Nearly 500,000 visitors have flocked to a flagship Northumberland tourist attraction following its £16m revamp five years ago.
They have been enticed to Woodhorn – the museum and archives centre on the outskirts of Ashington – by the dozens of world class temporary exhibitions from local arts and crafts to computer games and famous cars that have been held there since the redevelopment and re-launch.
Some visitors have travelled many miles, especially to see the permanent collection of work by the Ashington Group, more popularly known as the Pitmen Painters, following the massive success of Lee Hall’s play of the same name and TV programmes fronted by Geordie heartthrob Robson Green and others.
There have been over 50,000 visits to the Study Centre alone with people making full use of the first class research facilities and the millions of records in the public archives to trace family histories, explore land developments and even investigate property.
Staff have dealt with over 220,000 requests for documents – not far short of one for every minute the centre has been open and double the number in the years preceding the developments.
The archives too have had television coverage from Restoration Home and Heir Hunters to an episode of the hugely popular BBC programme, Who Do You Think You Are?, which featured Kate Humble.
Dozens of schools from across the region have added Woodhorn to their list of places to go with tens of thousands of youngsters participating in organised workshops looking at mining history, art, film and even the Tudors.
Woodhorn has been fortunate to secure external funding from a variety of sources to enable staff to deliver extra project work too. In the archives staff and volunteers have been able to investigate, catalogue and make accessible special collections of documents for the first time.
They have also undertaken many community activities. One major project currently underway and working purely with young people is part of NE-Generation and funded by Legacy Trust UK, an independent charity set up to create a lasting cultural and sporting legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games across the UK.
The 1840s Heritage Big Brother time travel event held earlier this year when 50 young people from across Northumberland got a taste of what 19th century life was like during a week spent living in character at Featherstone Castle, was part of the project.
Woodhorn director Keith Merrin, said: “It’s been a busy five years, but extremely rewarding for everyone involved. I am very proud of what we have achieved and, of course, we are all looking forward to the next five and beyond.
The fifth anniversary is being marked with a week-long series of events at Woodhorn – based around a former colliery of the same name – to coincide with the October half-term featuring lots of family fun and a history fair.
Keith added: “We are very much looking forward to half term too when we have a full programme of activities; something for the whole family. We’d love to see as many of our regular visitors as well as new ones come along and join the celebrations.”
- Northumberland History Fair 11am – 4pm
Celebrate the rich and diverse heritage of the region at the Northumberland History Fair. Learn more about local history and meet some of the organisations who explore and preserve it.
- Reel Northumberland 12pm – 2pm
As part of the BBC series Reel History hosted by Melvin Bragg, broadcast in autumn showcasing archive film from across the UK, Woodhorn is inviting visitors to take a journey into the past with Northumberland Archives and Time Travel Northumberland.
The showcase will include films from the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s selected by young people from Woodhorn’s collections. Guest speakers will give an insight in to the content of the films. See if you can spot yourself or any familiar faces.
October 26 :
- Birds of Prey Display 11am – 3pm
See beautiful birds of prey and catch one of the spectacular flying displays by the team at Ridgeside Falconry.
- 5th Birthday and The Big Draw
Join in the anniversary celebrations and see Woodhorn’s specially commissioned ‘Cutter Building’ birthday cake and join in the creation of a giant artwork with the Big Draw. There will also be a presentation celebrating the last five years of activity showing in the historic Pick-Sharpeners building.
- Spooky Hallowe’en Tours
Unique spooky tours of the Woodhorn site, only available for Hallowe’en. Hear about ghostly goings-on in the atmospheric and historic colliery buildings. Places are limited on these tours so please call to book. Tours are available at 12pm and 2pm. Adult £2.95, children £1.95, family ticket (two adults + two children) £9.
And everyday between October 22-30 there will be:
- Halloween Bug Crafts 12pm – 3pm
Get crafty with creepy crawly Hallowe’en bug crafts. Cost: 50p per bug.
- Pumpkin Trail
Explore Woodhorn’s historic colliery buildings to find the hidden pumpkins and complete the special trail. Take the completed trail sheet back to the Welcome Desk to receive a spooky treat.
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