Warm welcome at upgraded welfare

From left, Wilson Stubbs, Backworth Miners Welfare trustees chairman, Chris Kelsey, of the Banks Group,and Welfare manager John Robinson.
From left, Wilson Stubbs, Backworth Miners Welfare trustees chairman, Chris Kelsey, of the Banks Group,and Welfare manager John Robinson.

Visitors to a community sports club are assured of a warmer welcome after a four-figure grant paid for a new hot water and heating system to be installed.

The heating system at 237-year-old Backworth Miners Welfare was last upgraded more than 20 years ago, and a recent inspection showed that its water tank was leaking and that one of the two pumps that drove it had broken down and couldn’t be replaced.

The Welfare committee was concerned that, should the one remaining pump fail, the Grade II-listed building, which dates back to 1780, would be left without heating and would not be usable during the winter months.

But now, thanks to a £5,000 grant from the Banks Group’s Banks Community Fund, a modern new condenser boiler and heating pump head has been installed, with the work being carried out by local firm GSA Gastech.

Welfare manager John Robinson said: ““We didn’t have the reserves in the bank to meet the cost of putting things right, and without the Banks Group’s timely contribution, we would either have had to borrow the money we needed from the bank or put up the fees that we charge to members and other users, which we try to keep as low as we can to make the venue accessible to all.

“The new system is much more controllable and energy efficient, which will help us keep costs down while heating the building more effectively, and it’s taken away all the worries we had about the implications of the old one breaking down for good.”

He added: “Everyone’s noticed the difference in the building since the new system was put in place, and we’re working hard to use it as another way for attracting new people along to see what we have to offer.”

Chris Kelsey, communications manager at The Banks Group, said: “Backworth Miners Welfare plays a highly visible and varied role in the life of the local community, and we hope the improvements that have been made will help to bring even more local people through its doors.

“It’s a great community facility in a beautiful old building. We are delighted to have been able to help ensure the heating system is fit for the 21st century.”

The Banks Community Fund provides grants for community groups and voluntary organisations in the vicinity of Banks Group projects.

Anyone interested in applying for funding can contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 3786342 to check if their group or project is eligible.