HAD it survived, this year would have marked the 80th anniversary of Kells and District Community and Miners Welfare Centre, once hailed as unique in the country, being the first to combine facilities for miners and for the public in general.

A modern, for its time, substantial building welcoming miners and men, women and children of all ages, it was built on High Road, Kells, Whitehaven, in 1940. At that time there would still be several pits open and operating in the area, including Haig, Harrington (Lowca), Walkmill and William.

The centre’s facilities included a large hall that could seat 650 people and extensive playing fields of nine acres. The main hall was equipped with full standard cinema apparatus, so could be used to show films and there was a full stage with lighting that enabled its use as a theatre too, and the seating could be removed when a well sprung dance floor was required.

Other facilities on offer were a gymnasium, a billiard room, recreation rooms, library, rest room, a boys club room, a girls club room, a nursery, showers and baths, sports changing rooms with direct access onto the playing fields, which also included a bowling green.

Everything for the working man’s leisure time, and that of his family, had, it seemed, been thought of and catered for and, of course, there was also a canteen.

The centre was hailed as “the hub of local social life” and “one of the finest, if not the finest, in the country.”

All were made welcome at the Welfare and activities there were many and varied - classes in woodwork, PT, boxing, crafts such as basket-weaving, instruction in mining practices and first-aid…and the male voice choir and the operatics group also rehearsed there and put on regular performances. There was even a roller-skating rink; the Welfare played an important role in local life and became a registered charity in April 1964.

During its first year it saw visits from the world table-tennis champions Richard Bergman and Victor Barna and from billiards star Fred Davis, who gave coaching sessions to local youngsters.

Subscriptions from miners helped towards the upkeep and in the early 1950s a number of repairs were carried out to the roof, guttering etc by Messrs E Moorhouse & Sons and some redecoration and repainting work was done by R B Coyles and Sons of The Gardens, Whitehaven.

But as the years passed and the number of pits, and thus coal workers declined, the viability of the Welfare was hit and, sadly, the building was demolished in the early 1970s.

The nearby sports pavilion, built as a miner’s institute in 1931, with its impressive clock tower, was also lost, having later burnt down, despite the valiant efforts of local firemen. The playing field, still known as Kells Welfare, remains and is still in regular use.