Tag: England

TV Shows to Inspire Your Next Trip to the UK

TV Shows to Inspire Your Next Trip to the UK

TV Shows Set in the UK to Inspire Your Next Trip

It’s no secret that I am, above all else, a hopeless Anglophile. My choices of entertainment are no exception – I adore British television and find it far superior to what we have here in the US. The plot lines are more complex, the humor can be much subtler, and the actors look like real people, not unrealistically perfect specimens of humanity. (Except maybe Aidan Turner in Poldark. But more on that later.) The added benefit of watching British television is that many TV shows set in the UK have a star that does not get any credit: the scenery. I’d like to share with you some of my favorite TV shows set in the UK that have inspired my travels – past and future.

NOTE: In the US, we refer to a year’s worth of programs on a show as a “season.” In the UK, they call it a “series.” For the most part, I have tried to use “series” here because streaming services list it that way.

1. Shetland – the Shetland Isles

This is the most recent show that I’ve watched. It takes place on the Shetland Isles, which are a group of islands northeast of Scotland. If you’ve heard of Fair Isle sweaters, then you’re at least a tiny bit familiar with Shetland. One of the islands is Fair Isle (population 55).

TV Shows Set in the UK - Shetland features murder mysteries set in the Shetland Isles

The show features Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez, a widower who has raised his stepdaughter alone since the death of his wife. His daughter is now college age, and heading off to Glasgow, which leaves Jimmy somewhat alone and at a loss as to what to do with this phase of his life.

One of the police officers under DI Perez is DS Alison “Tosh” McIntosh. Originally from Glasgow, Tosh has always struggled to fit into the close knit community of Shetland. But under the mentorship of Perez she flourishes and becomes a vital member of his team. Her character becomes especially well developed in series 3.

What I like about the show: Well, besides the beautiful landscape, I especially like the characters of Perez and Tosh. I also found the “whodunit” aspect to be intriguing as I could never figure out (before the characters did) who had committed the crimes or why.

Where it’s inspired me to travel: I want to visit Shetland (despite the 12-14 boat ride from northern Scotland!). Specifically, I’d like to go in late January to see the fire festival known as Up Helly Aa.

TV Shows set in the UK: In one episode, Shetland features the fire festival known as Up Helly Aa.
Photo via Flickr by Vincenczo Fileccia.

Groups dress in costumes and carry torches through the town. At the end, they throw their torches into a replica Viking longship. Then the groups visit local halls to attend private parties. At the hall, each group performs an act, which may be a send-up of a popular TV show or film, a skit on local events, or singing or dancing. The Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick serves as the backdrop for one of the show’s episodes.

What you need to know before you watch it: Series 1 and 2 of the show consisted of two part episodes based upon the mystery novels of Ann Cleeves. Series 3 departed from that format with a six part episode written solely for television.  Series 1-3 of Shetland are streaming on Netflix; Season 4 has been released in the UK but so far has not made it across the pond.

2. Outlander – Scotland (Inverness & the Highlands)

Outlander is a story that has it all — romance, time travel, war, politics, villainous scheming, espionage, torture, and history. Add to that the gorgeous main characters and beautiful highland scenery, and it’s a must-see.

TV Shows Set in the UK: Much of the Outlander series takws place in the Scottish highlands.

What I like about the show: I read the book series by Diana Gabaldon long before the TV series aired. What I appreciate most is that the show is pretty faithful to the books, which is a rare and wonderful thing. Also, the cinematography is very visually appealing, and then there’s this guy:

TV Shows Set in the UK: Sam Heughan stars in Outlander as Jamie Fraser

Where it has inspired me to travel: After seeing how beautiful the mountains of northern Scotland are, I have placed it much higher on my list of places I want to visit.

What you need to know before you watch it: The show is not available via Netflix or A,mason Prim3. The fourth season will premiere in November 2018. Starz has already renewed the series for a fifth and sixth season.

3. Doc Martin – Cornwall, England

This was the first show that really made me fall in love with a place, and it’s my favorite of all the TV shows set in the UK. Set in the north Cornwall fishing village of Port Isaac, Doc Martin is the story of a very intelligent, highly skilled London surgeon who suddenly develops a fear of blood. Pretty inconvenient for a surgeon, right? Well, he gets reassigned as a general practitioner in the fictional small town of Portwenn and, as he has no bedside manner whatsoever, hilarity ensues.

TV Shows Set in the UK: Doc Martin shows off the north Cornish coast of England.
Martin Clunes stars as Dr Martin Ellingham in Doc Martin.

Unlike many television shows filmed on location, this program has many scenes filmed right in the village. Many times, viewers will see the characters walking down the street, popping into a store, or welcoming someone into their home… and all of those places are right there in Port Isaac. The large white building with church like arched windows in the photo below is a hotel (in fact, the one where we stayed). But in the show it’s the village school, where Martin’s love interest works.

TV Shows Set in the UK: the Cornish village of Port Isaac is the setting for the show Doc Martin.

The show has proven very popular, with eight series already aired, and a ninth in the works for 2019.

What I like about the show: It’s quite funny, but also a bit suspenseful as you watch Doc Martin try to figure out why someone is ill.  A bit like House, MD, but not as serious. Every episode features lovely, quirky characters who will either remind you of someone you know or make you wish you knew them. (Sole exception: the secretary from Series 1, who is absolutely dreadful.)

Where it’s inspired me to travel: Because I fell in love with this show almost from the first time I watched it, going to Cornwall, and especially to Port Isaac, was a priority for me. We have already crossed this one off of our bucket list, and it was a wonderful trip.  Cornwall is every bit as stunning in person as it is on television. I hope to return some day.

What you need to know before you watch it: Series 1 through 6 of Doc Martin are streaming on Netflix.

4. Sherlock – London

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his Sherlock Holmes stories between 1887 and 1927. The BBC has taken the beloved title character and placed him in modern day London. The result is a brilliant adaptation of classic literature that is relevant to today’s audiences while staying true to the original story. Add to that the brilliant talent of Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, and it’s completely riveting.

TV Shows Set in the UK: BBC's Sherlock, the most recent incarnation of the famed detective, is set in modern-day London.

What I like about the show: Hands down, the dialogue! Each episode abounds with quotable sentences and stinging one-liners. However, they speak so fast at times that it’s difficult to take in everything that they’re saying. I usually watch with English SDH subtitles on just to make sure I don’t miss anything important.

Where it’s inspired me to travel: I went to the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London on our last visit there. However, it was a disappointment as this incarnation of the detective was noticeably absent from the museum.

What you need to know before you watch it: The episodes are three to a series, and they run 90 minutes each. There have been four series total, and all are currently available streaming on Netflix. No word yet on whether there will be a fifth series.

5. Poldark – Cornwall

Ross Poldark returns home from fighting in the colonies’ Revolutionary War to find that his father is dead, his family home is in shambles, and his beloved, Elizabeth, has wed his cousin’s wedding proposal. Always a risk taker, the stubborn Ross decides to restore his estate and his family’s disused mine. He finds opposition at every turn. This underdog with a strong sense of social justice wants to prove that he alone is the master of his destiny.

TV Shows Set in the UK: Poldark is set in late 18th century Cornwall.

 

What I like about it: Well, Cornwall, for a start. And Aidan Turner is a fantastically broody Ross Poldark. I also love the headstrong and self-sufficient Demelza, and Ross’ cousin, Verity. These women are intelligent, capable of taking care of themselves, and firm in their opinions.

TV Shows Set in the UK - Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza Poldark
Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza Poldark.

Where it’s inspired me to travel: Back to Cornwall, although that’s an easy sell for me. Specifically, I would like to learn more about and visit sites pertaining to the area’s tin mining heritage.

What you need to know before you watch it: The show is based on a 12-book series written between 1945 and 2002. This is not the only television adaptation of the Poldark story. Other versions were made in 1975 and 1996. But they don’t have Aidan Turner!  Series 1-3 are available streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Series 4 is currently airing in the US on PBS stations.

6. Broadchurch – Dorset’s Jurassic Coast

I recommend Broadchurch to nearly everyone I discuss television with. It is so brilliantly put together – the cinematography is stunning and the music perfectly complements what is happening on screen. The series 1 debut episode opens with the discovery of an 11 year old boy’s body. He has been murdered, resulting in enormous repercussions of grief, mutual suspicion and media attention on the small town. Detectives Alec Hardy (played by Doctor Who’s David Tenant) and Ellie Miller (played by Olivia Colman, now one of my favorite British actresses) set about finding out who killed the boy, and why. But every time they (and you, the viewer) think the answer is obvious, it turns out to be a dead end.

TV Shows Set in Dorset: Broadchurch is set in a small town on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset, England.

What I liked about the show: So many things! For starters, there’s the music (which is something I rarely even notice, let alone appreciate!). Also the dynamic between Hardy and Miller. Then there’s the way the show kept me guessing about who had killed the boy. (Ultimately, I was wrong each time I thought I had figured out the identity of the killer.) It’s just an all-around excellent show, and I can’t say enough good things about it.

Where it’s inspired me to travel: Dorset, obviously.  It’s a very dramatic coastline, with huge cliffs looking out over the sea.

TV Shows Set in the UK: Broadchurch features the Jurassic coast of Dorset as its locale.

What you need to know before you watch it: There are three series of the show.  Series 1 is the whodunit, followed by series 2, which is the trial of the murderer and the turmoil around it. Series 3 is an unrelated case, a rape, with the same detectives investigating. All three seasons are available in streaming from Netflix.

7. Last Tango in Halifax – Yorkshire

Celia Dawson and Alan Buttershaw are both widowed and in their seventies. Attracted to each other as teenagers in the 1950s, they never expressed their feelings, and Celia’s family moved away before they had a chance to do so. After their respective grandchildren persuade them to join Facebook, they reconnect with each other and meet. After their reunion, Alan and Celia discover that they still feel as passionately for each other as they did when they were teenagers.

TV Shows Set in the UK: Last Tango in Halifax takes place in Yorkshire.

The romance between Alan and Celia runs in contrast to the the troubles of their own grown-up daughters. Alan’s daughter Gillian and Celia’s daughter Caroline are complete opposites: widowed Gillian runs a farm and works part-time in a supermarket, while Oxford-educated Caroline is the headmistress of a successful school. Their parents’ engagement affects both daughters’ lives. Gillian wonders how she and her son will cope without her father around to help. Caroline, struggling with depression and her feelings for a female colleague, feels that her mother’s unconventional romance gives her “permission to finally admit to being who she really is.”

Many comical and cringe-worthy moments follow as the characters try to sort out their feelings, deal with their changes in circumstance, and come to terms with how their choices impact the people they love.

What I like about the show: I felt like the characters were real people with real problems. They weren’t rich, powerful, beautiful people who had perfect lives. Nor were they total basket cases who couldn’t turn around without causing drama and upheaval. They were real people with real struggles, perfectly relatable to viewers.

TV Shows Set in the UK: the characters of Last Tango in Halifax are relatable through all their ups and downs.

Where it’s inspired me to travel: Because of the rolling hills and stunning Yorkshire countryside, I was inspired to travel to that county in 2016. It was every bit as beautiful and as picturesque as I’d seen in the show. It’s a lovely area of the UK, and I highly recommend that you explore it a bit.

What you need to know before you watch it: There are three series of the show and a two part Christmas special/epilogue.  All of them are available via streaming on Netflix.

8. Hinterland – Wales

Hinterland is described as a “noir police drama” set in Aberystwyth, a historic market town and holiday resort on Wales’ western coast. It differs from most television shows in that the cast filmed every scene twice – once in English and once in Welsh. The show features troubled DCI Tom Mathias solving murders while searching for personal redemption.

TV Shows Set in the UK: Hinterland is one of the few shows to be set in Wales.

What I like about the show: Honestly? Not a whole lot. I watched 5.5 episodes before calling it quits. I appreciated seeing glimpses of Wales, but I didn’t particularly care for the characters, and found the show to be a little too grim for my tastes. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, there are few alternatives. Not many of the TV shows set in the UK have Wales as their setting.  For a lighthearted alternative, I recommend the 1995 Hugh Grant film The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain.

TV Shows Set in the UK: Hinterland features beautiful Welsh landscapes.

Where it’s inspired me to travel: Wales has been on my bucket list for a while now. I’d still love to go there.

What you need to know before watching it: All three series of the show are available to stream on Netflix. The version available on Netflix is almost exclusively an English language version, and each episode runs about 90 minutes.

But Wait – There’s More!

And if this isn’t enough, consider subscribing to the all-British streaming channel BritBox. I’ve arranged for my like-minded Anglophile readers to receive a free trial of BritBox at Amazon.com. I know you’ll love it – they have documentaries, dramas, comedies, historical series, and more. Like most streaming services, they routinely add new shows, so you’ll never run out of great content. Give it a try today!

 

TV Shows Set in the UK that will inspire you to travel there!
Infographic: A Weekend in Canterbury, Kent

Infographic: A Weekend in Canterbury, Kent

A Weekend in Canterbury

Made famous by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales over 600 years ago, this Kentish town is still thriving and has plenty to offer weekend visitors. Just two hours away from London, it makes the perfect destination for a weekend getaway. From UNESCO World Heritage sites to a Bollywood style dance class, a weekend in Canterbury has something for everyone to enjoy.

How to spend a weekend in Canterbury Kent, England.

The World in Miniature: Six Great Dollhouses from Around the Globe

The World in Miniature: Six Great Dollhouses from Around the Globe

It’s All in the Details

Ever since my childhood, I’ve been a little fascinated with dollhouses. There is something magical about seeing a slice of everyday life shrunk down into miniature. And the more details there are, the more magical it becomes. Here are five amazing dollhouses from around the world that are on my bucket list to see, plus one I’ve already seen.

Read More Read More

The Making of Harry Potter at the Warner Brothers Studio London

The Making of Harry Potter at the Warner Brothers Studio London

First, a Confession:

I have waited over three months to write a post about The Making of Harry Potter. I hoped that giving it some time would subdue my zealous enthusiasm and help me not come across as a total geek.

Alas, it did not.

I took almost 200 photos there, and when I looked through them to decide which ones I would include in this post, I could only narrow it down to thirty. I will try my hardest to cut out more as I am writing. But it will be painful.

Suffice it to say that if you have ever watched a Harry Potter movie, there is only one thing that should be at the top of your list for London attractions: The Making of Harry Potter at the Warner Brother Studios in Leavesden.

Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

According to the web site (link at the end), the tour is supposed to take about three hours. However, I strongly recommend allowing almost an entire day for it. Three hours is probably the bare minimum time, and does not include transportation to/from the studio tour. (Details on transportation are also at the end of this post.)

When you enter The Making of Harry Potter building, you are in a large lobby area, with giant photos of the cast members staring down at you. Alan Rickman’s Snape is there. It made me a little melancholy to see him as I’ve been a fan even of his for decades. He really knew how to create memorable characters! A few props are there as well, including the flying Ford Anglia that Ron and Harry borrowed in The Chamber of Secrets. From the lobby you proceed to the queuing area and enter a maze of barrier straps, winding back and forth. While there, you get to see the famous cupboard under the stairs from Number 4, Privet Drive.

Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour Cupboard Under the Stairs

Once you reach the front of the line, you are ushered into a large, mostly dark and very empty room, where you watch a video presentation. It really isn’t very long but you feel like it is because you just want to get to Hogwarts, already! After the video, you move into a great stone room that looks like the outside of a castle. Pause for dramatic effect, then the doors open and you are ushered into…

Great Hall Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

…the Great Hall at Hogwarts!

The long tables are set and they seem to stretch on forever. Mannequins behind the tables wear the characters’ costumes. And of course, Headmaster Albus Dumbledore is at the head of the hall, flanked by Professors McGonagal and Snape.

Between the tables and the platform on which the professors would stand is, of course, the Sorting Hat, ready to announce the Hogwarts house for every new student.

Sorting Hat Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

At this point on The Making of Harry Potter tour, I’m enjoying myself and pretty wowed by everything that I’m seeing, but starting to have a bit of anxiety creep up on me because it’s a little too structured. I don’t like being led about like a dog on a leash – I want to explore and set my own pace. Luckily, it turned out that I had no need to feel even the slightest bit anxious. Our guide opened a second set of doors from the Great Hall and we walked out into the remainder of our studio tour, where we were free to explore as much or as little as we wanted to.

At that point, I went from a dog on a leash to a rat on crack – pinging from exhibit to exhibit and rushing around in circles because I wanted to see everything all at once. I didn’t have time to read the signs, darn it!  I had stuff to see!

Eventually I found a happy medium and was able to calm down. Good thing, too, because there are details that you don’t want to miss in this tour.

Most of the things that I zinged past so quickly were technical exhibits – how they actually made certain items in the film work. Floating candles in the great hall, for instance. (To be honest, I missed a lot of this. I wish I had taken the time to pay more attention, because I’m sure it was really interesting.) Once I had started to breathe again, I found the exhibit on wardrobe distressing pretty fascinating. You’d be surprised how much work goes into making a smudge of dirt appear on an actor’s jacket!

There was a beautiful display from the Yule Ball scene in Goblet of Fire:

Yule Ball Costumes Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London
Harry and Cho Chang’s outfits in front; Hermione’s and Viktor Krum’s in back.

Moving on, we made it to the Gryffindor rooms. First the common room:

Gryffindor Common Room Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

and then the boys’ dormitory. Here’s Ron’s bunk:

Gryffindor Boys Dorm Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

There were so many items that had great significance in the plot of the seven Harry Potter books and movies, and seeing each one was a thrill.

Film Props Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London
TOP:  The Mirror of Erised and Godric Gryffindor’s Sword.
BOTTOM: Harry’s Invisibility Cloak, Dumbledore’s Pensieve, and the Tri-Wizard Cup

(See what I did there?  Five photos in one!  Pretty clever, eh?)

We got to see lots of the settings from the movies, which felt so real, I wanted to sit and stay for a while. Here is Dumbledore’s office, which had many items from the books/movies – the pensieve, the sword of Godric Gryffindor, the paintings of former headmasters, and so many books! (Fun Fact:  It turns out the books lining the shelves of our favorite Headmaster’s office are telephone directories that were altered to look like antique volumes!)

Dumbledore Office Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

And there was Snape’s Potions classroom. Melancholia struck again when I saw the figure representing the late, great, Alan Rickman.

Snape Potions Classroom Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

There were plenty great details in the potions classroom. First, the apparatus used to make Felix Felicis:

Felix Felicis Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

and a few copies of Advanced Potion Making here and there.

Potions Classroom Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

They also had self-stirring cauldrons, but that doesn’t translate well into a still photograph.

One set that gave me absolute joy was The Burrow, home to the poor-in-money-but-rich-in-love Weasley family.

The Burrow Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London
You can’t tell in the photo, but the knife in the foreground was chopping the carrot by itself.

At The Burrow, Molly’s knitting needles were clicking and clacking away whilst knitting a blanket, and there was the famous clock that showed which family members were home and which were in mortal peril.

Weasley Home Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

There are so many more exhibits I could write about and show you, but I have to draw a line somewhere. There were Professor Umbrage’s proclamations, floo powder sets, the Ministry of Magic statue, Tom Riddle’s grave, Hagrid’s Hut, the Leaky Cauldron, the Chamber of Secrets door, Mad-Eye Moody’s trunk, Lupin’s trunk, the Clock from Azkaban, the Hogwarts Express, Diagon Alley, and so much more!

Oh, okay, one more photo before I move on. Remember the Deatheaters meeting at Malfoy Manor in Deathly Hallows Part 1?

Malfoy Manor Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

Outward and Onward

When you finally tear yourself away from the exhibits and head out, you find yourself at a food court with a couple of different options for meals and snacks. My daughter and I could not resist the soft-serve butterbeer ice cream, which was so creamy and sweet!

Butterbeer Ice Cream Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

After leaving the food court area, you head outside and see some of the exterior sets. For instance, the Dursley residence, AKA number 4, Privet Drive.

4 Privet Drive Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

Where Technology & Magic Meet

From there, you head into the second leg of the tour, bringing you back to the technical aspects of how the movie was made. Learning how they filmed Hagrid was especially interesting. Apparently not all of the scenes with Hagrid are actually Robbie Coltrane. They had an insanely realistic looking animatronic head that they used as his double:

Hagrid Head Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

This portion of the tour also included Dobby, the Gringott’s goblin, Buckbeak, Aragog, Fawkes, and more.

The grand finale to the tour is just amazing. I won’t tell you what it is, but suffice it to say that it is – no pun intended – absolutely magical.

As thrilling as it is to read about these things and these places in a book, and to see them on the big screen, it is even more so to stand in the midst of it all and feel like you’re actually there. If you’ve ever read a Harry Potter book or seen a movie, The Making of Harry Potter deserves a top spot on your bucket list.

The Warner Brothers Studio Tour’s address is Studio Tour Drive in Leavesden, WD25 7LR. Telephone 0345 084 0900. To get there, take a train from London to Watford Junction. Outside the Watford Junction station, you can get a shuttle bus that runs to the studio. The studio has hours that vary from day to day; consult the schedule when planning your visit. 

How to Maximize Your Savings on Rail Travel… and Possibly Even Travel for Free

How to Maximize Your Savings on Rail Travel… and Possibly Even Travel for Free

On our recent trip to the UK, we had a bit of a rail travel nightmare. We were leaving Northern England (Newcastle) to head back to London. The trip was to last about three hours, roughly 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.

All went smoothly until we arrived at York, when the operator announced that the train line was closed due to a herd of cattle on the tracks near Peterborough. We were advised to disembark and catch a different train to Manchester, from whence we could take yet another train to London. Since the train to Manchester was essentially carrying two trains’ worth of passengers, many of us rode standing up, packed in the cars like sardines. It was not fun.

Further problems (and delays) ensued when the driver of the Manchester-to-London train fell ill. Long story short, we arrived in London around 5:00, a full four hours later than we planned.

During the Manchester-to-London ride, the operator made an announcement that because there was a significant (i.e., more than 30 minutes) delay, we would be eligible to receive a refund for our rail travel. I honestly didn’t think much about it because, ugh!, paperwork is not something I care to bother with when I’m on vacation. But once we got home, I looked into it.

Delay Repay in the UK

Sure enough, Virgin Trains (the company we booked with) has a “Delay Repay” policy. If your train runs 30-59 minutes late, you could receive a 50% refund. If your delay is 60 minutes or more, you can receive a full refund for your rail travel. And depending on how you booked, you might even get it automatically!

I was skeptical, though, because the train I ended up arriving in London on was a different carrier than the one I had originally booked. In fact, each of the three trains we took to get to London was with a different carrier. I wasn’t sure who to apply for the refund with, so I applied with Virgin Trains East Coast (our originating train in Newcastle) and Virgin Trains (the one that actually got us to London… finally).

Within a week Virgin Trains contacted me to say that they were denying my refund request because of inadequate documentation. Well, that’s it, I figured, no refund for me. Imagine my surprise when nearly two months later I found this in my mail from Virgin Trains East Coast:

img_2639

A refund check for the full amount we paid for that journey! Now, granted, it is going to take a small eternity for it to clear the bank due to currency conversion, but it’s still close to $70 that I wouldn’t have received if I hadn’t tried.

And it turns out Virgin is not alone.  Other rail travel operators have generous compensation policies for delayed passengers as well. I was lucky in that the train operator advised us we would be eligible for a delay, but if he had not, I would have had no clue. It pays to be aware of your rights as a passenger. Thus the purpose of this post. 🙂

In addition to Virgin Trains and Virgin Trains East Coast, other UK rail companies operating with a Delay Repay policy are

  • CrossCountry
  • East Midlands Trains
  • Greater Anglia
  • Great Northern
  • Southeastern
  • Southern
  • Thameslink, and
  • TransPennine Express

Elsewhere in Europe

Within the EU, there are refund policies in place for rail travel as well.  If your arrival at your destination is canceled or delayed by an hour or more, you are entitled to the following compensation:

  • full and immediate refund upon cancellation of the journey
  • return journey to your original departure point if the delay prevents you from completing the purpose of the trip
  • transportation to your destination, including alternative means of transportation if the rail line is closed
  • meals and refreshments proportionate to your waiting time
  • accommodations if you must stay overnight as a result of the delay

If you decide to continue your journey as planned or to accept alternative transport to your destination, you may receive compensation of:

  • 25% of the ticket fare, if the train is between 1 and 2 hours late.
  • 50% of the fare, if the train is more than 2 hours late.

And, finally, if your luggage is lost or damaged on a rail journey within the EU, you have a right to compensation, unless it was “inadequately packed, unfit for transport or had a special nature.”

  • Up to € 1300 per piece of registered luggage – if you can prove the value of its contents.
  • € 330 per piece if you can’t prove the value.

Remember, forewarned is forearmed. Knowing your rights as a rail travel passenger will prepare you for any scenario!

 

Beamish, Part 6: The 1900s Town – Shops

Beamish, Part 6: The 1900s Town – Shops

Part of a series of reviews on the open air living history museum in County Durham, UK. Other posts in this series are:

1 – a review of the 1940s Home Farm
2 – a review of the 1900s Pit Village 
3 – a review of the Colliery (Coal Mine)
4 – a review of Ravensworth Terrace, the residential section of the 1990s Town
5 – a review of the print shop in the 1900s Town

My favorite aspect of visiting a new place, other than photographing it, is shopping there.  I don’t mean just souvenir shopping.  I think visiting the stores in a new area gives you a special kind of insight into what daily life is like there.  Happily, the folks at Beamish agree with me on this point, so they have set up many opportunities for shopping.

A large section of the 1900s town is occupied by retail establishments.  As you might expect, they are just as authentically detailed as the rest of Beamish. For starters, there is an authentic bakery, where you can purchase Edwardian era treats.  We each got a different cookie/pastry and agreed that they were delicious.  The bakery also had a huge contraption called a “Super Human Kneader” for making bread. It would have been a newfangled piece of equipment back in the day.  Also, the bakery oven was electric – a new practice that was gaining popularity because of the ability to control the temperature.

beamish-1900s-town-bakery

The Beamish Motor & Cycle Works is the town garage.  The motor industry was still in its infancy during the early 1900s, so garages in that period typically combined the skills of a blacksmith, wheelwright, and coachbuilder.  As a result, only one person in 232 owned a car in 1913.

The showroom at the Beamish garage contains well-preserved examples of what would have been new and second hand cars, motorcycles, and bicycles.  I took a picture of this penny farthing for Hubs, since he loves bicycling:

Beamish 1900s town penny farthing bicycle garage

It seems like it wouldn’t be very comfortable, doesn’t it?

Behind the showroom, we found a workshop area filled with vintage automotive items.  My grandfather owned a service station when I was a kid and I grew up seeing a slightly more modern version of this, so I really enjoyed seeing this room.

Beamish 1900s town garage

beamish 1900s town garage

Next to the garage was the local co-op, which was akin to what we might have called a general store back in the day.  It was a store that catered to every household need from cradle to grave, sorted into three departments:  grocery, drapery, and hardware.

The grocery carried many foods in bulk and sold them by weight.  For non-bulk items, color-coded packets helped customers who could not read.  Sugar, for instance, was sold in a blue bag to make the white sugar seem brighter.  Butter came in barrels and was molded into portions using wooden pats.  Fresh foods were displayed on a slab of marble to help them stay cool.  And, of course, many items lined the shelves of the Co-Op.

Beamish 1900s town Co-Op Grocery store

The hardware department sold the household goods for indoor and outdoor use – everything from lighting, heating, cooking utensils, sports equipment, and cleaning supplies. The miners in this time period provided their own tools, and the co-op was where they bought whatever they needed.

beamish-1900s-town-co-op-hardware-store

There was also a sweet shop by the name of Jubilee Confectioners. Visitors can visit the factory in the back of the shop to see period candy-making techniques and machinery.

Beamish 1900s town candy store confectioner

Beamish probably has the best collection of sweet rollers – used to produce candies in a variety of shapes – in the country.  Some well known candies and their shapes include:

  • Pineapple Chunks – cube shaped
  • Black Bullets – bullet-like shape, hence the name
  • Blacks and Rasps – berry-shaped
  • Fish in the Sea – fish-shaped.

Beamish 1900s town candy molds sweet rollers confectioners

 

A Lesson in British Coins

Naturally, in areas where people live, work and shop, there also will be a bank.  Beamish’s 1900s town is no exception.  This is where a kind and very patient gentleman took the time to explain Britain’s former monetary system to me.  Honestly, it was baffling.  Up until 1971, when the country adopted a decimal system (1 pound = 100 pence), they used a very different system.  Brace yourselves, because I’m going to attempt to explain it.  But first, a picture of the Beamish Bank:

beamish 1900s town bank

Prior to decimalization in 1971 Britain used a system of pounds, shillings and pence (‘£sd’ or ‘LSD’).  These L-S-D abbreviations came about because of the Roman influence in ancient Britain. A pound is represented by a stylized L because the standard Roman weight was called a libra.  Likewise, pennies were represented by a D, not P, because it stood for Denarius, a Roman coin.  The S for shilling actually stood for another Roman coin, the Soldius.

The smallest unit of currency was a penny, the plural of which was pence (or pennies). There were 12 pence in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound.  As a result, that makes 240 pence in a pound.  But to further complicate matters, pennies also came in fractions:

1 farthing (the lowest value coin) = 1/4 penny.  Production of farthings ended after 1960 due to inflation.
A ha’penny (half penny) = 1/2 penny.  Production of ha’pennies ceased after 1969.

Multiple pence were called & coined as follows:

Threepence or Thruppenny Bit = 3 pence (pronounced “thruppence”)
Sixpence (also called a ‘tanner‘) = 6 pence
1 shilling = 12 pence (1s)

Like pennies, shillings were also called & coined in multiples:

1 florin (a beautiful silver coin) = 2 shillings
1 half-crown = 2 1/2 shillings.  Production of half-crowns ended in 1970.
1 crown = 5 shillings = 1/4 pound

The pound came in the form of a paper bill, called a note, or a gold coin, called a sovereign.

The Royal Mint stopped producing farthings after 1956 and withdrew them from circulation in 1960 due to inflation. In preparation for decimalization, they withdrew the ha’penny from circulation in 1969, followed by the half-crown the year after.

Made from copper, a penny could also be referred to as a copper.

Made of gold from the Guinea coast of Africa, a guinea (first issued on February 6th, 1663) equalled 21 shillings (or one pound and 1 shilling) in old British money. A guinea was widely considered to be a more gentlemanly amount than £1. A gentleman paid his tailor in shillings, but his barrister in guineas.

So to sum up, here is what would have been equal to a pound in the various types of coins:

960 farthings
480 ha’pennies
240 pence
80 threepence
40 sixpence
20 shillings
10 florins
8 half-crowns
4 crowns
1 sovereign

It seems like I would have needed a cheat sheet just to conduct simple transactions!  Thank goodness the only mental math I had to do was estimate how many dollars were equal to a pound!

Beamish is located at postcode DH9 0RG in County Durham, England.  Telephone 0191 370 4000. The museum opens daily at 10:00 AM except on holidays.  Beamish recently received a £10.9 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to add a 1950s section, which should be open by 2021.

 

Beamish, Part 5: The 1900s Town – the Printer

Beamish, Part 5: The 1900s Town – the Printer

Part of a series of reviews on the open air living history museum in County Durham, UK. Other posts in this series are:

1 – a review of the 1940s Home Farm
2 – a review of the 1900s Pit Village 
3 – a review of the Colliery (Coal Mine)
4 – a review of Ravensworth Terrace, the residential section of the 1990s Town

Hands down, the Beamish printer was my favorite stop in the 1900s Town.  Located on the second floor above the newspaper office and stationer’s shop, we very nearly overlooked it. I’m so glad we didn’t!

However, the printer on the second floor was not the printer of the newspaper.  This printer produced posters, address cards, bills, and invoices. The print shop consisted of two distinct areas.  The composition side of the operations focused on creating the material (layout and design).The machining side focused on printing the images onto paper.

The Beamish printer operated several nineteenth century printing presses.  The Columbian Press, a very large and ornate machine invented in the US in 1813 was the oldest and biggest.  It worked by a series of levers.

Beamish printer 1900s town print shop living history
The Columbian Press, built in 1837

An 1863 Albion Press, which was the English version of the Columbian Press, also stands in the Beamish print shop. The Albion became more popular than the Columbia because of its lighter weight, simple action, and strength of impression.

The Arab Platen Press, built around 1900, started off as foot operated but was later adapted to include an electric motor.  With the motor, it was capable of churning out 1000 copies per hour.  Finally, the Wharfdale Flat Bed Press came along around 1870. It was best suited for small runs of printed material.

The gentleman working in the print shop the day we were there took obvious pleasure in telling visitors about the workings of the 1900s print shop.  He was fascinating!  He told us that it was not easy work – often requiring very long hours and physically demanding tasks.  Apprentices to the trade would start working in the shop around age 14.  Once they had put in seven years of working five and a half days per week, their training was complete. However, printers received a good rate of pay in comparison to other working class jobs.  Most earned a fixed rate plus a small rate per piece.

Looking around the shop at the composition side, I saw so many papers and letters and drawers.  Part of me just wanted to sit down and spend an hour or two checking everything out.

Beamish printer 1900s town print shop living history

beamish printer 1900s town print shop living history

beamish printer 1900s town print shop living history
A poster for a Christmas event at Beamish.

We received a brief introduction to the presses in the shop and were told about what the work was like back then.  Afterwards, it got even more interesting as the Beamish printer described how so many English phrases derived from print shop lingo.  For instance:

  • Letter blocks were stored in cases. The capitals went in the upper cases and the non-capitals went in the cases below.  This is why we speak of uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • If you’ve ever been told to mind your Ps and Qs, you know you should pay special attention to your behavior.  Not only are the lowercase letters p and q very similar in appearance, they are also stored in close proximity to each other. Therefore, typesetters had to take special care to make sure they did not mix up the letters.
  • Bodies of type filled a wooden frame, where an object called a quoin held them in place.  When you set the type and locked the words in place, you had “coined a phrase.”
  • In the UK the phrase “not the full shilling” describes someone who is stupid or crazy.  This phrase is linked to William Caxton, who pioneered the printing press in Britain.  He cast type to the height of an English shilling, so anything under that was “not the full shilling.”
  • The first powered printing press was installed to print The [London] Times in 1814. Because of the speed with which it could print, other newspapers needed to “keep up with The Times.”

If you go to Beamish, make sure you don’t overlook the print shop.  It’s easy to miss, but I’m sure you will find that it’s one of the most fascinating places in the 1900s town!

Beamish is located at postcode DH9 0RG in County Durham, England.  Telephone 0191 370 4000. Open daily at 10:00 AM except holidays.   Beamish recently received a £10.9 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to add a 1950s section, which should be open by 2021.

 

 

Beamish, Part 4: The 1900s Town – Ravensworth Terrace

Beamish, Part 4: The 1900s Town – Ravensworth Terrace

Part of a series of reviews on the open air living history museum in County Durham, UK. Other posts in this series are:

1 – a review of the 1940s Home Farm
2 – a review of the 1900s Pit Village 
3 – a review of the Colliery (Coal Mine)

When we arrived at Beamish, we weren’t quite sure where to start, so we hopped on the first transport we saw and decided to disembark wherever it took us.  Have I mentioned the transportation at Beamish?  It’s authentic too!  Check out two of the vehicles we got to ride while we were there:

streetcar beamish ravensworth terrace 1900s town

Beamish ravensworth terrace 1900s town

And so it turned out that the first place the transport took us was the 1900s Town.  It was so magnificently done and there was so much to look at that I really wish we had saved it for last instead of heading there first.  I’m going to have to break this portion of our visit down into more than one blog post because I have so many wonderful pictures to share with you.

Today we’re looking at the residential portion of the town, Ravensworth Terrace.  The homes there are two-story attached row homes.  They were originally built in Gateshead for professional people and tradesmen between 1830 and 1845.  Due to be demolished in the 1970s, Beamish saved six of them, then had them dismantled and rebuilt as part of their 1900s town site.

ravensworth terrace row homes beamish 1900s town

The Dentist at Work

First, we visited Nos. 3 & 4 Ravensworth Terrace, the home (and office) of the town Dentist.  It was not at all uncommon in that era for dentists to operate their practice out of their homes.

A costumed young lady in the dentist’s office told us about the dental practices of the day.  Most of all, we were struck by the tradition of families paying to have all of their daughter’s teeth pulled at age 21 and dentures made to replace them.  This made the young lady a better “catch” as it would spare her future husband the expense of having to buy her dentures when she got older.  It seems barbaric, but this practice actually continued into the 1950s.

ravensworth terrace dentist 1900s town beamish
One of the old sets of dentures on display at the dentist’s office.

There were plenty of dental artifacts in there for us to look at… so many that at times I did not even know what I was looking at.

ravensworth terrace beamish dentist 1900s town
The technician’s room, used for preparation of dentures.

ravensworth terrace dentist beamish 1900s town

The dentist was also there, but he was content to sit while his assistant talked to us.

ravensworth terrace beamish dentist 1900s town
The Beamish dentist, chillin’ by the window.

(There was an issue that day with the wind blowing smoke from the fire back into the room, hence the fuzziness on  the left side of this picture.)

After a while, the dentist answered some questions for us as well.  Here you can see him standing behind some of the equipment.  The dental patient’s chair (amazingly similar to its 2016 counterpart) is to the left, behind a tray of tools.  The contraption on the right side of the picture is a gas apparatus for anesthesia (dentists used a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen).

dentist ravensworth terrace 1900s town beamish

The Dentist at Home

From there we moved on to the dentist’s home, which was right next door. Seems like the dentist was doing quite well for himself! His house had some very modern features for the time period. Most noteworthy was the bathroom.  An entire room dedicated to bathing and other personal matters!

bathroom dentist ravensworth terrace beamish 1900s town

Did you notice how PRETTY that toilet is?  My word!  I had to zoom in and get a better look.

beamish toilet ravensworth terrace 1900s town dentist home bathroom

Also, the fact that it flushed was quite a novelty then.

My favorite room in the dentist’s residence was the children’s room.  I loved seeing all the playthings.  It really looked lived in – as if they had just stepped out a moment before we arrived.

ravensworth terrace dentist home beamish 1900s town

ravensworth terrace dentist home tea party beamish 1900s town

ravensworth terrace dollhouse dentist home 1900s town

The Music Teacher

When we left the dentist’s place, we realized we had overlooked No. 2 Ravensworth Terrace, the home of the music teacher.  The teacher was an unmarried woman and, since her home was decorated in mid-Victorian furnishings, it seemed like she was a spinster who inherited the house from her parents. I only got this one photo:

music-teacher-house ravensworth terrace beamish 1900s town

The Solicitor

Finally, before concluding our tour of Ravensworth Terrace, we visited the solicitor’s office.  Due to all the shelves full of books, and the stacks of papers on the desk, this was my favorite room.  It felt like the lawyer had just stepped out and would return at any moment.

solicitor office ravensworth terrace beamish 1900s town

So, that’s a look at the homes of Ravensworth Terrace. Next, I’ll be writing about the 1900s town’s businesses.

Beamish is located at postcode DH9 0RG in County Durham, England.  Telephone 0191 370 4000. Open daily at 10:00 AM except holidays.   Beamish recently received a £10.9 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to add a 1950s section, which should be open by 2021.

 

Beamish, Part 3: The Colliery

Beamish, Part 3: The Colliery

Part of a series of reviews on the open air living history museum in County Durham, UK. Other posts in this series are:

1 – a review of the 1940s Home Farm
2 – a review of the 1900s Pit Village 

I confess, I had no idea what a colliery was, so I Googled it when we arrived at Beamish. Google informed me that a colliery consists of “a coal mine and the buildings and equipment associated with it.” How interesting!  I had never seen a coal mine before.

As previously mentioned in Part 2, coal mining was a big industry in northeastern England at the beginning of the 20th century. Coal mined in the Northumberland/Durham areas supplied about 1/4 of the country’s need. Peak production was in 1913, when over 165,000 men and boys worked in 304 Durham coal mines. It was not easy work, nor was it always safe. In 1913, more than 1000 miners died. One miner was killed or injured every five minutes.

We started off in the lamp cabin.  Each miner had a token bearing his number (also called a colliery check). He would hand the token to the manager and receive a safety lamp in exchange for it. The manager would then hang the token on a tally board, showing who was at work in the mine. In the event of a fire or explosion, the tokens served to inform rescue services of how many men were in the mine at the time.

colliery lamps coal mine beamish living history museum
The sign reads, in part, “Spitting in the lamp cabin is prohibited.”

The Beamish Colliery includes the Mahogany Drift coal mine, which originally opened in 1855.

beamish colliery mahogany drift coal mine entrance
Entrance to Mahogany Drift Mine

A drift coal mine is one that does not go straight down deep into the earth but rather runs underground at a slight angle and does not go very deep. We were actually allowed to enter the coal mine and see what it was like, but not without donning hard hats. Safety first!

colliery hard hat coal mine beamish living history museum

Once inside the coal mine, it did not take long to imagine what conditions must have been like for the miners. To say that there wasn’t much space would be an understatement. Miners often had to work laying on their backs or sides while chipping away at the coal seam. When our guide turned off the light in the area we visited, “dark” doesn’t quite seem adequate to describe it. There was NO light whatsoever, no reflections, not even a glimmer. Then there was the dampness. We splashed through little puddles on the way to the work site. Our guide told us that miners often had to lay in a few inches of water while they worked. Cold, cramped, dark and damp: these are not conditions in which I would want to spend hours at a time.

The Beamish Colliery was a great way to experience and learn what working conditions may have been like for working class men 100+ years ago. It was a very informative and educational visit.

Beamish is located at postcode DH9 0RG in County Durham, England. Telephone 0191 370 4000. Open daily at 10:00 AM except holidays. Beamish recently received a £10.9 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to add a 1950s section, which should be open by 2021.

Beamish, Part 2: The 1900s Pit Village

Beamish, Part 2: The 1900s Pit Village

Second in a series of reviews on Beamish, the open air living history museum in County Durham, UK. To read part 1 – a review of the 1940s Home Farm at Beamish – click here.

A pit village is a mining community – the place where the miners lived with their families.  Because coal was a big business in Northern England during the early twentieth century, Beamish featured just such a village for us to wander through.

Home Life

The houses that the coal mining families lived in were row homes, all connected in one large strip.  They were not spacious, however, and often served as living quarters for large families with up to 12 people.  The main floor of each house consisted of a kitchen and a parlor.  The kitchen was used for much more than cooking – it was also the place to bathe, eat meals, do laundry, and sometimes it even served as an extra bedroom. The parlor, as you can see in the photo below, was the best room in the house, used for special occasions or Sunday gatherings.

beamish pit village house parlor

Miners families’ living in the cottage row houses would often have gardens in which they would grow vegetables to supplement their food supply.

Outside the houses, we often saw a small slate with a time written on it in chalk.  We assumed this was the time for a living history presentation.  Not so.  It was the Beamish pit village version of a wake up call.  Miners would write the time they wanted to be waken up on the slate outside their house.  A “knocker up” employed by the mining company made sure that the miners were awakened at their requested times.

In a few places, we saw carts full of coal outside the cottages.  It turns out that it was a free coal allowance delivered to the miners’ homes every fortnight.  (One of the few perks of being a miner.)

beamish pit village coal allowance

The miners and their families were an resourceful lot.  When clothes became too worn to be passed on to another family member, they were cut into strips and used to make a rag rug, as the man in this picture demonstrated.

beamish pit village making a rag rug

The rug started off not as a rug, but rather as a blanket on top of a bed.  When it had outlived its usefulness there (or when a newer one could replace it), it went onto the floor of the parlor. After it started to look a little worse for wear, the family would move it to a less formal room of the house.  When it could no longer serve any purpose as a rug, it went into the fireplace as fuel.  Consequently, not a single scrap of material was wasted!

School Life

Also in the Beamish pit village was a school.  Children stayed in school until at least age 12, and they studied the following subjects:  reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, history, domestic science, needlework, science, drawing, music, religious education, and physical education.  We were lucky enough to see a class receiving instruction when we were there (probably a field trip from a nearby school).

beamish pit village school classroom students teacher

There were lots of rules that parents would not stand for today.  First, boys and girls sat on opposite sides of the room.  Second, no one could write with their left hand. Finally, corporal punishment was the normal means of discipline. Consequently, school was not a fun time for children.

Church Life

When we left the school, we proceded to the chapel, a small stone church that originally opened in the 1850s.

beamish pit village church

Its purpose in the Beamish pit village is to represent a typical Wesleyan Methodist chapel from the early 1900s. The church congregation in that era would have adhered to philosophies of thrift, self-denial, independence, and hard work.  Likewise, there would be very little tolerance for gambling and drinking alcoholic beverages.

The building itself also served as a community center, hosting performances, group meetings, study sessions, and more.  One form of entertainment held at the church was a magic lantern show.  A magic lantern, powered by acetylene gas, projected images onto a blank wall.

Beamish pit village church magic lantern
The magic lantern at Pit Hill Chapel

The chapel was the center of the pit village community, so it also served as the site for special celebrations. We were lucky enough to be there for the Harvest celebration, and this stunning display:

beamish pit village church harvest celebration

Beamish is located at postcode DH9 0RG in County Durham, England.  Telephone 0191 370 4000. Open daily at 10:00 AM except holidays. Beamish recently received a £10.9 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to add a 1950s section, which should be open by 2021.