Opening times

  • Monday Closed
  • Tuesday Closed
  • Wednesday Closed
  • Thursday Closed
  • Friday Closed
  • Saturday Closed
  • Sunday Closed
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Opening times

  • Monday Closed
  • Tuesday Closed
  • Wednesday Closed
  • Thursday Closed
  • Friday Closed
  • Saturday Closed
  • Sunday Closed
More information

Opening times

  • 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 Closed
  • Tuesday Closed
  • 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 6th 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

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

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