A landmark day dawned on Friday 7th June 2019 when, on the invitation of vice chairman Wesley Turnbull, Guy Opperman MP formally opened the Heritage Centre as Edie Lyons had done 25 years earlier at Shellcroft on 10th June 1994. Edie had worked for local photographer, W. P. Collier, in the 1920s and it was a collection of his pictures that prompted Dorothy Bell and a group of local enthusiasts to create the Heritage Centre.
The sun shone brightly on the band of Friends and Volunteers. They were looking round the Centre when, just before noon, they were ushered outside for the 25th anniversary opening ceremony.
Terry Bragg, chairman, gave a well ordered speech on the history of the Heritage Centre and the determination of local people, led by Dorothy Bell, to provide a worthy monument to the history, culture and traditions of the North Tyne Valley and Redesdale. Dorothy, who was awarded the MBE in 2009 and whose photograph looked on at the proceedings from her memorial place at the entrance, would have been thrilled, as would Jim, her loyal husband and constant companion.
Councillor John Riddle seconded the words of Terry, underlining the value of the Heritage Centre to the local community and the increasing number of visitors who had discovered that Bellingham was an ideal base from which to tour and enjoy the scenery, history and attractions of this part of Northumberland and the Borders.
Guy Opperman replied saying that the Heritage Centre was an asset of which Bellingham could be justifiably proud, especially its friends and volunteers, who work tirelessly in welcoming visitors to the Heritage Centre and supplying information as a tourist centre. And all this without government funding – point that he noted. With these words, he cut the blue ribbon and declared the Heritage Centre officially open.
It was left Ken Gaskin, the only one of the original founding members who is still a committee member and trustee, to thank Guy Opperman for performing the ceremony and marking such a milestone in the life of the Heritage Centre. With all the speeches made, the assembled guests returned to either the Heritage Centre or the Carriages, where a handsome buffet had been prepared. After an hour, Guy left to undertake other commitments and the Heritage Centre reverted to its normal function of enriching the experience and enjoyment of visitors to Bellingham and the Borders. Here’s to another 25 years, at least!