Museum looks back to Category D days

A NORTH-EAST museum has launched a community project to reveal what life was like in Category D towns and villages in the 1950s.

The project at Beamish Museum will focus on communities in the Crook, Spennymoor and Bishop Auckland districts, which were deemed unworthy of investment in Durham County Council’s 1951 County Development Plan.

On Saturday, Beamish staff visited libraries in all three towns to promote the project and recruit residents interested in getting involved.

The aim is to create a collection of photographs, memorabilia and stories, which will be used to create a 1950s exhibit within the County Durham museum.

The collection will also be taken to schools and other community venues as part of the museum’s outreach programme.

Cheryl Knight, assistant keeper of social history at Beamish, said: “This was a fascinating era and we would love to see photos from the time and hear people’s thoughts and memories.

“Next year, we intend to build up our collection of objects from the 1950s to the 1990s in order to represent the late 20th Century at the museum.

The Category D project is part of this.”

Published in post-war Britain, the County Development Plan aimed to make best use of industry and amenities by focusing resources on towns with potential.

Settlements were categorised and those earmarked as “declining” were labelled Category D and deemed unworthy of further investment.

Some towns and villages fought to survive, some were shrunken and a few disappeared completely. The impact of the development plan can still be seen across the region.

Over the coming months, Beamish will hold a series of Category D research groups, where residents can share their objects, stories and photographs with museum staff.

The first session will take place at Bishop Auckland Town Hall on Tuesday, December 18, from 5pm to 6pm.

The project, which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, will culminate in a series of themed events and activities at the museum from February 16 to 24.

Bishop Auckland Town Hall will also host a 1950s tea dance from 1.30pm to 3.30pm on Saturday, February 2. Admission will be free.

For more information, contact David Smith, community engagement coordinator at Beamish, on 0191-370-4031 or davidsmith@beamish.org.uk

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