Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Old Images Throw New Light on Life 'Upstairs and Downstairs' Today It's a Plush Hotel, but Recently Unearthed Photos Recall the Heyday of Beamish Hall in County Durham as an Early 20th Century Country House. DAVE MORTON Looks Back at the Building's History

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Old Images Throw New Light on Life 'Upstairs and Downstairs' Today It's a Plush Hotel, but Recently Unearthed Photos Recall the Heyday of Beamish Hall in County Durham as an Early 20th Century Country House. DAVE MORTON Looks Back at the Building's History

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVE MORTON

The hugely popular historical TV drama Downton Abbey introduced millions of viewers to the lost world of english country houses.

The "upstairs and downstairs" existence of aristocrats and servants was an accepted feature of the nation's life in the early 20th Century.

For many men and women in our region, "domestic service" at a North east country house became a favoured occupation.

It was the aftermath of World War I which saw the demise of many old english country houses.

One of the grandest in this part of the world was Beamish hall, which is today home to the plush Best Western Beamish hall hotel.

The team at the hotel has uncovered a collection of great old images chronicling the life and times at the grand old building and country estate.

The images are held in the photographic archive at Beamish Museum.

Despite being located literally across the road, the team was unaware of the vast resource on their own doorstep.

They were uncovered during a research project into the history of the hotel building.

Over 100 images throw new light on everyday life at the vast country house.

They include photos of the aristocrats who ruled "upstairs" and the servants who lived "downstairs."

Dating from the late-1800s to the early-1980s, the images show the transition from use as a grand family home, to a headquarters for Durham County Council, to an educational retreat centre and, later, as part of Beamish Museum in its early days.

Photos include members of the famous Shafto family in a new car, butlers and housemaids, a hunt setting off, as well as panoramic shots of the house and grounds.

Now, one of the region's most successful country house hotels, of particular interest are images capturing the construction of the Winter Gardens room, the most popular event space at the hall for the many weddings, gala dinners and balls which take place today. …

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