A Nantlle community centre is enjoying a new lease of life, thanks in part to local manufacturer Welsh Slate.
Canolfan Centre is a purely voluntary, community organisation relying on fundraising activities and the support of local business. The building in a unit of The Barracks, a group of buildings constructed in the late 1870s to accommodate workers from Pen Y Orsedd Quarry, is rented from Antur Nantlle, a not-for-profit organisation set up to support and develop business in the Nantlle Valley.
Just six months ago (May 2016) the centre’s committee decided the building’s interior desperately needed a makeover and thorough redecoration of the kitchen, main hall and toilet areas. To meet the cost of this local businesses were contacted to ask for financial help and Welsh Slate, based at the Penrhyn Quarry in Bethesda, donated £200.
In addition to the kitchen, main hall, toilets, the centre features a small lending library of approximately 300 books which users donate, swap and borrow. A computer suite and study area will be the final area of the centre to be refurbished.
Secretary Tom Coleman said: “As a result of your generosity and support I am pleased to inform you that the bulk of the redecoration work has now been completed. The work has totally transformed the interior of the building from what was a tired and rather tatty looking place into an attractive and bright facility.”
The centre is very well used by groups including Grwp Blodeuwedd (a community environmental group), a flower arranging class, hobbies and craft club, art group, Grwp Cynefin Housing Association for drop-in advice sessions, coffee mornings and private parties. That’s in addition to the usual summer and Christmas fairs, a monthly community lunch for senior citizens and summer holiday activities for children.
Over the course of an average week the centre frequently plays host to more than 150 people and for special events such as Christmas fairs and concerts, the number is often well over 250, almost the entire population of Nantlle of 340!
Welsh Slate managing director Chris Allwood said: “We were delighted to be able to help such a popular cause.”
It’s all a far cry from the days when the Pen Y Orsedd quarry workers, from places as far afield as Caernarfon, Porthmadog and even Anglesey, lodged there during the week, going home on a Saturday afternoon and returning Sunday night or early Monday morning.
But by the 1930s the barracks had started to fall into disuse, being used more as a storage facility for the quarry, and by the mid-1950s were almost derelict. In the mid-1990s the site and buildings were purchased by the Welsh Development Agency who restored the buildings with a view to them becoming light industrial units. Then in 1998 ownership was transferred to the current landlord Antur Nantlle.
In 2002, due to community demand, Antur Nantlle converted two of the units – 2 and 2A – for use by the community. This involved the installation of a large kitchen area and better toilet facilities, and the resulting facility was named “Llys Llywelyn” in recognition of the former hunting lodge owned by the Prince of Wales, Llywelyn the Great in the early 13th Century (Llys Llywelyn in Welsh means Llywelyn’s Court).
Tom added: “As for the future, in addition to hopefully updating and refurbishing our computer/study suite, we are looking at the possibility of establishing an over 50s club and perhaps a youth club, although this is very much dependant on demand as currently the number of school age children living in the village has fallen to about 20.”