The Miners’ Welfare Fund was introduced under the provisions of the Mining Industry Act 1920. The fund was raised from a levy of 1d per ton of coal produced, increasing to five percent of coal royalties. The money was used for purposes approved by the Board of Trade and administered by a Miners’ Welfare Committee for the purposes of ‘the social well-being, recreation and conditions of living workers in or about coal mines.’ Pithead Baths were built and new schemes for the benefit of the mining community were initiated.
The first Convalescent Home, Higham Grange
Higham Grange near Nuneaton was purchased and equipped as a Convalescent Home using money from the Miners’ Welfare Fund. The original Trust Deed was signed on 8 February 1924, and stated that: ‘The Primary Object of the Warwickshire Miners’ Convalescent Home is to provide comfortable quarters to complete the cure of colliery workers in or about coal mines of the Warwickshire coalfield who have suffered from illness or accident and so restore them to the full duties of life.’
Higham Grange was the first Warwickshire Miners’ Convalescent Home, and the fourth Miners’ Convalescent Home in Great Britain. It was formally opened by the Duke of York on 24 May 1924. Warwickshire Miners continued to receive treatment at Higham Grange until 1943.
On 28 August 1943, Higham Grange was sold to the Miners’ Welfare Commission for use as a Rehabilitation Centre for miners from Cannock Chase, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Shropshire, South Staffordshire and Warwickshire. Following the sale, the General Management Committee arranged for Warwickshire Miners to obtain convalescent treatment at various Convalescent Homes throughout the country.
Convalescent treatment by the sea
At a meeting of the General Management committee on 20 December 1946, Mr A. J. Pratt reported that there was a very strong feeling among the Warwickshire miners that a new Convalescent Home should be provided for them, preferably at the seaside.
Within a few weeks a special Sub-Committee was instructed to investigate the possibilities of Swanage, Dorset. On 23 January 1947, Durlston Court was purchased at an auction held in Bournemouth. The new Convalescent Home comprised three buildings: Durlston Court, Maycroft, and Nethercourt. The Committee obtained possession of Durlston Court on 8 June, and on 18 October 1947, the first batch of six convalescent Warwickshire miners arrived at Swanage and were accommodated in Nethercourt.
By 22 February 1948, 18 patients were able to be accommodated in Maycroft while Durlston Court was undergoing renovations. A year later, the bed capacity at the home had been raised to 60. Durlston Court was officially opened by The Right Hon. Hugh Gaitskell, C.B.E., M.P., Minister of Fuel and Power, and Mrs Gaitskell on Easter Monday afternoon, 18 April 1949. Well wishes were received via telegram from King George VI, Princess Elizabeth, and the Prime Minister, Clement Attlee.
Decline of Warwickshire’s mining industry
By 1957, up to 70 patients could be accommodated and the Home was open 48 weeks a year. However, due to the diminishing mining industry in Warwickshire, the decision was made to lease Nethercourt in 1963. The continued decline of Warwickshire’s mining industry caused the charity to receive fewer contributions, and the funds to cover costs were exhausted. Durlston Court had to be sold, meaning that by 1970 the Warwickshire miners were without a Convalescent Home once again.
The charity was merged with the Warwickshire District Miners’ Benevolent Fund, and convalescent contributions were paid to Leicester and County Convalescent Homes Society. Warwickshire miners in need of convalescent treatment were sent to Homes used by the National Union of Mineworkers Leicester Area.
The deeds for the properties in Swanage were the subject the first episode of Warwickshire’s Past Unboxed, which is available to view here.
Warwickshire Miners’ Association, Warwickshire County Record Office, collection references CR1281, CR2793, and CR3323.