Important piece of social history returns to Washington site

An historic sandstone arch that adorned a miner’s social club in Washington is now back home where it belongs.

The Washington Colliery Welfare Hall and Institute was the hub of the community when it opened in 1931 until it was turned into a nightclub in the 1980s.

Washington Miners Welfare Club in Washington, Sunderland where Willow Brook Extra Care now sits.
Washington Miners Welfare Club

 

The site on Spout Lane became an eyesore and was targeted by arsonists before housing association Riverside redeveloped the site to an extra care scheme called Willow Brook.

The modern complex is home to more than 100 residents which is for people with and without care needs who want to live independently, feeling safe and secure. Residents include ex-miners and their loved-ones that have lived there since it opened in 2016, on the site where they once worked and socialised more than 40 years ago.

The sandstone arch, which stood above the door to the hall, was kept in storage by the council. But it has now been returned to the site thanks to a campaign by Willow Brook resident Ray Middleton and Cllr John Kelly.

Willow Brook Extra Care_Ray Middleton with Cllr John Kelly and resident
Ray Middleton with Cllr John Kelly and residents

 

“It’s a big relief that the arch is back where it belongs, I’m happy that it’s finally here,” says 77-year-old Ray, who was chairman of the committee at the social club many years ago.

“I’ve been working closely with Cllr Kelly to make sure the arch was kept safe and didn’t get lost. He ensured it was saved from the bulldozer and it was stored safely when the building was knocked down.

“I was disappointed when it was still in storage after Willow Brook was built, so it’s great news that the arch has returned to its rightful place here because it’s a huge part of social history to the community. There are generations of people who remember the social club including Willow Brook residents and carers who work here. My neighbours and residents living nearby are pleased it is in the garden for all to see, we’ve had some lovely comments from people.”

A lovely display of flowers now surround the sandstone arch thanks to youngsters from a local gardening group called The Little Onions. They regularly visit the extra scheme as part of an intergenerational project to socialise with residents and learn new skills.

Little Onions Club planting flowers around the sandstone arch

 

Councillor for Washington North ward John Kelly added: “All the ward councillors were pleased to help the Willow Brook residents group and ensure that an important artefact is back in its rightful place.”

The Washington Colliery Welfare Hall and Institute was an important part of the community and used for all sorts of events including collecting NHS baby milk for mothers, holding dances and weddings.

Clare Vickers, Riverside’s Service Manager at Willow Brook added: “It’s beautiful to see people so happy especially as it is so important to them and brings back memories of the past. The arch stone is back in the community for a new generation of children to enjoy and learn about the history of the site.”

To find out more about Riverside’s Retirement Living services visit: www.riverside.org.uk/find-a-home/retirement-living

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