Work has begun to restore a once-thriving miners’ institute that has fallen into disrepair.
Cefn Fforest Miners’ Institute, which opened in 1931, will require £152,000 worth of work to make the building fit for use.
Last year, Caerphilly Observer reported that the Friends of Cefn Fforest Miners’ Institute group were trying to secure the lease of the institute, which was held by the now-defunct Cefn Fforest Rugby Club.
That lease has now been agreed, pending legal confirmation – allowing volunteer work to finally begin.
The group’s chair, Ron Stoat, said: “Quite a lot of the work to clear the institute has been started by volunteers and it has saved us thousands of pounds.
“We knew from the start that it would take a long time as we know how long it has taken other places to complete projects like this.
“We knew it would be a long old battle. It has been two and a half years now to get to this stage.”
The coronavirus pandemic has also held up progress, with the group having to wait for confirmation of their charity status, while the delay in securing the lease preventing them from applying for grants.
Funding and support has been agreed in principle from a number of organisations, including the National Lottery and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust.
Campaigners and volunteers hope the building can be used by people throughout the community.
Mr Stoat added: “Hopefully the organisations in the village will be able to use the institute.
“We want it to restore the link between old and young people, where they can meet on equal footing.
“The common ground between old and young has been eroded over the years. They shut a youth club at the institute in the 1970s, if there was a need for it then, surely there is still a need for it now.
“There’s no use complaining about young people hanging about on the streets in all winds and weathers unless you can provide spaces for them.”
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He continued: “The enthusiasm in the village is growing all the time. People walk by and they see that things are being done.
“Many remember the building as it was, and they want those days back, while youngsters want a place for themselves also.
“We have had a great response from people as far as away as Australia, people who have moved away but remember the institute as it was.
“I’m an ex-miner and that building was built by the people of the village for the people of the village.
“That legacy has to be kept alive, and if the institute can be restored, that legacy will be kept alive for future generations.
“We owe a debt to the men who paid for it to be built.”
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