The Empress Hall

The Empress Skating Rink.
The Empress Hall, Carlyle Street, Abertillery was originally constructed as a Roller Skating Rink.

In November 1909 Mr Arthur Tilney proprietor of the Pavilion Theatre, Abertillery expended a great deal of money in having the Empress Skating Rink erected. At this time there was a trend for roller skating in Abertillery and many large public buildings converted their floor space to accommodate for the activity of skating though Mr Tilney wanted a specially built rink for skating alone.

The following buildings provided temporary skating rinks at this time – The Metropole, the Pavilion, the Alexandra Rink (originally built for skating at Alexandra Road, Six Bells) and the Colliers Hall, Cwmtillery. 

The Official Opening.
On Wednesday 17th November 1909 the Empress Hall Skating Rink was officially opened. The South Wales Gazette reported that a large number of skaters, some of whom arrived by motor car and some by train from other towns. The rink was decorated in green, cream and crimson, it had a refreshment bar and cloakroom for ladies and gentlemen. All staff were dressed in uniform and Mr Tilney had employed an experienced rink master who kept time and directed the movement of the skaters.

Description of the Building.
The Empress Skating Rink was built on Mr Tilney’s ground, situated close to the Pavilion Theatre and described as being on the flattest and most stable ground in Abertillery. The building was 5,000′ square feet, it had maple flooring 65′ feet by 62′ feet square, laid on a foundation of brick with a felt material underlay, making it almost silent while skating. It was fitted with heating apparatus not only for heating but for also drying the air keeping the maple flooring stable and for a healthy environment inside the rink. The colour schem at the Empress Rink was as stated above, green, cream and crimson.

The lighting was by generator and the sanitary arrangements were on the French design, ventilated by gaps in the bottom of the walls allowing clean ventilated air-flow to dispel any obnoxious odours. The fire exits were onto the road were two separate doors each 8 foot wide.  An instructor was provided and gave instruction on skating at a rate of 2s. per hour for plain skating and 4s. per hour for fancy skating. The rink had a music license with a band, it was open for four sessions per day and closed at 10.30pm. 

In February 1910, Mr A. Tilney applied for and was granted a dancing license at the Empress Skating Rink. Mr Peter McWhirter at the Alexandra Rink, Six Bells was also granted a license.

The Roller Hockey League.
In September 1910, the activity of roller skating in the valley’s must have really taken off, as an indoor Hockey League was set up. Teams from Brynmawr, Blaenavon, Abertillery, Risca, Pontllanfraith and Bargoed entered. One match took place at the Empress Skating Rink between the Empress and the Alexandra Rink, Six Bells, the teams were – Empress team, Goal – Mr A.White; Back – Mr B. Brittle; Centre – Mr R. Hall; Wings – Mr A. Carter and Mr W. Brown:   Alexandra team, Goal – Mr S. Simkins; Back – Mr S. Rees; Centre – Mr E. Ackland; Wings – Mr E. Nicholas and Mr R. Thomas:  Referee was Mr A. L. Cranch (Photographer): The Alexandra team won 4 goals to 2.

After September 1910 there was no mention of any more Abertillery teams playing in this league and it seems the roller skating trend started dying out. The Empress under the ownership of Mr Tilney had to move with the rapid change in entertainment, at this time the electric motion pictures were beginning, Mr Tilney being a visionary was quick to move with the latest trends, he renovated the building into a picture house and renamed it the Empress Hall, Abertillery.

The Empress Hall Picture House.
In December 1910 it was announced that the Empress Hall was to open with continuous picture entertainment. The official opening of the building on becoming a “Picture House” was Boxing Day, 26th December 1910 at 4.00pm. Prices were 2d. 3d. 6d. It also had the added novelty as you could come and go as you please. In later reports the building was known as the Empress Picture Hall.

The Later Years.
It later closed as a Picture Hall in the 1950’s-60’s and turned into a Factory, later Garage Showrooms and was demolished in the late 1980’s to make way for the A467 by-pass .  

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