Friends of Discovery Museum

Friends of Discovery Museum Friends Group of the Discovery Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne

Friends Group of the Discovery Museum - a fantastic science museum and local history Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne. Join Us and help support the Discovery Museum by sharing your expertise, taking part in special events and fundraising.



We are a group of people who meet every Tuesday to repair, clean and refurbish the artefacts, exhibits and interactives in the various galleries. We also assist the keepers with applications for grants to enhance the exhibitions. We hope to motorise and illuminate more exhibits this coming year now that the pressure of the Rocket exhibition is removed. Over the past few years our focus has changed from being a group who tried to raise money for museum funds, to a group who actively participate in the repair, restoration and cleaning of exhibits and artefact’s.

We welcome anyone who would like to join us, no specialist skills are required apart from enthusiasm, but we hope to share our skills and learn new ones; all ages are welcome !

This year we have concentrated on AV equipment and have worked on the displays in the Story of the Tyne gallery; we have also successfully reinstated 2 of the touch screen units associated with the Tyne map and the boat display case; the hoist exhibit has been repaired. The “Power from Poo” exhibit is now fully repaired and operational again.

In the working lives gallery we are still working on the Armstrong car display. The motor and gearbox are very badly worn and a replacement would be very expensive so we are looking at manufacturing our own gearbox with the skills that are available within the group. There is still a great deal of work to be done on many other displays.

We hope to be able to restore other touch screen units, possibly reprogramming them so they can be used in other areas. One of our members has configured an old PC LCD screen so it can be run with a simple Raspberry Pi computer and displays a 6 foil PowerPoint presentation as a “moving description card”. This should be a cheap way to upgrade the information on many exhibits.

With the knowledge available in our group we have also helped support other TWAM museums on their penny presses and interactives; they also help us with materials for our projects.

We find a great lack of data on exhibits and interactives that hinder our work; we could do with a central archive and archivist for this documentation and volunteers able to set it up.

Working through the volunteers section we hope to recruit more assistance this coming year, especially with IT/ Software skills; we will also be working with young people and hope to give them training in a variety of life skills.

On the social side of things we have arranged trips to various other museums in the area including Shildon Railway Museum, Reeth Dales Museum, etc. We are hoping to run more trips this coming year to industrial heritage sites and lead mining areas in our local area.

Ed Dinning, Chair of Friends Mar 2019

PARSONS' PROJECT APPEALAppeal for historic documents and artefacts from C A Parsons the company, Grubb Parsons, or anyth...
Parsons Heritage Project


Appeal for historic documents and artefacts from C A Parsons the company, Grubb Parsons, or anything relevant to the Parsons family who settled in Northumberland.

If your parents / grandparents worked at C A Parsons or Parsons Marine, and you have anything you don’t want any more which you think we would be interested in, please get in touch.

[email protected]

Watch on Look North Here

LN artilcle

Forthcoming talk on History and Technology at Discovery Museum on Tuesday 13th February 2018

Forthcoming talk on History and Technology at Discovery Museum on Tuesday 13th February 2018

RESTORING SIR CHARLES PARSONS' FINAL RESTING PLACEThere is a current crowdfunding campaign to restore the final resting ...
Help raise £3000 to Restore the final resting place of Sir Charles and Lady Katharine Parsons ( at Kirkwhelpington, Northumberland.


There is a current crowdfunding campaign to restore the final resting place of Sir Charles and Lady Katharine Parsons at Kirkwhelpington, Northumberland which FODMs thinks we should bring to your attention.

Weʼre raising money to Restore the final resting place of Sir Charles and Lady Katharine Parsons ( at Kirkwhelpington, Northumberland.. Support this JustGiving Crowdfunding Page.



Friends and fellow members of FODM’s, I should like to wish you warmest greetings for the coming festive season and invite you to our Christmas gathering to be held on Tue 5th Dec in the Turbinia room on the 5th floor from noon until 2pm.

There will be a short quarterly meeting at the start of the gathering before the festivities commence, where I will outline our activities in the past year.

This has been a successful year for our group, we have completed the motorisation of the steam fan in Science Maze, for which we received a grant from the Reece foundation. We have worked with facilities staff on repairs to several exhibits and facilities; in this we have been helped by the new volunteers that have joined the group, long may this continue. Support has also been given to the “Fun of the Fair” gallery; it is surprising how much punishment the old fairground machines take from the general public.

We are now thinking to next year and how we can assist the museum further while attracting more visitors, the committee have some ideas, but I should also like to hear your views for the future. Please come - prepared to multi-task, eat mince pies and develop ideas with the museum staff!

Season’s Greetings,

Ed Dinning,
Chair of FODM’s



Diary date —— Christmas Gathering 2017

Hi Friends of Discovery Museum

We will be holding our annual Christmas Gathering on Tuesday 5th December at Discovery Museum in the Turbinia Room (5th floor) from 12-00noon to 2-00pm.

I do hope you will be able to attend

Please R.S.V.P to Graham Bradshaw [email protected]



The Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Discovery Museum will take place at 12-00 noon in the Turbinia Room (4th Floor) at the Discovery Museum


1) Apologies for Absence

2) Minutes of last General Meeting

3) Chairman’s Report

4) Treasurer’s Report & Adoption of Accounts

5) Appointment of Officers

The following officers are stepping down :

President: Dr Malcolm Kennedy
Chairman: Ian Burdon
Admin: John Chaney

The nominations for officers for 2017 are :

President : Ian Burdon
Chairman: Ed Dinning
Secretary/Membership Sec: Graham Bradshaw
Treasurer: Paul Atkinson
Comms/Website Officer: Tony Stephenson

6) Appointment of Examiner of Accounts & bank account

7) Any Other Business

Any matters to be raised under the last item should be notified to the Secretary no later than 20th June 2017.

Graham Bradshaw (Secretary)
Email [email protected]


Who are we?

We are a small group of retired, young at heart, enthusiastic individuals who use our collective engineering knowledge and experience providing support to Newcastle’s Discovery Museum.

What we do

We repair and maintain the Museum’s electrical, electronic and mechanical exhibits, be they small, large, interactive, moving or static.
Exhibits that visitors can operate (interact with) will, through constant use over time suffer wear and tear and possibly damage. Replacement of parts is therefore necessary, being mostly sourced from the Museum’s stock of spares.

However, a number of the exhibits were originally custom designed and built by specialist companies that unfortunately no longer exist. Situations like this can involve us in a lot of research work to identify alternative suppliers of suitable replacement parts.

Included in the Museum’s Science Maze are several nineteenth and early twentieth century gas and steam engines that are powered by electric motors to demonstrate how they operate, (practical limitations prevent the provision of gas or steam plant).

In addition to our role of repairing / maintaining the Museum’s exhibits, we know that some visitors may not be familiar with or understand their workings or purpose and we are happy to provide explanations wherever we can.

In carrying out this work we take pleasure in the knowledge that we are contributing to Newcastle Discovery Museum’s continuance as a valuable community resource.

What we need

We are looking for additional volunteers to help us with our work, either on a one off or on-going basis. The work will consist of cleaning, lubrication and maintenance of the operating engines as well as repairs to other exhibits.

We are particularly interested in anyone who has microcomputer experience, especially PIC's and similar devices as these were used in some exhibits that we wish to return to operation.


If you are interested or want more information then contact Ed at [email protected]

Home - Friends of Discovery Museum


Note from The Secretary :

Dear Friend of Discovery Museum.

I hope you are well and in good spirits. I am also hoping that you will again support FODMs by renewing your membership.

Your subscription coupled with the ingenuity and practical skills of the FODMs team has enabled us to repair a number of highly popular and educational exhibits. These have included the; "spectacularly large plasma globe", “Power to the People” interactive and the highly popular and entertaining “Shadow Wall” exhibit.

In the current financial climate these are repairs that the museum would simply not be able to afford.

This year we are looking, with your help to get more of the working exhibits back in action. These will include a small gas engine that needs a new drive motor and the Armstrong car display turntable that now needs a new motor and gearbox. Our work will also include helping to stage the annual Northumberland Young Engineer, Designer,Technologist Competition which showcases the project work of G.C.S.E and A Level students in the North East.

Please see our website for more information about our activities

The membership fee for 2017 is unchanged at £15. This can be paid by any of the following:

By downloading the form here - this will also enable you to GIFT AID your subscription

via direct transfer to acc no 53813487 sort code 20-59-42 please reference the transfer “Your Name 2017”

or by cheque made payable to the Friends of Discovery Museum, send to Discovery Museum, Blandford Square, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4JA, please mark F.A.O Graham Bradshaw

I do hope you will be able to share our commitment to helping the Discovery Museum team to maintain and develop one of the North East’s great educational resources.

Graham Bradshaw
Membership Secretary

Friends of Discovery Museum

Friends of Discovery Museum (FODMs) - Spring Bulletin


Our Spring Bulletin has just been sent out to members

You can read it online here

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 innovati...

MOTOR CYCLES - SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP?Following the publication of my reminiscences last year on the motorcycling activi...


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 [email protected] 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

PROJECT : HISTORU OF THE ELECTRICITY SUPPLY INDUSTRY IN NE ENGLAND Introduction. The North East of England led the Count...



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


Discovery Museum, Blandford House
Newcastle Upon Tyne


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Would it be possible to share this link on your page please - just trying to make people aware of the Parsons Heritage Project and that fact that it has a page. Thanks.