The village of Newbridge was established towards the end of the 18th century, a mostly farming community at the time around a new bridge that crossed the river Ebbw. With the arrival of coal mining during the 19th century, creating work and wealth, the population exploded with workers pouring into the area from other parts of Wales as well as England and continental Europe. Newbridge developed from a village to a vibrant town with thriving shops, pubs and an entertainment hall.

With mining vanishing throughout the valleys, the town struggled from the 1980s with the collapse of the once popular retail street and the once well attended pubs, clubs and Institute, times were stormy. More recently efforts have been put into place to develop the area, Nature has reclaimed the once derelict sites of coal mining and a train service was reintroduced in February 2008. Local boxer, Joe Calzaghe has put the town’s name back on the map through his interaction with the press and media.

MEMORIAL HALL CINEMA
High Street.
OPENED: 1924 CLOSED: 1972  SEATING CAPACITY: 1,000 OPERATOR: CELYNEN COLLIERIES MINERS INSTITUTE.  PROSCENIUM 27FT  SCREEN{S} 1.
The memorial Hall Cinema was added to the Miners Institute building in 1924 as a memorial to local servicemen who lost their life during World War one. The original Institute opened in 1908 with financial contributions paid from the local miners at Celynen Collieries. The stute included a billiard room, reading rooms, library and meeting rooms.

The highly impressive art deco 1,000 seat, cinema housed in the Memorial Hall is a gem. The auditorium features stalls and a balcony for seating. On the ground floor is the equally impressive and decorative ballroom, with the cinema above. The venue was the hub of entertainment for Newbridge, this lasted for many years with the highly popular cinema and an equally popular ballroom. The cinema and ballroom interiors are decorated in a combination of art nouveau and art deco. The opening film in 1924 was Douglas Fairbanks in The thief of Bagdad.

With cinema booming in the UK the cinema was refurbished and restored during the 1950s, all original features were retained during this time, untouched except for a clean-up. Seating was reduced to 808 using the stalls and a balcony.

As cinema started to decline during the sixties and seventies, the Memo functioned as an occasional cinema while bingo operated for much of the time.  Both the Bingo and cinema operations ceased in 1972, leaving the hall largely unused and falling into disrepair. The last film shown at the Memorial Hall was a farewell rerun of The King and I with Yul Brynner in 1972.

Live shows continued at the Memo in the form of live bands and concerts, mostly in the ballroom with occasional stage shows in the former cinema by the big names of the day, Tom Jones, The Stranglers, Manic Street Preachers, all acts local to the area and popular throughout the UK.

With the closure of the nearby coal pit in 1985, many working men in the community lost their jobs while the Institute and Memorial Hall, often called the Memo, lost its valuable stream of revenue.
With the demise of the local industry the venue fell into decline, it continued for some time as a bar but without the necessary revenue for repairs the former Institute and cinema closed completely. The local authority considered demolition of the entire site in order to create an open car park. Astonished at the idea and saddened at what could be lost the local MP organised a meeting for the community, when a Friends group of the venue was formed.

The former cinema auditorium remains exceptionally well preserved with high quality wall paintings of industrial coal mining scenes. The projection room remains fully equipped with two Simplex 35MM carbon arc film projectors. A fancy art deco ticket booth serving both the cinema and ballroom is located in the foyer. Original lighting remains in place and in working order throughout the public areas of the cinema and ballroom.
CADW, the Welsh Government heritage department acknowledged the importance of the landmark building in 2003 by awarding a Grade II listing.

In 2003 the Memorial Hall appeared in the BBC TV series, restoration, bidding for restoration funding. Although a popular contender the hall came second. The Friends of the Memo group continued to campaign for funding, their efforts were eventually rewarded when the Memo was awarded Government and lottery funding to restore the hall and return it to community use.

A good amount of the restoration has been completed and the Institute and Memorial Hall is now partly back in use with works ongoing. The Ballroom and cinema restoration will continue through 2013.

It is not known if the former cinema will be equipped for regular 35MM film or new digital technology once the restoration process is completed.  The venue is expected to present live stage performances. With much of the funding granted to restore the former cinema because it is a splendid example of cinema architecture design and craftmanship of the era, it would be unthinkable not to facilitate film performances in the majestic auditorium. Much will depend on the ongoing level of funding provided to operate the Memorial Hall.
If you have memories, photographs, documents or other information on other cinemas in the area we would welcome your input. Please email the webmaster using the link provided on the main menu page.

You can also leave comments in the guest book.

GRAND CINEMA
Bridge Street.
OPENED: 1890 CLOSED: 1955  SEATING CAPACITY: UNKNOWN OPERATOR: ATTWOOD BROTHERS/GOLDBLATT FAMILY.  PROSCENIUM TBC  SCREEN{S} 1. DEMOLISHED.
Although many people can recall the cinema at Newbridge Memorial Hall, few remember the other cinema in the village. The Grand, located a short distance from the retail hub of Newbridge.

The Grand was an early conversion to cinema, although named the Grand, the venue was a tin build hall, constructed almost exclusively from corrugated iron, a typical method of quickly erecting public buildings in a number of valley towns and villages, many churches used this option to build community halls alongside the main church or chapel. With cinema becoming a popular entertainment in the valleys the Attwood Brothers adapted the venue, naming it the Grand. The somewhat tumbledown hall became a popular attraction for the growing number of cinemagoers in the area.

The brothers continued to operate the cinema for some time, with considerable success, in competition with the more noteworthy Memorial Hall cinema a short walk away. Although an unconventional cinema in many ways, the Grand had a loyal and affectionate following by supporters.

By the 1940s the cinema changed hands, it was now owned by the Goldblatt family in Cardiff. The family were in the early stages of expanding its car sales interests and some thought they acquired the Grand in order to demolish it and build a car sales room, expanding their business into the valleys.

Surprisingly the Goldblatt family continued to operate the Grand as a cinema. In 1952 the facade was rebuilt in brick, providing a more permanent and solid appearance to the cinema. In addition the stage area was also rebuilt, perhaps there was a view of turning the hall into a multipurpose venue for film and live performance.

There are unconfirmed suggestions that at some point the Rank Organisation, operators of the Odeon chain of cinemas, were looking at buying the Grand cinema. This does seem a little odd, the Odeon circuit had shown very little interest in trading in the valleys and were already fully aware of the expanding and highly successful monopoly held by the Jackson Withers Circuit throughout the industrial valleys heartland at this stage. Certainly the Grand would need to have been demolished if Odeon were to operate in the area as the former hall, even with the new brick facade, would not have matched the circuit’s requirements on building standards and appearances at that point.

Shortly after the improvements applied to the Grand, the cinema burnt down sometime around 1956. Following the devastating fire, Celynen Collieries Institute, operators of the Memorial Hall cinema, bought the remains of the former Grand cinema, therefore owning the land.

As established, the Grand was a popular cinema, by acquiring the remains and land of the old cinema, the owners of the Memo cinema could effectively prevent the building of another cinema in the area, creating a local monopoly for cinema exhibition in the area, at the Memorial Hall cinema.

With very little information on this cinema documented, we would welcome any documents, information or photographs, press cuttings etc. Please email the webmaster.

UNFORTUNATELY WE HAVE NO PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE GRAND CINEMA. PLEASE EMAIL US IF YOU CAN ASSIST.
UNFORTUNATELY WE HAVE NO PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE GRAND CINEMA. PLEASE EMAIL US IF YOU CAN ASSIST.
UNFORTUNATELY WE HAVE NO PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE GRAND CINEMA. PLEASE EMAIL US IF YOU CAN ASSIST.
With special thanks and gratitude to Phillip Walkley for his valuable input.
Select the first link to visit Phillips memories of going to the pictures in Newbridge.
Select the link below to return to the main menu page for other options.
ABERDARE
Welcome to an affectionate appraisal and tribute to the cinemas that entertained us in the South Eastern industrial valleys of Wales.
UPDATED - 2013
NEWBRIDGE - as remembered by Phillip Walkley
Welcome to an affectionate appraisal and tribute to the cinemas that entertained us in the South Eastern industrial valleys of Wales.
UPDATED - 2013