THE MULTI-MILLION pound restoration of an historic Valleys landmark has celebrated reaching its first major milestone.

The £5.6 million restoration project at Newbridge Memo and Institute celebrated with an old-style topping out ceremony on Thursday, which heralded the placing of a 10-feet high ventilation shaft on top of the building.

This will be a replica of the original feature that was there when the Institute opened in 1908.

The Edwardian-style shaft will have a spike on top and chairman Howard Stone said: "A topping out ceremony is an old tradition and it will mark the first major celebration as the building will be watertight once again."

Work on the Memo will take most of this year, with the second phase on the adjoining Institute set to run throughout 2013.

The restoration project follows an Argus-backed nine-year campaign to raise the funds, with it forming a major part of Caerphilly council's £12 million regeneration of Newbridge.

Work on the Grade Two-listed buildings includes restoring the old dance hall and cinema, as well as creating multi-purpose community rooms, a function room, an information resource centre and an extension that links the two buildings.

Mr Stone paid tribute to the miners, whose contributions and efforts built the facilities, adding: "It should be recognised that the efforts of today's community volunteers are following this ethos."

Caerphilly council leader Harry Andrews called it a "historic venue" and paid tribute to the small group of volunteers who have been "instrumental in driving this long-awaited regeneration programme forward".

Seddon Construction have been working at the landmark, which opened in 1908 at the Institute, with a billiards room, library, committee room and reading room.

The Memo was then opened in 1924 as a memorial to local servicemen who died in World War One and had a ballroom and cinema.