A community group looking after the former Brymbo Iron and Steelworks Site near Wrexham has been awarded just under £1.1 million in funding.
The cash, from the Big Lottery Fund Wales, will help support the group's Brymbo Heritage Area: A 300 Million Year Story project.
Brymbo Heritage Trust had already secured two other major lottery grants during 2017 worth nearly £3m between them, and this latest grant means work can now start on repairing the works’ main building - the Machine Shop.
This is all part of their £10m vision to restore the site and surrounding landscape as a visitor attraction, learning centre, country park and space for community events, all anchored on the industrial buildings, its associated landscape and the Brymbo Fossil Forest.
The Machine Shop was constructed in 1920 to serve as one of a series of maintenance buildings for the growing steelworks.
It housed a series of lathes, drills and milling machines, with skilled mechanical engineers making and mending parts for the rolling mills.
It was built right in front of the 19th century ironworks buildings, squeezing in amongst a vast but densely cramped complex of sheds, workshops and offices.
The works closed in 1990 and since 2005 the Machine Shop has stood as the sole steelworks-era building, facing straight onto the new road that opened in 2015.
With its roof full of holes, and more than 2,000 panes of smashed glass, it is a drafty place that’s far from weather-proof.
Trust members say its dereliction has come to symbolise the demise of the works.
An eyesore to some, it has become a beacon of hope for the Trust who have selected it to be the first building to be put forward for restoration.
Even in its current condition it is already in use daily as the base for the trust’s team of volunteers who work to steadily improve the place and find new ways of using it.
They make cider there, serve visitors a brew and a piece of cake, exhibit fossils and works memorabilia, and have a stream of meetings with partners and technicians who are now helping to bring the whole project to life.
Now it can have a new roof, new glazing, and a new floor. The work is scheduled to start this summer, with the building opening in spring 2019.
This latest grant provides £800,000 to cover the repairs and when it opens it will be divided into two distinct halves.
At the front, the trust will be putting on a series of arts, exhibition, social and entertainment events.
The building won’t be fitted out at first, rather trust members will be using 2019 to trial things and see what works.
This space could become the reception and main exhibition area for the whole site when it hopefully opens fully in 2021 after the other buildings have been restored.
At the rear, the building will take the form of a workshop once again, but with a focus on construction trades rather than engineering.
It will be operated as a learning space in conjunction with Coleg Cambria and a series of other training providers, upskilling volunteers and serving as an exciting real-world context for young people undertaking vocational learning programmes.
Their efforts will help improve the works, and they will be involved in building new facilities within the Heritage Area such as the the narrow gauge railway platforms and garage workshops.
A further £295,000 of BIG Lottery Funding (taking the total announced today to £1,095,000) will support running costs and the two new posts - a site improvement coordinator and a learning coordinator - to take the project forward.
These two posts are in addition to current team of 10 staff who work with the trustees and volunteers.
Trust manager Gary Brown said: “This is such wonderful news for everybody involved in Brymbo Heritage Area, not our first major grant award but quite possibly our most important - for it will see us restoring our first building, ahead of schedule, and ahead of expectations.”
Chair of trustees Nick Amyes added: “This is happening because everyone is working together to protect and celebrate Brymbo’s proud heritage.
”Thank you to all who have been supporting us along the way, and especially to players of the National Lottery for making this all possible.
”We’d also like to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for their initial and sustained investment in our vision.
”From the £97,500 awarded in 2013, to the £10,000 awarded in 2015, £78,000 awarded in June 2017 and £839,400 awarded in October 2017, we’re incredibly excited about now being able to deliver the next stage of our vision with the help of both you and the Big Lottery, bringing together funds raised by the National Lottery to make a huge difference in our community."
Deputy leader of Wrexham Council, Cllr Hugh Jones, and Brymbo ward member Cllr Paul Rogers have both been strong advocates of the trust’s work, and are delighted to hear of this latest news.
Cllr Rogers said: “This is fantastic news for our community, a great sign of the growing confidence in the trust’s plans for the steelworks and a major coupe in securing additional facilities for residents, learners and visitors alike.
”I’d like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to the team at Brymbo Heritage for pulling out all the stops to make this happen, well done.”
New volunteers are always welcome and the trust’s volunteer coordinator can be contacted on 0800 772 0981 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.