North West Wales

Community 'united' by Llanrhos Old School restoration

David Rowley outside Llanrhos Old School
Image caption David Rowley said community interest had been "staggering"

A former school in Conwy is hosting line dancing sessions, weddings and funerals after being turned into a community centre.

Llanrhos Old School, built in 1822, is enjoying a new lease of life after a £240,000 restoration project.

It was paid for through grants and donations from local people.

Project manager David Rowley says he has been inundated with requests to use the centre, which had "pulled together all threads of the community".

He added: "There clearly is a community. It can happen in any community, it just needs something at the heart of it.

"There's been marvellous goodwill towards this project."

The building ceased operating as a school in 1898, and has since functioned mainly as a church hall for St Hilary's Parish Church, which is opposite.

However, the Grade-II listed building fell into disrepair, and in 2009 the vicar of Llanrhos, the Reverend Prebendary Bob Griffiths, formed a volunteer group to start fundraising.

Image caption The school's old bell was restored by a local blacksmith

The local community raised thousands of pounds, and the project was awarded £100,000 by the Welsh government, £50,000 from Waste Recycling Environmental Ltd (WREN), as well as being helped by Mostyn Estates and Conwy town and county councils.

It opened last month after work which included new boilers, underfloor heating, new pointing and a store room.

Mr Rowley said: "The response has been absolutely staggering.

"We have been helped by people across the community, who have donated not just their money, but time and expertise as well.

"The response since the work was completed has been amazing. I'm already having to juggle people around because they're competing for space."

As well as a Christmas party for charity Action for Children this weekend, the centre has been booked for sessions in the New Year by a line dancing group for adults with learning difficulties, which was left without any premises after their old building was demolished.

Another group which helps adults with learning difficulties is also hoping to use the building for meetings.

Mr Rowley said: "We've also got a professional dancer who is new to the area but wanted to start up dancing lessons.

Image caption Renovation work began in summer 2010

"She held a taster session last week and had 30 people attend, and now she has more sessions booked."

A group of local mothers who currently meet at a member's house are also hoping to book regular slots.

A wedding reception has been booked for next August, and a silver wedding anniversary party in May.

Mr Rowley added: "I was also approached by a member of the local Jewish community who said they had had some land consecrated over the road for funerals.

"But they didn't have anywhere to meet beforehand, so now they are going to have their get-togethers here before going over to the cemetery."

He added: "Because of our proximity and close links with the church, we may get a full collection, with baptisms and christening parties as well."

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