BLOGS, websites and online socialising were once the preserve of teens and computer geeks.

But now an 18th-century Gwent listed building is among the web-friends of almost 200 internet users.

Shire Hall in Monmouth was launched on MySpace just two months ago by enterprising council communications officer Helen Reynolds.

"We were looking for a way to appeal to more young people and let them know about the regeneration work - especially those who are too old to be targetted through schools," she explained.

MySpace seemed the ideal way to capture the attention of internet-savvy late teens to early 20s.

To Helen's surprise, the Georgian building's MySpace site was an instant hit, attracting hundreds of local young people and groups, including Monmouth Town AFC.

One of the hall's first online friends was Josh Lewis, 18, from Monmouth.

He said: "You can find out a lot of information about the hall, events and also put ideas forward and just be more a part of the community.

"I think local young people have a lot of affection for the building."

He also says he would not be as aware of community events if it were not for the MySpace site.

The site gives an overview of the Grade I-listed building's colourful history, including the scene of the 19th-century Chartist trials.

It also contains details of planned events including a ball, parade and links to news stories and videos on the Argus website.

Helen is particularly pleased at the offers of help the site has attracted.

One such offer came from Sean Nichols, 24, of Monmouth mobile disco and lighting firm Bassline Entertainment, which has offered to provide music and lighting at a masked ball and parade due to be held at the hall this summer.

Other users suggested holding charity benefit gigs at the hall.

Monmouthshire County Council has started a £4.5million project to restore and refurbish the hall, of which £3million is due to come from Heritage Lottery Fund.

It will become a community centre with conference rooms and it is hoped it will provide more of a focal point for the town and local events.

The hall is currently open weekdays from 2pm to 5pm.

<--PANEL BOX!-->

  • "Even though I want to be an architect when I grow up, I'd never thought of being friends with a hall before. So thank you for asking me Shire Hall" - Lewis
  • "I'm friends with a building! Awesome!" - Rich
  • "I just saw your Argus interview, carry on the good work" - Back in Black