The Wrexham Area Civic Society recently held a well attended annual Awards Evening.
Around 85 members and guests attended, including Wrexham’s MP Ian Lucas, the Mayor Councillor Andy Williams and the Mayoress, and the Chair of the Wrexham Council’s Planning Committee, Cllr Michael Morris.
The intention of the presentation of Society’s annual awards is to encourage high architectural practice in buildings and environmental enhancements within Wrexham County Borough. Poor practice is also occasionally shamed via the award of a wooden spoon.
Councillor Morris presented the awards, announced by the Society’s Chairman, Geoff Foy. The event was sponsored by Williams Financial Services Limited.
This year’s Award for New Buildings, a recently completed project of notable architectural merit and respect for context was given to improvements at Ysgol Bryn Alyn, Gwersyllt, which were to replace a redundant building with a two storey classroom block; this also involved the creation of an open courtyard and a new pupil entrance and administration block. The £2m Design and Build project by Wrexham County Borough Council is part of its 21st century schools programme joint funded by Welsh Government. The Society was very impressed by the design of the building, particularly the use of glass, and how it ‘accentuated the sense of arrival’ at the school approaching up Church Street. The coordinated and enhanced entrance and the creation of a green courtyard completed the added value for the whole school.
A Commendation in this category was also given to the Village Bakery extension on the Wrexham industrial Estate.
An award for ‘conservation of an existing building of historic or architectural interest’ was given to The Old Coach House, part of an early 19th century group of agricultural buildings that formerly served the grade II* listed Esclusham Hall.
A long range of buildings opposite the Coach House have already been converted to create a series of starter homes. The society say new works have brought a disused and vulnerable building back into good repair and into beneficial residential use. They add: “Much of the original fabric has been exposed, whilst care has also be taken in balancing the needs of this grade II listed building with Building Regulation requirements including the sensitive incorporation of a sprinkler system and other fire/escape features and sustainability measures to reduce the future energy requirements of this conversion. The society also considered that the treatment of the exterior of the building within the context of its setting and grouping with other buildings on the estate was very well executed.”
An award for ‘Regeneration through Renewal or Replacement of an Existing Building’ was given to the former Bryn Seion Chapel at Trevor, which has had a number of different uses since being closed as a chapel. The Society said: “The current conversion and use, which opened in February this year, has skilfully retained the character of the chapel while creating a very attractive tea room. This two year conversion project has involved the installation of a half landing to maximise space, and a new staircase has incorporated the chapel pulpit to good effect. Key local materials such as Ruabon brick, terracotta tiles, interior decorative tiles and ceiling plasterwork have all been restored and left in good condition. The exterior of the building has been repaired with access enhanced without being detrimental to the character of this grade II listed building. This project, a second phase of which will involve the provision of 5 bedrooms to cater for tourists, demonstrates how a former chapel building can be adapted and reused to provide a valuable facility alongside the World Heritage Aqueduct site.”
Three Commendations in this category were also presented as below, explained by the Society:
– One was given for the refurbishment of the Wynnstay Arms hotel in Ruabon, which has given new life to the building. The improved facilities have generated a more comprehensive use of the building to the benefit of the local community.
– Another given to the chapel conversion, Talbot Road, Wrexham. This was sensitively converted by First Choice Housing Association into six apartments for disadvantaged persons, enabling independent living for the first time in their lives.
– The refurbishment of the Gresford Methodist Church. A sudden flood a few years ago necessitated a review of and then repairs to the fabric of the church; new, fewer pews, were installed, and the rear of the church was turned into a community available amenity area.
An award for ‘Landscaping or Environmental Improvement’ was presented for the installation of New Signage to mark the 6 villages in the Ceiriog Valley, recently installed along this important tourist route – as pictured at the top of this article.
Each sign has been designed to depict a unique illustration of each village’s key features, with the Society noting: “Although these signs are extremely attractive additions to the valley scene they are also an important part of the investment in tourism growth. The project has been a significant collaboration between the Chirk and Ceiriog Valley Partnership and the three community councils in the valley, which also helped to fund it. Wrexham council’s destination management team helped deliver the project. This project has been an imaginative, well researched and attractively designed way of enhancing the approaches to the valley villages. They will be appreciated by residents and visitors alike.”
A Commendation in this category was also given to the Ffordd Garmonydd Play Area, explained as: “This neglected playing area for young children between Smithy Lane and the WIE link road has been transformed by the Community Council working in partnership with Wrexham council’s playground staff. ”
The Society say they are keen to encourage the use of ideas and materials to encourage environmental sustainability, and this year a Commendation was awarded to Gwersyllt Community Council for their initiative in installing energy efficient bulbs in all their street lighting. It is anticipated that the installation costs will be recovered within seven years.
You can find out more about the Wrexham Civic Society on their Facebook page here.