HERITAGE - 4: PERSONAL LOOK INTO THE PAST, Three Favourite Museums - Plus One 'Bonus'
My choices are a cross-section, large and small, north and south, beginning on home territory: Middlesbrough, Teesside
Launched last year, an exhibition of artefacts and memorabilia to mark the onset of the 'Great War'. 'It'll all be over by Christmas' was the favourite phrase. It wasn't and the war was brought fairly close to Middlesbrough when both Hartlepool and Scarborough were shelled from the sea. See what was put on show, it might be linked to your family history
Dorman Museum Middlesbrough
Founts of Knowledge
I have at least three museums I could name, could I push the figure to four? Starting with the Dorman Museum in the park on Linthorpe Road in Central Middlesbrough, TS5 6LA ( www.dormanmuseum.co.uk. ) on account of the range of exhibits I found when I first visited as a boy back in the 1950s.
The range has been modified since then, as I noticed when I visited with my cousin Paul a few years or so ago, but to a child it brings the world in one building. Reminders are numerous of the geological origins of the region, and further the many deposits, the geological 'bounties' of ironstone and potash. The workable ironstone is finished, but recent finds of potash at Boulby along the coast have extended the industrial life of the region... It's all in there. Outside the museum, in the park is a fairly recent statue of Brian Clough - pron. 'Cluff' - one of Middlesbrough's football greats (another one was Don Revie, born a few streets away from 'Cloughie' who managed Leeds United before going on to manage England and the UAE. 'Cloughie' took over from him at Elland Road for forty days before passing on to Nottingham Forest F C). I first watched him play Centre Forward when I was about eleven years old.
There are a few museums scattered around Teesside connected with the history of Middlesbrough and its environs. The James Cook Birthplace Museum at Stewart Park, Marton; The Kirkleatham Old Hall Museum along the Redcar road just east of Redcar; The Tom Leonard Mining Museum at Skinningrove down the coast from Redcar and there are the Captain Cook Museums down the steep hill (1:4) at Staithes off the Whitby road and at Whitby itself;
Secondly the North Road Station Museum at Darlington in southern County Durham (first opened in 1975 on one side of the second S&DR station of the same name) was refurbished, roof repairs carried out and formally re-opened on May 24th, 2010 by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. Exhibits include wagons, carriages and locomotives of the S&DR, a model of the original line and lots of things for kids to explore... Upstairs is the Ken Hoole Centre, a reference collection of North Eastern Railway material set up in the railway author's memory by the North Eastern Railway Association, of which I am a member. Entry to the museum is free to members of NELPG (see below), and there is a pleasant, light and airy cafe at the end of the nearest platform with access to those wishing to take their drinks outside to the open air part of the platform. A drinks machine is available to those wishing to take their own food, with tables adjacent to the platform.
Across the road is the workshop of the North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group (NELPG), of which I am also a member. There are several locomotives owned by the group, www.nelpg.org.uk/ including the British Railways built K1 2-6-0 that doubles as 'Lord of the Isles' on the West Highland,line in summertime (Mallaig-Fort William). 62005 is currently undergoing work at Carnforth; and then there is the workshop of the A1 Locomotive Trust, www.a1steam.com who built a Peppercorn A1 Class locomotive (to which I contributed monthly funds for the construction) from scratch with boiler produced for them by the Meiningen works in eastern Germany. Arthur Peppercorn's widow Dorothy Mather unveiled the engine here on December 13th, 2008. Also connected with the locomotive is Peter Townend, the last shedmaster of Top Shed in the 1960s;
Third is the National Railway Museum on Leeman Road ( www.nrm.org.uk ) near the main station in York, with out-stationed exhibits at Shildon (north of Darlington) near the Timothy Hackworth Victorian Railway Centre. Essentially there are three sites, the York museum being split by Leeman Road with access between them by an under-road footway. One one side is what was part of York's British Railways locomotive depot (50A), with 'Mallard', 'Flying Scotsman' and 'Green Arrow' amongst the array of preserved engines. There's too much to see in one day, but at least you don't pay to access it. They do appreciate donations, if you're minded to hand over cash to continue the good works. Across Leeman Road is the former goods depot, the Peter Allen Centre with its ramps, platforms and stock arranged in 'trains' behind vintage locomotive stock. Queen Victoria's and Queen Elizabeth's railway carriages are here, too. There are cafes in both buildings when you tire of trooping around, but you can also eat your own sandwiches in the forecourt of the Peter Allen building. One thing I always do when I get into the main hall of the museum is check out progress on the 'O' Gauge model railway. There is a viewing platform for children or those in wheelchairs to watch the trains running. A schedule is available for those wishing to look in, and at one end is a CCTV camera showing the movements behind the scenes for the controller. Models fill a set of cases at the other end of the layout, showing the progress of railway stock model-making. At regular intervals during the day the large 70' turntable is operated by museum staff, showing how the turntable is operated (it was in operation as a working steam shed in the mid-1960s when steam finally finished on BR Eastern Region), and replaced a smaller turntable to take the Pacifics such as the A1, A2, A3 and A4 classes - for a short time in the late 1940s/early 1950s, before 'Flying Scotsman' was rebuilt to A3 it was re-classified A10 to make way for Arthur Peppercorn's new class A1;
Lastly, the British Museum in Bloomsbury, Central London ( www.britishmuseum.org ) Great Russell Street, WC1B 3DG. My target for the Sutton Hoo exhibition, the illuminated manuscript of 'Beowulf' and there are countless items connected with invasions and settlement from NW Europe in English history. For those interested in Anglo-Saxon history there are rewards aplenty. Aside from the Sutton Hoo exhibits, the museum currently holds exhibits artefacts from the Staffordshire Hoard, found in a field near Tamworth by a man with a metal detector in the 1990s. Theories abound as to the origins of the finds. I have read a convincing report that these artefacts were given to Penda and his Welsh followers by King Eadwy of Northumbria, younger brother of King Oswald - killed in Shopshire by Penda - to stop them rifling in Eadwy's kingdom. The Welsh princes broke off from Penda's force with their share of the loot and went home. Penda was defeated and killed near modern-day Leeds when they were unable to ford a river. The Northumbrians fell on them, but some less heavily laden Mercians escaped but were tracked down near where they had buried their loot and killed. There is an online tour of the Anglo-Saxon exhibits with notes for teachers, so you don't even need to physically go there (I think it helps to see them 'in the flesh). Need I say more?
A collection of railway travel posters from the great artists of the 1930s through to Terence Cuneo in the 1960s - part of the many things associated with the national collection at the Railway Museum, York - incentive to see for yourself
National Railway Museum, York
To sum up...
I hope you enjoyed reading this write-up on the three museums, three that I've been back to several times - each. The Dorman Museum, established from the proceeds of industry was the first one I went to, living nearby in Grangetown and then Eston - about six miles away to the east.
The British Museum is closest of the three to where I live in London, on the Central Line about twenty minutes ride away west from the largely rebuilt Stratford Station in East London. I tend to gravitate towards the Sutton Hoo and Mediaeval English exhibits, although I have been known to 'stray' towards other areas than Room 41.
The Head of Steam exhibition at North Road Darlington and both Shildon sites are fairly recent for me, since I spent more time in the Teesside area, Being able to drive was a bonus, giving me time to visit both locations in one afternoon with time to look around instead of looking at my watch all the time, thinking of train timetables.
The Rosetta Stone, Elgin Marbles, Sutton Hoo... you've seen them in the flesh. Keep the memory alive with this publication. Learn something more about your favourite artefacts in the museum, delve into their background and get more enjoyment from the experience.
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