Tredegar became a forerunner of industrialisation from the mid 16th century and became home to the early days of coal mining and ironworks offering employment to the surrounding valleys and attracting a workforce from England and the Commonwealth. The historic Tredegar iron works in Richmond, Virginia USA was named in honor of the town. The Town has strong links with the British Labour Party, the town is the birthplace of Aneurin Bevan, who became responsible for the introduction of the British NHS - National Health Service. 

The town is also famous  for the illuminated town clock which dominates the centre of the retail area at a height of 72 feet, donated to the town in 1858 by Mrs R P Davies,the wife of the then Tredegar ironworks Manager. Naturally the clock became the focal point of the town and many entertainment venues were built around it. Like neighbouring Ebbw Vale the town of Tredegar became vibrant as a result of the wealth created by the heavy industries of steelworks and coal mines that dominated the area. An important town in it's day, following the decline of these industries the town has struggled as have most valleys towns with a few exceptions. In more recent years redegar has been fighting back.
MARKET HALL/OLYMPIA CINEMA
Morgan Street
OPENED: 1913 CLOSED: 1977  SEATING CAPACITY: 1200 OPERATOR: JACKSON WITHERS CIRCUIT  PROSCENIUM 00FT  SCREEN{S} PUBLIC HOUSE
Built during the 1800s as the market hall, the venue was adapted for a number of popular uses during its early day, serving the needs of the day and the town as a boxing venue, music hall and market with varying degrees of success. 

In 1913 the venue became a popular home for big screen entertainment with the arrival of film, which was a popular and affordable leisure activity throughout the industrial valleys of South Wales, where workers and families enjoyed the escapism of film as a break from the bleak surroundings that had been created by the industries that brought mass employment and wealth to the region. 

By the 1940s the Olympia had become the primary cinema in the town with several redecorations of the venue each adding a little more glamour and luxury to attract patrons. By the mid 1940s The Olympia was acquired by the Jackson Withers Group and became an early member of the soon to be Jackson Withers Circuit. Although the Olympia was never one of the better Jackson Withers cinemas or indeed a flagship of the circuit, admissions continued to be strong with the venue performing well with local and nearby alternatives competing for the audiences of the day.

The Olympia outlived all of the other cinemas in Tredegar and was one of the last in a small batch of cinemas surviving throughout the valleys, eventually closing during the 1970's following a period of time when it functioned partly as a cinema and bingo club. The combination of bingo and cinema in one auditorium had been a success for the Jackson Withers Circuit although it was short lived and unable to turn around the fortunes of its business in the valleys. 

Successfully acquired by the Rank Organisation in 1976, who bought the Jackson Withers Circuit from the Julian Hodge Group. By 1977 the Olympia ceased showing films and for a while bingo was offered as a full time option at the Olympia but was never a success for the Rank Organisation who eventually closed the bingo hall sometime in the 1980s, transferring members to the Top Rank/Mecca Bingo hall a few miles away at the former Maxime cinema in Blackwood.

With the golden era of cinema and bingo at an end the venue remained closed for some time with the exception of a period when the Olympia was used as a carpet warehouse. Selling carpets to the public, the former cinema was open and completely unaltered with the exception of the seating being removed from the auditorium. Although damaged, the screen and stage also remained unaltered. Browsing around for carpets it was easily possible to enjoy a reminder of the Olympia as a cinema, viewing the auditorium, balcony and projection room from the stage area of the stalls.

During the 1990s JD Wetherspoons acquired the Olympia and converted the cinema for use as a pub within their chain, retaining the Olympia name.
Internally there is little to remind us that this was once a popular cinema in the town. The refurbishment by Wetherspoons in order to create a pub environment is kind and in some senses preserves the establishment as a large hall.

While sitting there enjoying a drink one can soon recognise it as a former cinema auditorium, although the former foyer area is no longer easy to identify.

The Olympia continues to flourish under its new function as a popular pub.



OPENED: 1911 CLOSED: 1960'S  SEATING CAPACITY: 685 OPERATOR:  UNKNOWN  PROSCENIUM 00FT  SCREEN{S} FITNESS CENTRE
OPENED: 1936 CLOSED: 1982  SEATING CAPACITY: 800 OPERATOR:  UNKNOWN  PROSCENIUM 00FT  SCREEN{S} 1 DEMOLISHED
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QUEENS CINEMA/BALLROOM
Queen Victoria/Castle Street.
Acknowledged as the first purpose built cinema in Tredegar, thought to be built in 1909, although many believe it was built much earlier, this has been difficult to verify. The Queens opened as a cinema or electric theatre in 1910 with seating for 400 on one flat level.

Much consideration had been given to its appearance, in particular the facade, which is considered to be neo deco and early images of the facade support this claim. The interior was less impressive although it was decorative. 

While great consideration had been given to its external design there was a major flaw internally in terms of the auditorium design, which was a flat floor with no gradient, therefore  other patrons sat in front of you would often obscure your view of the screen. Although the screen was positioned quite high up it still didn’t offer comfortable or clear viewing and this is thought to be its downfall. With poor sight lines and obstructed views patrons needed to sit towards the front rows in order to receive a clear view of the screen, this in itself was difficult as you soon experienced neck aches and pains.

While other cinemas in Tredegar flourished the Queens struggled to attract audiences and by 1937 the Queens cinema closed, unable to successfully compete with its competitors.

The Queens remained unused until 1947 when local businessman, Hubert Johns acquired the former cinema and remodelled the cinema into the Queens Ballroom. This was effectively achieved and at minimum cost because the auditorium floor was flat so it was not necessary to undergo and major reconstruction work to convert the venue for dancing. 

A sprung dance floor was installed, something that was very popular and modern in that era, the Queens Ballroom was an instant success and very popular, in particular at weekends. The venue continued as a ballroom for many years and survived the various dance crazes through the 50s, 60s and even the 70s when disco took over from ballroom.

For a time the Queens became a roller skating rink and then a nightclub and renamed Spatz and then Marsh’s club, before closing again in the 1990s. For a while the venue was unused and then became the Intrim health club and bar and more recently the Ironworks health club, gym and bar.
WORKMENS HALL CINEMA
Morgan Street
Tredegar Workmen’s Hall is probably one of the most famous and successful of all in the South Eastern Industrial valleys. Originally the Temperance Hall, built as a venue for entertainments, funded through subscriptions paid miners and other industrial workers in the area, construction started in 1860 and was completed in 1861. 

During the early days the hall was leased out on occasions to a local film exhibitor, screening mostly silent films on 16mm. By 1909 the Hall was granted a full cinematograph licence by the local authority and a professional 35MM projector was purchased.

In 1931 an extension was added that included snooker rooms, bar and dance hall. With cinema becoming a big attraction throughout the valleys it was decided by the managing committee to remodel the building in 1936 with the main hall becoming a new purpose built cinema with a large stage suitable for live shows, lectures and political meetings. The modern cinema would seat a total of 800, with 500 in stalls and 300 in the balcony and include a large art deco style foyer which was luxurious for its day with plush carpets and chrome hand rails together with glass and mirror fittings and features complimenting fancy lighting fixtures.

The Workmen’s Hall was a members club although the cinema and live shows were open to non members. The venue was managed and programmed by members of the committee, elected from the membership.  

The cinema was equipped with 35MM and 16MM projectors in a dedicated projection room above the balcony, the auditorium boasted a very large screen complete with tabs, curtains, footlights etc. A top of the range sound system was installed and this was upgraded on a number of occasions to ensure that the hall had the best sound system that money could buy at all times.  The projection and sound equipment was financed by funds available through the network of Workmen’s halls, clubs and institutes at the time.  Cinemascope was installed in the auditorium during the 1950s. The screen could be raised to allow full use of the stage for live shows, concerts, political conferences etc. A range of top notable artists and politicians appeared at the Workmen’s Hall, including Gracie Fields, Charlie Chaplin, Max Wall, Aneurin Beaven, Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock alongside many Welsh and International choirs and opera singers.

Meanwhile local World Champions of snooker, Ray Reardon and Cliff Wilson crafted their championship skills in the halls snooker room. 

The Workmen’s Hall unashamedly competed against the Olympia Cinema up the road to attract audiences with mainstream films alongside communist propaganda films that were shown as part of the workmen’s Hall remit throughout the valleys, Some of the communist and Socialist propaganda films were very popular and attracted big crowds. However a mainstream diet of popular blockbuster films of the time contributed handsomely to the profits of the Workmen’s Hall, enabling it to compete and remain successful with the Olympia cinema just up the road.

The facade of the Workmen’s Hall cinema dominated the street, dwarfing the Olympia cinema a few steps just up the hill. Either side of the flashy, modern entrance doors to the cinema lobby was illuminated glass FOH still displays with large poster displays advertising the current attraction and future presentations, visible to passersby on foot or by bus/car.
ABERDARE
Welcome to an affectionate appraisal and tribute to the cinemas that entertained us in the South Eastern industrial valleys of Wales.
UPDATED - 2013
TREDEGAR
Welcome to an affectionate appraisal and tribute to the cinemas that entertained us in the South Eastern industrial valleys of Wales.
UPDATED - 2013
Above the entrance was a canopy illuminating the steps towards the cinema doors, while the exterior of the canopy was decorated in red neon lighting. Additional neon lighting featured on the venues name, making the identity of the Workmen’s Hall visible by day and night.

Following the decline of industry in the valleys, the regular financial contributions from the workforce dwindled and it became impossible to continue financing the Workmen’s Hall in this manner.
The Workmen’s Hall closed in 1981 and eventually sold to a local business group who operated the venue for some years until heavy winds blew the roof away sometime during 1990. The owners found it was not viable to replace the roof and the venue has since been demolished, a car park has been created on the vacant plot.
On reflection, many locals now believe it was a crime to allow the Workmen’s Hall to fall into decline and then be demolished, it might have been saved as a community venue with Government funding if there had been someone able to put that into effect.
CLICK ON THE IMMAGE TO THE RIGHT TO READ NEIL KINNOCKS MEMORIES OF THE WORKMEN'S HALL TREDEGAR.