Ribbon cut as heritage and history gets full-time home

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A now-permanent exhibition exploring a north Northumberland village’s hidden history was officially opened last week.

After many months of work and preparation by Belford Community Group’s Hidden History sub-committee, the exhibition was officially opened by Marjorie MacDonald on Friday.

The project has come to fruition thanks to a £25,000 grant from the National Lottery Village SOS scheme and a further £5,000 from the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership.

The Reading Room on the High Street, which houses the exhibition and dates back more than 100 years, hosted 60 guests for the opening.

Fiona Renner-Thompson, whose previous history exhibitions have led to this great achievement for the village, thanked the Reading Room trustees and committee and all who had helped provide material for the exhibition and the team of workers which had made the exhibition a reality.

She welcomed Marjorie MacDonald, a local lady who has invested most of her life in supporting the Belford community in so many ways and whose Belford-based family can be traced back to the 19th century.

Marjorie reflected on the use of the Reading Room, which had at one time been the home of people who could go in and read their papers, the home of several very successful snooker and billiard teams, the home of many fund-raising events and is now fulfilling a new function in housing the artefacts, photographs, writings and a computer-based interactive display of the history of the Belford area.

The exhibition had previously been housed in unused commercial buildings.

She asked Dr George MacDonald, a descendant of the long line of Belford Drs MacDonald, to present the Pitt Cup on loan to the exhibition. The cup was first presented for billiards in 1925 and finally won by her husband James MacDonald, who beat local dentist Geoff Stephenson.

She paid tribute to ‘an excellent job done by a dedicated few’ before cutting the ribbon.

The guests had a look around the exhibition and ended their visit with refreshments in St Mary’s church gallery where they also enjoyed the work of local historian, Joan Wright, whose photographic history displays have become a permanent feature of the church.

The Belford and District Hidden History Exhibition is open daily from 10am and is free, although donations are welcome to assist with heating and lighting costs.

The grants to put the Reading Room back into use were allocated in April and the exhibition had opened in September to coincide with with Heritage Open Days in the village.