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  • Monday 10am - 4pm
  • Tuesday 10am - 4pm
  • Wednesday 10am - 4pm
  • Thursday 10am - 4pm
  • Friday 10am - 4pm
  • Saturday 10am - 4pm
  • Sunday 10am - 4pm
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Opening times

  • Monday 10am - 4pm
  • Tuesday 10am - 4pm
  • Wednesday 10am - 4pm
  • Thursday 10am - 4pm
  • Friday 10am - 4pm
  • Saturday 10am - 4pm
  • Sunday 10am - 4pm
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  • Monday 9.30am - 5pm
  • Tuesday 9.30am - 5pm
  • Wednesday 9.30am - 5pm
  • Thursday 9.30am - 5pm
  • Friday 9.30am - 5pm
  • Saturday 9.30am - 5pm
  • Sunday Closed
More information

Opening times

  • Monday 10am - 4pm
  • Tuesday 10am - 4pm
  • Wednesday 10am - 4pm
  • Thursday 10am - 4pm
  • Friday 10am - 4pm
  • Saturday 10am - 4pm
  • Sunday 10am - 4pm
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A Northumberland Menagerie

In 2022 Museums Northumberland will present 'A Northumberland Menagerie', a stunning series of new exhibitions by artist Bethan Maddocks.

Opening 9th April 2022

About A Northumberland Menagerie

In 2022 Museums Northumberland will present ‘A Northumberland Menagerie’, a stunning series of new exhibitions by artist Bethan Maddocks.

A ‘menagerie’ is the term used for a collection of wild animals kept in captivity for exhibition, and we invite you to explore four extraordinary new animal-themed exhibitions across our four museums: Berwick Museum and Art Gallery, Hexham Old Gaol, Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum and Woodhorn Museum.

Discover stories of Northumberland’s animals – past and present, real and imagined – through Bethan’s magical, large-scale paper-cut installations.

At Berwick Museum and Art Gallery, Of the Sea and Of the Sky’ will shine a spotlight on the rich diversity of Berwick’s borderland coast and explore connected themes of migration, national identity, and natural resources. Follow the journeys of migratory birds through an evolving installation of national flags and discover the ‘oddest consignment from Berwick Quayside’.  A spectacular, spot-lit centerpiece will encircle visitors within a swirling mass of birds, fish and mammals that underpin Berwick’s fishing and tourism industries.

‘Over Familiars’ at Hexham Old Gaol will share animal stories connected to witch craft, trials and incarceration in Northumberland. Plunge into the depths of the oldest gaol in England to discover shadowy creatures lurking within the dungeon. Upstairs in the museum, a curious collection of elevated spinning wooden plates – inspired by the story of the Witch of Seaton Sluice – will invite visitors to consider gender and class inequality within the historic witch trials and within the walls of the Old Gaol itself.

A stunning school of papercut fish will flow through Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum as a playful reference to the Chantry building’s former use as a school on the banks of the river Wansbeck. ‘Thou shalt have a fishie, When the boat comes in’ will explore Northumberland’s fishing and folk traditions through local songs and lyrics held in the Northumbrian Minstrelsy.

At Woodhorn Museum, the historic colliery Cage Shop will be transformed into a giant beehive in ‘Bees, Bees, Hark to Your Bees!’. Continuing the folkloric tradition of ‘telling the bees’ important news, visitors will be immersed in stories and invited to share their own. Inside the museum, ‘Putting Out to Pastures’ will centre the stories of pit ponies, drawing parallels with the hard work, close community and environmental impact experienced by colliery communities.

You can follow Bethan’s work in progress on this page and through the Northumberland Menagerie instagram feed

Find out more about Bethan on her website. www.bethanmaddocks.com

A Northumberland Menagerie has been made possible with public funding from Northumberland County Council and Arts Council England.

Bethan's R&D

Selection of books used as inspiration for A Northumberland Menagerie

Research! Not only does this exhibition series cover the largest county in England it also covers quite a few research topics from bees, hares, pit ponies and migrating bird colonies to natural dyeing, ceramic decals, folk tales and medieval court records… I have quite a hodgepodge research method- from googling ‘flattened cats’ and ‘regency pie recipes’ to chats with fellow artists, researchers, community members and experts, but I always come back to the mighty book! These are some of the top ones I’ve used… from the @landworkersalliance calendar (okay not technically a book) to look at @rosannaprints amazing ability to tell stories with strong visuals, to this wonderful illustrated book #thebookofbees, Malcolm Green’s book of Northumberland folk tales (last summer I visited lots of the sites; reading his stories whilst sat at the locations he writes about!) to my Mum’s well thumbed copy of British Wild flowers… you’ll even see all the post-it notes she made for me to learn the types of traditional meadow flowers so I could papercut them into bees wax (thanks Mum 😍) also thanks to @theresameaston for lending me her beautiful @paulscott book and @ali.j.rhind for her natural dyeing book and @toonlibraries for the Anne Armstrong book!

Beeswax artwork by Bethan Maddocks

Dreaming ahead to summer days and sunshine with this window for ‘Bees! Bees! Hark to your bees!’ Opening at @woodhornmuseum on April 9th (but being installed next week!). I’ve been papercutting and cutting holes into paper, card and wood for years but beeswax is like nothing I’ve cut before- firstly it’s 3d: convex and concave hexagons pit the surface. The wax grabs onto the blade, almost sticking to it so that it’s like cutting into… jelly?custard? Something viscous! Lines are hard to do and you have to almost allow the wax to lead your hand- it’s been an interesting experience learning how to mark it! I’ve been using my new knife- it’s bigger than my usual blades. I also use a bradle to make dots and a Japanese hole punch to make seeds and spots. I’m about 30 frames into completing the 48 individual frames that will sit in the windows of this installation… and I can’t wait see them in situ on a warm day; the sun helping the scent of wax spread throughout the room!

Pages from Bethan Maddocks sketch book featuring inspiration for the Twelfth Night Pie

I love this stage… when things I’ve imagined in my head and in sketchbooks start becoming real! Meet the Twelfth Night Pie… ‘Perhaps the oddest consignment from (Berwick) Quayside’… a giant pie shipped to London in 1770 that was full of… four geese, two turkeys, two rabbits…four wild duck, two woodcockks, six snipes, four pigeons, two cow tongues (mmm!), two curlews, seven blackbirds and six pigeons… it took two men to present it at the table and weighed 12 stone! I’ll be recreating this homage to gluttony out of paper… imagine something a little like the rhyme…four and twenty blackbirds… and it will spin too thanks to the clever skills of @jonaaalmaker

Take and Make Packs for Northumberland Menagerie

Take and Make packs are a go go! Thanks to the speedy hands of @amberesk and @bethan_maddocks we’ve stamped and filled 400 envelopes today (4100 to go…) that visitors to ‘A Northumberland Menagerie’ will be able to take home and make… each kit comes in a snazzy envelope, with a shadow puppet card, a stick and some collaging materials… you can even write in the card and send it to a crafty friend if makings not for you! There’s four to collect (gotta catch ‘em all) one for each different site.. a bee for @woodhornmuseum, a swallow for @berwickmuseumandartgallery, a hare for @hexhamoldgaol and two fish for @morpethchantrybagpipemuseum… Woop woop

Paper cut animal shapes credit Bethan Maddocks

Lovely Friday papercutting bees…come April not only will you be able to see artworks that tell stories of Northumberland’s animals across @museumsnorthumberland 4 sites… visitors will also be able to collect 4 different ‘take and makes’ - a little art kit that I’ve designed so that you can make your own shadow puppets to tell your own Northumberland Menagerie tales! Bees and hares and fish and swallows! Coming together nicely (now just need to stuff 4500 envelopes…)

Artist Bethan Maddocks looking at large prints of honeycomb patterns

Collaboration! I often work with other artists… for this commission I’ll be working with 9 other artists, makers and musicians to help make elements of the giant installations! I thought it time to start introducing! First up is @yvettejah bookmaker extraordinaire! Yvette is a fellow #paperartist and makes the most beautiful books. She will be turning my giant screenprints into pages for a book for ´Bees, Bees, Hark to your Bees’ @woodhornmuseum … telling the bees is an ancient folk custom of beekeepers; it’s important to ensure your bees are up to date with all important news… and you too will be able to write your news in this beautiful book come April. I love Yvette’s work so I’m really excited to be collaborating on this (and getting to visit her folded paper dreamland of a studio!) #collaboration #paperart #bookart #tellingthebees #tellthebees #northumberland @museumsnorthumberland #papercutting #screenprinting @northernprint.org.uk #handmade #bees #beekeeping #folklore #woodhorn @bethan_maddocks

Design for swallow shadow puppets for the Museums Northumberland Make and Take activity

Designing some of the take and makes that will go alongside the exhibitions… here’s a little graphic that will go on the instructions…this one will be for @berwickmuseumandartgallery …. #shadowpuppet #shadowandlight #lightandshadow #takeandmake @northumberland_menagerie @museumsnorthumberland #swallow #infographics

Beeswax artworks in black frames

Slow day of cutting beeswax today as I get confused and delighted by negative and positive space- which bit to remove, which bit to keep. These are two pieces made from the same cut… ie the ‘scraps’ of the first cut, on right, created the one on the left. Channelling soviet and communist imagery of raised hands and collaboration, as well as nods to marriage or commitment, togetherness and unity. All in development for @northumberland_menagerie exhibition @woodhornmuseum in April. #papercutting #positiveandnegativespace #positivenegative #papercut #beeswax #beesbeesharktoyourbees @paperartist #paperart #waxart #beeswaxart #beeswaxartist #artistsoninstagram #artist

Watercolour moon plates as part of Bethan Maddocks summer 2022 exhibition at Hexham Old Gaol

I’ve been experimenting with watercolour today for some giant moon plates that will be exhibited @hexhamoldgaol for @museumsnorthumberland… these giant spinning plates are inspired by the daring escape of the witch of Seaton Sluice who avoided a firey end by flying off on some spinning plates… it also tells the tale of Anne Armstrong a young girl whose encounters with witches, dancing cats and feasts with the devil are detailed in Court papers from the 17th century.. I’m working with brilliant ceramicist @rawpots_northeast who is shaping the moon plates from clay… and also I’ll be collaborating with @matty.whittaker who will be turning some beautiful wooden plates too! And @jonaaalmaker who will be bringing the motor magic to it all! What an absolute dream team! #collaboration #paperartist #moon #ceramics #decals #lunaluna #lunar #paperart #bethanmaddocks @36lime #watercolour @bethan_maddocks

A site visit to Berwick @berwickmuseumandartgallery to try out some ideas for next years show... shadow, light and even a giant paper pie. Thanks to @catrionamaddocks for being my pretend motor. #paperbirds #lightandshadow #northumberland #berwick #migratingbirds #oftheseaandofthesky @bethan_maddocks

paper birds and shadows

I had such a lovely weekend @36lime for our @ouseburnopenstudios, hadn’t realised just how much I’d missed chatting about and sharing my work and my dreamy studio with people. Thanks to everyone who came and visited! I invited people to come and make their own collaged swallow to add to my spinning papercut ones- and the final flock is just fab! It was a nice chance to test out ideas for a work I’ll be making at @berwickmuseumandartgallery next year... exploring migration, movement, nationalism, and the history of the barracks...the swallows have been swirling round the studio all day today! #paperart #paperartist #ouseburn #openstudios #papercutting #paperbirds #lightandshadow #lightart #lumiereetombre #papier #oiseux #hirondelle #bethanmaddocks @museumsnorthumberland #northumberland

Melting down Beeswax

I’ve been helped by lots of Northumberland Beekeepers this past year, to develop ‘Bees Bees, Hark to your bees’ that will be presented at @woodhornmuseum in April... including with lots of donations of bees wax, collected from the Northumberland wilds by the busy bees... it’s a lovely and messy process separating and melting down the wax but the smells are like reliving summer all over again! #beekeeping #beesbeesharktoyourbees #honeybees #northumberland #northumberlandbees #northumberlandmenagerie #beeswax #mindyourbeeswax

Bethan Maddocks making wooden frames with Tim Kendall

Mind your own beeswax! A brilliant day today working with Tim Kendall (the kindest woodworker in town) making frames for bees wax papercuts... I’m making these for “Bees, Bees, Hark to your Bees’ ...a sort of giant beehive for @woodhornmuseum celebrating the collective worker...these beeswax frames will be embedded in windows so on sunny days the audience gets all the scents of a beehive! They will be cut with shapes of pollinated crops, bee keeping tools, honey bees’ favourite flowers and foliage and stories collected from local beekeepers and campaigning groups... things are coming together and I’m buzzing (sorry.) #papercutting @bethan_maddocks #paperartist #harktoyourbees #beesbees #honeybee #beeswax #mindyourownbeeswax #beekeeping #Northumberland #NorthumberlandMenagerie

Three days later... a little fishy update... I’ve been trialing cutting lyrics from northern folk songs relating to fishing... and getting this song stuck in my head for days on end! Next up I’ll be cutting Bobby Shaftoe... here’s the tender coming and till the tide comes in... any other fishing folk songs of Northumberland?! #papercutting @bethan_maddocks #paperartist #paperart #thoushalthaveafishy #whentheboatcomesin #mnoethumberland #northumberlandart @museumsnorthumberland #morpethchantry #riverwansbeck #northumbrianfolksongs #shadows #light #shadowandlightart

The Melancholy Thistle purple meadow flower

In June I had the pleasure of a trip out with upland hay meadow expert @ruthstarrkeddle... I wanted to learn a little more about biodiversity in meadows (to explore my pitpony idea a little further). Ruth took me on the most amazing walk, sharing info and names along the way. It was a magical thing watching her read the landscape through its flowers- knowing its dampness, its acidity, it’s history through floral signifiers. My favourite plant name was the first one pictured- The Melencoly Thistle... others included... #yellowrattle #eyebright #downyoatgrass #cocksfoot #roughhawkbit #sweetvernel and another great one #pignut @bethan_maddocks @woodhornmuseum @museumsnorthumberland #artistresearch #pitponies #northumberland #mininghistory #uplandhaymeadows @northpenninesaonb #northumberlandstories #botany #botanicalresearch #puttingouttopasture @northumberlandmenagerie

a black and white photograph of a Northumberland Pit Pony

So one of the most exciting things of this commission is that I get to delve into @museumsnorthumberland collections. My first chance to put my little researcher hat on was at @woodhornmuseum... where I got to go into the archive vaults and handle some pit pony equipment. The coal seams in the Northeast are notoriously thin, with miners often having to work hunched or lying down... it also meant large equipment or even large horses weren’t able to work at the coal face... instead pit ponies, bred to be around 1metre high were used to help the miners in their dangerous work. This pit pony equipment is from some of the last pit ponies who worked in the UK, including Flax who retired from Ellington Pit in 1994. I’ll be making work to celebrate the dangerous labour and the hardship these pony’s went through, aswell as imagining what they did on their time off @bethan_maddocks #artistresearch #pitponies #northumberland #mininghistory

Hello! Welcome! Here’s the first post of what shall be a little bit of a whirlwind of my thoughts, research and creative meandearings as I develop “A Northumberland Menagerie”.
After many years of working with @museumsnorthumberland creating light installations and giant paper forests, revolving orchids and insects in matchboxes...I’ve finally got the headlining spot! Next year I’ll be exhibiting, simultaneously (eeek!), across 4 sites @woodhornmuseum @berwickmuseumandartgallery @morpethchantrybagpipemuseum and @hexhamoldgaol. Opening in early April 2022 “A Northumberland Menagerie” will explore this vast county through its animals; weaving objects from the museum collection with folklore, tradition, culinary delights, species decline, animal society and oral histories to explore the lesser known stories and histories of Northumberland. I’m ever so excited. @bethan_maddocks #paperartist #newcommission #northumberland #artistsofinstagram