The home of celebrated North East artist Norman Cornish is set to be recreated as part of the 1950s terrace project at Beamish, The Living Museum of the North.
Norman lived at 33 Bishop’s Close Street in Spennymoor with his wife Sarah and their children Ann and John between 1953 and 1967, while Norman was working as a hewer in the local pit.
The exhibit will tell the story of Norman and his family, as well as life in the town, including the Spennymoor Settlement of artists, writers and poets, which he joined as soon as he was able to on his 15th birthday.
And budding artists will also be able to draw inspiration from Norman’s work in an adjacent art space that will form part of the exhibit.
A £10,000 grant has been awarded from the Banks Community Fund to support the art space. The Fund was set up by The Banks Group, to support local community and environmental projects in the vicinity of its developments.
Work on decorating the interior of the house has just begun and it is expected to be open to the public by spring next year along with the rest of the 1950s terrace, which will also include an ice cream parlour, a fish and chip shop, and a hairdresser’s salon.
The Cornish family eventually moved to Whitworth Terrace in Spennymoor in 1967, where Norman lived for the rest of his life.
The family arranged for the contents of Norman’s studio, including some unfinished work, his chair, easels, paint pots, brushes, and furniture that he had made himself to be donated to Beamish before his death in 2014 at the age of 94.
The Spennymoor Settlement, which nurtured the talents of other artists including Tom McGuinness, Bob Heslop and Bert Dees, as well as playwright Sid Chaplin, provided free classes and community groups and was an outlet for creativity in an area affected by unemployment and poverty.
Founded in 1970, Beamish is the North East’s most successful visitor attraction, and attracts more than 760,000 visitors every year.
Pictured above: Dean and Chapter Pit banner reimagined by John Cornish (son of Norman Cornish)
The Cornish house is part of the £20million Remaking Beamish project, which was awarded £10.9million by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and which will help the museum create a range of new ways for people to experience the heritage of the North East. The project includes a 1950s Town, 1950s Farm and expansion of the Georgian area including overnight accommodation.
Lisa Kaimenas, Remaking Beamish Project Officer – Community Participation, says: “Norman was advised to ‘paint the world you know’, and we’re hugely excited to be bringing some more of that world to life for our visitors.
“33 Bishop’s Close Street was a very typical National Coal Board house, and we’ve gone to great lengths to recreate a home that we know Norman had lots of fond memories of living in with his family.
“The Spennymoor Settlement gave local people the opportunity to improve socially through education or even through creative avenues like the sketch group, and just as Norman drew inspiration from other artists during his working life, we hope community groups, school parties and other visitors will feel the same way when they’re using the art space.
“Securing the support of regional businesses like The Banks Group is central to the success of our development plans, and we’re really looking forward to being able to welcome visitors into Norman’s home.”
The Banks Group is a long-term supporter of Beamish, with a £22,000 grant provided in 2018 supporting the re-creation of a 1950s County Durham welfare hall as part of the Remaking Beamish project and previous grants totalling £17,000 providing a banner display case for the Hetton Silver Band project and helping to establish an authentic colliery lamp cabin within the museum’s mining exhibit.
Pictured above: Painting by Gracie Flynn of Enter CIC inspired by one of Norman Cornish’s artworks
Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at the Banks Group, adds: “Norman Cornish is one of the pre-eminent artists to have emerged from our home county and it will be a real privilege to be able to see a recreation of the space in which he lived and worked.
“Beamish is a real jewel in the North East’s tourism offering, and as a County Durham-based business, we’re very pleased to be further extending our support to its continuing development.”
The Banks Community Fund is administered by the County Durham Community Foundation, and provides grants for community groups and voluntary organisations and environmental projects in the vicinity of Banks Group projects.
Anyone interested in applying for funding should contact the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342 or via firstname.lastname@example.org to check if their group or project is eligible.