Historic town hall that hosted Arnold Schwarzenegger and Richard Burton set to reopen
Hannah Neary, local democracy reporter
A historic building will soon return as “the heart” of a Welsh community as it continues to undergo a multi-million revamp.
Despite disruptions caused by the pandemic, work continues at Maesteg Town Hall as part of a £7.9m renovation project that will see it reopen in Spring 2022.
The town hall is a Grade II listed building built in 1881 and renovated just before the First World War. Most recently it has been used as a theatre and to host meetings for local organisations.
As part of the renovation, major changes include the construction of a glass atrium and extension to house a café.
A spokesperson for Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) said the building was “over a hundred years old and showing its age”.
They added: “The upper seating area had already been cordoned off, the roof needed replacing entirely, and water was leaking into the building and damaging the structure.
“If left unattended, the town hall would have had to eventually close to the public.”
They said the project “will place the town hall at the heart of the community” to be “used and enjoyed by people of all ages for generations to come”.
They added: “The new town hall can be used by community groups large or small, and can host a wider range of events that would have previously not been possible.”
Various historic figures have visited the town hall over the years. In April 1910, activist Emmeline Pankhurst led a suffragette rally inside the building.
In 1938 Welsh actor Richard Burton won an Eisteddfod reciting competition at the town hall while actor and ex-bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger visited in 1967 for a Mr Wales contest.
Welsh politician C.R.M. Talbot donated money towards the construction of the town hall in the nineteenth century and miners from the Llynfi Valley contributed a day’s wages to the development.
According to the council, the renovations have been “slightly delayed” due to challenges such as repairing the town hall’s distinctive clock and asbestos removal.
During the work, experts have uncovered various features of the building that had been covered up for decades such as its original stage, which dates back to the late nineteenth/early twentieth century.
So far, a natural slate roof has been installed across the main building and the porch and main entrance have been removed, ahead of a new stairway and lift being installed for better access.
Conservationists started to restore oil paintings by Welsh artist Christopher Williams in September. Williams, born in Maesteg in 1873, gave two of his paintings to the town hall before his death and his wife subsequently donated another four.
The former indoor market will move into a new all weather premises in the outdoor market, with other changes including a new library, heritage and volunteering centre, cafe and new workspaces.
A performing arts centre will be established on the first floor, with a hall, renovated stage, dressing rooms, bar and smaller, studio theatre/community cinema.
The balcony seating is being refurbished, and both upper and lower floors will be linked by a modern glazed atrium and foyer. Toilets and a fully accessible ‘changing places’ room will also be provided.
A highways upgrade is at Talbot Street, flood defences will be improved and the external bus shelters outside the building will be extended. Windows and doors that had previously been bricked-up will be reopened to give the building more natural light.
Awen Cultural Trust has been running the town hall since 2015. The company also runs Porthcawl Grand Pavilion and Bryngarw Country Park.
The renovation of the town hall is being funded by BCBC, Welsh Government regeneration funding, the Valleys Task Force, the European Regional Development Fund,
Awen Cultural Trust, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Maesteg Town Council, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Davies Trust, the Pilgrim Trust, CADW, the Welsh Government’s Community Facilities Programme and its Museums, Archives and Libraries Division.