THE Holy Sepulchre Church in the former colliery town of Ashington is known locally as the Miners’ Church because of its strong links to Northumberland’s once-mighty coal industry.
Once a year it hosts a poignant service and wreath-laying ceremony honouring the memory of those who were killed while working down the pits.
Now those ties have been further strengthened with the creation of a dedicated prayer space designed to help local families remember those who gave their lives while toiling underground to satisfy the nation’s need for fuel.
A Miners’ Chapel of Remembrance has been built inside the church following an appeal which raised more than £10,000 – including financial contributions from Ashington-born entrepreneur Sir John Hall, local landowners the Duke of Northumberland and Lord Ridley and the National Union of Mineworkers.
The small, oak-panelled chapel includes an altar, seating and two books of remembrance, which will be filled with information and memories relating to former miners and their families.
The private oratory, which has been built by a local joinery firm and includes ornate wood carving, is intended to provide a tranquil area where people can pray, think and remember relatives who worked in the local pits during the days when coal was king.
On January 29 at 3pm it will be officially dedicated in a service conducted by the Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Reverend Martin Wharton.
Every summer the Holy Sepulchre Church holds a special memorial service to remember those killed while working in the mines, including the laying of wreaths by politicians and others.
The Rev Elizabeth Bland came up with the idea of building a miners’ chapel of remembrance when she moved to Ashington three years ago.
It occupies space in the church which was freed up by taking out its old pipe organ, which had not been used for 10 years. Architects were commissioned to draw up plans and local joiner John Orgill carried out the work.
Yesterday Rev Bland said: “I floated the idea at a meeting of our parochial church council and, with so many people in our congregation being ex-miners or from mining families, there was an immediate enthusiastic response. We set up a steering group and started fundraising, because the architects said building the chapel would cost between £10,000 and £15,000, which proved to be accurate.
“The chapel is quite a small, intimate space where a family could sit and think about a loved one, or the impact of the coal-mining industry on our lives. It is a way of helping the town move on from the loss of a whole way of life, since the mines closed. The church is open every day and it is possible for people to visit the chapel now.”