Band hall moved brick-by-brick to Beamish

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A building of note will open this week – for the second time in a century. Nostalgia writer Sarah Stoner takes a look.

A WEARSIDE landmark has been rebuilt brick by brick – 101 years after first playing host to music-makers.

Hetton Silver band 1947

Hetton Silver band 1947

Hetton Silver Band Hall will this week re-open its doors in a new home – as the latest attraction at Beamish Museum.

“We never thought it would happen, but our dreams have come true,” said former member Glenis Smith. “We’ll always have somewhere to go and see it.

“It’s brilliant to see Hetton’s heritage coming to life. It would have been so sad for it to have been knocked down, but now it will live on forever.”

The origins of Hetton Silver date to April 1, 1887, when three pub musicians hosted a meeting at Union Street Methodist Church to urge local music-makers to join forces.

The fledgling band made its home at Jane Stoker’s pub and, in 1908, won the Durham and Northumberland Brass Band championship and English and Scottish International Contest.

As the band continued to grow from strength to strength, members snapped up a piece of land at South Market Street from Hetton Coal Company to build a tin practice hut on. Eventually, in 1912 – the year Hetton Silver won the Grand Shield at Crystal Palace – a brick hall was built. It would serve the musicians well until the band folded in 2009.

“It was once the only purpose-built band practice hall in the North East, and the envy of every band for miles around,” said museum spokeswoman Jacki Winstanley.

“But, after falling into disuse and disrepair when Hetton Silver merged with another band to become Durham Miners’ Association Brass Band, it seemed it would be lost forever.

“That was, however, until Glenis Smith, Julie Carmichael and former members of Hetton Silver Band stepped in and approached Beamish about taking on the building.

“Whilst a band hall hadn’t, until then, been considered, it was quickly accepted it was a vital part of the community and should become part of the story the museum tells.”

Work on dismantling the unique part of pit village history brick by brick began in 2010, with rebuilding work at Beamish being launched in the spring of last year.

Television presenter John Grundy, chairman of the Friends of Beamish group, cut the first turf in preparation for the 12-month scheme and told visitors at the time:

“We can’t have Beamish without brass. This project is hugely important, as it will remind people of a wonderful part of our living history.”

The newly-rebuilt band hall, which will be officially opened on May 11, is to be used for brass band concerts, mining displays and educational sessions.

“It is like a second home for me, as I spent three or four nights a week there for years,” said cornet player Glenis, a teacher at Hetton Lyons Primary School. “We really wanted to see what we could do to save it, so we approached Beamish and were delighted when they said they were interested.”

Her bandmate Julie Carmichael, who joined the group at 15 in 1979, added: “To be able to see the hall full of people, being useful again – makes you glow with joy. It’s something I could only have dreamt about.”

l A Carnival Day – with a parade, brass band performances, choir recital and a host of family activities – will be held on May 11 at Beamish to mark the hall’s opening.