Locomotion ~ December 2022

I know last week I said I’d be posting the photos of the old gun battery which Sophie and I visited after Alnwick, but I’m saving them for Film Friday as they were all taken on the Contax. Instead, ths week I’m posting our trip to a train museum called Locomotion, in Shildon, which we visited after going to the Spanish Gallery in Bishop Auckland. I did take pictures at the gallery too though struggled with the lighting, and it was cool to see the Salvador Dali Christ of Saint John of the Cross, on loan from Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum Glasgow, in the same room as El Greco’s Christ on a cross. If you really are interested in 16/7th C Spanish art and religious iconography, there’s my gallery of less than great photos in the link HERE.

And so, Choo~choo! on with the trains!

The History Bit ☕️ 🍪

Shildon. An unassuming little town, (pop. about 9,900) I’ve visited a few times in the past for hearing aid purposes, and never knew that in the 1820s, the new Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR) chose the town for its engineering headquarters. Shildon became known as the ‘Cradle of the Railways’ and the world’s first true railway town, when on 27 September 1825 George Stephenson’s Locomotion set off from outside the Mason’s Arms public house, hauling the first passenger train to Stockton.You could say that the Mason’s Arms could be classified as the world’s first railway station. In the early stages of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, tickets were sold at the bar. Between 1833 and 1841 the company hired a room in the pub for use as a booking office.

A chap from Shildon, Timothy Hackworth, was recruited by George Stephenson in 1824 and put in charge of building locomotives for the company, becoming superintendant in 1825. He also established his own company, the Soho Locomotive Building Company, and worked alongside the S&DR. In 1855, Hackworth having gone to the Great Railway Station in the Sky, the Soho Works were bought by the S& DR, merging with the North Eastern Railway in 1863. Locomotive production was shifted to their North Road Works in Darlington. The Shildon Works continued but focus was shifted to the construction of waggons.

It did suffer from industrial action when a strike in 1911 kicked off. The Govt sent in the Army (a bad habit they’ve got as they’re still using them to break strikes today) A driver of a mineral train was stoned and dragged from his engine then pursued by an angry mob and had to be rescued by soldiers so maybe he was happy they were there. Mineral wagons had their bottom doors undone and the contents allowed to fall out. Wagons in the sidings had their brakes undone and freewheeled for miles, railway signal cables were damaged and the cavalry had to be called. At one stage soldiers had to mount a Bayonet charge to clear a bridge. They certainly knew how to strike back then, none of this namby pamby placard carrying outside the workplace!

By 1926 and at its height, the Shildon Wagon Works was the largest in Europe and the massive infrastructure of sidings that supported the works was the largest in the world employing 2,600 people. But all good things come to an end, and in the 1930’s the London and North Eastern Railway Company had decided to concentrate their operations to Darlington. The Soho works laid derelict since the 1940s and were scheduled for demolition in the 1970s, however, the buildings were saved when they were restored and opened to the public as part of the Timothy Hackworth Museum.

The Locomotion Museum, incorporating the existing Timothy Hackworth Museum and part of the National Railway Museum in York, was opened on Friday 22 October 2004. The new museum came about as part of a £70 million government funding arrangement for museums across the country. The project received £2 million from the European Regional Development Fund along with grant aid from a number of groups. The museum hoped to attract 60,000 visitors in the first year but had 70,000 visitors in the first two months

Lastly, an inspired piece of journalism from The Northern Echo newspaper on the advent of the 50th anniverary of the railway in 1855, that made me laugh ~ ‘Shildon is one of the ugliest places on the earth’s fair surface. It was once a swamp, the malaria from which laid many of its early inhabitants low with fever. It is now a hideous congerie of houses, growing like fungus on either side of a network of rails. A huge colliery rears its ungainly head close to the rails, and the noise of its working ceases not for ever. Engines are plying about with restless activity, like spiders running along the threads of their nets seeking for hapless flies’.

They don’t write’em like that anymore!

OK, edumacation over, let’s do some pics.

Steam locomotive, Southern Railway, Battle of Britain class 4-6-2 No 34051 “Winston Churchill”, designed by O.V. Bulleid, built at Brighton in 1946, withdrawn in 1965.
After Winston Churchill’s state funeral on 30th January 1965 the locomotive hauled the funeral train. Thousands lined the trackside to watch as the train pass. More Info HERE
Diesel-electric locomotive, prototype English Electric 3300HP “Deltic”, 1955, BR number ‘DP1″ Deltic was withdrawn in March 1961 after failing in service. In April 1963 it was presented to the Science Museum and was then transferred to the National Railway Museum in 1993. Though this one’s a prototype 22 locomotives were built in 1961–2 to take over from steam on express trains such as The Flying Scotsman and to offer the first services regularly running at 100mph. More info HERE
Snow plough, North Eastern Railway, No DE900566, 1891. The first NER snowplough was built in 1887 and, despite an accident in 1888 where a plough train upended a locomotive at Annitsford, 23 more were made. All 24 were made of wood except the final two, which were metal.
Railway carriage, London & North Western Railway, Queen Alexandra’s Saloon, No 801, built in 1902.
Internally, the arrangments included a day saloon, two dressing rooms, a bedroom, lavatory, and two vestibules at each end. When the carriage was first built there were two beds, the second being for Queen Alexandra’s daughter the Princess Victoria.
Royal knobs.

You are not allowed to go inside so the first 2 were taken with my iPhone stuck on the window, the website lets you use their shots so here are 2 of the inside, taken inside.

The North British Railway, one of Scotland’s major railways, operated the branch extending from Carlisle to Silloth and its sub-branch to Port Carlisle. Freight services on the latter branch were discontinued as early as 1899, but a horse-drawn passenger service instituted in 1863 remained until early 1914, when it was finally superseded by steam. Known as Dandy Cars, this one was made in 1856 and designed like a stagecoach. First and second class travellers would sit inside, and third class passengers would sit on the benches outside. 😳
Steam locomotive, remains of Timothy Hackworth’s 0-4-0 locomotive “Sans Pareil”. More info HERE
Fire Engine 1880 ~ Gateshead Railway Works

Royal Mail carriage.


Those are the highlights, more trains and details in my album HERE for any ferroequinologists out there
and the Locomotion Website can be accessed HERE.

It’s a nicely done museum, free to get in though they do like a donation if you can. The café is fine, usual stuff, hot and cold drinks, soup and roll, jacket potato, pasties, toasties, paninis at reasonable prices. We would have liked to go inside the Royal Train, but that doesn’t ever happen, and I do understand, everyone would want to get in and everyone mostly had little kids with them! There were lots of information boards and videos and we really enjoyed it and learned a lot, in spite of neither of us being really interested in trains!

Stay tooned peeps!


NELSAM ~ October 2019

The North East Land Sea & Air Museum – NELSAM – sits on the former RAF Usworth and Sunderland airport site, next to the Sunderland Nissan factory, and comprises of the former Aircraft museum (NEAM), military vehicles collection, and the North East Electric Traction Trust (NEETT) is also based on the site. The museum houses over 30 aircraft and a wide collection of aero engines, as well as weaponry, vehicles and other historical exhibits, and is run by volunteers. Amongst the varied and unique exhibits is a cold war Avro Vulcan B2 Bomber, which flew into the former airport to become the first Vulcan to go into a private collection.

Sophie and I went off to visit there on a rather miserable-weather day, but we are intrepid! There was a fair amount of stuff in need of, and being, restored, so bits and pieces everywhere.

not quite ready to fly!

I took quite a few photos, as I do :), so these are just some of my favourites.

The Morane-Saulnier Type ‘Bullet’ was a streamlined aircraft designed for high speed, but was not easy to fly due to a combination of stiff lateral control, caused by using wing warping instead of ailerons, sensitive pitch and yaw controls caused by using an all flying tail, and a very high landing speed for the period. The airframe on display is a static mockup of an aircraft flown by Local hero Claude Ridley, who lived nearby in Sunderland and flew the Type N during the First World War. This Mock-up was made by the volunteers of the museum and school children with funding from the heritage lottery fund.
Do NOT paint Dayglow!!! 😀
The Sea Venom was the Royal Navy version of the Venom NF.2 two-seat night-fighter. The necessary modifications for use on the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers included folding wings, a tailhook and strengthened undercarriage. The first prototype made its first flight in 1951, and began carrier trials that same year. The FAW.22 version was the final variant for the Royal Navy and was powered by the de Havilland Ghost 105 engine. Thirty-nine of this type were built in 1957/58. Some were later fitted out with the de Havilland Firestreak air-to-air missile.
Part of a new family of Alvis armoured six wheel drive vehicles introduced in the 1950s, the Saracen was fitted with the standardised Rolls Royce B series engine, in this case the 8 cylinder B80.
1st WW ammunition trolley used by Royal Ordnance depots and munition factories.
World War Two street scene, with shop fronts and displays set up to mimic what could be seen at the time. As well as replica shop fronts’, you can find some WWII artefacts, including uniforms, equipment and even search lights used to pinpoint enemy bombers!
Hawker Hunter F.51
Brookland Mosquito, ejector seat and a US airforce jet (not sure what it is).

That’s only a fraction of the inside of the museums hangars, but I’m wanting to keep this visit to one post! Here are a few from outside though as they were my faves.

Lightning- a fighter aircraft that served as an interceptor during the 1960s, the 1970s and into the late 1980s. It remains the only UK-designed-and-built fighter capable of Mach 2. The Lightning was designed, developed, and manufactured by English Electric, which was later absorbed by the newly-formed British Aircraft Corporation. Later the type was marketed as the BAC Lightning. It was operated by the Royal Air Force (RAF), the Kuwait Air Force (KAF) and the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF). My Dad worked on these at RAF Binbrook in LIncolnshire, and RAF Coltishall in Norfolk.
The Avro Vulcan was a British delta wing subsonic bomber operated by the Royal Air Force from 1953 until 1984. The Vulcan was part of the RAF V bomber force, which fulfilled the role of nuclear deterrence against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It was also used in a conventional bombing role during the Falklands conflict with Argentina.
A replica classic Spitfire on loan. The beautiful single seat World War Two aircraft is on loan from the Spitfire Society, based in Devon. It is undergoing two month’s of refurbishment by local expert Stuart Abbott of Stu-Art Aviation Furniture.
The de Havilland Firestreak is a British first-generation, passive infrared homing (heat seeking) air-to-air missile. It was developed by de Havilland Propellers (later Hawker Siddeley) in the early 1950s and was the first such weapon to enter active service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Fleet Air Arm, equipping the English Electric Lightning, de Havilland Sea Vixen and Gloster Javelin. It was a rear-aspect, fire and forget pursuit weapon, with a field of attack of 20 degrees either side of the target.

This was an excellent museum and I can’t really do it justice in one post, but there is a full album HERE and all pictures are embiggenable with a click!

NELSAM has a great website with pictures and information on the history of each aircraft or museum piece so for any aircraft nerds here is the link right HERE


Bamburgh Castle Revisted ~ August 2019 ~ 2

Part 1 HERE

After a good wander around the grounds we went to visit the museums. The first museum we got to was the Armstrong & Aviation museum, which houses some of the stuff that Armstrong produced for WW2, and some stuff from WW1.

Big Gun

Mangled Aircraft Engines

I’m sorry to say I didn’t take notes or many photo’s in this museum, I’m not sure why it didn’t float my boat,  however there was a really nice vintage car that I liked.

Armstrong Siddeley 1936

We also visited the Archaeology Museum and saw some nice bling that they had dug up. The pieces were incredibly small, but beautifully decorated, and they were covered by a magnifying glass so you could see the detail. Not easy to shoot through 2 layers of glass so not the best shots ever, but you can see what I mean.

These date between 10th and 12th century A.D. It’s possible that metal work or scrap recycling was going on in the vicinity of where they were found, so could be dated earlier than the layer in which they were found.

The top piece was discovered in 1971 and has been named the Bambugh Beast. It is believed to date from AD 600-AD 700 and is reminiscent of Anglo-Celtic illuminated manuscripts such as the Lindisfarne Gospels. The lower piece was discovered in 2011, it is sheet gold, edged with beaded wire and decorated with small balls of gold.

There is also a Stones museum which we looked into.

The information sign says: “This carved panel displays two ‘Celtic’ heads carved into the front face with long, drooping moustaches. Carved heads are common in Western Europe from the Iron Age to Medieval date. These figures are more suggestive of Irish or French origin than the north of England and will be the subject of further research.”

An anglo-saxon well can also be seen there.

The Victorian Well head on the well dug in Anglo Saxon times. First described by Simeon of Durham in 774, there was originally a church on top of this hill with a spring which was “sweet to the taste and most pure … that has been excavated with astonishing labour.” The well is 44 metres deep and 2 metres in diameter and is located in the bottom of the keep of the castle.

Of course the castle rooms are all home to interesting bits of history


17th century Flemish Crossbow

There’s a nice little keepsake of Queen Mary’s signature from a vist she made there in 1924

Stay tooned for part 3 when we visit the state rooms.

Aln Valley Railway – July 2019 – Part 1

While Sophie and I were visiting the Stephenson Heritage Railway, (post on that HERE) a gentleman saw us taking pictures, and came over to tell us we might like to visit the heritage railway that he was involved in, the Aln Valley Railway.  Great idea we thought, and we decided to go when they also had a war re-enactment thing going on.

The aim of the volunteers is to reopen the Alnwick to Alnmouth railway line.  The original station in Alnwick is now home to Barter Books

so a brand new railway station and visitor center has been constructed by volunteers on the outskirts of Alnwick from where the railway follows the original trackbed towards Alnmouth Station.

The first thing we did was have a ride on the train.

Our ride

the carriages were a bit less shabby

and the journey was shorter, but some lovely views across Northumberland

They had quite a few trains in their workshops and at the station

The train we went on

needs a bit of work!

to be restored

our chauffeurs


Next time we’ll have a look at the WW2 stuff going on at the station, so stay tooned!

Stephenson Heritage Railway – June 2019 – Part 3

Part 1 HERE  Part 2 HERE

After we finally gave up going for rides, we got to look around in the workshops,with the lovely gentlemen explaining things to us.


Explaining what’s to be done


work in progress – This steam locomotive was built for the Ashington Coal Company in Northumberland in 1939 by Peckett & Sons, Bristol. The Ashington Coal Company had one of Britain’s most extensive colliery railways. For 30 years it hauled wagons of coal from the company’s pits, and also passenger trains for the miners.  In 1991 it was acquired by Stephenson Railway Museum and was given the additional name of Jackie Milburn in honour of the great Newcastle United footballer who grew up in Ashington.

Some fab old tool boxes in use

??? 🙂

They had had some Thomas the Tank faces made for the front of the big steam engines to make the kids smile, but the people who own Thomas the Tank wouldn’t let them use them, so they just hang in the workshop. I mean, what harm would it do really?

No bodies

‘Bait’ up here is Geordie for lunch

Lunch timer

Our lovely workshop guide.

They let you drive a train up and down a bit for £2 which was a bargain, and Sophie was definitely up for that!

Driving Instructions


We also had a look in the museum and around the outside.



Billy is one of the oldest locomotives in the world, built and designed by George Stephenson in 1816 and one of the most innovative transport systems of it’s day and was used for over 50 years.

The 401 – Thomas Burt

This locomotive is named after Thomas Burt, a miners’ leader from Northumberland who in 1874 became the first working man to be elected as an MP. Also known as Vulcan, the 401 was one of three built in 1951 at Stafford by W.G. Bagnall Ltd for the Steel Company of Wales.

So that ends our visit to Stephenson Heritage Museum.

All pictures are by me and embiggenable with a click.

There is an album with more pictures of it HERE

and their excellent website is HERE

Stay tooned for our next adventure, a revisit to Cragside to see the rhododendrons


Stephenson Heritage Railway ~ June 2019 – part 1

Old trains, nothing like them for evoking the past, all that choo-chooing and hissing steam.  Not that I ever went on one back when I was a kid and they were ubiquitous, but I have now!

Have you heard of George Stephenson? Stephensons Rocket perhaps? No?  Oh good, then let us commence the History lesson! 🙂

George was a child of Northumberland. Born in 1781 to illterate parents, he too had no education until at the age of 17, he followed his Dad into the mines as a brakesman, and used his salary to pay for night school classes in reading, writing and arithmetic. He married Frances Henderson and they had a son Robert, but sadly his second child, a daughter, only lived for 3 weeks and his wife died of tuberculosis, consumption as it was known, the year after. George went off to Scotland to find work, leaving little Robert with a local woman, but returned a few months later after his Dad was blinded in a mining accident. Tough times people, tough times.

He moved back into a cottage, his unmarried sister moved in to look after the boy, and George went back to work at  Killingworth Colliery. Here he had a stroke of luck as the pumping engine wasn’t working properly. George offered to fix and improve it, which he did and so successfully he got promoted to enginewright, responsible for maintaining and repairing all the mines engines, and this is how he became expert in steam-driven machinery.

Firstly a little side step.  Have you heard of The Davy Lamp? A miners safety lamp which burns in a gaseous atmosphere without causing an explosion- those happened often down the mines.  An eminent scientist from Cornwall Humphry Davy invented it and it was used more or less everywhere. Where it wasn’t used was in the North East as here they used a Stephensons Safety lamp.  He had invented one different to Davy’s and he presented it to the Royal Society (formally The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge,it is a learned society and the United Kingdom’s national Academy of Sciences. Founded on 28 November 1660, it was granted a royal charter by King Charles II as “The Royal Society”. It is the oldest national scientific institution in the world.) a whole month prior to Davy presenting his. Davy won £2000 for his invention BIG money back then (todays equiv. £164,000) and George was accused of stealing the idea from Davy.


Really this came down to the fact that George was seen as a country bumpkin, had a broad Northumberland accent and no scientific training.  He was exonerated eventually and given £1000, and got equal kudos for inventing the lamp, though Davy wouldn’t accept the findings. Suck it up Southern boy! 🙂 .  In one case when both lamps were being used down a mine in Barnsley, a blast of released gas made all the Davy lamps tops red hot– thereby risking an explosion, whereas the Stephenson lamp just went out, so his was the better one to be stuck down a gassy mine with. Stephenson’s became known as the Geordie lamp and indirectly gave the name Geordies to the natives of Newcastle.

All this resulted in George having a life long distrust of London-based theoretical,scientific experts, can’t blame him really, and he also made sure to educate his son privately and come out with a standard English accent.

George went on to build locomotives, problem solving and making each better, improving cast iron rails and building several railways across the country, including the Liverpool & Manchester railway, where he also designed and had built a skew bridge, the first to cross a railway line.  The L& MR opened on 15th Sept 1830 starting with a procession of eight trains, driven by himself, his son and some engineers, setting out from Liverpool. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your political mien, the MP for Liverpool, William Huskisson, got knocked over by one of the trains, ‘Rocket’ and died of his injuries. Apart from that it was a great success!

George married 3 times but only had children with Frances, and he died aged 67, at noon on 12 August 1848 7 months after his 3rd marriage.  His son Robert  expanded on the work of his father and became a major railway engineer himself. Abroad, Robert was involved in the Alexandria–Cairo railway that later connected with the Suez Canal. 

Britain led the world in the development of railways which acted as a stimulus for the Industrial Revolution by facilitating the transport of raw materials and manufactured goods, with his work on the Stockton and Darlington Railway and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, George paved the way for the railway engineers who followed, such as his son Robert, his assistant Joseph Locke who carried out much work on his own account, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Stephenson was farsighted in realising that the individual lines being built would eventually be joined together, and would need to have the same gauge. The standard guage used throughout much of the world is due to him.  There’s loads more that he did, but I’d have to write a book, and there’s no need for that! By all accounts he was a very nice man.

The museum is in North Shields, and Sophie and I visited on a good weather day. There was a model train display going on in the museum, so we had a wander around there first.

Interesting to see all the scratch built models but we wanted to see the real thing!

A fleet of passenger coaches from the 1950s.

We got our tickets and the station master punched them.

Station Master

We bagged ourselves a First Class carriage

our carriage

and then hung out the windows watching the others getting on.

All Aboard!

Guards and driver checking our doors are safely shut

and off we go!

choo choo 🙂

Past the Tesco chimney.

Past the graffitti on the metro bridge column

End of the line!

Here we all got off while they changed the engine from front to back. Sadly (though not TOO sadly) we were not being pulled by the steam train as that was in dry-dock (or whatever the train equivalent is) but a funky little diesel did the job.

Funky diesel.

Stay tooned for next time when we’ll have a closer look inside the carriages, and do the journey back.

The Bowes Museum – May 2019

The Bowes Museum can be found in Teesdale, in the market town of Barnard Castle, and houses a phenominal herd of treasures and art works collected during the lifetime of John and Joséphine Bowes.

Shall we do the History Bit? (Rhetorical question 🙂 )

John Bowes  (19 June 1811 – 9 October 1885) was born in London, to a commoner called Mary Millner. Mary went to work for the 10th Earl of Strathmore & Kinghorne,  (14 April 1769 – 3 July 1820) a Scottish nobleman and peer, at his stately homes in County Durham, and ended up having a long affair with him, living with him as his wife to all intents and purposes. The Earl married Mary on 2 July 1820 but only 16 hours before he died, trying to ensure that his son would inherit his titles and properties. To cut a 5 year long legal story short, there was a bit of a to-do in the courts about this, as Scottish and English inheritance laws differed, and it ended up with the Earls brother Thomas Lyon-Bowes becoming the 11th Earl, and inheriting the Scottish estates.  John was given the Earls English estates of Gibside & Streatlam Castle in the North East, and St.Pauls Walden Bury in Hertfordshire so he didn’t do too bad out of it.

John didn’t mope about not being an Earl though and got on with his life.  Having being educated at Eton he became a very successful businessman and profited muchly (yes that is a word, at least in my world) from having coal reserves on his land.  He also owned a horse stud farm breeding racehorses which was just as successful – the stable had winners in the 2000 Guineas stakes three times, The Derby four times and, in capturing the English Triple Crown with West Australian, won the 1853 St. Leger Stakes.  Between 1832 and 1847  he was a Liberal Party Member of Parliament, for the South Durham constituency and was a reformer in politics, in favour of triennial Parliaments and the removal of Bishops from the House of Lords. On top of all that he was a partner in the Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company at Jarrow, and the first major vessel built was the pioneer iron steam collier “John Bowes”.  From 1847 onwards he travelled between France and England, specialising in artworks. He bought a theatre whilst on one of his French trips, and that’s where he met and fell in love with  Parisian actress Joséphine Coffin-Chevallier.

Joséphine Coffin-Chevallier (1825 – 9 February 1874) was the daughter of a clockmaker. She became an actress in Paris under the stage name Mlle Delorme. She was a vaudeville performer – an actress, comedienne, and singer – in the Théâtre des Variétés during the period when John Bowes purchased and managed the theatre, as well as being a talented amateur artist who studied under the landscape painter Karl Josef Kuwasseg. Her work was exhibited at both the Paris Salon on four occasions in the late 1860s, and once at the Royal Academy, which was an unusual achievement for a woman of the time. Go Jo! Jo and Johns mutual love of the arts brought them together so they tied the knot in 1852 when Jo gave up acting to concentrate on her painting and art collecting. Johns wedding present to her was the former home of one of King Louis XV’s mistresses, the Chateau du Barry. Jo became a noted hostess and patron of the arts on a grand scale, gathering artists, intellectuals and French society together so that her salons were counted as the most brilliant in Paris, and her style in fasion and jewellrey was as celebrated. In 1868 Bowes purchased the title of Countess of Montalbo for his wife, from the nation of San Marino, to elevate her status. Not bad for a clockmakers vaudevillian daughter!

It was Josephines idea to found a museum filled with the already substantial collections of her husband, and her vision was to create a place where the local coal miners and farmers could encounter fine art and improve their lives.  She sold the Chateau to raise funds for the project,  and some of the most valuable of her diamonds to complete it. 

The Bowes commisioned the French architect Jules Pellechet who they’d worked with in France, to design the museum. It was a huge undertaking, nothing like this had been seen in this area beforehand, but their enthusiasm was immeasurable and as the foundation stone was laid, Joséphine was reported to have said to her hubby, ‘I lay the bottom stone, and you, Mr Bowes, will lay the top stone’.   As the building grew, so did their collection and an astounding 15,000 objects were purchased between 1862 and 1874. She collected decorative arts pieces such as ceramics, silverware, and tapestries. She also made extensive purchases from the International Exhibitions held in Paris in 1862, 1867, and in London in 1871. Her purchases of paintings benefited from her friendships with young artists, and she also worked with two Parisian dealers, Mme Lepautre and A. Lamer, who left annotated records of their dealings, which are still held by the museum. She purchased works by artists as diverse as El Greco, Cannaletto, Boucher, Anne Vallayer-Coster, Courbet, and Charles Joshua Chaplin.

It seems so sad that Jo died of lung disease at the age of forty-eight in Paris, but even in her last days was organising new items for the collection at Teesdale. She never saw the building  completed. John lost his motivation for carrying on the collection after she died, but he did marry again, to the rather illustrious sounding Alphonsine Maria St. Amand, divorced wife of the Comte de Courten. That was three year later in 1877, but they never really got it together and by 1885 they were divorced. In that year he died too and never did carry out Joséphine’s wish of laying the top stone. The building continued, in the hands of Trustees ,in the style of a French chateau, but was not to be completed until 1892.

It opened to the public on 10th June 1892 and attracted nearly 63,000 visitors in its first year.

On with the show now…

The Bowes Museum

The formal parterre garden designed by The Bowes

The American novelist Mark Twain saw the Silver Swan at the Paris exhibition in 1867 and described it in his book The Innocents Abroad: ‘I watched the Silver Swan, which had a living grace about his movement and a living intelligence in his eyes – watched him swimming about as comfortably and unconcernedly as it he had been born in a morass instead of a jeweller’s shop – watched him seize a silver fish from under the water and hold up his head and go through the customary and elaborate motions of swallowing it…’

The Silver Swan is a musical automaton which over the last century has become the icon of The Bowes Museum. The silver swan dates from 1773 and was first recorded in 1774 as a crowd puller in the Mechanical Museum of James Cox, a London showman and dealer. The internal mechanism is by John Joseph Merlin, a famous inventor of the time.  It was one of the many purchases that the Bowes’ made from Parisian jeweller M. Briquet, with John paying £200 for it in 1872. John and Joséphine first saw the swan at the 1867 Paris International Exhibition where jeweller Harry Emanuel exhibited it.

Produced during WW1 to commemorate some of the renowned political and military figures of that time, such as Lord Kitchener, General Botha and Admiral Jellicoe, the museum has 11 of these displayed near the canteen.

The rooms were filled with stunning artworks and the galleries are organised by dates.

17th 18th Century

wish I’d taken a shot of the two Canalettos which were just amazing to see, so big!

15th-16th century gallery

This next item is a 15th century Flemish altarpiece. It is made up of twelve paintings by Master of the View of Saint Gudule illustrating: The Agony in the Garden (St. Jerome); Christ before Pilate (St Gregory);  The Resurrection (Saint Ambrose) The Risen Christ (Saint Augustine), with God the Father (Saint Anthony) and the Adoration
of the Magi (Family of Zebedee) above. These oil on panel paintings from c.1480 have been hidden from view for years and were in great need of conservation

This little gold mouse is also an automaton, bought by Josephine Bowes in 1871. It’s decorated with seed pearls, with garnets for eyes, the mouse scuttles along, stops, changes direction and scuttles on again.

The ceramics collection is quite extensive

Pair of cats by the French ceramicist Emile Gallé


This next thing is a 2 headed calf born at a farm near High Force, and was exhibited as a freak of nature during the 19th century.

The cafe there is very nice with a good choice of nice things to eat.

Well that’s just a few of the things we saw there, and really we need to go back and see more as they are always rotating bits to show and doing new exhibitions.

The museum has a very informative website HERE
and an interesting blog on wordpress HERE
all photo’s by me and embiggenable with a click.
Full album of this and last weeks Raby Castle visit HERE

stay tooned for a visit to the Stephenson Heritage Railway Museum next time!

Souter Lighthouse ~ March 2019

The History Bit

On the coast near the village of Marsden on the outskirts of South Shields, stands the rather magnificent looking Souter Lighthouse. This lighthouse was the first in the world to be designed and built specifically to use AC (alternating electric current) and was the most technically advanced lighthouse of its day. Opening in 1871 it was described as ‘without doubt one of the most powerful lights in the world’.  Originally planned to be built on Souter Point, from where it gets its name, it ended up being built on Lizard Point which had higher cliffs and therefore better visibility.  As there was already a Lizard Lighthouse in Cornwall, they didn’t bother to rename it.

The lighthouse was definitely needed by the time it was up and running. Prior to that there had been several shipwrecks at Whitburn Steel, (the name of that bit of coast) due to the underlying dangerous reef. In 1860 alone 20 wrecks had occurred, and it was known as the most dangerous coastline in the country, with an average of 44 wrecks for each mile.

The lighthouse didn’t use incandescent bulbs, but instead used carbon arcs, and the 800,000 candle power light could be seen for 26 miles. The main lens array consisted of a third-order fixed catadioptric optic surrounded by a revolving assembly of eight vertical condensing-prisms which produced one flash every minute. There was extra light to highlight hazardous rocks to the south which was powered using light diverted (through a set of mirrors and lenses) from the landward side of the main arc lamp.

In 1914 it was decided to give up the pioneering electric light and it was converted to more conventional oil lamps with a new, much larger bi-form first-order catadioptric revolving optic, which is still there today.  Then in 1952 it was converted back to mains electricity and the revolving optic was run by electrically run clockwork until 1983.  Sadly the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1988, but continued to serve as a radio navigation beacon up until 1999 when it was finally closed.  No need for lighthouses now what with GPS and satellite navigation taking their place.

Souter Lighthouse was never automated and remains much in its original operational state, apart from maintenance and updates to its electrical apparatus and lanterns.

Souter Lighthouse

The grassed area north of Souter was once a thriving community of 700 people. Built as a mining village in 1874 to house the workers at the new Whitburn Colliery.  The best coal seams in the North East extend out into the North Sea here and Whitburn Coal Company sunk two shafts south of the lighthouse between 1874 – 1877 with the first coal brought out in 1881. By 1898 it was producing 2,600 tons of coal per day. The colliery finally closed in 1968. The reclaimed land is now Whitburn Coastal Park.

Whitburn Coastal Park

The Lighthouse is owned by the National Trust now and you can go and have a look around inside and climb the top. The engine room, light tower and keeper’s living quarters are all on view. Two of the former lighthouse keepers’ cottages are used as National Trust holiday cottages. The lighthouse is said to be haunted, and has even featured on British TV’s Most Haunted ghost-hunting programme. 🙄

We went first to look around the inside of the lighthouse, there’s a lot of gubbins!

copper gubbins

lens and lamp

One of the volunteers was there when we were, and was twiddling knobs and handles to build up the air pressure that drives the foghorn, which still works.


more gubbins

going up

When the pressure was right the Mr.Foghorn told us to follow him so we could set off the foghorn.

Sophie with the foghorn button.

Sophie hit the button and the foghorn nearly blew my ears off!

One of the old bulbs.

We saw the keepers living quarters.

After that we climbed the very steep spiral staircase to get to the top, the last section was just a ladder! But the views were great!

The Foghorn

It only takes a morning to do the lighthouse, so in the afternoon we went off to Cleadon, which apart from being where the posh people live, has an ice~age duck pond and a gothic grotto. So stay tooned for that!


Ormesby Hall ~ March 2019 ~ Part 3

See here for history and part 2

Most of the Stately Homes we visit have well-appointed kitchens which I duly photograph, and Ormesby Hall is no exception.

But it’s much of a muchness and we’ve seen similar in previous posts. What was unusual at Ormesby was a fully kitted out laundry, so that’s what we’ll look at today.

There’s no need for me to explain anything as that was done brilliantly by the info sheets in there.



flat irons

Laundry Stove

Love that they call it WEE BEN, 🙂

linens hung on hot pipes heated by the range

it had me worried, but it’s just another iron 🙂

through to the scrub room

the range which heated the hot pipes

more mangles

peg dollies, buckets & erm… a radiator (well it was a chilly day!)

so that was a nice surprise for Sophie and me as laundries are usually not given this much attention, and mainly consist of sinks and drainage channels. Good to see how it was all done back in the day, and I remember when I was a kid mangles were still in use in Yorkshire. Possibly still are! 😀

all pictures can be embiggened if you clickety-click on them.

Next time we’ll visit St.Cuthberts Church just across the road from the hall so stay tooned folks!

Ormesby Hall – March 2019 -Part 2


This week we are going to have a wander around the house. Sophie and I thought it was a bit like a tardis, as it seemed to have far more rooms than the outside appearance would have you think.

You can see examples of  bold Palladian plasterwork and the more delicate neo-classical plasterwork ceilings in the drawing and dining rooms.

Firstly the padded doorway.  This was installed by James Stovin Pennyman (1830-96) to help prevent the sounds of conversation disturbing the household  – he worked in York Lunatic Asylum so it’s possibly where he got that idea from.

Lt-Colonel Alfred Worsley Pennyman KOSB (1883-1914) by Frank Watson Wood (Berwick-upon-Tweed 1862 – Strathyre 1953)

Sir James Pennyman Bt (1736 – 1808) by Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA (Plympton 1723 – London 1792)

drawing room

Lots of ceramics on display in the dining room

and a nice view of one of the formal gardens

upstairs is also quite ornate with the plasterwork everywhere

and every bedroom has a four poster

Loved this corner cupboard from the Netherlands circa 1770 – 1800

More art on the walls


Still Life with a Parrot, Fruit and Dead Birds  by Jakob Bogdani (Eperjes (now Presov), Hungary c.1660 – Finchley 1724) 

because who wouldn’t want a parrot and dead birds on the wall??

Beatrix Jane Frances Walker was born on 23 December 1873.1 She was the daughter of Sir James Robert Walker, 2nd Bt. and Louisa Susan Marlborough Heron-Maxwell.2 She married Reverend William Geoffrey Pennyman on 18 February 1901. She died on 17 July 1959 at age 85.1 From 18 February 1901, her married name became Pennyman.

Sir Thomas Pennyman, 2nd Bt (1642 – 1708) Sir Peter Lely (Soest 1618 – London 1680)

Ruth Pennyman lived here and in this room, till her end.

and clearly liked her nylon stockings

Them wer’t days.

Enough for this week, and I’ll be back next Thursday with a bit more from the hall.

Stay tooned 🙂

Beamish Museum WW1 Transport~ Part 4

Part 1 HERE     Part 2 HERE   Part 3 HERE  

Coming to the end of our day out now and first off some WW1 Nurses

Nurses and Burgers

There were quite a few horse-drawn buggies with WW1 re-enactors driving them






as well as the odd motor vehicle

and a genuine WW1 airplane, though it might need some restoration yet

We had lunch in one of the cafe’s


and rode on this bus to take ‘aerial’ shots 🙂


Quick March

Madam Formidable calls a taxi


They had some horses ploughing fields

not much scattering going on.

and I used my telephoto to take some pictures of the horses and owners

true love

Bored now

Chocolate Chip Cookies (the horse pinched one 🙂 )

smiley man

When we got off the bus we stood and watched everyone and everything go by

it’s a dog’s life..

Bus conductor-ess

The 114 to Byker

but mostly I just loved all the horses


and that’s about it, except for my award for most appropriately dressed person of the day goes to…


Geordie Shore 🙂

Well if you’ve got it, flaunt it! 😀

So that’s the end of our trip to Beamish this time, there’ll be others I’m sure as they have a lot of events on, and once you buy your ticket, you can go as many times a year as you want.

All pictures can be clicked on to embiggen where they look even better cos you can see more stuff in them. 🙂

The full album (which has a fair few more photo’s) can be found HERE

Stay tooned for the next adventure!




Beamish Museum WW1 Transport ~ part 3

Part 1 HERE  Part 2 HERE

The museum is currently undergoing an £18million expansion, to include a 1950s Town and coaching inn.  They have a huge store cupboard where they’re getting stuff together for it.

I have no idea what this is

A feed the baby race. 😳 (the x-box of it’s day 🤣 )

This next shot is of a contraption that was used by hairdressers to perm ladies hair!

perm machine (aka death’s head!)

apparently they would sometimes, catch fire, or blow up, and some ladies were severely burned or died!

Keep smiling!

Wall to wall retro!






a 1950’s icon

Still going strong today

Well that’s it for a look round the museum’s store cupboard, not usually open when we’ve been before, can’t wait to see the 1950’s town when it’s up and running.  Who remembers any of this stuff! Not me of course, I’m far too young! 🤣🤣

Stay tooned loads more to come!

All images can be embiggened for extended perusal of their magnificence 🤣