Bargoed is a typical small market town in the South Eastern Valleys, nestled between Blackwood and Tredegar. Although small, Bargoed's catchment area is considerable and the town centre served as a main shopping and entertainment source for many surroundings villages.

Coal mining started in the area during 1903 and as is common with many towns in this region the industry brought wealth and pollution to Bargoed. A good selection of shops together with a choice of cinemas in the town combined to make the town centre a viable community asset with several pubs and clubs adding to the choices for leisure time outside the working environment.

With the decline of the local industry Bargoed has suffered more so than a great deal of the towns throughout the region. In recent years the local authority has regenerated the towns shopping area in an effort to attract shoppers from the surrounding villages and larger towns. The regeneration remains a work in progress, a much needed supermarket chain has built a large new store near to the town centre while the Odeon chain has built a new multiplex cinema close to the new supermarket, together these new businesses are seen as the key to getting a better footfall into this once thriving town. The supermarket eventually opened in late 2014. The planned multiplex cinema has fallen behind schedule and has been subject to opposition due to increasing costs, with the local authority liable to cover the increased costs through tax payers money. The project is in trouble at the moment.
The Electric Palace cinema was opened in 1910, on the 4th November, by William Haggar, an Englishman and to many a pioneer of British film making. Haggar moved to Wales with his family and alongside film making he had business interests in building cinemas in towns, recognising the public’s interest in film on screen after successes of running fairground mobile cinemas. The Electric Palace was built to screen films and live music hall shows, becoming a dedicated cinema a short while after opening. Originally seating 1,000 the seating configuration was altered a number of times ending with seating for 700 patrons.
Many of the Haggar cinemas were run by his sons and while they started as quality builds, often mostly timber, they soon fell into disrepair under the management of his sons, many of the cinemas were considered to be flea pits, even so they continued to run a number of cinemas under the Haggar name through until the early 1980s.

Most of the Haggar cinemas closed long before the 1980s, the Palace was an early casualty and in 1926 it was acquired by the uprising Jackson Withers Group, the group already operated the nearby Hanbury cinema and was busy acquiring cinemas throughout the valleys as it built its soon to be named Jackson Withers Circuit. 

Under the Jackson Withers Group the Palace continued for some years to show films in competition with or as a compliment to the Hanbury Cinema. The Palace was originally larger than the Hanbury, although it often looked much smaller once inside the auditorium. With cinemas declining the Jackson Withers Group, which had now become a Circuit switched to Bingo at the Palace during the late fifties or early sixties, and for unknown reasons the bingo hall was renamed the Cameo instead of the Palace. Bingo at the Cameo was a great success and the Cameo bingo club thrived for a good number of years with the Jackson Withers Circuit offering films at the Hanbury cinema further along the road and bingo in the old Palace cinema.
If you have fond memories of the Palace/Cameo/New Hall, or if you worked there and if you have any corrections to make concerning the above information. Please email us using the link on the Homepage.
Welcome to an affectionate appraisal and tribute to the cinemas that entertained us in the South Eastern industrial valleys of Wales.
UPDATED - 2013
Welcome to an affectionate appraisal and tribute to the cinemas that entertained us in the South Eastern industrial valleys of Wales.
UPDATED - 2015
Originally the Hanbury Electric Theatre, the venue was one of the early cinema successes serving the town, established before WW1 the cinema enjoyed great success with a mixed programme of silent movies accompanied by piano music plus live performances on the small stage. The cinema is thought to have officially opened in 1914 and was listed in the trade journals at this time. The original owner and operator is unknown. However, by 1924 the venue proprietor was listed as Mr Alfred Withers. Initially the venue seated 1460, within a small auditorium, suggesting that patrons would have been squeezed in pretty tight for performances.

In 1917 the operator of the Hanbury Electric Theatre was prosecuted in the local courts, after being found guilty for illegally showing films on a Sunday, Directors of the cinema, Mr Albert and Alfred Jackson Withers protested in court, to no avail, because Sunday cinema opening in Wales was illegal at this time.

Sound wasn’t installed at the hall until 1938, quite late, which is surprising because most cinemas in other valleys had installed sound by now. In 1951 the auditorium seating had been drastically reduced to a more comfortable 684, which was more suited to the dimensions of the auditorium. By the late 1950, disaster struck when a serious fire damaged a great deal of the original building. There are not many photographs of the cinema during its early years of operation, although those photographs that have been seen, show the cinema to be typical shed like venue, this was typical of many cinemas and theatres throughout the valleys during this era. The façade was unremarkable with few, if any features of interest.

The cinema was completely rebuilt in the late 1950s following the fire which damaged much of the original auditorium and foyer area. The new build provided a much more stable building with a proper brick built auditorium and foyer. The new cinema now seated a comfortable 731 patrons in the stalls and balcony. A GB Kalee sound system was installed and a Cinemascope screen installed with two performances daily. The newly rebuilt cinema opened as The Hanbury Cinema in late 1959 or early 1960, a modern cinema with a luxury feel. The Balcony boasted a popular foyer with large windows overlooking the square and bus hub just outside. 
A few years after reopening the Hanbury added a wooden signage display that ran the length of the decorative windows, the wooden signage enabled the cinema to advertise its current programme of main feature and support films, with florescent lighting to illuminate the display at night. The wooden signage partially covered the windows and positioned above the neon Hanbury name signage. With the square outside being the primary location for all bus stops advertising cinema attractions was important as it could be seen, night and day by the many bus passengers passing by. Either side of the entrance doors FOH stills were displayed in illuminated blue cabinets, with glass protecting the contents of the display.
The popular cinema continued to achieve good audiences through the 1950s and 1960s as the towns first run cinema, by the late 60s cinema audiences started to show a significant decline, this affected all towns throughout the valleys, Bargoed was no exception. While the smaller Hanbury was able to continue trading the larger competitors throughout the town had closed and switched to bingo. The cinema continued to be operated and programmed by the Jackson Wither’s Circuit who decided to switch from screening films and operating as a full time bingo club. This affected the other former cinema in the town, the Palace, which had become a bingo hall. The Palace bingo club could not compete with the Hanbury, where tempting syndicated price money was offered, and therefore closed. There was now a bingo club in town but no cinema. The New Hall/Palace once again became the town’s cinema and with a new name, see listing below.

The Hanbury bingo club eventually closed and the building stood empty for several years. In August 1990, plans were proposed by Brian Bull to re-open the Hanbury Cinema. At that time he was operating the Monico Cinema, the Monroe Cinema, both in Cardiff and the Theatre Royal Barry. The re-vamped Hanbury Cinema was due to open by Christmas 1990 and would replace the Cameo Cinema (former Palace Cinema). By 1980, the Cameo Cinema was still operating and the Hanbury Cinema had  now been closed. 

Sometime after the closure of the Hanbury bingo venue by the Rank Organisation, Brian Bull (Circle Cinemas), who was operating the towns Cameo cinema acquired the former Hanbury with plans to reopen the venue as an additional cinema, confident that the newly acquired venue could quickly be remodelled and returned to use as a second cinema in the town, Brian started to prepare the cinema with new façade features that included, a corrugated 1970s type false facade concealing the windows that looked out onto Hanbury Square from the foyer of the small balcony. Designed to give the cinema a cleaner and more modern façade appearance. at around the same time a readograph was installed and erected directly above the entrance of the old cinema together with some decorative neon lighting.

Unfortunately Brian Bull experienced difficulties with the local authority at the time and abandoned his plans for the new Hanbury cinema proposal. During the 1990s the cinema was advertised in Screen International for sale or lease. Some interest was expressed by a London based leisure organisation who planned to convert the Hanbury to a small studio cinema and ten pin bowling centre, these plans were abandoned when the local authority were found to be less than helpful.

The former cinema remained closed for many years following the initial façade improvements carried out by Brian Bull in preparation for his planed Hanbury cinema reopening and remains closed to this day.

Meanwhile, Bargoed town has received considerable financial funding by the European Community in partnership with the Welsh Assembly. This funding is provided to regenerate and modernise the town centre, restoring it to a retail and entertainment hub for local residents and those in surrounding towns.  The regeneration project included the building of a large supermarket and a multiplex cinema, all of which would be located just behind the original high street. Construction of the supermarket  was completed towards the end of 2014 and a operator has opened the supermarket. The multiplex cinema is under construction but has been the subject of concern due to increased costs that have required additional local authority funding.

Hanbury Square has been completely remodelled and is no longer the main terminus for the local bus services. Instead it is a garden square within a mostly pedestrianised area. The former Hanbury continues to overlook the square and is still for sale as a redevelopment site, with little, if any, evidence of redevelopment being agreed as part of the areas regeneration plans..

The New Hall Cinema was originally built in 1907 as a live performance venue called the Playhouse, contained within the establishment was a theatre hall, ballroom and a café. The venue was converted to a cinema sometime during the 1920’s and became the town’s first formal cinema and named the New Hall Cinema. Ownership transferred to the Hanbury, Palace and New Hall cinemas Ltd, which became part of the Jackson Wither’s circuit during the late forties. In addition to the venues public facilities the New Hall became the Headquarters of the early days of the Jackson Withers Circuits. 

The theatre hall originally seated 1,460 patrons in stalls and balcony, this was reduced slightly to 1,316 seats during the conversion from theatre to cinema. Known locally as the café cinema due to its included café, or the Playhouse picture house, the cinema was one of three during the heyday of cinemas in the valleys and throughout the UK. 

A major fire completely gutted the cinema, dance hall and café in 1958. Withers planned to rebuild the venue and continue to operate it as a third cinema in the town. By now there was evidence of audience dwindling for cinemas, Withers already operated the towns two other cinemas and decided not to proceed with his initial plans to rebuild. The whole building had to be demolished and the site was put up for sale, and swiftly acquired by F.W. Woolworth. A new Woolworth store opened on the site and proved to be very popular for many years. 

The Woolworth brand withdrew from the British retail market in 2009, with the Bargoed store being one of the first of the 807 Woolworth stores to close. A Original Factory Store now occupies the former Woolworth store.

The Palace offered considerably more seating than the Hanbury and with its more detailed interior and exterior it soon became a liability as repairs and operating costs were more costly than the less fussy Hanbury. The Jackson Withers Circuit abandoned all operations at the Palace and the building was put up for sale although remained unused and unsold for many years.

With the closure of the Cameo Bingo club at the former Palace picture house the Jackson Withers Circuit offered bingo on a number of nights at the Hanbury cinema with films showing a few nights a week when bingo was not played. Bingo continued to be a crowd puller even when switched to the Hanbury, it was decided to switch exclusively to bingo.  
The cinema continued for a number of years but closed for unknown reasons and a short time following closure the cinema was advertised for sale. The local authority purchased the former cinema and by 1998 the Cameo had been demolished and replaced with a modern three storey building housing local authority offices.
The former Electric Palace/ Cameo abandoned by Jackson Withers was acquired by Brian Bull who had considerable success in building a small independent chain of cinemas in Wales, mostly in the Cardiff area. Brian’s Circle Cinemas chain focused on venues acquired just outside of Cardiff City Centre.

Brian remodeled and refurbished the now former bingo hall of the old Palace with refurbished seating and a new screen. The auditorium walls were covered with fabric, which was common at that time to give a modern, luxury feel and look to the cinema. The Cameo opened as a cinema on December 26th 1973 with considerable success.