In 1984 Andrew Lambert bought The Tabernacle, a former Wesleyan Chapel. He set up a Charitable Company, The Machynlleth Tabernacle Trust, and after extensive renovation The Tabernacle re-opened as a centre for the performing arts on 11th October 1986: a very beautiful Auditorium with perfect acoustics but no ancillary services.
The adjoining land, the site of an earlier chapel, belonged to the Tabernacle Trust and a free-standing block was built to house toilet facilities and a Green Room. In the same year the Trust, with the help of a generous loan, bought Harvey House. This former grocer’s shop provided much-needed street frontage on the main North-South Wales coastal road.
It took 5 years to raise the money to convert Harvey House into Art Galleries and the only Government-related help came from the Development Board for Rural Wales in the form of a small but welcome grant. The building was renamed the Ellis Building after Tom Ellis of Bala (who had expressed the hope that chapels would become centres of culture and not just places of Sunday Worship) and the first art exhibition was held in May 1992.
The Auditorium, the Green Room block and the Ellis Building were islands and in bad weather it was miserable moving between them. Still there was no help from official sources and in desperation we laid out the footings of the Linking Building to show what we were trying to achieve.
The breakthrough came from Liverpool in the Autumn of 1992. The Trustees of the Foundation for Sport and The Arts offered us a donation of £100,000. Their contribution to the capital and revenue funding of The Tabernacle cannot be praised too highly. This support from the private sector accompanied by strenuous lobbying resulted in significant funding from Government sources for the first time, from the Welsh Office Rural Initiative followed by the European Regional Development Fund.
The construction of the Linking Building (designed by David Thomas) and the provision of a new sound and lighting system, a recording studio, simultaneous translation facilities and a language laboratory were completed within six months. Lord and Lady Hooson opened the magnificent Owen Owen Building on 3rd July 1994 and, as if by a miracle, the Chapman Trust donated the lift only months later.
- The facade of the Auditorium was made weatherproof in 1995.
- In 1997 the entrance to the Auditorium was redesigned. The Forecourt was improved to make the approach to The Tabernacle more welcoming and to enable wheelchair users to enter the centre without assistance. Grants for these schemes came from the FSA, Powys County Council, CADW, the Lottery Unit of the Arts Council for Wales and the Wales Tourist Board. The superb workmanship has been that of the local builder J B Roberts & Son of Corris.
- In 1998 the Trust received a wonderful bequest from the estate of Nora Gibbs and Mollie Winterburn. This enabled us to purchase Tŷ Llyfnant and convert it for use as an artist’s studio and music teaching and practise rooms.
- Recently the two small galleries on the first floor have been converted into one spacious Pulpit Room. This was made possible by a cheque given anonymously and a legacy from the late John Silvanus Davies (mr John Davies the China Shop)