BEDWAS Workmen's Hall is the "jewel of the community". 

Those were the words of Ann Birkinshaw, one of the volunteers working to restore the former miner's hall in the communities of Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen to its former glory. 

Originally built in 1923 using financial contributions from the local miners, it has been a hub for the community ever since, first used as a social meeting place, then as a site for many community and council businesses since being bought by the Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen Community Council in 1979. 

Since 1991, it has been managed by a committee comprised of local community members and a handful of local councillors.

South Wales Argus: Bedwas Workmen's Hall in 1969Bedwas Workmen's Hall in 1969 (Image: Ann Birkinshaw)

It is now home to more than 20 businesses, a weekend film club and as a venue for a wide range of community groups, including keep fit, sewing and ju-jitsu. 

Despite this, over the years, the Grade II-listed building has been slowly falling into disrepair, with the upstairs becoming very inaccessible for the more elderly and vulnerable members of the community, and leaks from rain and wind becoming too frequent an occurrence. 

However, with a dedicated set of volunteers determined to return this historical gem back into somewhere for the heart of the community, a hefty restoration project is well under way. 

South Wales Argus: The dozens of dedicated volunteers working to help save the Bedwas Workmen's Hall The dozens of dedicated volunteers working to help save the Bedwas Workmen's Hall (Image: Ann Birkinshaw)In May 2021, the volunteering team were awarded a £500,000 grant from the National Lottery to help finance the first two phases of the restoration. 

Mrs Birkinshaw said: "This place has such a history and we want to be able to maintain that by bringing the older members of the community back, who remember it in its heyday.

"This grant will help us to get a lift installed so that those members of the community who can't get upstairs to the auditorium for our weekend film screenings can finally do so. 

"We also want to make sure the hall is finally wind and watertight. That's why we're calling these phases wind, water and accessible. We've had to delay the restoration with Covid and other things - we were still using buckets in January - but now we are ready to go. 

"It's so important to us that the older generations who used to come here on the regular can finally return with their children and grandchildren."

South Wales Argus: Bedwas Workmen's Hall as it is todayBedwas Workmen's Hall as it is today (Image: Ann Birkinshaw)These first two phases of the restoration will be jointly funded by the hall's volunteers, who have already raised £62,000, and Caerphilly Council, who has provided a grant of £50,000, with the National Lottery, who called the project "the best bid they've ever seen" according to Mrs Birkinshaw and community councillor Chris Morgan, who serves as chair of the National Lottery funding committee for the project. 

Cllr Morgan said: "This isn't just about us as a community now, we want to preserve the history of this building for generations to come so they can enjoy it with their children. 

"We are future-proofing - this work will enable us to reintroduce the hall into a lot of people's lives - locals and those who are further afield who might hear of us and our work. 

"We want people to be able to use it for lifetimes to come."

There is scope for future further restoration, with work already under way to secure more National Lottery funding of £2.5 million for phases three and four, which will see a modernised extension built to bring the hall into the 21st century. 

Cllr Morgan added: "We're looking to the future to see how the hall can maintain its status as a key element of our communities, and modernising it is key."

The Bedwas Workmen's Hall restoration project will officially begin on March 1, with a welcome party between 11am-1pm to allow people to come and see what the project will entail.