The weeping window was a display of poppies at Woodhorn museum to commemorate lives lost in the First World War.
Last year I was fascinated by the exhibition of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London. Officially titled the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red , the poppies commemorated the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.
One by one, ceramic red poppies were gradually planted in the moat until at the end a sea of red appeared. After the 11th November they disappeared. Each poppy represented a British or colonial life lost.
Sadly I was not able to travel to London to see the poppies but was delighted to learn that a similar sculpture was now on display at Woodhorn Museum.
Woodhorn is a mining museum near Bedlington. It is based in original colliery buildings and has displays that show what life used to be like in this mining community. The sculpture, called the Weeping Window, consists of a cascade of ceramic poppies pouring onto the ground below. The poppies used are from the original exhibition at the Tower of London. The sculpture, by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper is on display at Woodhorn Musuem until the end of October.
Entrance into Woodhorn Museum is free but there is a charge of £3.50 for the car park. There is plenty of space for parking and due to the expected popularity of the exhibit an overflow car park has been set up.
When you enter the museum the first thing you see is markers that direct you towards the exhibit. A program is available if you wish to view it. Going round the corner the Weeping Window comes into view and it is spectacular. The poppies tumble down the from the top of the metal structure, starting off as a trickle and gradually becoming a flood until they spread out on the floor beneath.
The contrast of the red poppies against the backdrop of the metal and old colliery buildings works really well. The exhibit is popular, it had just opened when we visited but there were plenty of people trying to take a photograph. You need to be quick to catch a snap without someone walking in the way. I managed to take several which give an idea of the majesty of the structure.
Having seen the Weeping Window we proceeded to investigate the rest of the museum. It is a mix of the old colliery buildings which contain displays showing what they used to be used for and a new modern building, the cutter building, which was inspired by monster coal cutting machines that used to work there.
We wandered round the old colliery buildings first. There was a section where the Ashington World War II plaques were on display. A poignant reminder of what the poppies represented. Children were also able to get involved in making their own poppies to take home with them as a reminder of their visit.
In the other buildings we discovered more about life in the colliery, a blacksmiths forgery and a stable for the pit ponies that used to go down the pit. The information about the life of the pit ponies made fascinating reading, most of them spent all their lives underground getting a weeks holiday outside. They had a hard job to do as did the miners.
The Jack engine house was fascinating. The engine was steam powered and wound sinkers up and down in a wooden tub. I loved the sign on the wall. You could also take a trip on a steam train which you had to pay extra for. The queues for this were long so we did not bother.
We walked over to the Cutter Building which is impressive against the skyline. The building also contains the Northumberland Archives which contains historical artefacts and historical documents relating to Northumberland. This is open during the week and members of the public are welcome to come and refer to the documents.
There are an number of changing exhibitions here, at the moment there are two different ones on. The first was The Share, which was a look at the Guide Post CIU and the part it played in the community. It really gave a feel for the big part that the CIU club played in getting people together and enjoying themselves in artefacts and a range of photos on the wall from the club. It is a shame that the face of communities are changing and social clubs are not longer a big part of them.
The other exhibition was called The Lost World of Norman Cornish. Norman Cornish is one of the Pitman Painters. He was born in Spennymoor and worked at the Dean and Chapter Colliery. His paintings are evocative, showing life of the miners and the ordinary man during the times when coalmining was common place. I really enjoyed looking at the paintings and would have loved prints of some of them to hang on my wall.
The other part of the museum we visited was called Coal Town and it really gives you an insight into the life of a miner in Northumberland. It starts off in 1918 as you walk to work at the mine and takes you on a fascinating journey across the decades to the modern day. Visiting the miners homes and learning about social events like the miners picnic and miners gala is fascinating. It gives you insight into what it was like working down a pit and also the devastation that the closure of the pits and the effects it had on a community.
It is definitely worth a visit to Woodhorn Museum, we found the day fascinating and learnt a lot. It was lovely to see the Weeping Window while it is here, a really poignant memorial to the men who lost their lives in the war.
Other fascinating museums in the North East worth a visit are Beamish Museum which is a living museum that takes you back into the past.