The Story of the Welfare Hall

The Story of the Welfare Hall

The 1950s have arrived at Beamish Museum, with the opening of our welfare hall the first building in The 1950s Town. It’s a replica of Leasingthorne Colliery Welfare Hall and Community Centre, which was built in 1957. The hall really brings the 1950s to life here at Beamish and will be used just like other community centres were around the region in the decade. So we first made contact with the community back in 2015 when we were working on Remaking Beamish and deciding which buildings, which locations, which stories and this hall was absolutely perfect for our needs in the museum when we first spoke to them they were a little bit concerned that we wanted to take their hall away and move it to the museum but we didn’t want to do that at all – it’s a thriving, wonderful community centre down in Leeholme and Coundon and we wanted to do was to replicate it since then we’ve been working with them, they’ve helped us at every stage numerous people have gone down and they’ve had a look in all their cupboards see how they store stuff, measure elements which has enabled us to build this replica The original welfare hall, which is now known as Coundon and Leeholme Community Centre, is still in use and we’ve worked really closely with the community there to build our own replica here at Beamish. We’ve worked hard to create a hall that looks and feels just like the original, including the distinctive glulam arches, made from glued, laminated timber. We’ve worked very closely with the community of Coundon and Leeholme, who have been a huge part of this project and we really couldn’t have done this without them. They’ve shared amazing memories, stories and objects from the hall and hosted events and celebrations. We welcomed the community to see our hall being built, and brought them for a first look at the finished hall, they’ve been involved every step of the way and it was an emotional moment for us all to see it opened! I feel amazing, it’s all come to the end now but it’s been a fantastic day with a marvellous send off, the procession was amazing and so many people here – the support was fantastic! It’s the backbone of what we do and it’s crucial to us being able to represent something which is real and authentic  and to involve people also means its valuable to them, it’s not just us saying this is what we’re going to go out and do it’s communities helping us and saying to us, this is what you should do, this is what you should be part of and it’s integral to what we are at Beamish, it’s part and parcel of our every day work communities are what Beamish is about and representing peoples typical and authentic stories through involving communities is at the heart of everything that we do at Beamish placing those visitors at the centre of everything we do engagement wise – it’s fantastic So you got in touch about 4 or 5 years ago and the original phone call I believe came from Geraldine and she asked if they could replicate the hall, and I took it the wrong way and said  no you can’t have our hall, you’re not getting it and everything like that but since then we’ve worked with you with the builders, the architects, the various teams it’s just been fantastic The original hall opened on 12th October 1957 and was funded by the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, which provided welfare facilities for miners and their families. People have shared memories of Leasingthorne Colliery miners paying a weekly contribution towards the hall from their wages. My father’s pay went towards building it, they used to take so much of his pay, every week to go towards building the hall so very proud of the miners and what they did, and they worked hard Alot of them talk about the miners who built the hall and about their father worked in Leasingthorne Colliery and he had deducted a shilling a week from his wages and they all tell you the story of the hall and there’s been one or two photos keep cropping up of pictures when they were children and when they used the hall a funny story, we have a lady who comes to our dance and we have a picture which is in the room which you use for the NHS it’s a picture of the opening and there’s a lot of little children, one with a little dog and when we were looking at the picture and saying do we know any of these people and one of our ladies said well that’s Maureen Baron who comes to the dance so we brought Maureen and said this is you, is that me she said! She didn’t know that she was on that photography until someone else spotted her so there’s people still there that were on the original photographs I’m over the moon that this hall is going to be rebuilt at Beamish – it’s a big, big achievement for everybody I mean it’s just a priviledge, and it was a priviledge to be chosen  I think that’s why we’ve committed ourselves so much to it because it’s just a culmination of everything that we’ve worked for really Our 1950s welfare hall opened at Beamish on the 22nd June 2019 with a grand parade featuring the Coundon and Leeholme community there was a real sense of pride to see the hall being opened here at the museum. The hall really brings the 1950s to life here at Beamish and will be used just like other community centres were around the region in the decade. You can join in 1950s activities such as music and dancing, keep fit, am-dram, crafts and games and Meccano club every Sunday morning. You can also discover about the early days of the NHS with our very own NHS mother and baby clinic. The NHS was one of the key stories that we wanted to tell in the 1950s here at Beamish because it revolutionised health care for people living in the country, making it free at the point of access. Another massive reason for us to choose the 1950s is because it’s still within living memory for lots of our visitors to the museum. I think when Beamish is at its best it should feel like visiting your grandma’s house or something somewhere you really like, somewhere that you can relate to again, we’re not telling your story, you can reflect on your own history whether or not you’re from the region actually – even people from outside the region We chose the 1950s because of the impact that decade had on everyday life as Britain recovered after the Second World War and all the changes to how people lived, how people worked birth of the NHS, there’s a clinic in this welfare hall as an example changes to leisure, car ownership, fashion I mean look at me now, I’m in 1950s gear with a slightly different hat from my bowler hat  that I wear in the Edwardian period, so lots of changes to how people actually lived and that enables us again to expand the stories that we tell about life in the region The welfare hall is the first building in our 1950s Town. There are 4,500 bricks, we’ve counted them, colour-matched to the originals, and 7,430 tiles. There’s even a sprung wooden dance floor which we’ve found out is great for rock and roll dances. The kitchen and table-tops feature Formica® laminate, which was donated by Formica Group, and used recreated patterns from the 1950s. The kitchen also has two 1950s wall units from our collection and a Dovedale sink that was made in a former Spitfire factory after the war. We’re lucky that the hall also has a changing places facility, including a wash and dry toilet, hoist, changing bench and adjustable basin and this means that we are able to welcome a much more diverse range of visitors here to the museum. The welfare hall is part of the £20million Remaking Beamish project. Thanks to the money raised by National Lottery players, the project has been awarded £10.9million by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. The Remaking Beamish project features a 1950s terrace, with a café, fish and chip shop, hairdresser’s and a house telling the story of artist Norman Cornish and the Spennymoor Settlement. There will also be a cinema, houses, shops, and bowling green. Aged miners’ homes will provide a centre for older people, including those living with dementia. The project also features a 1950s Farm, a bus depot, and an expansion of the Georgian area. The Georgian development includes a coaching inn, where you’ll be able to stay overnight. There’ll also be early industrial buildings, one of which is Joe the Quilter’s cottage, which opened last summer. It feels absolutely amazing to see this hall open I think there’s some many people at Beamish that come together external contractors as well, that all work to make these things happen it’s such a massive team effort so many people have worked on this building, inside the museum and out and I think it’s a real achievement and moment for everyone who’s been involved We’ve been blown away by it, we knew there’d be excitement around it  We’ve been really eager to get going with it But being here today and seeing people enjoy the hall that we’ve all worked on and especially for the community members that are here seeing how proud they are of this replica building has really been a moment for us today You can see by the way that I’m talking that we’re really excited and certainly I think our visitors are and their anticipation is building up constantly and we’re trying to keep up with that expectation Everybody that you come in to contact thinks it’s magical the group I work with, as with all the other groups, they just can’t believe it you have to keep saying, this hall is being replicated at Beamish and the look of amazement on their faces It brings a building to life doesn’t it when you work with people and they can tell you their stories and their experiences a community centre is just that isn’t it, it’s all about people, it’s all about community and the community in Leeholme and Coundon have been absolutely fantastic to work with They have helped us to make this come alive and I look forward to visitors at the museum continuing to do so.

2 thoughts on “The Story of the Welfare Hall

  1. Great to see so much progress for Beamish, I can't wait until the rest of the area opens up, as well as the pokerly expansion. Heres to the next chapter!

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