Pitman's Parliament is on the road back to its former glory as restoration project takes off
The restoration of the Pitman’s Parliament has started – and it is young adults who are leading the way in returning Redhills to its former glory.
The renovation of the Durham Miners Hall has started with the famous seats being taken out.
But this is only the first first stage in the multimillion-pound project, and it will clear the way for vital underground structural work. The seats will be restored and returned to the historic home of the Durham miners.
More than a dozen young people from the social enterprise Woodshed Workshop are working on the project.
The organisation works with socially and economically disadvantaged young people as well as adults with additional needs and isolated older people.
Its founder and director is woodworker Nathan Hopkins. He said: “It is important for the young people working here to know what this place is about – it is their heritage.
“And they are not just visiting Redhills, they are taking part in what is happening here. It is a great experience and opportunity for them - and they’ve been telling their mates all about it.
“In the future, they will look at Redhills and be able to say ‘I was there, and I did that’. They will be part of it, and that is something you just can’t measure.”
Guided by experienced woodworkers such as Nathan, the young people have been tasked with the painstaking job of carefully removing and dismantling the Austrian oak seats that have been part of the Grade II-listed council chamber since Redhills opened in 1915.
With the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Durham County Council and others, Redhills is undergoing a £7.5million redevelopment as a centre for culture, heritage and education.
Nick Malyan, Programme Manager at Redhills, said: “We want to ensure that local people benefit as much as possible from the investment in Redhills. Kicking off the project in this way ensures that we are supporting a wonderful local enterprise in giving young people a hands on role in their own heritage. They are doing an excellent job.”
The removal of the seats is a vital first step in the restoration of the Miners Hall. The floor will then be removed so that underground structural work including the installation of a new ventilation system can take place. It is also a necessary part of a scheme to install high quality wireless broadband throughout the building.
The building first opened in 1915 and served as the purpose-built headquarters of the Durham Miners Association (DMA), Redhills was funded by more than 150,000 working miners.
The renewed famous building will use cutting-edge audio-visual technology to bring to life the rich history of the DMA, the people and the communities of the Durham coalfield.
The fully restored Redhills is due to re-open to the public in Spring 2023.