Durham miners’ hall applies for Unesco world heritage status

Redhills assembly hall, built in 1915, joins group application for same status as pyramids and Taj Mahal

A grand hall created for miners in 1915 and recognised as one of the finest trade union buildings in Europe is bidding for Unesco world heritage status.

Redhills in Durham has been selected as one of eight workers’ assembly halls across the world that are jointly applying for the accolade.

If successful, the building would have the same heritage status as the pyramids and the Taj Mahal, as well as Durham Cathedral and Durham castle.

Redhills opened 107 years ago, funded by subscriptions from 200,000 miners working in one of Europe’s largest coalfields. It was deliberately lavish and opulent, designed to resemble a country estate home that might be lived in by a mine-owning family. At its heart is a spectacular debating chamber, nicknamed the “pitman’s parliament”.

Homes for aged miners have been commissioned at Redhills, and healthcare for sick and injured miners provided.

More recently it was the place where, in April 2021, the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, was photographed in the Beergate controversy – a gathering that police decided did not break lockdown rules.

The Durham Miners’ Association handed stewardship of the Grade II listed building to a new charity in 2021.

The hall’s interior.
The hall’s interior. Photograph: Richard Saker/The Guardian

Nick Malyan, the chief executive of the Redhills charity, is now leading a £8m redevelopment of the hall to make it a centre of culture, heritage and education, with plans for a youth parliament.

Malyan said that to be considered for the status was a recognition of the building’s “international” status. He added: “The miners’ hall embodies English working-class democracy, telling a powerful story of struggle and collective achievement.

“While the nomination and judging process will take time, we welcome the opportunity to ensure the Durham coalfield’s story is heard on the global stage it deserves.”

The heritage bid is being spearheaded by the Workers Museum in Copenhagen. It has selected eight workers’ assembly halls across the world to be part of the bid with similar halls to Durham in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland and Argentina. They were chosen from 74 applications.

Organisers said: “The nomination will not only preserve the tangible value of brick and mortar but also preserve the intangible values of the socialist labour movement.”

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The Redhills charity has teamed up with Robin Coningham, a professor of archaeology at Durham university, to progress the UK side of the bid.

He said: “Redhills and all it stands for is hugely significant. The Durham miners were social reformers on a scale rarely seen across the world.

“Their memory and achievements should be recognised as being of world heritage status. It will be a privilege to work with the Redhills team to bring this to reality.”


Mark Brown North of England correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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