Here is a news-worthy post on here for a change! A new addition to the vehicle collection…
Murton Colliery Cooperative Society Mobile Shop
Around two years ago we were offered the opportunity to purchase a Karrier mobile shop, formerly operated by the Cooperative Society in Murton, County Durham. For various reasons this transaction didn’t reach a conclusion and the shop slipped from out minds. A few weeks ago, various vehicle enthusiasts contacted us to report that the van was now in urgent need of saving and were we aware of it. Parallel to this, a local vintage car enthusiast was able to save and recover the shop having been informed that it was about to be scrapped. We were then able to contact him and only a week or so from its rescue and recovery, it was on the move again, arriving at Beamish earlier today (18/01021).
There are two rather obvious observations to make – firstly, the appropriateness of the mobile shop for our 1950s developments at the museum. It is ideal! We can certainly foresee it being usable as a part of the visitor experience in that area, and being mobile will ensure it can reach undercover safety each day. Secondly though, the condition of the shop is clearly very poor and it will be some time before restoration can be considered, and this will be very expensive to complete. This is important to say, in terms of managing expectations as such projects are seldom accomplished quickly (and never cheaply!). For now, we will make the shop more mobile (one of the rear wheels does not rotate for example) and then secure it for deep-storage in due course.
As this was something of a rescue mission, we know very little about this mobile shop. However, the previous owner does, and should be able to pass over images, accounts and recollections in due course. We will no-doubt also be able to seek information from the community in Murton, and so begin to piece together the history of this mobile shop and its important place in local social history.
Below: The mobile shop, in all of its glory. With an aluminium skinned body and fibreglass roof, it contains numerous materials that we have not often encountered in our historic vehicle collection previously. The original ownership is clear to see and the van was, it is reported, drivable only a few years ago.
Below: The driving position clearly reveals the extent of the decay that has occurred. Also clearly visible is the petrol engine and less-than ergonomic position of the gear lever. This is something staff here have become accustomed to however – the replica van used by the period food team (painted blue) has a gear lever that is as much stirring porridge as changing gear! Similarly, the Albion furniture van, once the incredibly awkward to access driving position was reached, took some practice to successfully obtain the desired or even a vaguely appropriate gear!
Below: A view from the customer side of the counter, clearly showing the racking for goods and the scale of the restoration that will one day be required for this unusual survivor.
As a final note – a reminder to everyone: the site is closed to visitors and whilst appreciating that there may be interest in coming to look at exhibits such as the Coop mobile shop, you should not admit yourselves to the museum premises to view them. We will endeavour to reopen as soon as we are allowed and it is safe to do so, and will be mindful of the interest in new objects in the collection, such as the Karrier. We would not normally have collected anything under present restrictions, but in this instance, it would probably have been lost to us forever had we not moved it to the museum this week.