Message From The Friend's Chairman
Following the publication of my reminiscences last year on the motorcycling activities just around the corner from Discovery on Westgate Road, I am now wondering whether there would be sufficient support for the formation of a Special Interest Group on motor cycles and motorcycling – particularly old motor cycles.

There has been considerable interest in this subject nationally and internationally for some considerable time now – Classic Bike magazine, for example, was first published nearly forty years ago, and continues to go from strength to strength. There are now 4 or 5 UK monthly magazines devoted to the subject and a host of small firms engaged in the restoration and upkeep of old motor cycles located here in the north east.  The existence of many well established ‘one make’ clubs also indicates a high level of interest by enthusiasts engaged in the restoration of such machines. There are those who participate in motor cycle sport on venerable machines and those who simply like to display their machines at the many classic bike events to show-off their pride and joy.

I am happy to help get a ‘historic motorcycling’ group going under the auspices of the Friends of Discovery and will arrange a meeting of like-minded enthusiasts at the Museum in Blandford Street if there is a sufficiently-strong level of support shown for the idea.

Please contact me on if you feel this idea is worth pursuing and you would like to participate. A short note on the sort of activities you think such a group could organise via the Museum would be helpful.  An indication of your main area of activity within the motorcycling fraternity would be helpful also, be it wallowing in nostalgia for bygone days, active participation in the sporting side or even getting your hands dirty in the shed!

I look forward to hearing from you and leave you with a picture of my P&J which I have spent the last 3 years resurrecting from boxes of bits.

Ian Burdon


 Open Quarterly Meeting -- March 7th 2017
Hi Friends of Discovery Museum, please look below for the agenda of the next open meeting. I hope you will be able to attend the meeting on 7th March. We have some exciting new projects in the pipeline so please come along and find out how you can help.

Agenda for Quarterly Open meeting --- Tuesday 7th March 2017 at 12-00 noon in the Mauretania Room at the Discovery Museum
  1. Welcome & FODMs update  --- Ian Burdon
  2. Changes to TWAM Volunteers Recruitment – Anita Moffitt
  3. Arcs & Sparks project  & engines team update --- Ed Dinning
  4.  “Energising Exhibits” project update --- David Murray
  5.  Northumberland Young Engineer, Designer, Technologist Competition 2017 report – John Chaney, Chris Watson
  6. Future events and activities –open discussion
  7. A.O.B --- open discussion
  8. Date of next Quarterly Meeting  & A.G.M to be confirmed
Graham Bradshaw


 The Reference library at Discovery contains some 14,000 artefacts, including engineering firms' brochures and publicity material, magazines, journals and books. The article “English without Tears” comes from "Coal" (May 1948). Although this magazine has been digitalised and is available here there is nothing quite like holding a magazine and turning the pages.

The article describes how after World War II, with the ending of conscription into the mines, (the "Bevin Boys"), there was a requirement for labour in the mines. There were several general volunteer schemes for European workers, the first under the banner of Balt Cygnet had no provision for dependents and mainly attracted women into essential domestic work in sanatoria and hospitals. The other was Westward Ho which did accept spouses and children. Between 1946 and 1949 a total of 91,000 people were accepted on the scheme mainly from the Ukraine, Poland and Latvia with some from Balkans. Initially these volunteer workers were known as Displaced Persons, then European Volunteer Workers and finally in 1953 this was replaced by the term "Foreign Workers recruited under the Westward Ho scheme". The use of ex POW and foreign soldiers was not counted in this scheme.

It was hoped in 1948 that the scheme would attract 30,000 miners to Britain (though there was a requirement for 100,000). Those European Volunteer Workers who had no English and were destined for the mines were sent to the National Coal Board Education centres such as at Bottisham, Cambridge. Here their integration into the English way of life involved intensive course of instruction, which lasted eight weeks. In that time they had to learn to speak and write the language though with a maximum vocabulary of 850 words. This involved small conversational groups of 50-60 people talking only in English, supplemented by text books with simple line diagrams and illustrated text film strips etc. Watch Pathe clip here.

In addition, there was physical training especially with hand hardening exercises and for this they were encouraged to garden. Understanding and integration into the British way of life meant visiting the local towns but they were expected to retain their national identity by ensuring they celebrated their national feast day. The abiding incentive was the work through which they would be able to earn and buy food (there was no mention of rationing in the article)

Although there was need for large numbers of workers, by 1956 the scheme had attracted just 12 % of the expected numbers and less than other population migrations (a total of 10,200 (3,800 European volunteer workers, 5,300 Poles, and 750 Italians;) report in Hansard 1956)

Mark Bennett


The North East of England led the Country in the application of electricity to motive power in industry in the early years of the 20th Century.  Many important features in large-scale electricity production and distribution were conceived and introduced by, what is now regarded as, the most innovative of all the power companies extant in the UK at that time.  Aided by far-sighted and technically gifted engineers, inventors and entrepreneurs, such as Merz, Parsons, Reyrolle and their close associates, the North Eastern Electric Supply Company (NESCo) grew from small beginnings in 1889 on Tyneside into a Company which led the field right up to Nationalisation and integration of UK-wide electricity supply in 1947.

Innovations such as the application of the steam turbine to electricity generation, the use of 3-phase supply systems, unitised boiler and turbine-generator arrangements, reheat in the steam cycle, centralised control of the transmission and distribution network, electrical protective systems for plant and transmission lines and metalclad switchgear are just some of the innovations that were first applied in the NESCo area of supply – which ultimately stretched from the Scottish border down through the industrial area of Teesside and into North Yorkshire.

There is no official history of NESCo, although some books have been written on the work of a few of the participants in the Company’s activities.  Much material is now lost due to the passage of time and the disappearance of many of the organisations involved in the work of NESCo pre-nationalisation.  A not-inconsiderable amount of remaining archive material is dispersed amongst former employees of NESCo and its post-nationalisation successor company NEEB, and a considerable amount of relevant industrial material is held by Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums.  Some further information on the many important personalities involved with the work of NESCo is held in the libraries of Newcastle and Durham Universities, the Archives of the Institution of Engineering and Technology in London and the National Archives at Kew.

The Project.

FODMs will work in conjunction with the Tyne & Wear Heritage Forum as part of their HeritageACT! projects.

It is envisaged that this will comprise 2 main phases:

PHASE-1:  Scope Definition.

·        Securing the services of a professional Archivist.

·        Identification of archive material in the north east community and elsewhere.

·        Preparation of a report.

PHASE-2:  Project Development.

·        Scanning and electronic storage of important material such as records, correspondence, drawings, photographs and ephemera relating to NESCo and the Companies (including its suppliers of plant and equipment, its legal advisors and its consulting engineers) and individuals with which it had a business relationship or was associated.

·        Identification of important change points in the industry e.g. nationalisation, privatisation.

·        Classification and cataloguing of that material and the preparation of a source book.

Outputs from this stage of the project shall include:

·        An oral history of the industry.

·        A fully-referenced written account of the history of the industry in book form.

·        A possible interpretive museum gallery.

·        A website.

·        A DVD giving a summary of the material collected.

·        An imaginative look-forward envisaging what the future may hold for the industry.

For the purposes of this project, the NE Region shall include that part of England from the Scottish Border southwards to North Yorkshire.

Given the national importance of the Company in a region of the UK which was a major supplier of manufactured goods, armaments, fuels, ships and railways through 2 world wars, relevant Government records would be included in the catalogue also.

It is hoped that the search, collation and preparation of the catalogue would lead to the publication of a history of NESCo, this being particularly appropriate at the present time as next year will be the 125th anniversary of the Company’s foundation.

Ian Burdon



Our members who help out in the Discovery Museum by repairing and cleaning exhibits, running the engines and taking our Arcs and Sparks tours now have a natty new polo shirt to wear whilst carrying out their activities.

The shirts are light blue and have "Technical Support Group" and "Engineer" around the FODMs logo on the front and "Supporting our Local Heritage" on the back.

Some of our engineers are pictured modelling the new shirts - keep an eye out for them and say hello next time you are in Discovery!


I have been asked by our chairman, Ian Burdon, to start a series of newsletter articles on this topic as an ongoing feature, so we will be looking at contributions from you, our reader. This can simply be a picture or two, or a short article as to your shed activities and what started you along this path.

I am not seeking to be sexist in the title and we would especially welcome articles from ladies who have sheds; the word sheds is a little misleading, I am referring to any hobbies area from a large cupboard, a study room, to the traditional garage/ wooden hut in the garden.

Why do we do it? Is it a refuge from family and business life or a means of de-stressing or perhaps simply the joy of fixing things? Perhaps it is even genetic if it “runs in the family”. There are certainly a multitude of magazines on a huge variety of hobbies in most of the larger newsagents to encourage you.

I know of many people with sheds whose hobby areas are totally unexpected; a lady who likes blacksmithing and metalwork, a policeman who does exquisite needlework. The idea covers all classes, from the Victorian vicar/country gent who may have collected minerals or butterflies, to the working man who used the area to do repairs, mend his shoes etc. I think the shed was originally a household repair area and construction site for otherwise unaffordable goods that would improve family life.

Growing up in the 40’s and 50’s, most of my friends' father’s had sheds of one sort or another; thus my fate was sealed and I would become a shed person. At home I expanded my father’s shed for my main hobby of electronics. This requires lots of storage for a variety of parts and items being worked on as well as discipline in sorting things, or they are of little use. Upon marriage and moving from home to a small flat life became more limited and I had a small part of the spare room; with the acquisition of larger houses the area expanded again with some purpose built areas.

I now have a garage/woodworking area, a metalwork shop and a study for my electronics work/library. Storage of parts, sets etc. is in the loft. My wife has the second bedroom for her genealogy work as well as 2 garden sheds for the various mowers and tools associated with our large vegetable garden.

Why do we do this? In both our cases our families also had a variety of hobbies so it carried over. We also passed the habit on to our children who are now “shed people”. My daughter taught her husband to do their car servicing; my son, who is also an Engineer would always be going to follow this path. My particular hobbies started from an early age with an interest in electricity and radio, as well as family who bought me Meccano and other constructional toys. There was also a wide variety of war surplus equipment for sale at low cost in this period, a valuable source of “bits”. By the age of 9 I had built many things from a crystal set to assembling a TV from surplus units on which we watched the coronation.

I passed the 11+ and attended the grammar/technical school in Sunderland which was a revelation; tech drawing, woodwork, metalwork; mechanics were all on the curriculum. My 6th form project was to build a racing go-kart. Then on to university on a student apprenticeship with Reyrolle and yet more techniques and processes to adapt for hobby use. I had a variety of senior engineering jobs in industry, collecting more “useful bits” as I went and building various things including a 2-bedroom extension and sun lounge onto my house. We also acquired a piece of land to the rear of the house as a large vegetable garden for my wife’s hobbies.

During this time I have increased the range of my hobbies, both those that require a “shed” and those such as walking, travelling and private flying that do not. I have not been tempted to turn my lounge into a flight simulator with the cockpit from a 737 as one enthusiast did!

Now that retirement has come I am busier than ever in the workshops and slowly reducing my stock of “bits” as I complete more projects and restore many of the old radios I have collected over the years. The current major projects I am working on involving my “sheds” are a solar thermal heating system, electronic power supplies for aircraft instruments, car maintenance, a caravan fridge project, as well as various household repairs, the original reason for a shed! I also assist other people with their electronic repairs and designs of transformers and electronic projects.

As a member of FODM’s engines and repair team all these skills are now working for the museum and we have our own “shed” in the Science Maze gallery, come along and join us on a Tuesday and be encouraged in the art of “Shedmanship”.

I’ve attached some pictures of my electronics / study area, but the rest of the “sheds” will need to await another article; as they say, I’ve shown you mine, now let’s see yours!

Ed Dinning



Back in April FODMs members visited the Locomotion Museum at Shildon, County Durham. We were warmly welcomed on a cold and foggy day and shown around by the “friends” group. We quickly realized that FODMs and the Shildon Friends have much in common.  So at the end of our visit we invited the Locomotion group to come and see us at the Discovery Museum.

Several busy months passed before they were able to take up our offer and come up to Newcastle. Now Shildon to Newcastle is a fair journey so the Locomotion team decided it would be easier to take the bus. However, not the standard Arriva service for them. With help from their friends at the Aycliffe and District Bus Preservation Society the group travelled to Newcastle in style in an immaculately restored Bristol LS6G single decker.

After a coffee and a brief introduction to Discovery Museum we whisked them off to the basement for a tour of the Arcs and Spark electrical collections store. FODMs members Ed Dinning and Chris Watson led the tour and regaled us with all manner of tales about the objects and the development of the electrical generation and supply industry. The Locomotion team had plenty of questions for Ed and Chris. Perhaps this was because the railway line at Shildon was one of the first to use electric locomotives.

Over a working lunch we had a good exchange of idea about how friends groups can help museums. We also had a lengthy discussion with expletives about the sensible interpretation of health and safety regulations.

The early afternoon was given over to a quick tour of the galleries, the FODMs engines team workshop and the Great Hall. Realising that we had only scratched the surface of the displays many of the Locomotion team said they would come back to Discovery Museum for a longer visit.

Whilst we operate in quite different museums it is obvious that we both share a passion for presenting history to the public and a keenness to help our institutions prosper.

All too soon the visit came to end but happily with an agreement to keep in touch and share information and expertise. So there will be another trip to Locomotion next year

Graham Bradshaw

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