Allendale is a pretty little village in the heart of the North Pennines, barely a spit and a whistle from the Scottish border. There’s history here–it was once a key centre of Northumbria’s lead-mining industry, and workings are scattered across the wildly lovely landscape.
The village square is home to three excellent pubs and a couple of coffee shops. There are regular gatherings of folk musicians, bike riders of all persuasions from pedal to Harley, and on New Years Eve a parade where the men of the village tote flaming barrels of pitch around.
Away from the square, around the back of the Forge Studio, the curious explorer will come across sights of a rather more science-fictional bent. A beat-up boat of an old Volvo with a Tardis on the roof, piloted by K-9. Next to it, a tiny shed houses a full-scale, studio-accurate Dalek.
These are the sentinels of the entrance to one of the most unusual museums in the country. If you have a love for the SFnal world, then you really need to make tracks to the Museum Of Classic Sci-Fi.
Founded by Neil Cole, a local teacher, the Museum is the culmination of years collecting film and TV ephemera, often screen-used. It’s a tiny space–Neil has set up shop in his basement. But the sheer density of goodies on offer makes his labour of love an absolute must-see.
Look! An original guard’s helmet from the 1940 Buck Rogers in the 25th Century serial! Over there! The pilot seat from Thunderbird 2, as seen in the slightly shonky AD 2000 movie version! Drokk! A working lift panel from the brilliant Dredd movie!
Neil is a huge Doctor Who fan and talented artist in his own right. The second stage of the museum is dedicated to his collection of Whoviana, including storyboards, his art and that of acclaimed Whoniverse artist Andrew Skilleter.
You need to go slowly when you’re in Neil’s world of wonders. There’s just so much to see. Neil’s father-in-law, who cheerfully ushered us in, is happy to let you back in for free once you’ve had a look round–there’s always stuff you miss first time around.
There is controversy around the museum, however. The Allendalek, the proud herald that shows the keen visitor they’re in the right place, is housed in a shed that does not match the Grade 2-listed exterior of Neil’s gaff. He’s been told by the local council to take it down. This has proven to be an unpopular move, and Allendale has rallied round its resident killing machine. Other homemade Allendaleks popped up around the village earlier this year, and an online petition snagged 1300 signatures.
The fate of the Allendalek remains, for now at least, uncertain. One thing is for sure, though. Neil Cole’s Museum Of Classic Sci-Fi is a brilliant example of British eccentricity, can-do attitude and sheer delightful bonkerism. You owe it to yourself to visit, and pay homage to the Dalek Of The North.
The Museum Of Classic Sci-Fi is based at Osborne House just off Allendale’s Market Place. Head round the Back Of Allendale Forge Studios and look out for the Allendalek. It’s open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, 9 to 5. For more, check out Neil’s website.