Jarrow Hall is celebrating its first birthday in style this weekend.
The former Bede's World is celebrating by throwing its doors open with ‘pay what you want’ admission for all visitors on Saturday Sunday, October 21 and 22.
"We’ve had tens of thousands of people join us at our unique site since opening Jarrow Hall 12 months ago – and the pay what you want admission is a way of thanking everyone for their continued support," said Leigh Venus, Culture and Heritage Operations Manager for Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle (STAN), which operates Jarrow Hall.
"Headlining our weekend across both days we have the Acle Anglo-Saxon Early Medieval Re-enactment Group bringing our village to life, alongside our Autumn Craft and Food Fayre bursting with bustling stalls of local artists, craftspeople and artisan food makers, and complimentary craft activities for all to enjoy.
"On Saturday we'll be joined by everyone's favourite Irish Wolfhound Murphy, and visitors can find out more about this ancient breed and get their photo taken with a truly gentle giant. Our friends Mini Pony Hire are also joining us for gentle rides around our site and lots of opportunities for brushing and stroking.
"Sunday sees the return of Riverside Falconry and their stunning birds of prey; learn about these incredible creatures and handle them yourself to truly appreciate their beauty.
"We'll also be offering a one-weekend only special price on our annual Unlimited Passes and have prizes to be won too."
The re-enactors, Mini Pony Hire and Riverside Falconry will have additional activities available for visitors purchasing a special all-access wristband at reception in addition to their admission.”
The birthday weekend celebrations cap off a year that has seen the 11 acre Anglo-Saxon site attract £160,000 worth of funding from museum and heritage organisations including the highly-competitive Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund delivered by the Museums Association.
This new funding will enable its owners Groundwork STAN to continue to strengthen and continually improve the visitor offer.
Leigh said: "We’re committed to enriching lives through culture and heritage, securing the future of our collection and bringing the fascinating story of Bede and Anglo-Saxon Northumbria to a whole new audience for years to come.
"We’ve already enabled over 2,000 school children with their teachers to visit from across the region for immersive educational experience bringing Anglo-Saxon history and learning to life.
"We’ve also been able to deliver our Groundwork Route to Work initiative for those with disability between the ages of 16 and 25 on a site that offers an environment for great opportunity for varied employment and development."
Groundwork STAN is gearing up to launch a new community volunteer scheme at Jarrow Hall as it strives to set the bar high with an ever more exciting and enriching visitor experience.
"The feedback we receive has been fantastic with people letting us know that when they’ve received a very warm welcome and memorable experience," said Leigh.
"To build on this we are launching a new volunteer scheme to make it even easier for people from the local community to engage with the site and be part of a team taking Jarrow Hall forward.
"We’ll have two roles. Place Changers can help with creating an exceptional experience for everyone who uses the site through helping our reception and gift shop, looking after the farm and animals or even engaging with our historic collection, artefacts and research. History Makers will help create our Anglo-Saxon living history through period costume and skills; however people chose to play their part, all will enable the site to deepen and improve the richness of the experience, for visitors and volunteers alike."
Additional plans for the next 12 months include the return of popular cultural historian and BBC broadcaster Dr Janina Ramirez in May 2018, new breeds of livestock including ponies, outdoor productions of As You Like It and The Importance of Being Ernest and exciting developments and family fun around the Jarrow Festival and Dragon Parade.