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Beamish Museum: Part 2

Number 2 Front Street will tell the story of The Spennymoor Settlement which was the cradle of creativity for aspiring artists, writers and poets during the 1930s. The story will be based around the family home of Norman Cornish, 33 Bishops Close Street where he lived from 1953 until 1967. Lisa Kaimenas, Project Officer-Community Participation, said “It’s a very typical National Coal Board house, as Norman was a hewer in the Dean and Chapter Colliery and his house was included as part of his wages.”

Norman and Sarah moved into 33 Bishop Close Street in May 1953 and lived there until he retired in 1966 due to a back condition. He became a full-time professional artist and the family moved to Whitworth Terrace where he was able to establish a studio to support his work. The studio is on long-term loan at Spennymoor Town Hall and many of the original contents from Bishops Close Street have been carefully maintained and prepared to be included when number 2 Front Street finally opens some time in 2022.

The exhibit will tell the story of Norman and his family, as well as life in the town, including the Spennymoor Settlement which he joined as soon as he was able on his 15th birthday. The Settlement was part of a wider national movement and nurtured the talent of artists Norman Cornish MBE, Tom McGuinness, Bob Heslop and Burt Dees. The author and playwright Sid Chaplin OBE, and newspaper journalist and editor Arnold Hadwin OBE were also active members of the Spennymoor Settlement.

Beamish Museum staff have worked very hard to ensure that as many places as possible will be accessible in the Cornish house and the upstairs, art space/studio space will be accessible by a lift acquired with support from the Banks Community Fund. To ensure as accurate representation as possible, the staff engaged in diligent searches for items to be included in the house. A recent example was provided by Shannon from the design team who managed to find a living room range (fireplace) as below. An additional image of Norman photographed in the actual living room is also below. Notice a portrait of Rembrandt in the corner! Just along the street will be the iconic Berriman’s Chip Van – hankies essential.

What a team at Beamish in all aspects of this amazing project.