£60,000 boost for historic South Shields landmark

St Hilda's Pit Head
St Hilda's Pit Head

A project to restore and breathe new life into a historic South Tyneside landmark has won a £60,000 funding bid.

Community Arts Project North East CIC was one of only 16 groups in the country to secure cash from the Coastal Communities Fund.

The money will be used to continue the refurbishment of St Hilda’s Pit Head in South Shields and turn it into a community, cultural and heritage hub, as well as create jobs and apprenticeships.

The venue was recently opened up to the public following a £548,000 renovation by the Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust.

The work was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, South Tyneside Council and others.

Diane Gray, co-director of Community Arts Project North East, said: “We are thrilled to have received this funding boost and to be able to continue to build St Hilda’s Pit Head into a thriving cultural and heritage venue for the town.”

St Hilda’s will offer something unique for South Shields: a venue which can serve the community, preserve and celebrate the building’s unique mining heritage.

Diane Gray

“St Hilda’s will offer something unique for South Shields: A venue which can serve the community, preserve and celebrate the building’s unique mining heritage and provide space for other social enterprises and businesses to operate from. We have so many exciting events coming up in the next few months to encourage the local community to come and explore the building and tell us what they’d like to see in the building as it develops”.

St Hilda’s Pit Head comprises a pumping station and winding house and is all that remains today of the large complex of original pit buildings which were demolished after it closed in 1940. The building was retained to provide ventilation for the newer Westoe Colliery but fell into disrepair after Westoe closed in 1992.

It was also the scene of one of the mining industry’s darkest days when an explosion at the colliery on June 28, 1839, killed 51 men.

However, a report written after the accident led to the issue of miner’s safety being raised. It also led to improved conditions in Britain’s mines helping to save thousands of lives.

Phase one of the restoration and transformation work has been completed with more to come as new life is breathed into the building with the creation of training, office, event and exhibition space.

A number of events have been planned for the venue in the coming months, organised by Community Arts Project North East including Spooky St Hilda’s (a family event for Halloween), a Community Christmas Fair, a Meet Santa event, music events and regular Coffee and Cake mornings for the community to come and explore the building.

The Harton & Westoe Miners Banner Group have been involved in the project since before the restoration began as they are keen to pass on the mining heritage to the next generation, leading schools workshops, tours and open days.

For more information about these events, visit www.capne.org or search for St Hilda’s page on Facebook page or email lauracapne@gmail.com.