The new Workhouse History Centre at Llanfyllin, Montgomeryshire, opens on 14th May
The former Llanfyllin Union Workhouse, known locally as Y Dolydd, is one of the finest examples of a Victorian workhouse in Britain and the only one preserved and open to the public in Wales. It served a wide area of what is now North Powys from the Banwy to the Tanat Valley. Last year the Llanfyllin Dolydd Building Preservation Trust was awarded a grant of £39,900 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to set up the History Centre as part of a wider community project.
Visitors to the History Centre, in a newly restored wing at the entrance to the building, will be able to see bilingual displays on the life of poor people in Victorian Wales and their treatment under the Poor Law, both in the workhouse and outside. They can use a study room and view a 30-minute film, ‘Ghosts of the Workhouse’ or ‘Ysbridion y Wyrcws’, made in two language versions by local actors and film makers, in which the ghost of William Jones, the first Master, shows them around the Workhouse and introduces other ghosts: men, women and children who lived and worked there long ago. Their story is told for the first time.
On Saturday, 14th May at two o’clock author, historian and TV presenter Trevor Fishlock will unveil a sign and cut a tape to declare the Centre open. Besides the varied displays there will be much to enjoy. As part of a Victorian Weekend visitors can view an exhibition of historic photographs and a Weekend Museum of old, intriguing or mysterious objects loaned by local people, At three on the Saturday Trevor Fishlock will give a talk on ‘the Life and Legacy of the Davies Sisters of Llandinam and Gregynog’, the subject of his latest book and documentary. This will be followed by a showing of the film on the big screen.
Sunday, 15th May will be a Family Day: from eleven the exhibition, Weekend Museum, film and History Centre will be on view; there will be a craft fair and Victorian games, art and craft activities for families, led by Arts Connection. In the afternoon the Welsh folk dancing group Dawnswyr Tanat will perform on a stage in the courtyard along with the talented young musicians, singers and cloggers Teulu. A family trail on both days should interest all ages, and refreshments will be available. Entry is free to all.
The Workhouse History Centre is very much a community project, with displays created by members of the Dolydd History Group under professional guidance. Its running and development will rely on donations and on the fund-raising efforts of the Trust, a registered charity which is working to restore the historic building as a community enterprise for arts, education, environment and heritage. The History Centre will be open to the public daily after the weekend: it will bring more visitors to a beautiful but little-known part of Mid-Wales and help to generate pride in our local heritage.
Head of HLF Wales Richard Bellamy believes that using Lottery players’ money for projects like this is vitally important in keeping the country’s history alive:
“Our heritage takes many different forms, and it is important that we recognise this when considering how Heritage Lottery Fund money is distributed. The History Centre tells an important story and reflects on a key period in Welsh life and this project is essential to help people understand how people lived during the Victorian age and how attitudes have changed over time.”
About the Heritage Lottery Fund
From the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife, we use National Lottery players’ money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about. In Wales HLF has invested over £290 million and supported over 2,200 projects in local communities all over the country. www.hlf.org.uk @HLFCymru
Can you help out at the new Workhouse History Centre?
The Dolydd History group are looking for volunteers to man the Centre for half a day, once every month or every two months, at weekends or peak holiday periods.
The Centre is designed to be accessible to visitors every day, without a permanent presence. But at popular times it would be good to have someone in attendance to chat to people and find out what they think of the displays and facilities. A comfortable study room will be available to sit – or work – in between visitors. Some training will be provided.
Anyone who would like to find out more is welcome to contact John Hainsworth on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01691 860549.