstructed, loaded on to pallets and transported to Beamish.

The prefabs will be carefully stored until work begins on the museum’s new 1950s area, which is also where the Weardale hill farm will be placed.


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