Llantrisant Guildhall Trust has worked tirelessly for the past six years to breathe new life into this historic Grade II listed building and transform it into a heritage and visitors’ centre for the old town.
As the centre of power for almost 700 years which governed an ancient borough established by a charter in 1346, the Guildhall has the opportunity to become central to the community of Llantrisant once again by boosting the local economy as it welcomes more visitors to the town.
However, many obstacles beyond the control of Trustees have caused significant problems and delays. It has resulted in an astonishing – and exhausting - amount of voluntary work being undertaken by trustees to solve the catalogue of difficulties which have faced the construction project.
Unfortunately the original costings for the restoration of the building were grossly underestimated by professional advisers. As a result, the grant funding offered to the Trust was therefore also significantly lower – and inadequate, leaving the Trust in an incredibly difficult situation as they continually tried to recover the shortfall required to complete the project.
The difficulty was further compounded when the contractor withdrew from the project after six months due to their own realisation that the project could not be delivered within budget or timescale. This left the Trust having to manage a series of subcontractors in order to complete the outside of the building and make it wind and watertight.
The Trust is now attempting to raise further funds, amounting to £200,000 to deliver the completed project. This will not be possible without further fundraising efforts, grant funding applications and the kind donations of individuals.
Guildhall Manager Dean Powell said: “Llantrisant Town Trust has at all times operated in the light of professional advice. Unfortunately we have been forced to overcome more difficulties that any of us could have possibly imagined and the entire project has been both frustrating and indeed exhausting.
“With the original tenders returned in 2015, it was our reasonable hope to see the building completed in time for Beating the Bounds in 2017, but as time passed it became obvious to us that the complexity of the project and the problems which continually arose, would make that aim impossible to fulfil.
“Fortunately we, as a Trust, were able to stage the largest and most successful Beating the Bounds to date but having a completed Guildhall would have been the icing on the cake for the weekend.
“We were all deeply disappointed that this wasn’t possible but can assure the people of Llantrisant that the Guildhall’s opening ceremony will be a day to celebrate and remember.
“During the past two years the Trustees – who are all volunteers – have organized the Carols on the Hill event at Christmastime, the Big Picnic summer fete and Beating the Bounds at a cost of £26,000.
“They also created the extensive new Llantrisant website for all of the residents and visitors which links to every business in the town without any costs incurred to the individual trader.
“Trustees also manage the lands and rights of the Freemen of the town, including responsibility for the Common lands and Y Graig.
“The commitment of all involved in this project is incredible and our paramount aim is improving the town of Llantrisant by providing a lasting legacy for the future.”
Nevertheless, during the past 10 months, much has been achieved. A large extension has been built. This will provide for the installation of a lift to ensure full disability access to both floors, together with a toilet suitable for disabled use, and a boiler room. Previously there was no linkage between the two floors. Within the original building a new staircase is also being installed.
The entire building has been restored to the very highest conservation standards as befits a listed building. The main floor has been rebuilt, and extensive timber repairs carried out to the roof structure.
New and refurbished windows and doors have been installed, and the exterior walls and porch have been completely repaired and renovated. The large medieval chimney has been rebuilt to its original height, and the new roof will shortly be completed in new Welsh slate. Lightning conductors have been installed for the first time.
Much of the internal work has also been completed, comprising comprehensive waterproofing, partitioning, underfloor heating, and first fix electrics. In the course of this work, an old cell window with the original iron bars was discovered and has been restored.
A very large soak-away to deal with future intense rainfall has been placed under the Castle Green. It remains to fit ceilings, and plaster and paint all the internal walls, fit the kitchen and toilets, complete the electrical, plumbing and drainage work, and install the lift, and final floor finishes.
Following this internal fit-out of the building, high specification security cabinets and a full exhibition display will be installed on both floors. The Trust has also commissioned a full-size mannequin of a Welsh longbowman dressed in the uniform worn at the Battle of Crecy.
A longcase clock made by a Llantrisant clockmaker in 1780 has been traced and will go on display in the building along with a large oil painting of Sir David Evans, the Llantrisant-born Lord Mayor of London which is on loan from Cardiff Council.
Llantrisant Guildhall project is more than just the refurbishment of one of the town’s oldest and most important landmark buildings. It is a major investment in Llantrisant by creating a heritage and visitors’ centre which will help drive further economic benefits to this unique hilltop town by telling the remarkable story of a 1,500 year-old community.
Llantrisant Guildhall will tell a remarkable story. Famous for its Freemen and the role their “Black Army” played in the Battle of Crecy, Llantrisant was also central to the revolts of the Welsh against the early Norman overlords. Llantrisant Castle was an overnight prison for King Edward II while the eccentric Dr William Price’s actions in the town led to the passing of the Cremation Act in the UK.
The new visitors’ centre will house state-of-the-art exhibition space, research and IT suite for genealogy studies, interactive exhibitions to, historic artefacts, documentation and photographs.
With a rolling programme of events, workshops and exhibitions, the Guildhall will also provide a location for weddings and landmark events while its neighbouring Castle Green will become a new focus for regular community activities.
The project will bring more visitors into the borough while also providing a first-class facility for people in the immediate area.
The two-storey Guildhall is capable of permanently housing the solid silver 1633 Town Mace which is older than that used in the House of Commons, the Loving Cup, copies of the 1424 Charter along with a large archive of local history.
This fine building will provide education facilities for schoolchildren and act as a resource for family historians. As a charitable organisation it depends very much on the kindness and support of the general public.
Llantrisant Guildhall Trust has raised £1.1million through funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Garfield Weston Foundation, Visit Wales, Cadw, Welsh Church Act Fund, private donations, its own funds and the funds of trustees themselves to complete this ambitious project.
Private donations to the Llantrisant Guildhall can be made possible via our Crowdfunding Page: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/llantrisantguildhall
Alternatively you may consider becoming a Friend of the Guildhall. Please visit our webpage – www.llantrisant.net – to find out more.