The land and finance for construction were donated in 1905 by Mrs Eleanor Barnes, a local benefactor, to the residents of the village for community use.
Built in ‘Arts and Crafts’ style, although not listed, it is considered by South Tyneside Council as a heritage asset within the designated conservation area of Whitburn.
It is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, registered number 1161508, with charitable objects:
“The provision and maintenance of a community centre for the use of the inhabitants of Whitburn without distinction of religious, political or other opinions … with the object of improving the conditions of life for the said inhabitants.”
It has been in constant use since its inception by local societies, clubs and organisations and continues to provide accommodation and meeting facilities for social, educational, cultural, creative, health, well-being and fitness activities including a well-equipped gym, for the general public of all age groups and abilities without discrimination.
It is the only independent hireable event space in the village and many older residents remember it fondly as the venue where they met and courted their life partners at dances and social events.
The Barnes Institute is run by a volunteer management committee of trustees and an army of additional helpers including members of the user groups, all of whom support the ‘family’ ethos of friendship, trust and equality which we strive to uphold. We have no paid employees.
Since 2012, new Trustees have stabilised finances, fostering efficient management and enabling strategic plans for renovation to become achievable objectives. The building is now almost completely upgraded, functionally practical, safe, bright and attractive for all purposes. It is in constant use by all age groups from toddlers to senior citizens, for a wide range and variety of inclusive activities.