A new decade is being brought to life with the opening of our 1950s welfare hall, the first building in our new 1950s Town!
The 1950s welfare hall will be officially opened on Saturday, 22nd June during a weekend of celebrations. The hall is part of the £20million Remaking Beamish project – the biggest development in the museum’s history.
The exhibit is a replica of Leasingthorne Colliery Welfare Hall and Community Centre, near Bishop Auckland, which opened in 1957. Beamish worked closely with the community members at the original hall – now known as Coundon and Leeholme Community Centre – who shared memories, stories and objects.
The hall will host 1950s activities for visitors to enjoy, including music, dancing, crafts, keep fit and amateur dramatics, and it also features an NHS clinic.
Richard Evans, Director of Beamish, The Living Museum of the North, said: “We are all very excited to be opening the welfare hall – the first exhibit in a 1950s Town that we are building at Beamish.
“Thanks to the support of the National Lottery players and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, our staff and volunteers have been working with people from the community in Coundon and Leeholme in County Durham for the past few years to authentically recreate this typical example of a 1950s welfare hall – and bring their stories to life.
“It’s an important milestone for us at Beamish as we move into a new time period – and expand the stories we tell of everyday life in the North East. It’s a fantastic addition to Beamish for visitors to experience – a lasting tribute to the hard work of all our staff and volunteers as well as the people of Coundon and Leeholme who have helped us. An important story for future generations to enjoy.”
The 1950s welfare hall will be officially unveiled this Saturday, 22nd June. From 10am-12.30pm you can enjoy making flags and cracklers (like streamers) in the band stand in The 1900s Town park. There will then be a grand parade from the museum’s Events Field at 1pm, through The 1900s Town to the hall, followed by the opening ceremony, including speeches and a tribute to the Leasingthorne miners, read by Coundon and Leeholme Kids 2gether Youth Club. The afternoon will feature 1950s music, entertainment and activities.
Celebrations will continue on Sunday, 23rd June, with more 1950s fun including skiffle songs from Journey Skiffle Folk, a group from charity Journey, which has been working with Beamish. A tea dance will be held from 2.30pm to 4.30pm.
The original Leasingthorne Colliery Welfare Hall and Community Centre was funded by the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, which provided welfare facilities for miners. People have shared memories of Leasingthorne Colliery miners paying a weekly contribution towards the hall from their wages.
Pam Hymas, trustee and treasurer of Coundon and Leeholme Community Centre, said: “We have felt proud and privileged to have worked with Beamish and the community.
“They have welcomed the help received from past and present members and the wider community in collecting information, memories and the history from 1957 to 2019.
“This has preserved the heritage of what the miners, their families and villagers achieved and now so many more will be able to see the hall at Beamish.”
The hall also features Changing Places accessible facilities, including a wash and dry toilet, hoist, changing bench and adjustable basin.
Beamish’s 1950s Town will also include a cinema, houses, shops, café, fish and chip shop, hairdresser’s and bowling green. Aged miners’ homes will provide a centre for older people, including those living with dementia.
Thanks to the money raised by National Lottery players, the Remaking Beamish project has been awarded £10.9million by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.