Ex-miners celebrate as £8million housing scheme built on former pit site marks first birthday

Willow Brook, in Washington.
Willow Brook, in Washington.

Ex-miners and their families are enjoying a new lease of life - on the site of the former pit where they worked and socialised more than four decades ago.

Former workers have set up home in the £8million Willow Brook housing scheme where the Washington F Pit and Miners’ Welfare Club once stood – and the residents have now celebrated the complex’s first birthday.

Residents at Willow Brook celebrate the home's first birthday.

Residents at Willow Brook celebrate the home's first birthday.

The Concord site, which housed a nightclub called the London Inn after the pit and welfare club closed, had become an eyesore and was targeted by arsonists before housing association Riverside redeveloped it.

The modern complex is home to more than 100 residents and is for people aged over-55 with care needs who want to live independently.

Most of the residents are former miners or relatives of miners, so they affectionately refer themselves as the ‘Willow Brook family’.

Ray Middleton, 75, said: “When I lived in a house it was always cold and costly to heat.

The former Washington Colliery Welfare Hall and Institute.

The former Washington Colliery Welfare Hall and Institute.

“My wife Pat and I watched Willow Brook being built, and planned to move in together before she passed away two years ago.

“My fellow residents keep me company and my family live nearby.

“Previously I went days without talking or seeing anyone when I lived on my own.

“I really enjoy living here and everyone, staff and residents, make time for you.”

The active pensioner remembers the Miners’ Welfare Club well, as he was chairman of the committee.

Today, he is chairman of the scheme’s residents’ committee.

“The Miners’ Welfare Club was the hub of the community and was used for all sorts of events including collecting baby milk from the NHS, dances and weddings.

“But everything changed when it became a nightclub in the late 1980s and it went downhill.

“There was a lot of crime and anti-social behaviour, so I was pleased when plans for Willow Brook came about – I welcomed it.”

Washington councillor John Kelly said: “Willow Brook has kept the mining heritage with photographs of familiar landmarks to help people suffering with dementia.

“The original sandstone arch will be returning and placed in the communal garden where it belongs.

“There is a fantastic sense of community spirit at Willow Brook with lots of activities held for residents to get involved, and we regularly get invited to events.

“From the Community Chest Fund we’ve paid for furniture and equipment for residents to enjoy.”