Leasingthorne Colliery Welfare Hall and Community Centre


Experience the excitement and community spirit of the 1950s at the Leasingthorne Colliery Welfare Hall and Community Centre.

The building is a replica of the Leasingthorne Colliery Welfare Hall and Community Centre, built near Bishop Auckland in 1957.

Beamish worked closely with community members at the original hall, now known as the Coundon and Leeholme Community Centre, who shared memories, stories and objects. Archive photos from the opening day have been invaluable to our research and design, showing us how the inside and exterior of the hall looked in the 1950s.

The hall at the museum, which is the first exhibit to open in The 1950s Town, replicates the original building, complete with distinctive “glulam” (glued, laminated timber) roof trusses, and also includes a Changing Places facility, with an accessible toilet, hoist, changing bench and adjustable basin.

Our hall includes 4,500 bricks, which are colour-matched to the originals, 7,430 tiles, timber cladding, timber-framed windows and a sprung wooden floor.

We have been telling the story of the NHS and baby clinics in the exhibit. The NHS was the climax of a hugely ambitious plan to bring good healthcare to everyone. For the first time, hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists were brought together under one umbrella organisation to provide services that were free for all at the point of delivery. We are telling this story in our hall through a mother and baby clinic.

Clinics were attended by expectant mothers to receive antenatal care, then, once baby was born, mothers would bring them to the clinic to make sure they were growing well, and to receive advice and welfare foods such as national dried milk, orange juice and cod liver oil.

Of note is the hall’s 1950s-style kitchen, including replica worktops made in the Formica Group factory in North Shields. This Formica® laminate was manufactured using a design from 1958 and is synonymous with kitchen furniture from the period and beyond. There also two 1950s wall units from our collection and a Dovedale sink, made in a former Spitfire factory after the war.

In the 1950s, welfare halls hosted a diverse range of activities and events, including ballet and tap dancing classes, whist drives, wedding receptions, plays and pantomimes, garden fetes and youth clubs.

Following the Second World War, the County Council of Durham produced a County Development Plan. Published in 1951, the plan included proposals for more than 200 additional community centres and village halls, including new builds and adaptation of existing premises.

Local authorities would provide clinic sessions in pre-existing community spaces such as churches, schools, miners’ welfare halls and community centres, to provide advice for expectant mothers and care for babies and young children.

The welfare hall at Leasingthorne was originally paid for by the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, which was responsible for providing welfare facilities for miners using money from the operational budgets of collieries. In 1950, Leasingthorne Colliery employed 755 people, whose labours indirectly contributed to the funding of the hall.

The welfare hall at Beamish, which opened in June 2019, received an award from the Banks Community Fund, via the County Durham Community Foundation.