How ‘vitally important’ is the DH Lawrence Heritage Centre?

DH Lawrence Heritage Centre, Eastwood.
DH Lawrence Heritage Centre, Eastwood.

How do the people of Eastwood really feel about the DH Lawrence Heritage Centre?

With the closure of Durban House hanging in the balance, I asked people how they felt about it and questioned whether the services offered there really would be truly missed.

Following Broxtowe Borough Council’s announcement that the centre in Mansfield Road would close in March this year, Eastwood MP Gloria De Piero launched a campaign to save it.

But does everybody take an interest in the Lawrence Centre?

As I walked around Eastwood gathering opinion, I came across people who didn’t know where it was and people who had no interest in what it offered the public.

So is it worth keeping it open at a cost of £100,000 to the tax payer each year?

Dave Brock is a member of the DH Lawrence Society.

He said he had mixed feelings on the proposed closure, and said it was being used for “nonsense activities” to keep it going.

“In order to keep it alive and afloat it’s had to be used for a lot of nonsense activities that have nothing to do with DH Lawrence.

“We have to remember that the building is not going to be knocked down. That won’t be lost. It’s just the use of the building.

“I personally have mixed feelings. Within the society feelings are running high and everyone is trying their best to help keep it open but I’ve heard people in Eastwood aren’t really interested in it.”

William Smith, of Moorgreen, said: “It’s years since I’ve been in there. You can’t have everything and if you’ve got to make cuts and save money then that’s that I suppose.”

Jill Williams felt the council did not make enough of it, and said if the centre was run differently it would generate enough money to keep itself open.

“I think it’s really dreadful. If they put more effort in more poeple would visit. The open day they have is very well attended so why not do more of those? And if they put more effort into promoting it, it would pay off. I don’t think we make enough of it.”

But of course it’s not just about how popular the attraction is locally.

In fact, one of the most important things about the centre is that it attracts Lawrence fans from all over the world, and it puts Eastwood on the map.

The chairman of the DH Lawrence Society, Malcolm Gray, called the closure a “tragedy”.

He said: “If it closed down that link with DH Lawrence would be severed and the number of people coming into the town would be affected.

“It would be a great loss in terms of Lawrence’s links with Eastwood and tourism.

“The staff there are very knowledgable as well so people coming to do the Blue Line Trail would lose that great source of information. It would be a tragedy for the town.”

Eastwood mining historian David Amos is on the committee for the Lawrence Festival.

He said: “It’s never going to be Stratford but you need some sort of heritage in the area to pull poeple in. When you sell the area you sell it on its heritage.”

The town’s MP Gloria De Piero got more than 200 signatures on a petition against the closure in just one week when the news was first announced back in September last year.

She is currently looking for funding from organaisations such as The Lottery Fund and the Arts Council to help keep it open and has several television and film stars backing her campaign.

She called the decision to close Durban House a “grave error”.

“A unique piece of heritage and British culture is at stake. It’s a grave error for the community and for generations to come.

“I think it would be a huge blow to the town if one of our biggest assets was to close its doors. We should do what we can to not only protect our heritage but boost tourism in the area and capitalise on this growing interest – not sever a link to the man who helped put Eastwood on the map.”

Durban House used to be owned by the mining company Barber Walker and is where Lawrence would go as a child to collect his father’s wages.

Now, it accomodates a DH Lawrence museum on the first floor and the rest of the building is used for civil ceremonies and registering births, deaths and marriages.

The centre is host to workshops and activities for kids during all of the school holidays and half terms. Community events are also held there

during the year, such as the dog fun day every summer.