DAMHA has marked its 125th anniversary year with a fitting tribute to the man whose vision led to the establishment of the organisation.
We held a memorial service at St Alban’s Church in Windy Hook, Gateshead, earlier in August.
The service celebrated the history of the Association, which was founded in 1898 and grew from the vision of miner and lay preacher Joseph Hopper, who is buried at St Alban’s.
Staff and Board members from DAMHA, which is the largest almshouse charity in the UK, were joined by local residents, including 97-year-old Mary Fullwood, and representatives from other organisations, including those connected with the mining industry, at the service conducted by the Reverend Danie Lindley.
Rev Lindley led prayers and hymns, and there were also readings and a speech given by DAMHA Chief Executive Paul Mullis, who also laid flowers at Joseph Hopper’s graveside memorial.
Rev Lindley said: “The success of the Association is just not the legacy of Joseph Hopper, or the hard work of all who have taken part in its history, but in the people who live in their houses, the people who support those who live in the houses and the people who continue to look outwards for more opportunities to provide affordable solutions to housing that provide community and support.
“DAMHA has given people shelter, hope, support and strength and our prayer is that this will continue for many more years to come.”
In his speech, Paul Mullis reflected on the impact DAMHA has had on people’s lives over the last 125 years.
“A recent piece of research concluded that on average an almhouse resident could expect to live 2.4 years longer than the norm. This is due to various reasons including loneliness and the stress of maintaining your home as you become vulnerable with age.
“All these things are addressed by almshouse living in the community of homes that Joseph Hopper began and DAMHA maintains and develops.
“So, we give thanks hugely for the inspiration of Joseph Hopper and building on the shoulder of giants, the Association has grown to great things. 125 years on, we are needed more than ever and as caretakers of a great idea, the baton will continue to be handed down to future generation to continue Joseph’s legacy.”
Joseph Hopper believed that a man who had served in the coal mines all his life deserved better than to be evicted from his tied colliery home when he retired. A small weekly levy voluntarily donated from miners’ wages, plus donations of land and materials from mine owners and others, allowed the homes to be constructed and let free of charge.
Although the Durham coalfield is no more, the Association has survived and prospered and continues to offer high quality homes for older people. Whilst you no longer need to have a mining background to have a DAMHA home, the Association has never forgotten its roots and is proud to have helped so many former miners find homes in or near to the communities where they grew up.