A history of a pioneering Carlisle community centre has been created by a city-based heritage group.
Heritage Now has produced the guide to the history of Currock House, one of Britain’s first community centres.
Currock House was a former Georgian farmhouse in the Carlisle countryside.
It was bought in 1932 by Carlisle Corporation and the land around it was earmarked for new housing and the old house was due to be demolished.
But a committee was set up by local voluntary organisations which convinced the corporation to lease the building for use as a community centre.
With a 10-year lease at a cost of £20 per year, one of the first community centres in Britain was born.
With house building happening all around, the first warden of the centre noted that the way to Currock House was ‘impossible’.
It was not until late 1935 that members were able to get to the house by proper road.
Before that people had to ‘wade ankle deep in mud’. Nevertheless, membership soared and in its first year, hundreds of people, young and old took part in a programme that included lectures, discussion meetings, WEA sessions, physical training, choir meetings, cookery and handicrafts, football and athletics, drama groups, cinema shows, dances and concerts, whist drives and more.
Mark Costello, of Heritage Now, said: “People might not recognise the importance of community centres as part of welfare movement between 1919 and1939, but they played an important role in bringing people together as a community in a time of change and upheaval.
“New estates like Currock were built to replace slum properties and people were moving from their old neighbourhoods to new suburbs, where they might not know anybody outside of their family.
“But more than that, community centres like Currock House catered for the health and fitness and education needs of local people, and offered additional support through a housing advice service, school dinner kitchen and lending library.
“Resident members also involved themselves with wider social issues. In 1937, a volunteer party went from Currock to help prepare a Basque refugee children’s hostel at Scarborough and the Warden of Currock House was given leave of absence to act as the Travelling officer of the National Joint Committee for Spanish Relief.”
In 1938’s annual report, the chairman said Currock House is “no longer regarded as a new and strange type of welfare work”.
Mark added: ‘It’s remarkable really that one of Britain’s first centres still exists and continues to serve its local community.”
Anyone interested in finding out more about the centre’s history, or other Heritage Now activities, can email Mark at [email protected]