Historic chamber frozen in time

MEETING ROOM: The council chamber before it was taken down.
MEETING ROOM: The council chamber before it was taken down.
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IT was at the centre of major decisions which mapped out the future of its towns and villages for more than 80 years.

Now a council chamber has been put in storage as part of plans to recreate the room and preserve it for generations to come.

Jimmy and Alice Naylor, of Forest Lodge, Murton. The couple were at the Easington council offices in Seaside Lane.

Jimmy and Alice Naylor, of Forest Lodge, Murton. The couple were at the Easington council offices in Seaside Lane.

Desks, chairs, boards and panels detailing the names of its leaders were taken down from the main council Easington District Council building, in Easington Colliery, before demolition experts moved into flatten the site.

Beamish Museum has become the custodian of the furniture and hopes to install it in the town section of the attraction.

The Seaside Lane plot was put up for sale by Durham County Council, after its departments moved from the building and its neighbouring offices into rented spaces in Seaham when a single authority took power in 2009.

Stuart Timmiss, head of planning and assets, said: “Although the building was not listed, as the place where local councillors held their meetings for more than 80 years, the chamber has a lot of history and we were keen to preserve what we could.

“We were extremely pleased that Beamish Museum agreed to take all of the furniture and fittings, with the hope of recreating the chamber at a later date.
“It’s fantastic that this bit of County Durham’s history is to be preserved.”

Jim Rees, assistant director of development at Beamish, added: “We collected furniture and fittings from the chamber and also recorded the layout and structure.

“Sadly, although we would have loved to have recovered more of the original building and rebuilt it back at Beamish, we couldn’t think of a way of raising the large amount of money such a major project would need.

“However, we didn’t want its passing to go unrecorded.

“We collected those key items of oak desks and chairs, from which the council made decisions for all those years.”

The main building was opened in 1903 on the site of Easington Poor Law Union’s workhouse, which offered refuge for those unable to support themselves, and then became the home of the Union Board, handing out food, money and fuel most in need, with a small hospital attached to it to care for the sick.

It went on to become the base of Easington Rural District Council, then District of Easington in 1974 when it merged with Seaham Urban District.

ONE community leader has cause for double delight the chamber will be preserved forever.

Councillor Alice Naylor, nee Reay, married her husband Jimmy inside the building on May 4, 1970.Their wedding photograph was taken on the steps of the council building.

Twenty-nine years later she took up a post as an Easington District Councillor for her home village of Murton. The room where the couple had exchanged vows went on to become the executive office, where cabinet discussions were held, while she took up a place inside the chamber as decisions were made during committee meetings.

Coun Naylor said: “I remember the cabinet room, it was on the left as you went in, two doors in, and I remember thinking when the cabinet met, it’s the same room where I got married.

“It’s sad the building’s going in a sense, but I’m pleased the chamber is going to Beamish, knowing it’s not been demolished.

“There will be a lot of people that will have good memories, and that is what Beamish is all about.

“I think Jimmy is over the moon too that it has been saved, and I remember visiting someone at the hospital there too.”

Coun Naylor worked at John Barron’s clothing factory in Seaham when she married Jimmy, then in the RAF, before he worked at Murton and South Hetton pits.

The couple, who run the Spyral allotment project in Murton, are parents to Lisa Hill, 43, Alison, 42, and William, 38, and are grandparents to Lisa’s sons Steven, 13, and Adam, 19, and William’s son Kieron, 14.