Happy New Year - and Apologies
Once again, I have to apologise to subscribers for the long interval between newsletters. However, very shortly much of the day-to-day work of pushing the church project forward should be transferred from my shoulders to the trust's project administrator (see below) so that I should be able to the prepare Newsletters more regularly.
Former Saint Mary's Church
Cyfeillion Cadw Tremadog took on the lease of the former Saint Mary's Church in Tremadog on 1st September 2000. The trust will repair the building, and install services (water supply. drainage, heating and so on) so that this important landmark can be brought back into economic use, serving the community.
Now, a Porthmadog group, Amser Allan, is working towards becoming our tenants. Amser Allan provide family support and training. First established some five or six years ago as a creche to enable mothers and other carers to take part in fitness classes, visit the doctor, and to give each other support, the group has expanded its services. In recent years, it has arranged training classes for members through the WEA, and organised outings during school holidays when its present premises are not available. The limited availability of premises has prompted it to seek a permanent home of its own.
The former church will provide an ideal home for Amser Allan. The location of the church is good, as it is opposite the Isgraig estate in Tremadog and within reasonable walking distance of the post-war housing in Porthmadog, from where many of the young families using its services will come. The former church sits in large grounds, so that safe access for those arriving by car, and for disabled users, can be provided off the main road still leaving plenty of space for a secure play area for the children.
In the survey carried out by the trust. in 1996/7, older Tremadog residents expressed a wish for a quiet outdoor area away from the traffic The trust intends to meet this need also, by allocating a part of the grounds for general community use.
Since the closure of the church in January 1995, the trust has been seeking a use for the church that would ensure its future. Without a suitable and economically viable end-use, it is virtually impossible to raise the capital to repair and convert the building. But, in a chicken-and-egg situation, until the capital is in place to repair the building, potential end-users cannot commit to becoming tenants. Over the years, three other users have been identified, and then have fallen away either because the trust was unable to acquire and repair the church quickly, or because they were unable to develop a convincing business plan.
The break-through came when the representative Body of the Church in Wales agreed to lease the church to the trust at a peppercorn rent for ten years, instead of continuing to try to sell it on the open market. The trust has negotiated a breakclause after 5 years, allowing it to relinquish the lease if it is unable to raise funding to repair and let the church. At the end of the ten years, or at any time before that, the trust may acquire the church for 999 years, at a cost to reflect the condition of the church at the start of the lease.
They RB further agreed to continue to insure the church under its block policy, with the trust reimbursing the insurance premiums. The trust requested this because the insurance premium for a single non-domestic historic building, in use. was over £ 1,700 a year - and until some repairs were made, it could not be brought into use at all!
CCT is very grateful to the Representative Body of the Church in Wales for agreeing to both these suggestions.
The Architectural Heritage Fund
Lovers of historic buildings will be pleased to know that there is one body out there that could not be more helpful: in an increasingly bureaucratic world, they offer advice and support they devise funding packages that meet the needs of small voluntary groups, and their application process is a model of clarity and simplicity. I refer to The Architectural Heritage Fund. So far, they have supported us with our preliminary feasibility study, back in 1996/97. In 1999/2000, they gave us a Project Administration Grant which saw us through the process of negotiating the lease and the insurance, and in seeking, selecting and appointing architects. We used this grant also to prepare our successful application to Cadw/HBC for an "in-principle'' grant towards the cost of repairs.
The Architectural Heritage Fund has also offered us a loan to enable us to pay the architect and his team for the work of preparing and costing a scheme of repairs and the conversion. Lastly, we are currently applying to them for a grant to employ a part-time administrator to cc-ordinate the project at the former church.
We are fortunate indeed that Emrys Williams has agreed to become the administrator of the church probed, subject to success in raising funding to pay him. Emrys Williams has recently retired from his post as curator of the Lloyd George Museum in Llanystumdwy. He will be employed part-time to co-ordinate all aspects of the probed to repair and convert the former church, as the day-to-day demands are too great for the trustees or the secretary to undertake in a voluntary capacity.
News of other important buildings in Tremadog
The trust remains concerned at the inactivity on the Tannery site.
This grade II* industrial building was the Loomhall of 1805, an original part of Madocks' Manufactory. In about 1835, it became a Tannery and Fellmongers. From the start of the 20th century, a lawn dry on part of the site gradually expanded until tanning ceased with the Second World War. It remained in use or partial use as a Laundry and Dry Cleaners till the early 1980s, when it became for a short time a car-breakers. It was then sold to a developer, who sought to demolish the buildings to build housing. Consent was granted by or District Council but the decision was called in by Cadw. The WDA then paid for the group which became Cyfeillion Cadw Tremadog to carry out a feasibility study into repair and re-use.
The study showed that repair was possible, and identified mixed use as workshops and a Tremadog Museum to be the best option. The cleared area of the site would be let to a local business wishing to expand. There were three reasons for this choice:
1) Pollution on site means that the costs of the clean-up required for housing, a hotel or any other residential use would be prohibitive.
2) Use as a workplace and visitor attraction keeps the building in public access, important when it is a rare survivor of the type and is to receive signifcant public funding.
3) This mixed use maximises the capital available as grants and loans, and provides all-year employment and economic activity.
The previous owner of the site declined to consider the offer made by the trust.
After a partial collapse of the roof, Dwyfor District Council carried out emergency repairs under the Environmental Health and Dangerous Structures legislation and tried to recover its costs.
When early in 1999 the owner went into liquidation, the trust tried again to purchase the site. A higher offer was made by a local firm and the site with both the listed builders, changed hands early in 2000.
The trust is concerned now because there appears to be no activity to protect the buildings. The "For Sale'' sign has not been removed, nor has any application for Planning Permissions Listed Building Consent or Building Regulations Approval been lodged with Gwynedd Council.
Madocks Arms Hotel
Work to interior
Extensive work was carried out during the summer to the interior of the hotel, which is the original Coaching Inn of Tremadog. Residents reported skip-loads of interior fixtures, including the stairs and wall panelling. Although the trust informed Gwynedd Council in both Caernarfon and Pwllheli of the stripping out, for which no consents were obtained, the Council officers failed to use their powers to issue a Stop notice. After a visit by the Council we understand that Building Regulations was applied for retrospectively, but Listed Building Consent has not been applied for. The trust does not know if the contents removed were of historic importance. Inspection by a specialist archived or surveyor would have revealed whether the stairs and panelling were original.
Even so, it is possible that consent might have been granted easily and quickly, because the purpose of the Listed Building process is not to prevent all change but to ensure that change is well considered and destroys as little historic fabric as possible. If historic fabric is to be removed, it should be recorded in drawings and photographs.
Now we will never know. . .
Very recently, a fire has destroyed the upper rooms above the Becws bar, where, it seems, there was further work in hand. How much of historic interest will survive the present ownership, unless Gwynedd Council insist on access to inspect and record?
The owner of this property is also carrying out works before he has consent. At least he has applied for consent, though with so little detail that the Planning Officers cannot yet present the application to committee.
During the summer of 2000, the trust launched its own website, which is at tremadog.org.uk The purpose of the website is two-fold. First, it makes available to a wider audience the information in our leaflet about the history and development of Tremadog. Second, it seeks to promote Tremadog's economy, by offering local businesses advertisement in the Directory a web page of their own, or a link to their own web site. There are 17 businesses in Tremadog. So far two have registered, two more have agreed to do so but have not provided their copy yet and another two have expressed interest.
With the former Saint Mary's Church project coming on stream, the amount of work involved in keeping the accounts will increase. After many years of service, Mr D E Jones of Tremadog asked to be released. The trust is very grateful to Mr Jones for all his hard work. The trust is fortunate that Enid Jones of Gorlan agreed to be the treasurer, with effect from September 2000.
Once again, the AGM will be held as a public meeting to which all are welcome. We will be reporting on the year's activities and frustrations, and discussing the way forward. The proposals for the former church will be presented. If you would like to help in any way with the activities of the trust, please come forward. We would welcome help with any aspect of our work from becoming a trustee to gardening to enveloping this newsletter. Experience in fundraising, and with working with volunteers would be most useful.
The present trustees are:
Bethan Rees Jones. Penamser (Chair)
Dewi Williams, Penmorfa (Vice-chair)
Anwen Hughes, Tremadog
Elsbeth Thomas, Tremadog
Gareth Hughes, Tremadog
Peter Trumper, Tremadog
AGM February 26th Neuadd Goffa, Tremadog (Cambrian Pill Depot) 7.00p.m.