100 years in the making

12th February 2020 | posted in News

In 2019, Railway Housing Association marked its 100th anniversary by holding a range of events/activities to celebrate its centenary.

The signature event of the year saw 100 of our residents treated to an afternoon tea experience on board carriages pulled by the Tornado, a coal-fired steam locomotive built in Darlington and operated by Wensleydale Railway.

Made possible thanks to the generous support of Darlington Building Society, the train followed the route of the popular tourist and heritage line starting in Leeming Bar and heading to Redmire, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, before heading back to Leeming. On route, passengers were served an afternoon tea consisting of sandwiches, cakes, scones and tea and coffee.

Among those travelling was resident John Baker, from Newcastle, who originally came up with the idea of doing something related to the railway for the signature event.

Mr Baker said: “It made sense to have an event connected with the railway and what better than taking people on an amazing heritage line like this; it was a fantastic afternoon.”

As they prepared to leave the train, we were delighted to present our residents with three bottles of beer that had been brewed on our behalf by Steam Machine Brewery. 

Kindly paid for by one of our long-standing suppliers, Steam Machine made a limited-edition porter, a beer which was particularly popular at the time Railway Housing Association was formed. We had 500 bottles brewed, which enabled us to also give some out to residents at other events throughout the year.

Nick Smith, who runs Steam Machine with his wife Gulen, said: “The beer we brewed was inspired by historic recipes, using ingredients of a bygone era but with the additional modern twist of American hops which produced a very drinkable porter.

“Porters were the drink of the working classes for hundreds of years so we couldn’t think of anything better to represent a historic organisation with such a celebratory beer.”

In June we held our grand day out in Darlington. This provided around 50 residents with a chance to come and get involved in the planning of our services, as well as enjoying a nice lunch, raffle and a quiz, which was themed around the year 1919.

In August, we held our annual general meeting at the National Railway Museum in York, and were joined by a number of guests, including residents who serve on our Scrutiny Panel, former Chair, Vice Chair and Presidents of the Association and even the great, great grandson of the famous Railway engineer, Patrick Stirling, who our sheltered scheme in Doncaster is named after.

The guest of honour was the Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, Kate Henderson. The National Housing Federation represents housing associations and campaigns on our behalf to influence government policy.

Kate said: “Celebrating 100 years is a proud moment and you have an incredibly bright future. Your story is what makes this sector so special.”

One of the highlights at the end of the year was having an exhibition of 100 years of Railway Housing Association on display at the Head of Steam railway museum in Darlington. Running for three months, the exhibition proved very popular with young and old alike.

Each of our sheltered housing schemes also marked the centenary in a manner of their choosing. Most held scheme parties with entertainment, food and refreshments, and lots of fun was had.

When we started planning our centenary celebration events, we set out three key objectives, namely:

1.To link as many events as possible to our railway heritage

2.To involve as many of our residents as possible

3.To make events/activities cost neutral where possible

We pleased to say that all three objectives were met, and it was certainly a year that we will never forget.


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