A historic building in which Durham miners took history-making decisions is in need of funding.

The Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) have ambitious plans both to preserve the heritage of their Redhills base and to transform it into a vital community and arts hub.

They hope the building can become a venue in which more community groups can meet, practise and perform, and in which more conferences and events can be held. In order to achieve this, the DMA wish to add an extension to the building to house the necessary facilities.

In addition, Redhills – also known as Durham Miners’ Hall – is a building of great historical importance. Constructed in 1915, Redhills contains the ‘Pitman’s Parliament’, a place where almost 200 colliery delegates took decisions that transformed County Durham.

Such decisions ranged from building elderly miners’ homes and welfare halls to setting up libraries and hospitals. No other English county had such an extensive welfare system until the welfare state was established.

Redhills, which is grade-II listed, was recently chosen by Historic England as one of the top 100 locations that best exemplify the country’s “rich and extraordinary history”. The only other parliament included on this list was the Palace of Westminster.

Without sufficient funding, however, this heritage could be in jeopardy. A recent assessment of Redhills found that if roof repairs do not take place within the next five to 10 years, the building will become unusable. This could lead to Redhills’ closure and the dispersal of important artefacts and documents.

With all this in mind, the Durham Miners’ Association has submitted a bid for £4 million to the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It is estimated that the cost of the proposed repairs and alterations to Redhills would total £6.7 million.

In order for the National Lottery bid to be successful, the DMA would have to secure match funding. £1 million has already been secured and another £50,000 has been raised of the remaining cash needed.

On Wednesday 10th July, the cabinet of Durham County Council will be asked for a contribution of £1,103,615 towards the scheme. If the cabinet agrees to this contribution, the council believe this would reflect its long-standing commitment to investing in County Durham’s heritage and culture.

The council is also working with the DMA on plans for a new Durham History Centre, which would include material exploring the social, industrial and political heritage of the Durham coalfield.

Durham County Council’s cabinet member for transformation, tourism and culture, Cllr Joy Allen, said, “County Durham has a proud mining heritage. It has shaped our landscape and is very much part of our cultural identity.”

“Redhills is such an important building, not only to County Durham, but to the whole of the UK.”

“Its closure would be a significant loss to the local community and County Durham’s heritage offer, which is vital for tourism and the economic benefits this brings.”

The cabinet is expected to give the go-ahead for the financial contribution, provided that the National Lottery Heritage Fund bid is a success.

Durham County Council is currently consulting on designs for the new Durham History Centre, which would house the county archives, objects associated with the Durham Light Infantry, and local studies reference materials. The centre – located at Mount Oswald Manor House – would also be home to archaeological services and the registration service.

The public consultation will run until Sunday 28th July. If you would like to give feedback, please visit http://www.durham.gov.uk/consultation.

(The featured image shows the Durham Miners’ Association’s base at Redhills.)

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