During half term we found out that there were going to be Vikings at the Great North Museum. We had previously visited the Vikings at Lindisfarne and really enjoyed the day so we decided to go. The Great North Museum is worth a visit, it is a free museum near the centre of Newcastle which has fascinating exhibits of natural history, dinosaurs and different world cultures. It is easy to spend a couple of hours wandering around the Great North Museum exploring the different rooms. There is plenty to capture the imagination from a scale model of Hadrian’s Wall to artefacts from ancient Egypt, including mummies and displays showing the diversity of animals around the world. We find something new every time we visit.
The Great North Museum is situated in Barras Bridge, near the centre of town. It is a short walk from the Haymarket. As you approach the museum there is a statue of William Armstrong who was one of the museums benefactors when it opened on this site. Armstrong is well known in Newcastle, an industrialist responsible for the Armstrong works in Elswick which produced hydraulic machinery and armaments. He also build the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity, Cragside in Northumberland.
As we approached the Great North Museum we could see the Viking camp on the lawn outside. There were a number of tents and people dressed in the Viking costumes, each demonstrating different aspects of Viking life.
It was strange seeing the Viking figures against the city background. The Vikings were very knowledgeable and happy to explain what they were doing. Plenty of people had come to see them and the children were fascinated. It was really interesting seeing the different types of utensils and equipment that Vikings would have used.
When I think of Viking culture I tend to think of long ships raiding Britain and attacking monasteries. The Viking camp demonstrated different aspects of Viking culture. This lady showed the different foods that they ate and the utensils used to prepare it. I love the artwork on the side of the tent.
Read more: Dippy the diplodocus visits Newcastle
The Viking culture was complex and diverse with every member of the community having their jobs to do. Many of the Vikings ran farms and had a lot of work to do to keep the community running smoothly, flour had to be made in order to make bread. Fish had to be caught and the livestock looked after. Extra meat was gather from hunting. Clothes had to be made scratch, the wool woven after being sheared from sheep.
As well as the peaceful farming side of Viking life there was also the military side. The Vikings had to be good at fighting and also sailing their ships. Viking weapons were on display and we were given a talk on exactly how these were used.
Read more: Visiting the Great Exhibition of the North
It should be noted that none of the helmets have horns on them. This is true to what historians know about Vikings, horns on the helmet is a myth that has grown up over the years. There were plenty of drinking horns around however, in case the Vikings needed refreshment after fighting. I would think carrying all that chain mail around is thirsty work.
We really enjoyed our visit and learnt a lot about Viking life. It is worth keeping a eye on the Great North Museum website as they have different events though out the year. It is an ideal place to take your children in the school holidays. The Power & People exhibition at Segedunum Roman Fort in Wallsend is also worth a visit, it is only there until September. When we visited the Romans were also there.