Monday, 15 February 2016

Bede's World Closes

The spiritual home of two permanent FNBs and two more satellite members (and we're talking about the team who won the museum its 1988 award in the days when it was The Bede Monastery Museum) has been closed...

And here's what you can do...

Dr Sarah Semple of Durham University says:

The closure may be temporary. We do, however, need as much support as possible. I would ask anyone who has visited or led field visits with students or lectured for the Friends to consider helping us by writing in support and encouraging their organisations to do so as well. Letters or e-mails should be directed to the Leader of South Tyneside Council and copied to the Chief Executive.

The key messages we need to get across are that any new venue must retain the educational purpose of Bede's World and should continue to serve as an educational resource for all levels - from schools through to university students and adult education; we also need to emphasise that the complex and museum must retain a connection to Bede and the early medieval monasteries.

Please write if you can and please share this widely and with any mailing lists relevant to early medieval archaeology or to the region.

Leader of South Tyneside Council - Iain Malcolm and CE of South Tyneside Council - Martin Swales can both be reached via

Just like the good old days...

Bede's World visitor attraction in Jarrow closes due to cash problems
Famous South Tyneside visitor attraction Bede's World closed on Friday after being deemed no longer financially viable

Tony Hendersdon
12 February 2016

A major Tyneside visitor attraction closed its doors on Friday amid speculation over its future.

Bede’s World in Jarrow celebrates the life of the Venerable Bede, born in 673 and who from the twin monastery site of Wearmouth-Jarrow became one of Europe’s greatest scholars and whose works are still in print today.

The site includes an 11-ace Anglo-Saxon farm, complete with animals and replica buildings, and a museum which was opened by the Queen in 2000 as the latest development in the £9m Bede’s World complex.

It was only five years ago that it was part of the Government’s submission of the Wearmouth-Jarrow twin monastery as the UK’s next world heritage site.

But on Friday the Bede’s World Trust, which runs the site was wound up after a meeting and South Tyneside Council secured the site.

The move came as a shock to the 27 staff at Bede’s World.

Mike Smith, chairman of the trustees, confirmed that discussions were taking place with insolvency experts on what would happen next.

He said: “It is absolutely terrible but we have had no choice while we look at how best to transfer the operation of Bede’s World into a different form. We are still in negotiations with insolvency practitioners.

“It was something that needed to be addressed with some urgency,” said Mr Smith.

He said the closure came against the backdrop of what was a “question of funding”.

Farm Buildings and dwellings at Bede's World

Mike Benson, who was director of Bede’s World, left last month to take up a new job with the National Coal Museum in Wakefield.

A South Tyneside Council spokesperson said: “Despite receiving substantial support from South Tyneside Council, Bede’s World is closing.

“This is because it is not currently financially viable and the charitable trust which managed the attraction has gone into liquidation.

“We can confirm that ownership of the land and buildings will revert to the council under the terms of the existing leases.

“The council is currently looking at a range of options for the site, and most importantly, to find a more affordable way to keep the facility open in the long term.”

Arrangements are being made for the care of the farm animals.

Farm Buildings and dwellings at Bede’s WorldFarm Buildings and dwellings at Bede’s World

Bede’s World’s neighbour is the Seventh Century St Paul’s Church, whose adjacent monastic remains where excavated in a series of digs in the 1960s by Durham University’s Prof Rosemary Cramp. It remains open.

Bede’s world evolved from the late 18th Century Jarrow Hall, which became the original Bede Monastery Museum from 1974 and now houses the site’s cafĂ©.

Photos of Bede's World in Jarrow which is closing

It was in 2011 that then Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt put forward the Wearmouth-Jarrow twin monastery as a candidate world heritage site.

He said then: “The twin monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow had a profound influence on learning in the Middle Ages and played a huge part in the emergence of European identity.

The outstanding library and teaching assembled at Wearmouth-Jarrow by founder Benedict Biscop was unlike anything else available in its day and it became the primary intellectual centre of Western Europe.

“The monastery’s cultural reputation owes much to the work of the well known scholar Bede a member of the community, born locally, whose writings helped establish England’s identity. Parts of the monastic churches that are still in use today date from Bede’s lifetime.”

In 2013 Bede’s World was awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £311,700 to improve the visitor experience at its Anglo-Saxon museum and farm, which included the building of a replica wooden amphitheatre, based on evidence of the structure at the 7th Century Ad Gefrin royal site at Yeavering Bell, near Wooler in Northumberland.

In 2014 Bede’s World staged a spectacular exhibition of treasures on loan from the British Museum.

It was also the first museum in the UK to have its own radio station – Radio Hive.

One for Dave...

Bede's World closure: Hundreds take to social media after shock shutting of Jarrow attraction
The South Tyneside heritage centre site closed its doors unexpectedly on Friday after charitable trust was wound up

Tony Henderson
15 February 2016

Hundreds of people took to social media to lament the loss of Bede’s World in Jarrow after the heritage centre suddenly closed on Friday.

They also backed spontaneous plans to rescue the centre, whose charitable trust has been wound up amid financial problems.

Ben Summerson said: “I can tell you that your campaign has gone international. The state of Government heritage funding in England at the moment is a disgrace.”
St Paul's Church is, of course, still open

Graeme Tallboys said: “Flabbergasted. I ran the education department for four years and we were always heavily oversubscribed. That funding should dry up for such an important centre of learning - historically and contemporarily - is an absolute disgrace and indicative of the anti-intellectualism of current times. Sad news indeed.”

Keith Hemmer said: “As one who until recently was employed there can I say thank you all very much for your support. The news came out of the blue, no warning at all. We had schools booked in that were cancelled. We are all emotionally attached to BW.

“I broke my heart yesterday saying goodbye to the animals. They were the highlight of the visit for many thousands of the region’s school kids. Now it’s all gone.”

Ian Campbell said: “Very sad, Have been keeping bees here for five years now, Lots of good people & apprentices lost their jobs today. I really hope there is an alternative to permanent closure.

Heartbreaking to have to move the hives from such a lovely location especially on a sunny day with them just emerging from winter.”

Dorothy Freeman said: “Jarrow is Bede’s like cutting the heart out of the town.”

Deborah Swan said: “Surely with its religious and historical significance the Church could step in and stop it from happening. It should really be a protected heritage site surely. We were there all day on Tuesday on a school trip and the staff had no clue.”

Katie Myers said: “It’s a place of great history and hope either English Heritage or the National Trust would be interested.”

Anne Curtis said: “I absolutely love this museum - in my view it’s a beautiful little gem and so important to our cultural heritage. How more important can you get than Bede for goodness sake?”

Iris Walls said: “I‘m furious and sad at the same time about this closure.”

Some urged a joining of forces with the bid to save the DLI Museum in Durham from closure.

Simone Martin said: “It’s the DLI Museum and art gallery all over again” while Stephen Elliott posted: “It may be worthwhile linking up with for the sharing of ideas etc to save these two vital cultural sites.”

Hannah Stefanski said: “Why was something not made public before now to inform the public of how much they were struggling? Had they done this I’m sure it would of ensured a brighter future for Bede’s World. Just from the comments it’s clear how well loved this place is to so many people.”

Many people fondly recalled visit to the sites, such as Annie Bennett: “We had so many happy days at Bede’s world, seeing the animals and exploring the buildings. It would be a great loss to see it close.”

Norma Meers said: “Hope this amazing place can be saved for the public. It’s such a shame.”

Sandra Jack said: “Can’t believe this precious history has been closed down.”

Alison Cox said: “Closure of Bedes World greatly saddens me. It’s a wonderful educational asset to the area and a crying shame it’s closed due to lack of funding.”

Gill O’Donnell posted a letter to MPs for people to download, which said: “The closure was announced unexpectedly, with staff only being told of the immediate closure that morning. The venue employs 27 staff and is supported by numerous volunteers and attracts around 70,000 visitors a year, of which almost a third are schoolchildren who benefit from the unique educational facilities on offer.

“Local residents, schools and other interested parties such as those who hire the venue for events, were given no prior notice of this impending closure and only informed later that day. This lack of warning means that a number of already booked events will have to be cancelled.

“However, a greater concern is the fact that closing this venue is going to rob the country of a valuable and internationally recognised cultural and educational resource and will considerably impoverish the life of the local community.

“The loss of this valuable resource will lead to cultural and community impoverishment. “

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