Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Belford Museum

Having seen a great deal of social media postings for this site recently, I made a point while travelling in North Northumberland, of visiting the village of Belford, and its local history museum, to satisfy my curiosity. Belford is a pleasant village half way between Alnwick and Berwick just off the A1.

The exhibition has evolved over the last five years in a communal reading room dating from 1854. It is entirely the project of enthusiastic, local volunteers. The museum building is in a central location just off the market place. The exhibits are spread throughout two small rooms.

Home page from the Museum's Website

Going in through the main door and turning right the first thing that caught my eye was a large TV screen with an interactive display. This is in the form of a map of the village where you can zoom in to smaller areas of the town complete with historical information and past photographs. It was a good starting point, I felt, for a tour of the museum. I understood a great deal more about the village from looking at the display. There was not too much information to digest and after ten minutes I wandered off to search the rest of the exhibits having learnt that Belford had developed into a reasonably populous area during the 18th -19th centuries because of its use as a postal town by the Royal Mail. Horses would need to be swapped every twenty miles or so and coaching inns with stabling would be established for this purpose. One such was at the the Blue Bell Inn, also in the market place.

The rest of the museum is mostly made up of display cabinets containing examples of local pottery, war medals of residents and various artefacts. Newspaper cuttings, posters and photographs line the walls and once again are not so numerous that you cannot read them all in a reasonable time period. They illustrate the role of local minor gentry, and their grand residences, in the history of Belford. Especially prominent is the involvement in hunting of past residents.

The second room has a display of old costumes. It is also largely devoted to cuttings and artefacts from the Belford inhabitants involvement in warfare. What interested me most was a collection of material relating to the former horse racing  track.

It is a well-laid out exhibition. The rooms are modern and bright. The volunteers offer guided tours and can help with family history research. Of course, it is necessary to contact the museum in advance to arrange this, but the volunteers sound like a committed, friendly and enthusiastic group of folk and welcome enquiries.

The museum is free to enter and is open seven days per week from 10am - 4pm. So, if you are in the area drop into Belford. Not only for the museum, but it has community shops, cafes and, of course, the Blue Bell Inn.

SEE... http://www.belfordhiddenhistory.co.uk/index.php