Page last updated at 07:54 GMT, Sunday, 19 October 2008 08:54 UK

Workmen's hall demolition starts

Maerdy Workingmen's Hall
Maerdy Workingmen's Hall, once the centre of village life, is now an eyesore

Demolition work has started on a derelict workmen's hall built from funds raised by miners.

Maerdy Workingmen's Hall in Rhondda was built in 1925 after a fire destroyed the original Edwardian building.

Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) council said the empty building was now dangerous and was being demolished after a compulsory purchase order was granted.

The hall was once at the centre of community life and featured a cinema, library, reading room and snooker room.

The original hall was built in 1905 on the site of an old coffee tavern and reading room.

It was the Mecca of Maerdy
Peter Blake, former head teacher

The land was a gift from the landlords of the Maerdy estate to the workmen of the local collieries.

The original building burned down in 1922, killing its treasurer whose body was found in the caretaker's cottage adjoining the main building.

The institute was reopened in 1925 after local miners raised 20,000.

Former Maerdy Junior School headteacher Peter Blake remembers the building being at the centre of community life.

"It was a social centre especially for us youngsters because we used to go to the pictures," he said.

"There was a chap there who would shine his light to try to catch us holding hands with girls and literally give us a whack across the ear."

The hall provided the community with a huge range of activities over the years and was home to drama groups, brass bands, choirs and dancers.

The original building following a fire in 1922 (Photo: Rhondda Cynon Taf council)
The original building was destroyed by fire in 1922

"It was the Mecca of Maerdy," said Mr Blake.

"It's a huge landmark to be taken out but it's a rotten tooth that has to go. It's just an eyesore now."

Over the next few months, fixtures and fittings will be removed before the structure itself is demolished.

The council said many organisations had expressed an interest in reusing the old stone from the building.

"It would be nice to know that parts of a building with such a rich history are preserved for others to enjoy," said RCT cabinet member for economic development and housing, Councillor Paul Cannon.

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