New Market Hall – Brynmawr

New Market Hall – Brynmawr

Market Hall, Brynmawr – An Early History.
A market house for Brynmawr was first mentioned in a meeting of the inhabitants of Brynmawr in September 1839 and was covered in a newspaper report (as seen left) featured in the Glamorgan, Monmouth and Brecon Gazette, published on the 28th of September 1839.

The Meeting.
On Monday 16th of September 1839, the said meeting took place. The newspaper report stated that a large meeting of the inhabitants of Brynmawr was held at the Prince of Wales Inn, Brynmawr.
It was reported that Mr John Phillips, one of the oldest residents was called to the chair, he congratulated the people at the meeting on their present prospects and stated that 30 years ago when Messrs Bailey came to Nantyglo there was only half a dozen houses at Brynmawr, now at this present time there are at least as many hundreds.

He went on to say – “Thirty years ago there was nothing but the sound of the blacksmith’s hammer to be heard from Aberbeeg to Brynmawr, now there are fifteen blast furnaces, immense forges, and mills for the manufacturing of iron giving employment to at least ten thousand persons, could anyone say a market house was not necessary?

Mr Kershaw made a speech and proposed that a petition to Mr Crawshay Bailey Esq should be left at the principal houses for signature praying his consent and support. Mr Judd seconded the motion and it was unanimously agreed to.

Mr Meale proposed and Mr Jones the grocer seconded that Messrs Kershaw, Marsden and Judd as soon as the petition was signed by the principal inhabitants of Brynmawr should wait upon Mr Crawshay Bailey Esq and present their petition and to call a meeting as soon as possible to report their progress. Mr Phillips left the chair and it was taken by Mr Powell. Mr Lewis proposed and Mr Watkins seconded a vote of thanks to Mr Phillips for his able conduct in the chair, which was carried unanimously.

The First Market House Town Hall.
The original Brynmawr Market House or Town Hall was later constructed between Blewitt Square and Beaufort Street, Brynmawr. It was built sometime in the 1840’s. It was known as the Brynmawr Market Hall in many newspaper reports and articles, though later referred to as the Brynmawr Town Hall and seen as such on many maps of the area. In this report I will refer to the old Town Hall as such and the new Market Hall as the Market Hall.

In September 1848 in a report in the Principality Newspaper on the increasing population at Brynmawr, it was stated that there was much house building with an increase in population to over 5,000 along with a fast-thriving business. There was also a commodious marketplace with a large hall for holding public meetings. So, the original Brynmawr Town Hall had been built sometime between 1839 and 1848.

In May 1882 a Theatrical License was granted to the Market Hall Company, Brynmawr, empowering them to produce stage plays at the Brynmawr Town Hall.

The New Market Hall Planning.
A new Market Hall for Brynmawr was first officially proposed as early as March 1887. At a meeting of the Brynmawr Local Board. Mr Hicks had enquired what the local board proposed to do in the matter of celebrating the Queens Jubilee. It was heard that a cottage hospital be erected, though Mr A. Gage said they should ask the Duke of Beaufort, the Lord of the Manor to give them a public hall. It was decided to convene a meeting of the ratepayers to consider the matter.

In February 1887 the clerk reported that a public meeting had been called to discuss the best means of celebrating the Queens Jubilee that same year. It was stated that a committee of 12 had been appointed in addition to members of the board, to arrange matters. The committee had decided upon the erection of a new market hall. Many meetings in connection with the matter followed.

In May 1887 there was a meeting at the Brynmawr Town Hall to discuss the best way of celebrating the Queens Jubilee and also for approving the plans for the erection of a new market hall. Mr Basil Jayne (Chairman) stated the plans deposited with the secretary showed the new market hall would accommodate 1,400 people on the ground floor, 350 in the gallery, 350 orchestra and 200 on the platform, with offices, entries and exits. The capital was £2,000 in 2,000 shares of 20s. each. The secretary read a letter from the Duke of Beaufort announcing that he would give them a site for 99 years at £11 ground rent per annum. A disagreement over the architect followed but was dropped. It was then proposed a company be formed to build the market hall.

I cannot find any official outcome to the past proposals until the subject of a new market hall was raised again in 1889.

On Wednesday 16th of January 1889, at a local board meeting at Brynmawr with Mr Thomas Hope (Chairman). At this time the following gentlemen were members of the local board – Mr David Morris; Mr George Hicks; Mr J. J. Lyddon; Mr Alfred Gage; Mr A. E. Evans; Mr John Watkins; Mr A. J. Markhall; Mr Thomas Lewis; Mr John Thomas (Clerk) and Dr G. H. Browne (Medical Officer of Health): It was agreed to purchase the property of the Brynmawr Market Company at the amount of shares held by the shareholders and the lease of the shareholders and that of Mr David Edwards, the original lessee of the land from the Duke of Beaufort. At this date it was all in the hands of Mr Powell, solicitor.

Brynmawr Market Place.
On Wednesday 17th of April 1889, the present out-door marketplace, Market Square at Brynmawr was established.

On Wednesday 21st of August 1889, at a monthly meeting of the Brynmawr Local Board, Mr A. E. Evans (Chairman). Mr Thomas Hope stated that the local board was now in possession of all market rates and tolls.

On Wednesday 18th of September 1889, a monthly meeting of the Brynmawr Local Board took place with Mr A. E. Evans (Chairman). At this meeting the terms of the Duke of Beaufort were read. To purchase land at the foot of Beaufort Street, Brynmawr, to build a new market hall building. Mr T. Hope, in whose name the motion stood, urged the necessity of such a building for the accommodation of market people. if money was to be borrowed to carry out the scheme the tolls would pay good interest. Rev Morton seconded and the matter was referred to the Market Hall Committee.

In 1892 His Grace the Duke of Beaufort said a lease had been granted for 60 years from September 1892 at an annual rental of 10 guineas.

Public Meeting at Brynmawr.
On Monday 12th of June 1893, a public meeting was held at the Brynmawr Town Hall to take the opinion of the ratepayers of the town with regard to the proposal to borrow £2,500 for the erection of a market hall by the Brynmawr Local Board, whether the money should be spent or not and in what way the opinion of the meeting should be presented to the commissioner from the Local Government Board. Councillor T. G. Powell was the chairman and asked those in favour to be heard first.

Mr John Jones moved – This meeting of ratepayers pledged itself to assist the Brynmawr Local Board to obtain sanction to borrow £2,500 for the purpose of building a market hall. Mr William Evans seconded and was supported by Mr D. A. Davies and Mr Thomas Havard. Mr Havard told of how people from Merthyr went to Abergavenny Market for produce, and surely by providing a market hall at Brynmawr which could meet the requirements of the people they wouldn’t have to travel that far. Some people objected on the grounds that they didn’t think a place was needed and it would be too costly on the ratepayers. After many arguments for and against a sanction to borrow money, the resolution was then put to the meeting and carried unanimously.

Mr A. J. Markhall said with reference to the opposition which had been stated to exist, he and Mr Jenkins had taken a petition around the dealers on last Saturday morning and 71 signatures had been secured in support of the market. After many arguments for and against a sanction to borrow money, the resolution was then put to the meeting and carried unanimously.

The Deputation.
The following gentlemen were then appointed a deputation to appear before the commissioner in support of the proposal – Mr T. G. Powell; Mr T. Havard; Mr W. J. Tong; Mr A. Gage; Mr John Jones; Mr James Holly; Mr Francis Williams; Mr E. Nuth; Mr William Davies; Mr John James; Mr G. King and Mr J. Prout:

The Local Government Board Enquiry.
On Tuesday 13th of June 1893, Mr Thomas Codrington, M.Inst.C.E., opened an inquiry at the Brynmawr Town Hall to receive evidence with regard to the application of the Brynmawr Local Board to the Local Government Board for sanction to borrow £2,500 for providing a market hall. Besides the commissioner there were present – Mr William Roberts (Chairman of the Local Board); Mr John Thomas (Clerk); Mr A. E. Johnson (Architect) with other members of the local board and ratepayers:

Mr John Thomas (Clerk of the Brynmawr Local Board) stated his authority was formed on Thursday 22nd of May 1851. The population of the district was 6,330 and the annual assessable value of the sanitary district was £8,155. 0s. 0d., for the purposes of the district rate. The amount of outstanding balances was £2,855. 2s. 7d., proposed loan £2,500 the objects for which the loan was required being to build a market hall for the sale of wholesale products and the period for which it was proposed the money should be borrowed was 30 years. He also said the present market was acquired on the 17th of April 1889 and the market rates were given to the Brynmawr Local Board by the Lord of the Manor, His Grace the Duke of Beaufort on the 16th of October 1889. The byelaws and table tolls were sanctioned by the Local Government Board on the 3rd of January 1890. The resolution to spend £2,500 was passed by the local board on the 15th of February 1893.

Mr E. A. Johnson presented the plans of the building and said the estimate of £2,500 would cover the entire cost including architect’s charges. Mr John Thomas told the commissioner that the site belonged to His Grace the Duke of Beaufort and a lease had been granted for 60 years from September 1892 at an annual rental of 10 guineas.

Mr William Roberts (Chairman of the Local Board) then stated that the tolls collected on the open space ground used at present as a marketplace were in 1890 – £41. 17s. 8d.; 1891 – £30. 6s. 8d.: The reduction was on account of the very wet season. 1892 for nine months – £29. 3s. 0d.: Mr Roberts said, if proper accommodation was provided there would be a considerable increase in revenue from the tolls, there was a ready sale for garden and farm produce and people came with it from long distances – Talgarth, Llandilo, Llanbider, Cwmdu, Tretower, Llangynidr and Crickhowell and with the proposed extension of the railway at Nantyglo the new market hall would be accessible to many more people.

Mr Havard said Brynmawr was located halfway between the other two markets at Merthyr and Abergavenny, these places were populous with many wanting to visit Brynmawr. Mr Havard also pointed out that the Abergavenny Market was only held on a Tuesday, inconvenient to the working class and Saturday would prove more suitable as in the case of Brynmawr under better conditions. The number of wholesale dealers who attended Brynmawr at this date was 100, with better conditions this number would increase. The commissioner said he saw no objection that the work should not be proceeded with and Mr Codrington closed the enquiry.

The Start of the Construction of the Building.
On Friday 21st of July 1893, a special meeting of the Brynmawr Local Board was held, Mr W. Roberts (Chairman). The clerk reported that there was a favourable reply from the Local Government Board as to the borrowing powers for £2,500 for the new market hall and the building was given the go-head.

In August 1893 the erection of the new market hall was in progress. Workmen employed on its building had erected sheds on the site.

In January 1894 tenders were invited for the seating at the new market hall.

On Wednesday 10th of January 1894, a special meeting of the Brynmawr Local Board was held with Mr W. Roberts (Chairman). At this meeting concerts were arranged for the official opening of the new market hall. It was decided to alter the opening date to the Wednesday, February 28th and a Concert Committee was elected. The tender of Mr S. Evans was accepted for the seating at the new hall at £33. 12s. 6d., subject to the work being completed and delivered by February 20th 1894.

In February 1894 tenders were invited for the contract for the lighting in the new market hall. Tenders were also invited for the roles of official collector and caretaker at the new market hall. The collector would be responsible for collecting rents, stallages and charges due. The wages were 2 percent on the amount of money paid into the hands of the treasurer. The caretaker would be responsible for opening the market hall, lighting the fires, cleaning, removing furniture etc and closing the hall. The wages were 15s. per week. The tenders had to be sent to the Clerk Mr John Thomas, of the Local Board Office, Brynmawr on or before the 16th of February 1894.

On Tuesday 6th of February 1894 tenders that were invited for the contract for the lighting in the new market hall had been received and were opened, Mr Hampton of Abergaveny £33. 9s. 0d. and Mr A. E. Webb of Brynmawr £24. 15s. 6d. The tender of Mr A. E. Webb was accepted.

The Eisteddfod Chair.
On Friday 16th of February 1894, it was reported that the Eisteddfod Chair had been ordered for the opening Eisteddfod to be held at the new Brynmawr Market Hall, under the auspices of Bethesda Welsh Congregational Chapel. The chair was described as handsomely carved and was presented by Mr James Bloor, general dealer of Beaufort Street, Brynmawr. The cost of the chair was 8 guineas and was constructed by Messrs Harford of Bristol.

On Wednesday 21st of February 1894, at monthly meeting of the Brynmawr Local Board at the Market Buildings, Beaufort Street, Brynmawr, with Mr William Roberts J.P. Other members were as follows – Mr A. E. Evans; Mr B. S. Evans; Mr W. M. Taylor; Mr J. Jenkins; Mr G. Highfield; Mr A. J. Markhall; Mr A McNeil; Mr J, Bloor; Mr G. Morgan; Mr T. Jones; Mr D. Burrows; Mr J. Thomas (Clerk) and Mr R. S. Widdowson (Surveyor): At this meeting it was stated the new market hall was nearly completed, Mr Markhall wished to know how much money had been paid towards the contract agreement? The clerk replied £1,821. Mr Markhall asked if the money had been paid to the contractor who would take over the building before completion?

Mr Highfield said that after looking at the agreement he understood the contractor had to complete the hall and attend to it for twelve months, this was confirmed by the chairman and clerk and the matter dropped. It was arranged that a musical band be engaged for the opening and a florist to decorate the hall. The Brynmawr Local Board also arranged for Mr C. Virgin of the Griffin Hotel to provide a luncheon.

At this meeting it was told of how a Mr Evans had been given the job of official collector though had gone missing before his employment had begun. On a visit to his house by Mr Markhall, Mr Evans wife told of how he had left his uniform and disappeared, last seen in Twyncynghordy Road, so Mr Watkins of the Coffee Tavern was collecting the rates temporarily.

The Official Opening of the New Market Hall.
On Wednesday 28th of February 1894, the new Market Hall, Brynmawr was officially opened. The South Wales Gazette Newspaper reported – “Gala Day at Brynmawr”. On Wednesday the town of Brynmawr presented a lively appearance, counter acted only by the usual rainstorms to which we have become accustomed. The occasion was the opening of the new Market Hall, Brynmawr, erected by the Brynmawr Local Board at a cost of £2,500 which, besides providing accommodation for all kinds of gatherings will prove a welcome shelter to the farmers and gardeners in the district who have from time immemorial assembled on the bleak, open square.

The streets were gaily decorated with flags of various hues and mottoes in different tongues. One motto over the old town hall was written with the words “Do not forget me” while another opposite described the new building as “The long looked for came at last” another “Pro bono publico” (for the good of the public) was the only attempt to Latinise the event, though the Welsh mottoes were prominent and fitting.

Just after three o’clock, in a moment of sunshine the procession started from the Griffin Hotel, headed by the local police force, Col T. Wood the Conservative candidate and Mr Charles Morley the Liberal candidate. The chairman, members and officers of the Brynmawr Local Board, followed by leading townsmen and accompanied by Lewis’s Town Band which had paraded the “City of the Hills” during the day.

The processionists were loudly cheered on their way down Beaufort Street and were greeted by a large gathering outside the new hall which was circled by floral displays and coloured bunting. On arrival at the main doorway, Mr William Roberts J.P., said he had the greatest pleasure in presenting Mr Morley with a handsome key on behalf of the Brynmawr Local Board and requesting him to open their “New Market Hall”.

Description of the New Hall.
The ticketholders were admitted to the new Market Hall, Brynmawr which had been tastefully decorated by Messrs M. Leonard & Co. The building was designed to serve the double purpose of a Wholesale Market and Public Hall and although such a combination is difficult to satisfactorily provide for in the same hall, in this instance such general results have been obtained.

The building is 105′ feet internally, having a gallery at one end over the main entrance vestibule and a collector’s office etc. The other end is a platform 22′ feet from back to front. This platform was intended for wholesale goods to be received from wagons through two doors placed, as is the platform, on a level with the conveyance. The platform on occasions of entertainments will serve the purpose of a very commodious stage. It has two private entrances and in the basement there are retiring rooms with lavatory accommodation, refreshment rooms and a storage room.

The new market hall with the gallery and platform would accommodate 1,200 persons and was well lighted, ventilated and heated by four open fireplaces. The building externally has a substantial appearance, the walls are built of local stone, lined with brick with terra cotta and Forest of Dean stone dressings.

The Contractor and Architect.
The contract was carried out by the contractor Mr H. Parfitt of Pontnewydd, under the superintendence of the architect Mr E. A. Johnson M.S.A., of Abergavenny.

The luncheon was provided by Mr and Mrs Carl Virgin of the Griffin Hotel, Brynmawr, Mr William Roberts presided with Mr Charles Morley and Col. T. Wood. (The luncheon attendance contained too many people to write in this section, though a list of guests is available on request). The chairman read letters of apology from His Grace the Duke of Beaufort, Lord Tredegar and many others followed by many speeches and toasts.

In the evening a special concert was held, arranged by the committee of the Brynmawr Local Board. The artistes were as follows – Miss Gertrude Drinkwater, soprano and solo violinist, R.A.M. of Cardiff; Miss Bessie Evans, contralto, R.A.M. of Builth; Mr William Thomas (Eos Wenallt) tenor of Aberdare; Mr John Walters, Bass, R.A.M. of Swansea; Mr William Morgan (Ap Siencyn) harpist of Caerphilly and the accompanist Mr C. C. Caird of Abergavenny: The singing of “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” by the audience, led by the artistes brought the day’s proceedings to a close.

The First Show held at the Market Hall.
The first show held at the new Brynmawr Market Hall was a Grand Performance of the then ever popular dramatic cantata titled “Esther” The Beautiful Queen. In full costume and character by the Excelsior United Choir, featuring Miss Emily Francis of Penarth, a double prize winner at the Rhyl National Eisteddfod in 1893 and the first prize winner at the World’s Fair, Chicago, USA in 1893. With the following – Miss Annie Lewis of Dowlais; Mr W. P. Burrowes of Brynmawr; Mr Sandford Jones of Merthyr; Mr John Thomas of Rhymney; Miss M. J. Morris of Bynmawr; Mr Edwin H. Sykes of Brynmawr; Mr Moses Williams of Garnvach and Mr John James of Brynmawr: Also featuring – A Grand Juvenile Tableaux of 50 children with Mr W. A. Phillips, pianist of Brynmawr; Mr R. P. Adams, organist of Brynmawr and Mr Samuel Jones the conductor, of Brynmawr:

The show (as seen advertised left) was held on two successive nights Mabon’s Day, Monday 5th of March and Tuesday 6th of March 1894. The advertisement stated – Six years ago we performed this charming dramatic work at Blaina to over 5,000 people, we now intend having it on a larger scale than ever, regardless of expense, the whole performance comprises 100 performers, 50 adults and 50 children. Mr D. Price (Chairman) Factory Road, Brynmawr. Mr T. J. Burrowes (Treasurer) Alma Street, Brynmawr and Mr J. M. Elkins (Hon Sec) Market Road, Nantyglo.

On Tuesday 6th of March, the Brynmawr Local Board met to wind up the accounts of the opening night concert and to confirm that the market would be kept open on Saturdays until 2.00pm, stalls etc will be provided for the traders.

The Royal Welsh Ladies Choir.
On Wednesday 7th of March 1894, the Royal Welsh Ladies Choir gave a concert at the new Market Hall, Brynmawr. The report stated there were 1,700 people present with large numbers failing to gain admission.

On Wednesday 21st of March 1894 at a monthly meeting of the Brynmawr Local Board with Mr W. Roberts (Chairman). Other members were as follows – Mr A. E. Evans; Mr B. S. Evans; Mr W. M. Taylor; Mr J. Jenkins; Mr G. Highfield; Mr A. J. Markhall; Mr A McNeil; Mr J, Bloor; Mr G. Morgan; Mr T. Jones; Mr D. Burrows; Mr J. Thomas (Clerk); Dr G. H. Browne (Medical Officer of Health) and Mr R. S. Widdowson (Surveyor): At this meeting a certificate was received from the architect Mr E. A. Johnson for £250 making the total sum on advance of the contract £1,850.

A letter addressed to the chairman of the local board was read from Mr Charles Morley, Padworth House, Reading, dated March 5th 1894 – “Dear Sir, I was delighted last week with the new market hall, which I believe will prove to be a great advantage to the town and neighbourhood of Brynmawr. I noticed there was no clock and if it would be agreeable to yourself and the local board it would give me much pleasure to present one. Believe me dear sir – Yours very truly, Charles Morley”. Mr Markhall moved that Mr Morley’s kind offer be accepted and that the clerk be instructed to acknowledge and thank Mr Morley on behalf of the board, Mr Highfield seconded.

It seems that after the construction of the new market hall there were certain problems and defects with the building which was pointed out to the contractors and at this meeting the Architect Mr E. A. Johnson of Abergavenny attended and offered the following suggestions towards remedying them – The double sliding doors on the tram road side be dispensed with and the opening bricked up. The external porch as originally planned should be re-erected at the front entrance in addition to the further fitting up of a movable internal lobby. The roof ventilators should have movable shutters with an iron weather bar that can be closed and bolted for the winter months and to prevent draughts from the other sliding doors a green baize curtain would serve the purpose. A hose was also ordered for the market hall.

The Rhondda Glee Society.
On Friday 23rd of March 1894, a grand concert was given by the world-renowned Rhondda Glee Society, advertised as winners of the Pontypridd National Eisteddfod and the Chicago World’s Fair 1893. The concert featured Miss May John, soprano and Chicago prize winner; Mr John Thomas (Eos-Y-De) tenor and winner of the Pontypridd National Eisteddfod; Mr J. H. Lewis (Llew Aber) bass; Mr W. Morgan (Ap Siencyn) harpist and winner at Merthyr and Swansea 1891, Rhyl 1892, Pontypridd 1893 and the Chicago (open to all the world) 1893; Mr John Jarrett R.C.M.L. accompanist and Mr Tom Stephens the conductor:

The First Annual Eisteddfod.
On Monday 2nd of April 1894, the first annual Eisteddfod took place in the new Market Hall, Brynmawr. The Town Band under the leadership of Mr Lewis paraded the town in the morning and made its way to the train station to greet Mr Charles Morley, the Liberal candidate for Breconshire, the president for the day. Mr Morley could not attend until later in the day though several special trains brought large numbers of visitors and competitors from the eastern and western valleys and Abergavenny. The adjudicators were – Music, Mr D. Jenkins Mus. Bac (Cantab) Aberystwith; Mr William Evans A.C., Brynmawr: Literature recitations etc Rev D. Adams, B.A., Bethesda, Bangor; Rev T. Mafonwy Davies, Blanavon and Mr Llewellyn Thomas, Brynmawr: The Conductor of the proceedings was Mr T. Richards, Miners Agent of Beaufort and was accompanied by Miss F. Rogers of Ebbw Vale and Mr W. A. Phillips of Brynmawr. Mr E. Watkins was secretary and the whole project was floated by the Bethesda Congregational Church, Brynmawr in connection with the object of liquidating their debt on the chapel consequent on recent renovations. The report stated that the preliminary tests were carried out at the old town hall in order to reduce the number to appear at the Eisteddfod.

Many people took part on the day of the Eisteddfod at Brynmawr and the list of competitors is too large to transcribe in this report, though if anyone wants to know any names or details etc please ask.

On Friday 20th of April 1894, it was reported that the Brynmawr Local Board had ordered two basins at 10s. each to be fixed at the new market hall.

Day’s Menagerie.
On Saturday 2nd of June 1894, Messrs Day’s Menagerie, set-up on Market Square, Brynmawr, was the scene of great excitement when a lion tamer was attacked and severely bitten about the legs by a lioness during a performance with the animals. He was attended to, medically treated and insisted on going straight back into the lion’s den, though strongly advised not to. It was stated that the lioness had previously caused the death of two other tamers.

Many concerts, meetings and shows were later held at the market hall then in June 1894 the first of the picture shows appeared. Mr H. Poole came to Brynmawr and exhibited his Myriorama.

The First Picture Shows.
On Monday 25th of June 1894, Mr Harry Poole’s Myriorama (a painted scene in the form of a story on a roll of canvas which was unrolled to make it look as though it was moving with the narration) was exhibited at the new Market Hall, Brynmawr. The picture show was titled “The Spanish Armada” and described as refined and genuine amusement! The show celebrated a combination of art and song, in addition to the screening of a series of still images on the screen representing the defeat of the Spanish Armada it also featured a galaxy of other talent, including Mr W. Matthews a Christy Minstrel, the Sisters Lallah and others. Mr Fred Poole was the guide, elocutionist and humourist. The Poole family were involved in the early Myriorama shows, Mr Joseph Poole was also a member of the family.

The charges were as follows – Half-price to first, second and third seats only for children under 12 or schools over 10 in number. Tickets could be obtained at the Market Hall. Early doors (to avoid the crush) open at 7 o’clock. 6d. extra to 3s. 2s. and 1s. seats at 3d. extra to the 6d. seats.

Mr Ben Davies, Welsh Tenor.
On Wednesday 22nd of August 1894, the noted Welsh tenor, Mr Ben Davies (as seen in the image right) gave a high-class performance at the new Market Hall, Brynmawr. The audience was said to be large and came from all points on the compass.

Mr Davies appeared with the following other artistes – Miss S. M. Lewis R.A.M, soprano of Ebbw Vale; Miss Hannah Jones, A.R.A.M, contralto; Mr David Hughes R.A.M., basso, of London; Professor Howells of Aberdare accompanied on a “Bechstein” piano (supplied by Mr George Jones, Abertillery) and his overtures “Polonaise in E” (Weber) and “Balmoral” were well received. It was reported that the concert was of such high-class entertainment.

Mr Ben Davies (as seen in the image above) was born in 1858 at Pontardawe, Wales. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music, London under Alberto Randegger and Signor Fiori. He was later with the Carl Rosa Opera Company. Mr Davies sadly passed away in 1943.

The Market Hall Clock.
In December 1894 Mr Charles Morley wrote to the local board saying he had been in touch with Mr Benson a clock maker of Ludgate Hill, London and had referred him to the clerk for further information regarding the clock he had promised. Mr J. W. Benson in writing on the same matter said the clock is to be fitted with two dials, both of which are to be 2′ feet 6″ inches in diameter. In May 1895 the Brynmawr Local Board was informed the clock had been finished, Mr Morley and Mr Benson had both been informed.

In May 1895 permission was granted to the proprietors of a Bible Van to set-up at the Market Square to sell Bibles and to hold preaching services. Mr Tong proposed and Mr D. L. Davies seconded that permission to use the ground be granted.

Professor Devant.
On Friday 31st of March 1899, Professor Devant gave an entertainment “Animated Photographs” at the new Market Hall, Brynmawr. The proceeds were in aid of the Libanus Band of Hope.

Lord and Lady Glanusk.
On Wednesday 12th of April 1899, Lord and Lady Glanusk visited the new Market Hall, Brynmawr. They opened a bazaar in aid of the fund for the erection of a new building upon the site of the present Parish Church of St Mary. A guard of honour from B Company 1st V.B.S.W.B., attended the party at the new market hall where a large number of people assembled, including Mr S. H. Cowper Coles (Agent for the Marquis of Worcester). Mrs Coles and Lady Glanusk were presented with bouquets by Miss Griffiths of the vicarage.

In September 1899 the new Market Hall Brynmawr was granted a Theatrical License. Mr J. Thomas applied and Mr William Morgan and Mr Christopher Weale, district councillors were the sureties.

Mr Haggar’s Bioscope.
On Wednesday 27th & Thursday 28th of December 1899, Mr Haggar’s “Grand No1 Double Show” came to the new Market Hall, Brynmawr with his “War Pictures in Bioscope” along with a pantomime show. Mr William Haggar was at Brynmawr in 1891 when his daughter Lily May was born, though I have no information on what he was doing in the district at this time? (More information to come).

In September 1900 the tender for the painting of the Market Hall, Brynmawr was given to the Messrs Lyddon Brothers, at £13. 10s. 0d.

Living Pictures Show.
On Thursday 5th of February 1903, Messrs J. Dooner & Son (Mr James Dooner) gave a reproduction of their “Living Pictures” at the new Market Hall, Brynmawr for the benefit of the proposed local Library and Reading Room Fund. Mr James Dooner and family first visited Brynmawr in March 1902, though there is no information on his shows at that time.

Cinematograph Shows.
In September 1910 Mr J. Thomas, clerk to the Brynmawr District Council applied for a license for a Cinematograph Show at the Market Hall Brynmawr, it was stated the council surveyor had taken the necessary steps to arrange the building to comply with the act of parliament. The clerk advised the taking of a license for one month. I have no information as to whom he applied for.

The Cinematograph Act stated – One must inform the police if a cinematograph show was to be allowed and a license issued, failure to do so resulted in prosecution and a £1. fine. Superintendent Hand said that in the event of the license being granted, the necessary fire appliances, such as wet blankets and a portable fire extinguisher should be provided. The bench granted the license for one month to be renewed at the annual licensing sessions.

Mr Richard Dooner’s Lease of the New Market Hall Amusements.
I believe Mr Richard Dooner held the first license for cinematography at the new Market Hall, Brynmawr. His father Mr James Dooner may have held short term licenses previously to show Bioscopes and such, though his son Richard Dooner was given the first long term lease and license to hold amusements and shows. This was after the death of his father Mr James Dooner, in June 1910.

In June 1911 Mr Dooner leased the new Market Hall, Brynmawr (as seen in the image left). The council came to an agreement and let Mr Dooner lease the market hall for £300 per annum. His manager in charge of his business activities at Brynmawr was Mr Gus Harrington.

On Friday 23rd of June 1911, a postponed Sports Day (in consequence of the rain) in connection with the Coronation festivities was completed. Mr Richard Dooner gave a Bioscope Entertainment Show free of charge for the children at Brynmawr. They saw the Coronation procession on its way to and from Westminster Abbey in living pictures. Mr W. H. Tranter was in charge of the day’s activities and Capt. A. E. Webb gave a fireworks display.

On Friday 2nd of February 1912, it was reported that Mr Dooner had generously set the night at the new market hall aside for a “Benefit Entertainment – Singing Competition” for the funds of the Free Library which was given to Brynmawr by Mr Carnegie. The first prize was a ladies gold watch given by Mr Dooner, to the winner Mrs Gwladys Lewis, Beaufort Street, Brynmawr. The second prize was a gentleman’s silver watch given by Mr Brest, furniture dealer, Brynmawr to Master David Morgan, Brynmawr.

On Wednesday 18th of September 1912, at a monthly meeting of the Brynmawr District Council Mr T. Jones (Chairman). Other members were as follows – Mr E. Swales (Vice-Chairman); Mr J. Bloor J.P.; Mr R. Jones; Mr D. Owen; Mr D. W. Morgan; Mr F. Bailey; Mr T. M. Jenkins; Mr R. Evans; Mr T. L. Evans; Mr John Thomas (Clerk); Dr J. L. Thomas (Medical Officer); Mr J. J. Quick (Surveyor) and Mr W. Evans (Collector): At this meeting it was unanimously decided to renew the lease of the market hall to Mr Dooner for the next three years as from July 1913. Also debated at this meeting were the approval of plans for a new cinema theatre to be built at King Street, Brynmawr, for the Brynmawr Cinema Ltd.

In September 1913 Mr Dooner issued plans to the Brynmawr District Council for improved seating accommodation at the Market Hall Cinema, Brynmawr.

Council Debate on the Monopoly of the Hall.
On Wednesday 19th of May 1920, at a monthly meeting of the Brynmawr District Council at Trafalgar House, Brynmawr, Mr H. Jones (Chairman). Other members were as follows – Mr R. Evans; Mr F. Bailey; Mr G. Morgan; Mr H. Harris; Mr T. Jones; Mr D. Richards; Mr J. Bevan; Mr T. M. Jenkins; Mr T. B. Jones; Mr J. J. Quirk (Surveyor) and Mr D. Gibson Harris (Clerk); At this meeting a deputation from the town band attended to ask the use of the new market hall on a Sunday night for a sacred concert, at which the new instruments purchased would be presented to the band.

The Debate – The deputation also wanted the use of the market hall on more than one occasion for holding a series of meetings for a dramatic performance competition, in order to wipe off the debt owing on the new instruments. It was stated that the use of a Sunday night was out of the question as they had a standing order that only allowed the Memorial Committee use of the new market hall on a Sunday. Mr Morgan wanted to rescind the Memorial Committee’s use of the hall on a Sunday and give that night to the people of Brynmawr. Mr T. Jones said he would rather see Mr Dooner go and let the townspeople have the monopoly of the market hall. Mr Morgan queried how many nights could be taken from Mr Dooner, Mr T. M. Jenkins said the council were honour bound to Mr Dooner and must be fair to him. Mr T. B. Jones stated if the band wants the market hall they must book up and pay like everyone else according to the rule. It was decided by the chairman’s casting vote to carry on in the ordinary course. Mr Dooner kept his long-term lease.

During the Great War 1914-1918, Mr Richard Dooner was advertised as having other cinema house establishments, one at Maesteg and one at the Coliseum, Abergavenny. At this time Mr Dooner, besides holding the lease at the new market hall also applied for a license to show films at the old Skating Rink Brynmawr. There was a long-protracted court case that took many years which resulted in the application being granted to him, though I cannot find any later information on this or even if he actually set up a picture house in the old rink? I will put the details on here in a skating rink section at a later date.

The Later Years.
Between 1923 and 1948 it seems that a Mr J. Fred Phillips held the lease of the new Market Hall, Brynmawr. A few reports of license renewals were in his name. Mr Phillips also held the lease to the Cozy Cinema between 1924 and 1958.

The First Dog Show.
On Wednesday 23rd of March 1927, the first annual members show under the auspices of the Brynmawr and District Canine Society was held at the Market Hall, Brynmawr. The officials were as follows – Major E. H. Gunn (Judge); Mr W. Weeks (President); Mr A. White (Chairman and Show Manager); Mr T. James (Vice-Chairman); Mr S. Smith (Treasurer); Mr Charles White (Assistant Secretary); Mr D. W. Thomas (Hon Secretary); Capt. J. Pugh (Hon Veterinary Surgeon); Mr David Thomas (Hon Solicitor); Mr W. Nuth (Hon Auctioneer): The committee were as follows – Messrs J. Jones; G. Jones; J. C. Davies; J. Lloyd; D. J. Powell; D. J. Evans; R. Jeremy; J. Shuker; T. A. Palmer; G. Edwards and A. Brest:

Many people took part on the day of the dog show at Brynmawr and the list of dogs on show and competitors is too large to transcribe in this report, though if anyone wants to know any winners’ names or other details etc please ask.

On Monday 28th of September 1931, at the Brynmawr Police Court before Mr J. Bloor (Chairman); Mrs R. Woods and Mr J. Downey an application by Mr W. A. Jones of the council for a Cinema License was made in respect to the Market Hall, Brynmawr. Mr Jones said the district council were going to make further alterations at the hall, including the provision of new dressing rooms and lavatories. The scheme would cost between £400 and £600. The application was granted.

On Monday 10th of October 1932, at the Brynmawr Police Court before Mr J. Bloor (Chairman); Mrs R. H. Woods; Mr Seth Puddle; Mr Richard Davies and Mr John Jones. Mr W. A. Jones of the council made an application for the renewal of the Theatrical License in respect of the market hall, Brynmawr. The application was granted. Mr Jones stated at the next court he would make an application under the Sunday Entertainments Act in respect of the same market hall.

On Monday 7th of November 1932, at the Brynmawr Police Court before Mr J. Bloor (Chairman); Mrs R. H. Woods; Mr Dennis Smith and Mr John Jones. Mr W. A. Jones made an application under section 3 of the Sunday Entertainments Act 1932, for a license in respect of Sunday for the Market Hall, Brynmawr. He told the bench he could not proceed with it that day as he wanted first of all to disabuse the minds of those who might think there was an intention of having cinematograph performances on Sunday’s. The act was discussed at length. It was told of how Mr Phillips had the lease of the market hall but had not used it on Sundays and alternate Wednesdays. It was stated the council reserved the right to those days. The bench told Mr Jones to remove the name of Phillips from the application and replace it with Mr Short, the clerk of the council or some other official.

The Later Years.
At present, the Market Hall is still in use and houses a cinema, it is thought to be the oldest cinema venue in Wales still in use today.


Notes of Interest – Mr James Dooner & Son were Travelling Showmen and Public Amusement Caterers. Mr James Dooner was born in Manchester, Lancashire in 1847. He was a musician by trade and travelling showman. Mr Dooner married Miss Elizabeth Hancock in June 1870 at Wrexham, they travelled the length and breadth of the United Kingdom in their occupation. Mr James Dooner and family visited Brynmawr in March 1902, one of his drivers accidentally ran over a dog and he was taken to court at Tredegar by the dog’s owner Mr D. M. Davies of King Street, Brynmawr. Mr James Dooner sadly passed away in June 1910 and his son Richard Dooner became the head.

Mr Richard Dooner.
Mr Richard Dooner was born in Nottingham in 1871. In 1906 whilst at Brynmawr, Mr Richard Dooner married Miss Ellen (Nellie) Sarah Wadbrooke, a fellow travelling show girl and daughter of Messrs Wadbrook’s, Public Amusement Caterers who were at Brynmawr during the Witsun Fair. The wedding took place at the Holy Trinity Church, Nantyglo and later at the Griffin Hotel. Messrs Wadbrook announced that the wedding gifts received by family and guests to the amount of £500 was on show to the public at their establishment. The value of £500 in 1906 is equivalent to about £56,000 in today’s money.

Messrs Wadbrook.
Messrs Wadbrook’s Amusement Caterers came to Risca in May 1890, they were advertised as Wadbrook’s Ghost Illusion, they travelled with Edmonds Menagerie and Messrs Fossett’s Circus.

Mr William Haggar.
Mr William Haggar was born in Dedham, Essex in 1851. Mr Haggar married Miss Sarah Hemming in 1871. They had eleven children – William Haggar Jnr, born 1871; Frederick Haggar, born 1873; George Haggar, born 1875; Ellen Elizabeth Haggar, born 1877; James Haggar, born 1879; Walter Haggar, born 1880; Archibald Haggar, born 1882; Rose Haggar, born 1885; Violet Haggar, born 1887; Henry Haggar, born 1889 and Lily May Haggar born 1891: The family travelled the country with their Bioscope Show. Mrs Sarah Haggar sadly passed away while at Carmarthen in August 1909. Mr William Haggar kept on travelling with his daughter Lilly Haggar and later retired at Aberdare, South Wales.

Mr Walter Haggar.
Mr Walter Haggar, was the son on William Haggar, born in Burnley, Lancashire in 1881. Mr Walter Haggar married Miss Ada Roberts in 1906 and went out on his own account with their travelling Bioscope Show.

Brynmawr Train Station.
While researching the history of the new Market Hall, Brynmawr I found this interesting bit of information. On Easter Monday, 26th of March 1894, it was reported in the South Wales Gazette – At Brynmawr there was a complete exodus of inhabitants by train to the Abergavenny Eisteddfod and the Hereford Races. There were 3,850 passengers booked from Brynmawr Railway Station to those places. By contrast there was a large influx of people who preferred a quiet health resort in the Clydach Valley which was said to have been thronged with visitors.

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