Family’s photo album takes Bolsover community centre back to its roots

An old photo album rescued during a house clearance has shed light on the origins of a north Derbyshire community centre.

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 9:22 am
Alice Bennett with the album of photos taken when Bainbridge Hall in Bolsover was built to house the orphaned children of miners.

Alice Bennett, 25, of Crich was helping to clear her great-uncle’s house in Duffield when her fiance spotted the book which had been mistakenly thrown into a skip.

The photos were of Bolsover’s Bainbridge Hall, which was designed by Alice’s great-great-grandfather Percy Bond Houfton, an esteemed architect.

Alice said: “I believe the hall was built in 1894. The hall was made an orphanage by Emerson Bainbridge to house children who lost their fathers in Bolsover Colliery’s mines.”

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Plenty of scope for energetic children to exercise and play in the recreation room.

Beautiful lettering describes the photo collection as Bainbridge Miners’ Orphanage for Boys, Bolsover Colliery.

The album contains 13 photos which show rooms in the building but no people so are likely to have been taken when the building was finished. Alice said: “Each photo says what the room it is of on the bottom corner. They show the hall itself, the entrance, two bedrooms, two sick rooms, dining hall, matron’s sitting room, recreation room and visitors room.”

In 1914 the hall was used to house Belgian refugees.

Alice is unsure when the building stopped being an orphanage. She said: “I do know it fell into disrepair and was renovated before it became a community centre.”

Neatly made beds in the dormitory.

A maths teacher at a Nottingham secondary school, Alice thought the photos would appeal to someone with an interest in history so offered the collection on social media. She said: “My grandpa has traced our family history back to the 1600s so we thought we didn’t need the photographs. I contacted Chesterfield museum but they could not take the book.

"I am a very sentimental person so wanted them to go somewhere where they would not be lost or damaged. However after so many comments and messages about the photographs since posting about them, many of which saying we should keep them. I feel they are too special to give away and we will be keeping them as they are part of our family history.”

Her great-great-grandfather designed Creswell Model Village in 1895 before opening his own architect’s practice in Chesterfield. Percy’s credits include Chesterfield Technical College and the Derbyshire Miners Convalescent Home in Skegness. He married Elizabeth Robinson in 1904 and the couple had a daughter, Margaret Eileen Houfton.

A poorly orphan would find an oasis of calm in the sick room at the orphanage.