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Tyne and Wear HER(5098): Clara Vale, Pit Head Baths - Details

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Clara Vale, Pit Head Baths

Clara Vale



Mine Building

Pithead Baths



Extant Building

The provision of pit head baths was an important development in the social history of the coal mining industry. The principle of pit head baths built by colliery owners met with the approval of the Royal Commission of 1907 but it was the establishment of the British Miners' Welfare Fund under the Mining Industry Act of 1920 which led to the gradual construction of pit head facilities throughout the great Northern Coalfield and other areas of the country. The pit head baths which were built in the 1930s were described by the Miners Welfare Fund as "notable examples of the changes in outlook in industrial planning" (MWF Annual Report 1936). The RCHME's survey of the coal survey 1994, noted that by the time of the nationalisation of the industry in 1947 "around one third of pits had baths, although these did account for 60% of the work-force. Small pits and ones with limited lives tended not to have baths, their owners believing their provision was not worthwhile. The Fund recognised that small pits did pose a problem, producing a number of designs for bath houses to serve as few as twenty-four men". The creation of the National Coal Board and the changing ethos in the role of the employer in the social welfare of the workforce led to a further era of pit head bath construction in the 1950s and early 1960s. As bath buildings developed they were designed to provide a number of other facilities, including boot cleaning rooms, lamprooms, canteens and medical facilities. The pit head baths at Clara Vale are from the post Nationalisation period and illustrate both the above characteristics, being relatively small in scale and formerly providing a range of facilities. The building does not have the architectural interest of examples from the 1930s and is built in a very functional style in red brick, single storey throughout with the exception of the typical raised central water tower. The roofs are either shallow pitched and felted or of flat concrete construction. The rain water good are cast iron and the building retains its metal window frames throughout. A single storey range is connected to the west elevation of the main building and has similar characteristics. Internally some tiling survives marking the area of the former showers, otherwise the building interior has been reused since the closure of the mine. The building is currently empty (November 1995). The only significant alteration to the building externally is the addition of a large vehicle or loading opening to the front (south) elevation. Whilst the materials are in stark contrast to the sandstone and yellow colliery brick of the adjacent rows of housing and of much of the village, there are other minor uses of red brick within the more prominent buildings of the village. The importance of the structure lies in its relationship to the development of the community and its former role in the industry upon which the village was based. Though an important building type in the achievement of social improvements within the 20th century British industrialised economy, surviving examples are becoming rare, not withstanding their potential for conversion. Throughout the former Great Northern Coalfield there are only two listed examples - the former Elemore Colliery Baths, Easington Lane and the former Lynemouth Colliery baths in Northumberland. This is thought to be the only surviving example of former pit head baths within Gateshead. Whilst Clara Vale pit head baths are not of listable quality the building forms as much a part of the village as the Institute and other major buildings which were an intrinsic part of the former mining community. As the justification of the Conservation Area status is based upon the completeness of the survival of the many facets of the mining village, this forms an important element as the pit head baths were the point at which employment in the mine and life in the community were interlinked, where the social responsabilities of the employer t




<< HER 5098 >> I. Ayris, 1995, Clara Vale,Pit Head Baths; Gateshead Council, 1999, Conservation Area Policy Guidelines, Strategies and Character Statements, Clara Vale Conservation Area, pp 32-34; Archaeological Services Durham University, 2007, Pithead Baths, Clara Vale, Gateshead - archaeological desk based assessment and building recording; ARS Ltd, 2012, Clara Vale Pithead Baths, Gateshead - Cultural Heritage Desk-Based Assessment

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