Over a hundred guests crowded into the Goods Shed just down the road from Llanelli Station when First Minister Mark Drakeford came on Friday 21st October to open phase one of this project to renovate a magnificent grade II listed building into a community hub.
Invitees included funders, representatives from the partner organisations involved in activities at the Goods Shed, members of the local community and Ukrainians currently benefitting from English classes at the Shed.
Speaking just before he cut the ribbon to open the Phase One suite of eight meeting rooms and office space, First Minister said of the project, “I would not be here today, were it not for Llanelli Station, because it was on Llanelli Station that my father proposed to my mother. “ He went on to say:
“It is an enormous challenge to re-purpose a building like this and find a modern-day use for it, and partnerships are so important for doing this. What you see here is how people have come together from all levels of government, the voluntary organisations and the community, including the many young people who have been involved to give this building purpose and relevance for the future. I want to congratulate all who have been involved for what they have achieved here. ”
Dame Nia Griffith MP who chairs the project introduced the proceedings, saying,
“We are delighted to be able to share today with so many of those who have helped us over the years the completion of Phase One. Phase one of transforming the Goods Shed which was once the thriving centre of Llanelli, because after the docks and the canals came the railways with their vital role in contributing to the industrial success of Llanelli, with coal, tinplate and copper. Key to this project is to be at the heart of the community fostering the skills of the future such as communication skills and digital skills.
But we won’t forget the heritage: we are lucky to have with us today people who worked here in the 50s and 60s and their stories, currently up on our website, will form part of our digital and audio displays in the heritage area and community café. They have told us about elephants arriving for the circus, collecting the Guinness arriving and taking it up to Buckleys’ and Felinfoel Breweries, timing it to arrive at 11 in the morning so they could share a free drink with the brewery workers, as well as stories of the romances and marriages between people working in the Goods Shed office.”
More information about the rich history of the Goods Shed was provided by Richard Roper, Secretary of the Goods Shed Trust, who explained that,
“South Wales Railways brought the railway to Llanelli in 1852, with a smaller goods shed, probably designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. As business expanded, that shed was replaced by the current building which remained in use as a goods shed until the 1960s. Trains used to come in here along the track to be unloaded onto the platform, and we have a two-carriage pacer train which we will be bringing in here to sit alongside the café and provide additional activity space.”
The trustees of the Goods Shed have worked closely with colleagues from the County Council, including in particular, those in the regeneration department, and they were pleased to invite County Councillor Gareth John, Cabinet Member for Regeneration , Leisure, Culture and Tourism to speak at the opening. He said,
“This project brings together all aspects of my portfolio title as Cabinet Member for regeneration, leisure, culture and tourism. The County Council is firmly committed to the regeneration of this part of Llanelli , and the renovation of this building for use by the community will make a significant contribution to that. Our Tyisha project team will be based here, driving regeneration and supporting the community.”
County Councillor Rob Evans, Chair of Carmarthenshire County Council also spoke, congratulating all involved in the project and thanking staff from departments across the County Council for their help and support, and then he went on to say
“It is also good to see the students from Coleg Sir Gar here, not just because of the welcome that they are giving us this afternoon, but because we want to see the younger generations benefitting from the facilities here and having their say about the sorts of activities that could be provided.”
The trustees of the Llanelli Railway Goods Shed would like to express sincere thanks to the main capital funders of the project, namely the Railway Heritage Trust, Welsh Government Targeted regeneration initiative, Garfield Weston Foundation and the Pilgrim Trust. They would also like to thank the many others who helped with feasibility and development money and specific grants including the Architectural Heritage Fund, Heritage Lottery, Big Lottery ,Llanelli Town Council, Dwr Cymru, WCVA, Postcode Lottery, the Oakdale Trust and others, those who helped develop school resource materials especially Graham and Ellen Davies and local schools, Carmarthenshire County Council for funding first a project officer and then a centre co-ordinator.
They are particularly grateful the on -going time and support from the four strategic partners: Connecting Youth, Children and Adults (CYCA), University of Wales Trinity St David’s (UWTSD), Indycube Community business start-ups and Cyfle Apprenticeship Scheme and for the practical support from colleagues in Network Rail, Carmarthenshire County Council – particularly the regeneration department, staff and students at Coleg Sir Gar, TRJ contractors, Huw Griffiths architects, Cyfle apprenticeship scheme and all our friends and volunteers.