1950s Welfare Hall Preview Day

1950s Welfare Hall Preview Day


This is the first building we’re opening as part of a new period area at Beamish – the 1950s so it’s a really exciting moment. Over the next few years we’ll be opening up more and more buildings so it will eventually create a town and this welfare hall, which was originally built in 1957, recreated here so it’s a great, great day. Hundreds of people have been involved in the project over the last 10 years since it we came up with the idea on the back of a fag packet and here it is today it’s quite amazing really and one of the things Beamish does is instead of telling people their history, we get people involved so they can help us make sure that the stories that we tell about every day life in the region are rooted in a real place and a real story. So the story here is from South Durham in place called Coundon and the welfare hall, the people there, the trustees of the hall still exist, this is a replica of that building have been involved really from the inception of the project and they’ve been here today to help us celebrate its opening, so that’s really important for us and it’s quite an emotional thing it’s their story that they are very proud of, and it’s also typical of many towns and villages across the north east so it’s an individual story which helps us tell the wider story of the region So this Saturday we officially open it and we’re expecting thousands of people to come along and enjoy the day, so it’ll be quite chaotic and fun and quirky I think it starts off with a parade and we all come here and celebrate officially opening it with many people, buses are coming from the community in South Durham to help us celebrate so it is going to be a fun and chaotic day I should think – Beamish at it’s best in many ways so I’d welcome everyone to come along and join us for that and then it will be open everyday from that point on Why the 1950s? A lot of people ask us that…  I think when Beamish is at its best it should feel like visiting your grandma’s house or something somewhere you really like, somewhere you feel comfortable with and you can relate to and again, we’re not telling your story, you can reflect on your own history whether or not you’re from the region, even people from outside the region We chose the 1950s because of the impact on that decade and everyday life  as Britain recovered after the second world war and all of the changes to how people lived, how people worked, birth of the NHS there’s a clinic in this welfare hall as an example leisure, car ownership, fashion I mean look at me now in 1950s gear with a slightly different hat from my bowler hat that I wear so lots of changes to how people lived and that enables us again to expand the stories that we tell Normally when we create a building we design it to look like it’s always been here so the last building we opened was a heather thatched cottage set in the 1820s and whilst it is new in the sense that it was rebuilt here it is made to look really old but with this building, the original was built in 1957, so as we’re creating a 1950s Town, this would have been brand new the other buildings in the 1950s will not all be like that so the cinema which we’re building in the 1950s dates from just before the First World War so it will look like an old building set in the 1950s which people are probably more familiar with if you think about our Pit Cottages for example they’re Victorian buildings set in the Edwardian period and that makes it feel real but this is a new build, post-war building, set in the 1950s We’ve been working on the project for nearly 10 years in terms of thinking about it and now building it for around 18 months or so and over the next 3 years we’ll be opening up more buildings so the next block of buildings, just behind us, behind this fence which is hiding a construction site is a typical terrace of housing, and in that terrace we’ve got Norman Cornish’s house and studio which will allow us to tell the story of again, an individual story but the wider story of the Spennymoor Settlement of artists and writers that was developed in South Durham it includes John’s Cafe from Wingate which has the typical wooden seating that you see in a cafe an interesting hatch which they used to give late night drinks to the snooker hall next door even though we’re not building the snooker hall next door and a hairdressers as well, so you can get your hair done in a 1950s style while you’re here and that’ll come next, then we’re working on the cinema, more housing, aged miners’ homes and a bowling pavilion and green so all sorts of things over the next 3 years, and we’ll open them up gradually and obviously we couldn’t do this without lots of peoples support thousands of people have supported this, the bulk of the money, nearly 60% of the money, has come from National Lottery players and the National Lottery Heritage Fund so we’re grateful for all their support but there’s also been donations from Formica and Banks Community Development Fund all sorts of people have been donating us, so a big thank you to them

One thought on “1950s Welfare Hall Preview Day

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *