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Beamish Museum: First building in 1950s Town opens

The new 1950s Welfare Hall. Picture; Beamish Museum
The new 1950s Welfare Hall. Picture; Beamish Museum

A whole new era for County Durham museum

The 1950s is being brought to life with the opening of the first building in Beamish Museum’s latest era.

The 1950s welfare hall will be officially opened on Saturday, June 22 amid 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.

Base for 1950s events

The hall will host 1950s, 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: “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.”

A grand parade from the Events Field will take place 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.

More fun on Sunday

Celebrations will continue on Sunday, June 23 with more 1950s fun, including songs from Journey Skiffle Folk, a group from charity Journey. 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.

Leasingthorne Colliery miners paid 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.

Leasingthorne Colliery Welfare Hall and Community Centre, 1957
Leasingthorne Colliery Welfare Hall and Community Centre, 1957

Heritage of the miners

“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 1950s Town will also include a cinema, houses, shops, café, fish and chip shop, hairdresser and bowling green.

Aged miners’ homes will provide a centre for older people, including those living with dementia.

The Remaking Beamish project also features a 1950s Farm, bus depot, and an expansion of the Georgian area, including a coaching inn, where visitors will be able to stay overnight, and early industrial buildings.

The hall also features Changing Places accessible facilities, including a wash and dry toilet, hoist, changing bench and adjustable basin.

Beamish is open daily from 10am to 5pm, www.beamish.org.uk.

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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