Revival of New Cumnock Town Hall Restores Community Spirit
The recently renovated New Cumnock Town Hall provides a much-needed community space for local people
Town halls are often considered an essential part of community life. They provide a shared space for local groups to come together, a place for young and old to meet and somewhere to put on performances, fundraising events and even screen films. Historically, they have been at the heart of every town and village, but in recent years many have disappeared from the local landscape.
Thankfully for New Cumnock in East Ayrshire, the town’s much-loved hall was brought back to life in 2016 as a result of a nine-month restoration project spearheaded by HRH The Prince of Wales. For years the Town Hall had lain derelict and there were plans to tear down the building to make way for a car park. But when a local group appealed to the Prince, he visited the site and decided to set about reviving the building.
Until the late 20th Century, New Cumnock had been a thriving coal mining town with a strong community spirit. But the closure of deep mines over several decades led to a serious decline. The population dropped from 9,000 at its peak to 2,000, unemployment increased and poverty levels worsened. As a result, the town’s amenities were neglected and by 2016 there became a real need to breathe new life into the community.
The Town Hall project began in April 2016 and proved to be challenging from the outset. Everything in the building itself had to be stripped out, and only then did the restoration work required become clear. “Everything in that building in terms of walls and finishes had to be removed,” says Angus MacInnis, Head of Construction at Taylor & Fraser, which undertook the project. “Then we discovered all sorts of issues from dry rot to wet rot to woodworm.” But with a team of 40 to 50 men working on the project day and night, the work was carried out in record time and the result exceeded everyone’s expectations.
The main hall now doubles as a sports hall, with a seated balcony area for spectators. There’s also a computer room, art room and an audio-visual system installation that screens films. Many of the town’s various interest groups, including a badminton club and a sewing club, have returned to the hall, plus there are a host of exciting new activities on offer such as yoga, boxercise and tai chi. Add to this the recently refurbished outdoor swimming pool, which can be found opposite the Town Hall, and there is little doubt that New Cumnock is starting to thrive once again.