In late 2008/early
2009, with the closure of the Llanwrtyd Congregational Chapel imminent, a
suggestion was made that the building would more than lend itself to becoming a
museum or heritage centre.
The chapel building is in a prime spot in this little town, making it essential that it didn’t fall into disrepair. With this thought in mind, a small group of local residents got together to discuss how this most excellent suggestion could become a reality.
The first thing to do was to look at what memorabilia and artefacts were available locally, to prove a need for such a venture, and in 2011, the Trustees of the Proposed Llanwrtyd & District Heritage & Arts Centre were fortunate enough to secure funding from GLASU and the Heritage Lottery Fund for a three year project, the Llanwrtyd History Resource Group.
The project got underway in September 2011, and was based (until 30/06/2014) at Dol y Coed, c/o Charcroft Electronics Ltd, by the generosity of the Directors June and Paul Newman. In November the Admin Officer took up her role and the office opened on a regular basis. Volunteers then began their work of interviewing and recording oral history memoirs, along with some digitisation of documents, photographs and other forms of memorabilia.
It is fascinating listening to some of the stories of the past when the town was a hive of activity: a town with 35 shops, hundreds of visitors arriving at the station to ‘take the waters’ at the spa wells, the Abernant Lake full of boats and even a steamer, two golf courses, a bowling green, tennis courts - all hard to imagine now. Some of our older residents have described the streets as ‘black with people’. Stories about childhood and family life, all shared with enthusiasm, and a description of baking bread in the coal oven and testing the temperature by placing a hand inside the oven - if it could be held there for a count of 28, then the oven was hot enough, so in went the bread.
In February 2013 the Trustees were delighted to receive notification from the Welsh Government that they had been awarded a grant of just under £300,000 thus enabling them to purchase the Congregational Chapel, which includes a semi-detached house, and to begin work on the project. Other smaller but equally important grants have also been received, and the group continues to fund raise and encourage people to become their ‘Friends’.
Work began in earnest and the house is now completely refurbished and has been let to provide some ongoing income to the project. The artist’s studio is complete as is the refurbishment to the chapel, and the new Heritage and Arts Centre opened on May 14th 2016 (see the photographs of the event in the Photo Gallery).
The History Resource Group is based at the Heritage and Arts Centre, and a small amount of digitising and oral history recording continues to take place, so if you have any documents or artefacts pertaining to Llanwrtyd and surrounding communities, or would like to record your memories of living in the area, please make contact with us. Likewise, if you would like to know more about becoming our ‘Friend’ or one of our volunteers, please let us know.
Finally, we are a small group of enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers who are passionate about preserving the history and heritage of this beautiful area, beginning in the 1700’s when Reverend Theophilus Evans discovered the healing properties of the spa water, through the pony trekking era up to the present when Llanwrtyd Wells has become famous for Man versus Horse marathon and other fun events including the World Alternative Games. We feel certain that the Llanwrtyd & District Heritage & Arts Centre will be a valuable asset to our town for educational and recreational purposes.