Tucked away in an old mill building in Chalford is a veritable haven for retro computer gaming enthusiasts, a place that has garnered worldwide acclaim – and now has plans for expansion.
“This place is called The Cave. It’s an exhibition of retro computer gaming and console gaming. It grew out of my YouTube channel called YouTube.com/rmcretro,” explained founder, Neil Thomas, who started the channel from his home.
The Cave contains games consoles and computers from the 1970s through to the early 2000s, and even a cabinet arcade game, Galaxian, from 1979. Neil’s ethos is to enjoy vintage technology – and it’s surprisingly repairable.
“It depends on the machine, but, for example, a 1990s Commodore Amiga 500, aside from the power supply, is actually very reliable – the chances are it will work. But if it’s an Amiga 500 Plus that had a battery inside to power the clock timer it’s 99 per cent guaranteed that the battery leaked and destroyed the board. It varies from machine to machine what’s inside it.
“I had an audience that very kindly donated a huge amount of kit. About 90 per cent of what you see here was donated for the purpose of me making videos, repairing the kit, telling the story about the old machines and about the games.
“We got to a point where we had a loft with so much kit in, it just seemed like there was an opportunity to share it with everyone, so the idea of a museum kind of formulated pre-pandemic.”
Neil was contacted by Heber Limited, an electronics business in Belvedere Mill, Chalford: “through a fortunate series of coincidences Heber got in touch and said, ‘we’ve got this space at the top of the mill. Would you be interested?’ We came out, had a look, and we decided it was the ideal space for exactly what we were trying to create. Throughout the pandemic, the whole year of lockdowns, we were in here building this place.
“Heber, who are the owners of the building and the landlords, are fully invested in retro. They’ve got a history of retro games. They’re an electronics firm and they’ve worked in the industry, so it’s not just a landlord tenant relationship. They’re really nice people to work with and so they want to look at opportunities with us to use the whole West Wing of the building, three floors and the garage building out there and just say, how can we build on what we’ve done here?
“We’ve put a video out inviting people who might have big ideas that align, not necessarily for us to run them, but for them to run them and to create, I guess, a retro ‘wonderland’, if you like, of businesses all within this complex, all complementing each other.
“We’re in talks with people at the moment. The most advanced one at the moment is for an arcade on the ground floor, and that would be an arcade with a view to it being a hands-on history of the Arcade Museum. So an educational aspect to it as well. And our door is open for conversations and we’re having conversations with people who might be interested in, for example, cafes, retro game shops, maker spaces, or anything that aligns with that whole retro theme.
“If a vinyl record shop or something like that, that might add to the experience down here. We’re hoping your readers might hear about this and get in touch with us.” Anyone interested can contact Neil via the website: www.rmcretro.com
The Cave is open on Saturdays by appointment and tickets can be booked through the website: Visit the cave in Chalford, Gloucestershire (rmcretro.com)
Coming up on Sunday, July 3rd, is a ‘Retro Booty’, a retro computer, games and toys, hi-fi, vinyl and nostalgia table sale’ in the car park at Belvedere Mill and costs £15 per car for sellers with a maximum of 15 slots available. Buyers can arrive from 11am and book their tickets in advance or on the gate. The ticket also includes a look around The Cave.