Aberaman Hall Institute and Free Library

Some outstanding dates in its History and Development

1892    Aberaman Public Hall Co. Formed shares taken; the attempt failed.

1902    Sept 30th Public meeting at Saron Chapel. Resolved to take steps to erect a Public Hall Institute and Free Library.

1902    Mr. Carnegie’s Offer. A public meeting was convened at Saron Hall on Tuesday evening to consider the offer of £ 1,000 by Mr. Carnegie for the purpose of erecting a Free Library at Aberaman. Councillor John Howell occupied the chair. In opening the meeting, the Chairman said that Aberaman would have to pay the rate whether they went in for a library or not, so why should not they decide to erect such a building. He felt strongly in favour of erecting a library and hall combined. Once they entered upon the matter, he thought that the tradesmen of the district would contribute generously towards such a splendid object as a Free Library. On the motion of the Rev. H. P. Jenkins seconded by Mr. James Phillips, a unanimous vote of thanks to Mr. Carnegie for the offer was passed, and to Mr. D. A. Thomas, M.P., for his efforts in obtaining the offer. Mr. T. Davies then moved that they accept the offer. Mr. W. W. Price seconded, which was unanimously carried. On the  motion of Mr. Morgan Parr, eleven persons were appointed to act as a working committee to choose a site, &c.

1902    Oct 21st Public Meeting voted upon suggested sites; Committee increased to 21.

1903    Nov 9th Part of premises of old Aberaman Reading Institute “No. the site of the Aberaman Public Hall Institute”. Taken over, and opened as a temporary Free Library.
Nov 20th, 300 Printed Appeals issued for a Building Fund’.

1904    April 14th. Subscriptions promised £1,830.
October 1st Aberaman Colliery Workmen commenced making contributions.

Judge Gwilym Williams

Judge Gwilym Williams

1905    Feb 12, Judge Gwilym Williams delivered a lecture “Do Your Duty,” profit £15.16s 9d.
March 6th, the whole of old “Reading Institute” taken over, with its billiards table.
July 28th, Freehold site bought for £413.
August, Trustees of Aberaman British School gave £306. 3s 4d.

1906    Feb 3rd, Treaman Colliery Workmen commenced paying contributions.
March 21st, after negotiations with the Cwmaman Hall Committee the contributions of Cwmneol and those of Fforchaman Colliery commenced being received.

1907    April 16th, Contract let to Messrs’ John Morgan and Son, for £7,398 18s 4d. “This did not include the interior of the Institute and Free Library”.
Oct 2nd. Foundation stones were laid by Messrs’ T. L. Davies, on behalf of (Mr J. Shaw Esq.) E. M. Hann “Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Limited”, Mrs G. G. Hann, and Mr Benjamin Jones    “High Constable”, another on behalf of the Committee by Messrs’ John Howell J. H. Powell, Evan Jones and W. W. Price.

1908    Dec 21st, Large Hall opened with a week’s performance of “The Mikado” by the Aberaman Operatic Society, Conductor Mr E. R. Baker. Profit £192 11s 3d.

1909    Large Hall, leased to Mr A. J. Withers
Billposting Business and Advertising commenced.
June 14th, formal opening ceremony of the Hall Institute and Free Library by Mr Keir Hardie, M.P. assisted by Mr D.  A. Thomas, M.P. (Viscount Rhondda).
Illuminated address presented to the Hon. Sec., Mr W.W. Price.
Nov 1st, “Yeoman of the Guard” by the Aberaman Operatic Soc. Profit of £69 2s 7d.

Mr D. A. Thomas, M.P

Mr D. A. Thomas, M.P

1910    April 7th, Supper, completion of the building, Addresses:  J. H. Powell “Solicitor, Lewis St”, presented to Joseph Martin “mechanical engineer”
October 17th, 1st Annual Eisteddfod held, profit; £66 7s 7d, “cost of building, furniture, equipment, &c, to date £10,892 0s 6d.

1911    Oct 16th, 2nd Annual Eisteddfod, profit £16 13s 0d.

1911    Sept 17th to Dec 24th, Pleasant Sunday Evening Concerts, with Films with 1st Class Artistes.

1912    Alterations and additions, “P.S.E” concerts continued.

1913    Spring, Mountain Ash Billposting and Advertising Co. bought.
Aug, Aberaman Institute Choral Soc., under Mr T. Glyndwr Richards competed at Abergavenny National Eisteddfod.

1914    Aberaman Institute Choral Soc. Conducted by Mr W. J. Evans Concert Oct 22nd, profit £33     10s 1d. Sent to Belgium Trades Union.

1915    Subsidence caused considerable damage.

1917/18    War Heroes Fund formed.

1918/19    Holiday Fund formed.
Oct 1st, Aberdare Billposting and Advertising Co. bought.

1921    Dec 23rd Freehold site of Aberaman Welfare Hall bought £500.

1923    Aug 9th, Assignment of leasehold Aberaman Welfare Hall bought £2500.

1924    Reconstruction and alterations £3756 17s 0d. of Do.
A grant from the Miners Welfare Fund £8000.
August 27th, the freehold of adjoining property bought £480.

1927    Messrs’ Powell Dyffryn Co. Official is appointed by the company and welcomed to the committee.

1931    Oct 28th, Additional freehold land at the back of the hall bought for £40.

Aberaman Hall & Institute 1910

Aberaman Hall & Institute 1910

1932    13th February, New Theatre Annexe officially opened and the theatre after extensive, reconstruction.

1933    Oct 18th, Lease of the hall to the Aberaman Cinema Company the first officials of the committee were:

Chairman    Councillor John Howell, Greenhill
Vice-chairman    Mr James Phillips, Belmont Terrace
Hon. Treasurer     Mr J. H. Powell, London House “Haberdashery Stores” Lewis Street, Aberaman
Hon. Secretary     Mr W. W. Price, Bryn Cottage, Hill Street.

During 1902, 21 committeemen were appointed, they were in addition to the officials mentioned:

Rev. Morgan Powell B.A. Vicar of Aberaman.
Rev. H. P. Jenkins Pastor of Saron
Mr Evan Jones, Nantgwawr, Sec. Cwmbach-Aberaman Cooperative Society.
Mr Edward Howells, Sec Aberaman Colliery, Federation “Griffin Inn”
Mr Illtyd Hopkins, Checkweigher Aberaman Colliery
Mr William Collier, Davis Street
Mr Thomas Bowen, Brook St, Treasurer Aberaman Colliery Federation.
Mr William Williams, Pleasant View
Mr Thomas Ellis, Jubilee Road.
Mr Inspector J. Evans, Police Station
Mr Josiah Hawke, Cardiff Road
Mr John Williams, Rock Inn
Mr Vere Rogers, Wyndham Crescent
Mr William A. Davies, Tudor Terrace
Mr Morgan Parr, Newsagent
Mr Thomas Williams, Hill Street
Mr John Jones, Cardiff Rd (Railway)

Additions to the committee in 1903:

Mr Morgan Thomas
Mr John Davies (Pendar)
Ben Evans
Edwin Perkins
Mr Ben Jones High Constable

First Aberaman Institute and Library 1903

First Aberaman Institute and Library 1903 (Picture Courtesy RCTCB)

1902    Aberaman Institute and Pressmen

Efforts were again made on Wednesday to exclude pressmen from a meeting of the members of the Aberaman Workmen’s institute. The matter was, however, put to the meeting and it was decided at once that such a course should be adopted. Why certain people should object to the presence of a newspaper representative, I fail to understand. Many people were members of the institute, who, perhaps, for some reason, we’re unable to attend, and these, surely, have the right to know what transpired there. Where do they seek that information but in the newspapers? I suggest that had a responsible newspaper representative been allowed to attend the first two meetings held by the members of the institute, they would have had no cause to complain of any exaggerations of reports.

It is absurd to think that by barring the pressman what is said at meetings such as these were will remain private. If a journalist is not at a place to gather the information himself, he will soon find someone who knows all about it and get it from him.

It’s History

As its name figures so prominently before the public; at the present moment, a little history will prove of interest. As far back as September 1912, a meeting was called at Saron Hall, Aberaman, to decide whether Mr Carnegie offer of £1,000 towards the building of a library should be accepted. It was decided to do so but on Mr Carnegie learning that it was proposed also to build together with a library, both and institute and a public hall, he withdrew is offer. Mr Edward Howells, acting as secretary, steps were taken to secure land, but nothing was done.

Then in September 1913, at a meeting held at the (‘Ysgoldy Saron,’ “Saron Schoolhouse”), Mr Howells resigned, and Mr W. W. Price was appointed secretary. Mr Ben Jones offered £100 and the same amount was subscribed by Mr D. A. Thomas. A new committee was elected and renewed efforts were made to secure land and to obtain the support of the business people, the colliery companies and others, who might possibly render financial aid to the movement. Interviews took place with colliery companies and general meetings of colliery workers decided to support the movement financially. Some £2,000 were obtained from donations, including £306 from the old Aberaman British School Committee, In 1908 the Hall, as such was opened during Christmas week and the institute was opened in June 1908 by Mr Kier Hardie and Mr D. A. Thomas (later Viscount Rhondda).

Saron Schoolhouse

Saron Schoolhouse (Picture courtesy of RCTCBC)

Aberdare Leader 10th November 1903

The subscriptions fund for the new hall and library has amounted to about £1760; the colliery managers, as well as the schoolmasters of the surrounding districts, have kindly consented to assist the committee in soliciting donations. The workmen of Aberaman Colliery as their next meeting will discuss as to how they will support the movement, and soon afterwards the neighbouring colliery workmen will be appealed to.

The following have subscribed since the last report appeared in the press:

Mr Evan Owen, Cardiff £5   5s    0d
Mr J. Williams, Rock Inn £5   5s    0d
Mr E. Jones, Co-operative Stores £5   5s    0d
Mr Hann J.P. £3   3s    0d
Mr J. Lewis, Grocer £2   2s    0d
Mr W. Owens, Confectioner £1   1s    0d
Mr E. D. Lewis, Grocer £1   1s    0d
Mr G. Durbin, Fruiterer £1   1s    0d
Mrs Walker, Oakwood House £1   1s    0d
Mr T. Walker, Oakwood House £0   10s  6d
Mr Williams, Harrow Inn £0   10s   6d
Mr Maddy, Grocer £0   10s   6d
Mr Dl. Jones, Butcher £0   10s   0d
Mr Lewis Newsagent £0   5s    6d
Mr Jarman, Cycle maker £0   5s    0d
Mr B. Jones, Mason £0   5s    0d

Several smaller sums

Aberaman Public Hall and Free Library 1903 Nov 10th

Since the last notice appeared in the Aberdare Leader, the proposed alterations to be done at the Aberaman Institute have been well executed by Mr Wilkins and the two rooms have been taken over by the Public Committee so that the public is now free to enter.

The work of providing for the lighting of the rooms has been given to Mr Iles, Plumber, while Mr Collier will supply the additional necessary furniture. In about a fortnight the committee hopes to have everything completed so that the reading public can enter and sit to read in comfortable and convenient rooms.

The Subscription Fund for providing a suitable Hall and Library is steadily growing. Up to Nov 10th, the fund amounts to a large total of £1,657. With such a good start the good work must go on.

Among the subscribers who have not been previously acknowledged in the press was:

Mr R. Rees, Ynyslwyd Cottage £5   5s    0d
Dr Tinney £5   0s    0d
Mr W. T. Roberts, Schoolmaster £2   2s    0d
Mr J. A. Williams, Schoolmaster £2   2s    0d
Mr W. W. Price Hon. Sec. £2   0s    0d
Mr W. B. Phillips, Schoolmaster £1   1s    0d
Mr Hill, Confectioner £1   1s    0d
Mr Hawke £1   1s    0d
Rev. H. P. Jenkins (Saron Chapel) £1   1s    0d
Mr S. Robins £1   0s    0d
Mr T. Howells, Printer £1   0s    0d
Mr T. Rees, Plough Inn £1   0s    0d
Mr G. E. Harris £1   0s    0d
Mr P. D. Rees £1   0s    0d
Mr Hughes, Surveyor £0   10s   6d
Mr Jones, Lampeter Stores £0   10s   6d
Mr J.D. Williams, Assist Master £0   10s   6d
Mr T. Lavender £0   10s   0d
Mr W. R. Powell, Cardiff Road £0   10s   0d

A few others have subscribed smaller amounts. Mr Keast, Schoolmaster, also kindly promised £2 2s towards the movement if the attempt to get a Hall at Cwmbach falls through.

A Great Day at Aberaman 5th October 1907
Laying Foundation Stones if the New Public Hall Institute and Library

The people of Aberaman turned out in large crowds to witness the ceremony of laying the foundations stones at the above building on Wednesday afternoon. The village had been decorated with flags and bunting of every description and some of the collieries left off work at an early hour to witness the event.

A procession was started at 4 o’clock from the Oaklands, the residence of E. M. Hann Esq., which was headed by the Aberaman Silver Band under the conductorship of Mr R. S. Howells. There were present: Councillor John Howell, chairman of the committee; Mr James Phillips, vice-chairman; Mr W. W. Price hon. secretary; Mr Evan Jones, trustee and the committeemen.

An open landau followed in which was Mr E. M. Hann, Esq., G. G. Hann Esq., and Mesdames E. M. and G. G. Hann.

The procession rounded through Cardiff Road and Lewis Street, and thence back to the Public Hall, where the ceremony occurred.

Mr John Howell, Greenfield, presided and delivered an excellent opening speech. He remarked that they had been wishing for such an institution for the last 40 years. He heartily thanked the committee for their strenuous efforts in connection with this Institution and said that great credit was due to the workmen and their representatives. He hoped that they would have further help of the tradespeople, in general, to bring the project to a successful end. He then called upon Mrs G. G. Hann, Llettyshenkin House, to lay the first foundation stone on the building, and a beautifully inscribed silver trowel was presented to this lady by Mr James Phillips on behalf of the committee. Mrs Hann gracefully performed the ceremony and the stone was declared to be “truly laid.” Mr E. M. Hann was called upon to lay the next foundation stone, and he was presented with a similarly inscribed trowel by Mrs Evan Jones, Nantgwawr House.

After the ceremony was performed Mr Hann addressed the audience, in the absence of Mr Shaw of London, the chairman of Powell Duffryn Company Ltd. Mr T. L. Davies manager of the Aberaman and Cwmaman Collieries was deputised to lay the next foundation stone. He emphasised the need for such an institution in Aberaman and said that it would undoubtedly prove to be a boon and a blessing to the place. He was presented with an inscribed silver trowel by Mrs J. H. Powell, Danygraig, Aberdare. Next came the laying of a foundation stone by Benjamin Jones, ex-high Constable, who was presented with a trowel by Mrs Thomas Roderick architect. Finally came the laying of the fifth foundation stone by the following officers of the committee:

Chairman: Mr J. H. Powell Danygraig.
Treasurer: Mr Evan Jones Nantgwawr House, Trustee
Mr W. W. Price: the hon. secretary.

Each was presented with an inscribed silver trowel by Mrs Rev. H. P. Jenkins, Miss Williams “Rock Inn”, Miss Edwards “Bute Arms” and Mrs Jenkins “The Emporium”, respectively.
The Rev H. P. Jenkins, Saron, then delivered a few words and invoked the blessing of God in prayer upon the building.

Aberaman En Fete June 14th, 1909
Workmen’s Hall Equipment
Library and Swimming Baths
Opening Ceremony Speeches

Aberaman was en fete on Monday on the occasion of the opening of the library, reading-room and swimming baths in the new Workmen’s Hall and Institute. The theatre, on the upper-storey of the building, was opened in December last; bit the lower portion of the hall has only been recently completed.

A procession was formed at Aberdare to conduct Mr J. Keir Hardie M.P., who had been selected to perform the ceremony to Aberaman and headed by the Aberaman Brass Band, the Hon, member was driven to the scene in a landau, being accompanied by Mr D. A. Thomas the senior member for the borough, this being the latter’s first appearance in the borough since is a recent severe illness. Mr W. Thomas High Constable of Aberdare who wore his chain of office and Mr C. B. Stanton, miner’s agent, also accompanied seats in the landau. The rear of the procession was brought up by the Cwmaman Brass Band.

At the hall the Hon. Members were received by Mr T. Roderick, Clifton Street, Aberdare, the architect for the building, and Mr T. Roderick, the managing director of Messrs’ John Morgan and Sons Limited, the builders. Councillor T. Bowen the chairman of the Hall Committee, called upon Mr T. Roderick to present Mr J. Keir Hardie, M.P., with a gold key with which to open the hall. The key bore the following inscription: –

“Presented to Mr J. Keir Hardie, Esq., M.P. on the opening of the Aberaman Public Hall and Library, 14th June 1903.”

Mr Keir Hardie having given thanks for the memento, congratulated the people of Aberaman upon securing such a magnificent building and the committee and their secretary, Mr W. W. Price, upon the devotion with which they had carried out the project to a successful issue. He called three cheers for the committee and the secretary and these were given.

The Hon. Member opened the door and the committee accompanied by their guests passes into the building. The upper storey is used as a public hall and theatre, while the ground floor consists of a lesser hall with seating accommodation for 300, a reading room, a reference library, a lending library, which is already well filled with books, ladies reading room and library. Below are swimming baths, together with some committee-rooms, billiard-rooms, boy’s billiard-rooms, game rooms, and committee-rooms. The whole building is fitted up with electric light, and the heating of the building has been successfully carried out by Messrs’ Hampton and Co., engineers, Cardiff, on the low-pressure steam system. The steam was supplied from a high-pressure boiler which also serves to warm the swimming bath.

The inspection of the building over, a public meeting was held in the theatre, Councillor T. Bowen, who presided, said he was proud to see the platform their two members, Mr D. A. Thomas and Mr. J. Keir Hardie. They were all glad to find that Mr Thomas had so far recovered from his recent illness as to be able to be present and they were deeply indebted to him for the sacrifice he had made to come that day. Though their members differed to some extent in politics they were both united in congratulating Aberaman upon securing that noble institution, which would be a centre of moral and intellectual progress. They had already secured in that hall a course of Gilchrist Lectures
“It was established under the will of John Borthwick Gilchrist, who died in 1841, for the advancement of education worldwide; after lengthy litigation, it, actually began operating in 1865. It also established a series of Gilchrist Lectures, given in industrial locations, in 1867 (until 1939)” and they had also during the last six months had an exhibition of the drama, the opera and variety entertainment which he submitted were doing much to broaden life; and in the library, below they were providing for the intellectual and moral improvement of the people.

A duet by the National Eisteddfod veterans, Gwyn Alaw and Mr John Lake, followed after which letters of regret for inability to be present were read from Lord Aberdare and others, and the secretary read a list of subscriptions towards the building fund, including £250 from the Powell Duffryn Co., £100 from Mr D. A. Thomas M.P., £50.00 Mr E. M. Hann J.P.

Aberaman Hall

Aberaman Hall (Picture courtesy of RCTCBC)        

Mr D. A. Thomas M.P.

Mr D. A. Thomas M.P. (later Viscount Rhondda), who was received with acclamation, thanked them all, and all his friends in the borough, for the kindness and indulgence they had shown him during his illness and he would have to claim ab extension of indulgence. Fortunately, however, for himself and his constituents, they had in Mr Keir Hardie one able to do the work of two and he had kindly undertaken to do whatever he could to his “Mr D. A. Thomas’s” behalf during his absence from the House. If they were not exactly of the same political views, he could assure them he was very proud of his colleague and they had reason to be proud of him likewise. In these days it was well to have in the House such a man as Mr Keir Hardie, for they had very few men in the House of Commons of the independence and sincerity of Mr Keir Hardie. That was a red-letter day in the history of Aberaman, and he thanked them for the invitation to be present. He congratulated them on the possession of that hall and hoped it would prove a great success.

Mr C. B. Stanton, M.P.

Mr C. B. Stanton, M.P.

Mr C. B. Stanton, M.P.

Mr C. B. Stanton, miner’s agent, Aberdare having spoken, Mr James Phillips and Councillor Illtyd Hopkins, on behalf of the committee, presented the secretary, Mr W. W. Price with an illuminated address in recognition of his services, this Mr Price suitably acknowledged.

Mr Keir Hardie, M.P.

Mr J. Keir Hardie M.P.

Mr J. Keir Hardie M.P.

Mr J. Keir Hardie M.P., who was received with rousing cheers, after a brief reference to the building, said he was glad that his colleague, Mr D.A. Thomas had been able to grace the ceremony with his presence. Mr Thomas had told them that ‘Keir Hardie’ had offered to do what he could for him during his illness, but he was not sure that, he had, the ability to fill Mr Thomas’s place. He was sure, however of his willingness to do so, and as one who had some experience of a severe illness, he hoped Mr Thomas would not rush back too soon to the thick of the fray. Mr Keir Hardie passed on to advocate the use of baths not only by footballers after their matches but also by colliers and he expressed a hope that some of the colliery owners in the district would follow the example of the German owners and erect pit head baths.

He was glad to find a reading-room for ladies in that building and he hoped in time they would have a room set apart, a large, light, roomy one, where ladies might come to sew, to knit and have a cup of tea together- a clubroom where they could gossip and work and get free for a time from the irksome narrow restriction of the cottage home life. Before very long the women would be their masters (Laughter and a cry, “They are now”). He knew they were in domestic life, but when the women obtained the vote and that would not be long hence, they would be the masters politically, for there were 1,500,000 more women than men in this country and it behoved them in time to educate their masters.

The Hon. member then referred to the fact that today a working collier was the Major of Merthyr and a working collier the chairman of the Aberdare District Council and he urged the young people in that neighbourhood to educate and equip themselves for such positions. Education was progressing; their schools were better built and better equipped and soon would be better staffed with smaller classes and more and more efficient teachers.

Mr W. Thomas high constable of Aberdare also spoke.

Mr Tom Bowen, Mount Hills, speaking on behalf of the workmen, moved a hearty vote of thanks to the ladies and gentlemen who had kindly taken part in the function that day. He felt sure that their institution would be appreciated to the fullest extent and that it would prove a benefit to the workmen both socially, morally and intellectually.

Mr Edward Howells seconded and said that the building ought to have been on existence long ago, but it nevertheless “better late than never.”

Amongst the other gentlemen who were present on the platform were:

Rev. J. T.  Rhys, Bethany
Mr W. T. Howell (Solicitor for the Trustees of the Institute)
Mr Thomas Roderick Architect
Mr G. G. Hann
Mr Thos. Roderick, Accountant
Mr David Davies, Foreman
Messrs’ Gwilym Davies and J. E. Davies of John Morgan and Son Ltd, the contractors.
Councillor J.H. James
T. Roberts Grocer

Other ladies who have not been mention were, Mrs E. M. Hann, Mrs T. L. Davies, Miss Hastie, and Miss Edwards, governess.

The building when completed will measure 101 feet long and 66 feet wide. The hall itself will have seating accommodation for 1,800 people, and there will be also a library, reading rooms, committee rooms, recreation rooms and swimming baths. The frontage, it is said will be one of the finest of any public buildings throughout South Wales.

Immediately after the ceremony, the company repaired to Saron Hall, where a public meeting was held, and Councillor John Howell again presided. He was supported on the platform by Councillors E. M. Hann, Illtyd Hopkins, E. Stonelake, Messrs’ J. H. Powell, T. L. Davies, Evan Jones, Jas. Phillips, Revs. H. P. Jenkins and J. T. Rhys, Messrs’ W. T. Howell, Thomas Roderick, architect, W. W. Price and the committee.

Mr Gwilym Phillips opened the meeting with a splendid rendering of “A Soldier’s Life”, Councillor Illtyd Hopkins remarked that he was pleased to see Mr and Mrs E. M. Hann, Mr and Mrs G. G. Hann and Mr and Mrs T. L. Davies present at the meeting. When he generally met the above gentlemen, it was in their official capacity as representatives of P.D. Co. “Powell Duffryn” and as a rule, it was to rectify differences. Tonight, however, it was upon a platform which was common to all. Guardian Augustus Davies said that after a great many trials they had succeeded in making the Public Hall at Aberaman an accomplished fact. It would make the people 30 or 40 per cent more advanced in general knowledge than they were before.

Mr James Phillips followed and related how many unsuccessful attempts to erect a Hall had been made within the last 27 years and the events of this day had made it the happiest day in his life. Mr W. W. Price hon., secretary read a letter of apology from the following for their absence: Mr A. P. Jones High Constable, Mr D. A. Thomas M.P., Mr Evan Owen, Cardiff, who had sent a cheque for £5 5s; Mr C. B. Stanton (telegram); Mr W. T. Rees, Maesyffynon and Mrs J. Howell, Greenhill, Mrs G. G. Hann had sent a contribution of £10 by letter also.

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