Village Halls: Narberth Community Centre

Narberth Museum and Community Centre has a rich history that might have been lost to Pembrokeshire people if not for the dedication and determination of a select band.

Pauline Griffiths was curator of the local museum, which started in 1989 when the James Williams company sold the building where the museum was housed.

“That was in 2003,” Pauline explained. “James Williams had been a major company in the area since 1850. They were wine and spirit importers and owned a great deal of property here. They had gone on to expand into bottling and selling modern wine and spirit over time, and when the company was sold, the museum had to find temporary storage for it’s artifacts.”

So it was that Scolton Manor agreed to a temporary arrangement to house everything. Little did anyone think that it would be nine years before the collection would be back in Narberth on display.

Pauline laughed: “We had no idea what we were getting into but we were determined to bring the museum back to life.”

The funding needed over the life of the project, including major restoration work, came from the heritage fund, the Lottery, and from fundraising. They moved into the renovated Bonded Stores  in July 2012.

Pauline said it had always been important to ensure that the heritage and community centre  would pay for itself, and it has done that  by making the best of the space that it has. They are always open to ideas for new funding strands and seek relevant grants wherever appropriate.

There are two part-time staff, one museum manager and one learning officer who see to the day-to-day running of this little hive of activity. They are ably supported by 20 active volunteers drawn from all ages and backgrounds. Some of the volunteers are pupils in the Welsh Baccalaureate or the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Some are in their eighties.

This charity and limited company is managed by six trustees and consists of office space and a bright, comfortable coffee shop. It also houses a secondhand bookshop, with a large stock of books for sale at a reasonable price.

There is a well-stocked independent bookstore, two rooms available for rent, and the schoolroom which is large enough to sit 40 theatre-style and more standing. Tickets can be bought at the reception area/book desk for the museum itself.

The building is easily accessible, with a ramp leading to the main door with an automatic entry. There is a disabled toilet and a large lift to the upper floor. There is a hearing loop in the café and in the conference room and Wi-Fi is available.

I asked Pauline what the building was used for? What kind of activities happen here? The heritage museum is obviously a real joy but it’s clear that the use of the building is not exclusively museum-related.

“ We have all sorts of things happen here on a regular basis. Local government meet here regularly, and we have art history, life drawing and support groups, like the Parkinson’s group and the Dementia Café. We have also had some very successful gin-tasting sessions. There are  regular speakers on a wide range of subjects, including archaeology, local history, arts and crafts, poetry and  books. The facilities are used for training days and for private events, and the community centre can also provide catering. We  have an alcohol licence and we have recently provided barista training for some of our volunteers .

“People will come in and make use of the space  for all sorts of reasons. We have a lovely paperback breakfast with a book swap  for just £5. People just come and chat about the book. It’s become so popular we have had to turn people away.”

Where do they find their volunteers?

“People tend to offer volunteering after attending an event. We have a wonderful team, but of course we are always happy to have more.”

What do you need?

“Front of house, serving in the shop and café are very important, but so is admin. We want things to run smoothly of course, so that’s a huge part of making sure that happens. We are a friendly bunch and it’s great fun to work here. We provide training, and volunteers get free access to the museum.”

The centre has a range of projects and workshops to appeal to everyone and also offers local artists and craftspeople a venue for displaying and selling their work. It takes a percentage of the sales. 

Emma Baines has been researching and putting on workshops about women in West Wales. There is a quilt of women’s faces on the website and Facebook.

The centre has a Facebook page.

Narberth Museum,
The Bonded Stores,
Church Street,
Narberth,
Pembrokeshire SA67 7BH.

01834 860500

info@narberthmuseum.co.uk

Open 10am-5pm, Tuesday to Saturday.

Group visits or room hire can be arranged outside normal opening hours.

Kitty Parsons

Kitty has forgotten how long she has been here now but she loves Pembrokeshire for its beauty and it's people. She spends her time searching out stories for pembrokeshire.online, swimming in the sea , drawing and painting as Snorkelfish and eating cake. She says "Pembrokeshire.online has been an opportunity to celebrate this beautiful county and its people. Keep the stories coming. We love to hear from you."

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