Woodhorn Museum and Northumberland Archives

Woodhorn Museum and Northumberland Archives
QE II Country Park
NE63 9YF






01670 624455


01670 626121

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.
A view along the main entrance path at Woodhorn with the old colliery buildings in the background
baby changing facilities icon Food icon Guided tours icon Shop icon Library icon Study area icon Wheelchair access icon

Woodhorn is a vibrant, exciting place to visit all year round with a great programme of activities and exhibitions for the whole family.

Inspired by monster coal cutting machines once used deep underground, the stunning Cutter building and original listed colliery structures house fascinating, hands-on exhibitions and displays. Take an emotional journey through Coal Town and discover a proud mining community; explore the colliery buildings and imagine what it would have been like to work underground; hum along to the brass band at the Miners’ Picnic, see the colourful banners and even design your own. Marvel at the original paintings of the Ashington Group – miners from the 1930s whose story has inspired remarkable play, Pitmen Painters, by Billy Elliot writer, Lee Hall.

Woodhorn is home to Northumberland’s public archive too.

Venue Type:

Museum, Industrial heritage site, Archive

Opening hours

Open: Wednesday through to Sunday (+ Mon & Tues in Northumberland School Hols)
October until March, 10am - 4pm
April until September 10 am until 5pm
(Archives Open 10am - 4pm Wed-Sat.)

Easter 2015: the museum will be open every day from Saturday 28th March - Sunday 19th April. Please note that Brick Planet will not be open Wednesday 25th - Tuesday 31st March but will reopen on Wednesday 1st April.

Admission charges

Free admission
All day parking £3.50

Getting there

Just off A189 Spine Road and C1 National/Coast and Castles Cycle Route east of Ashington.
Nearest public transport Ashington Bus Station - 15 minute walk

Additional info

Access: Most of the buildings at Woodhorn are accessible but as you might expect with the old listed colliery buildings, access to some is restricted. See our main website for a full access statement. Visitors are welcome to borrow one of three wheelchairs or a motorised scooter during their visit, and staff are happy to discuss any special requirements in advance of a visit.

Assistance dogs are welcome at Woodhorn, but family pets are not allowed in the fenced museum area. It would be best to leave your dog at home if possible as Woodhorn's car park does not offer any shade.

The Pitmen Painters were a group of mostly miners from Northumberland who founded the Ashington Art Group in the 1930s and who took as their subject everyday life in their mining community. Woodhorn museum holds the main Ashington Group collection of their work.

Collection details

Archives, Costume and Textiles, Fine Art, Industry, Natural Sciences, Science and Technology, Social History

Key artists and exhibits

  • Pitmen Painters - Northumberland miners who founded the Ashington Art Group
  • Mining history
  • Oliver Kilbourn
Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
Lawrence Weiner ARTIST ROOMS

Straight Down to Below: Lawrence Weiner ARTIST ROOMS

  • 25 October 2014 — 19 April 2015 *on now

Woodhorn presents Lawrence Weiner's cycle of wall texts as part of ARTIST ROOMS.
Text is integral to the Woodhorn Museum site, from the rousing slogans on the iconic mining banners to the industry-specific signage in the colliery buildings. Lawrence Weiner's cycle of wall texts resonate with new readings within this historic colliery setting. The statements could read in relation to the physical processes of mining or the social histories of coal mining communities. The contrast between statement and action within Weiner's work gains added significance in a place once heaving with heavy industry yet today a carefully preserved and static heritage site, museum and archive.
ARTIST ROOMS On Tour is supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and by the Arts Fund, making available the ARTIST ROOMS collection of international modern and contemporary art to galleries throughout the UK. ARTIST ROOMS is jointly owned by Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland and was established through The d'Offay Donation in 2008, with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, and the Scottish and British Governments.
Find out more about ARTIST ROOMS on the Tate website and the National Galleries of Scotland website

Image Credit: Lawrence Weiner, Straight Down To Below, 1988 © Lawrence Weiner

ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Free, but parking charge of £3.50 applies



Jack Harrison

Jack Harrison - The Bright Side

  • 29 November 2014 — 19 April 2015 *on now

A colourful reflection of work by one of the Pitmen Painters.

According to the family, Jack had a desire to portray life as a colourful, even brilliant, kind of experience to counteract and diminish all his years of toil and labour in the backness of the mines.

This exhibition, which coincides with the 80th anniversary of the formation of the Ashington Group, brings together paintings from his family's own collection, work belonging to Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundations Trust as well as Woodhorn's archive.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Parking Charge of £3.50 applies

Brick Planet

Brick Planet

  • 1 April — 31 May 2015

Woodhorn is about to get even more awesome!

Explore the incredible Brick Planet exhibition and marvel at miniature wonders from around the world recreated in LEGO® bricks.

Be inspired by amazing models created by LEGO® brick artist Warren Elsmore and then have a go yourself in our hands-on creation station!

See amazing scale models of architectural land marks from around the globe including Egypt’s pyramids, the Great Wall of China and the iconic St Pancras Station. Be awe-inspired by the natural world in miniature too from the African savannah to Niagara Falls.
Take pride in the North East’s own historic landmarks including the Tyne Bridge, Angel of the North and Bamburgh Castle, all specially commissioned for this exhibition and never seen before!

Admission and parking charge payable

Suitable for

  • Any age


Adult £4.50, Child (5 – 16) £3.50, Concession £4.00, Family 2 adults and up to 3 children £15.50, Family 1 adult and up to 3 children £11.50, Under 5 free


Into The Light

  • 7 March — 14 June 2015 *on now

Into the Light is an exhibition of new work created by artists from The Arts Project based at Northgate Hospital. The work is inspired by the stories and collections of Woodhorn Museum and Northumberland Archives.

The Arts Project is part of the Therapeutic Activities Service within the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust. The Arts Project offers an ongoing comprehensive programme of practical art sessions led by professional artists. Patients make and learn about art, a process which directly contributes to positive clinical outcomes including improved well-being and feeling more included in society.

For this project, the artists and patients have worked together with Woodhorn staff to research, develop and create new work inspired by the museum and archive collections. As well as creating the art work, the project participants have co-curated the exhibition, selecting works and making decisions about their placement and presentation.

The professional artists who work for The Arts Project are exhibiting a piece of their own artwork alongside the work of patients and the work will not be attributed. The decision to do this puts the focus on the inclusivity of contemporary art-making and away from the professional and patient relationship.

Into the Light builds on Woodhorn Museum's commitment to presenting work made by artists who may be excluded from the traditional arts world due to health or social circumstances. This strand of programming is inspired by the story of the Ashington Group (Pitman Painters) whose collection is on permanent display here.

Along with art work on display in this gallery, don't miss the sound installation on the banner ramp where traditional brass band music receives a contemporary twist!

Into the Light is a partnership project between Woodhorn Museum and The Arts Project made possible by funding from Arts Council England and Northumberland County Council.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Parking Charge of £3.50



Norman Cornish

The Lost World of Norman Cornish

  • 2 May — 11 October 2015

Born in 1919, in Spennymoor, County Durham, Norman Stansfield Cornish was 65 when he was persuaded to write his autobiography. He called it 'A Slice of Life' and indeed it was just that although one could say that it was brought into being a little prematurely given that a further three decades of remarkable activity were to follow its publication.

In the prologue to 'A Slice of Life', he describes the Dean and Chapter Colliery where he was to work, as "lying at the foot of a huge pit-heap which reminds one of a volcano, not only because of how it looks, but also because its contents have been spewed out of the depths in similar fashion". Imaginative and poetic perceptions like this one are present throughout his paintings and drawings which, one might reasonably claim, are his true autobiography.

Reflecting on his work he wrote "I made drawings of pub workers in days past because l was fascinated by the men standing at the bar drinking and talking, or sitting playing dominoes. I was attracted by the wonderful shapes that they make in their varied attitudes. I also realised that life would change in some ways. The local collieries have gone, together with the pit road. Many of the old streets, chapels and pubs are no more. A large number of the ordinary but fascinating people who frequent these places are gone. However, in my memory, and l hope in my drawings, they live on. I simply close my eyes and they all spring to life"

A Northumbria University Gallery Touring Exhibition.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Parking charge of £3.50 applies



Susan Stenger, detail from Sound Strata of Coastal Northumberland, 2014

AV Festival presents: Sound Strata of Coastal Northumberland

  • 27 June — 26 July 2015

Sound Strata of Coastal Northumberland is a multi-channel sound installation based on a cross-section diagram of coastal geological formations from the River Tyne to the Scottish border, drawn by local mining engineer Nicholas Wood in 1838.

Using the diagram as a graphic score, Stenger transforms the geologic into the sonic in a 59-minute work that travels from the coal seams of Tyneside to the porphyritic rocks north of the Tweed, layering instrumental sounds, melodic patterns and signature rhythms from traditional Northumbrian music and dance.

Responding to history, culture and place names as well as the drawing’s structures, she combines surface detail of fiddle and Northumbrian pipe patterns with brass band harmonies, voice, Border and Highland pipes to create a unique portrait of place.

The exhibition is presented in the Workshop Gallery and features the 12.5-metre strata diagram that Wood drew to illustrate the location of coal measures on the Northumberland Coast. In addition, the exhibition also includes an archive display of Wood’s other geological work in relation to the coal measures of Northumberland.

A fully illustrated publication including an essay by nature writer Robert Macfarlane and a CD stereo mix of the installation is available from Woodhorn and online for the special exhibition price of £15 and £20 thereafter.

Sound Strata of Coastal Northumberland was commissioned by AV Festival in 2014.
Throughout 2015 AV Festival is touring the work in Northumberland to Berwick-upon-Tweed, Woodhorn Museum and Holy Island. www.avfestival.co.uk

For more information about the tour and to join the AV Festival’s mailing list visit www.soundstrata.co.uk


Parking charge of £3.50 applies

Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
Vintage Car Rally

Vintage Car Rally

  • 12 July 2015 11am-3pm

Enjoy a grand day out at Woodhorn's Vintage Car Rally.
The North East Club for Pre War Automobiles will be on site with their amazing array of over 50 classic cars. Enjoy viewing the cars, taking your picture with them and meeting the owners!

Suitable for

  • Any age


All-day parking Charge of £3.50




Thank Folk It's Friday

  • 24 April 2015 2-3pm
  • 29 May 2015 2-3pm
  • 26 June 2015 2-3pm
  • 31 July 2015 2-3pm
  • 28 August 2015 2-3pm
  • 25 September 2015 2-3pm
  • 30 October 2015 2-3pm
  • 27 November 2015 2-3pm

Thank Folk it's Friday is a free programme of Folk music held in the Woodhorn Cafe on the final Friday of each month from 2pm.

TFIF line up for 2015 includes...
30th January - Michael Kelly
27th February - JIVA
27th March - Greenheart Junction
24th April - Jim and Marilyn Gibson
29th May- Pipers Fancy
26th Jun- Andrew Lobb
31st Jul- Valerie Fairless
28th Aug- Ann Wilkinson
25th Sep- Beeswing
30th Oct- Fools Gold
27th Nov- Chris Kelly

Suitable for

  • Any age
  • Family friendly



The Mindfuls' Thought Kit

The Mindfuls' Art Gala

  • 30 March 2015 11am-3pm *on now

Join us for a day of art, fun and interactivity developed and led by Woodhorn Museum’s first young people’s art group, The Mindfuls.

Between 11am-3pm enjoy free drop-in print making workshops for all ages and a make-your-own poetry installation. You’ll also be able to watch a short animated film called RELEASED IN THE MORNING LIGHT’ devised and put together by The Mindfuls’.

This fun family day is the culmination of six month’s of activity when The Mindfuls - nine local young people aged between 17-22 years, have taken part in an immersive arts programme at Woodhorn Museum as part of Tate and National Galleries of Scotland’s prestigious ARTIST ROOMS programme. The group has been on a unique creative journey to learn about contemporary art and find out how it can influence and inspire them as promising young artists.

Anyone interested in finding out more about Woodhorn’s young art group, The Mindfuls, can follow their journey on twitter and tumblr; @the_mindfuls and http://themindfuls.tumblr.com/.

To find out about joining The Mindfuls, contact Danielle Burn at dburn@woodhorn.org.uk

Suitable for

  • Any age


Parking charge of £3.50



Birds of Prey

Birds of Prey Display

  • 6 April 2015 11am-3pm
  • 31 August 2015 11am-3pm
  • 28 October 2015 11am-3pm

See beautiful birds of prey on display from 11am to 3pm and catch one of the spectacular flying displays by the team at Ridgeside Falconry with flying demonstrations at 12pm and 2pm.

Suitable for

  • Any age


All-day parking charge of £3.50 applies.




Norman Cornish and the Spennymoor Settlement Talk

  • 17 May 2015 2-3:30pm

Join Dr Robert McManners and Gillian Wales in this informative talk about Norman Cornish, Tom McGuiness and the Spennymoor Settlement.

Places are strictly limited so please book your place at the welcome desk or call 01670 624455.



Northumberland Miners Picnic

  • 13 June 2015 10am-4pm

A great family day out

Suitable for

  • Family friendly
Benny Graham

Sound Strata Exhibition Launch and Folk Music Concert

  • 27 June 2015 1-4pm

Join us in the Workshop Gallery for the exhibition launch of Sound Strata at Woodhorn Museum, followed from 2–3pm by a concert of traditional Northumbrian music and rapper dancing featuring leading local folk musicians: Stewart Hardy (fiddle), Andy May and Chris Ormston (Northumbrian pipes) and Benny Graham (singer). The concert references folk musicians key to Sound Strata, including James Hill (influential Tyneside fiddler) and Tom Clough (known as ‘The Prince of Pipers’, he lived in the mining community of Newsham in South East Northumberland). More information here.

Admission free, no booking required. Concert starts promptly at 2pm.

A return coach is available from central Newcastle to Woodhorn Museum.
Coach Tickets: £5, advance booking recommended, contact: info@avfestival.co.uk


Parking Charge of £3.50 applies

Statue of Nicholas Wood at the Mining Institute, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Nicholas Wood Lecture

  • 15 July 2015 2-3pm

Join historian Bill Lancaster to explore the life of talented nineteenth-century mining engineer Nicholas Wood, who revolutionised deep mining and transportation. The talk is organised to coincide with the exhibition Sound Strata of Coastal Northumberland which features Wood’s 12.5-metre strata diagram that illustrates the location of coal measures on the Northumberland coast. In addition, the exhibition also includes an archive display of Wood’s other geological work in relation to the coal measures of Northumberland.

Throughout the nineteenth century, a circle of men from Tyneside, Wearside and the Great Northern Coalfield, such as George and Robert Stephenson (friends and colleagues of Nicholas Wood), helped create the modern industrial world. Bill Lancaster will talk about this group of innovators, who in 1852 founded The Mining Institute in Newcastle with Nicholas Wood as its first president.

Nicholas Wood was born in 1795, at the farm of Daniel, lying between Bradley Hall and Wylam, of which his father was a tenant. In 1811, through the influence of his father’s landlord Sir Thomas Liddell, he was sent to Killingworth Colliery to learn the profession of a coal-viewer. At Killingworth, Wood met George Stephenson and made the working drawing from which the first Stephenson safety lamp was made and tested in a dangerous blower in Killingworth Pit. By the 1830s, Wood had acquired a considerable reputation as a colliery and railway engineer, and was rapidly extending his influence in the coal trade. By 1844 he was managing the important collieries at Hetton, had become the sole owner of Black Boy, Coundon, Westerton and Leasingthorne collieries, and part owner of Harton, Hilda and Jarrow collieries. In response to the Mines Inspection Act of 1852, local colliery owners and mining engineers formed The Mining Institute, of which Nicholas Wood was elected the founding president.

Bill Lancaster was the founder and editor of Northern Review, a Journal of Regional and Cultural Affairs, and the director of the Centre for Northern Studies from 1997 – 2007. Until 2008 he taught at Northumbria University and was director there of the Centre for North East History. He was awarded a BA in History and Sociology, a MA in Comparative Social History and a PhD in History from Warwick University. He was elected fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1991.

Free, advance booking recommended, phone: Woodhorn Museum on 01670 624 455


Parking Charge of £3.50 applies

Summer Craft Fair

  • 31 August 2015 10am-5pm

More details to come

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Christmas Craft Fair and Winter Weekend 2015

  • 5 — 6 December 2015 10am-4pm

More details to come

Getting there

Just off A189 Spine Road and C1 National/Coast and Castles Cycle Route east of Ashington.
Nearest public transport Ashington Bus Station - 15 minute walk