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Miners' Hall

Church Street, Merthyr Tydfil

 
 

It  was  erected  on  the instruction  and  financing of the  Welsh  Wesleyan Methodists  and  it  was  named  Shiloh  Chapel.     The  year of construction was  1853 and it was allegedly  designed  by I.K.   Brunel.     Other   'Shiloh1 Chapels of the  same persuasion operated  at  Cefn Coed  and  Dowlais.

Full religious  functioning  were carried  out through  the  sixty  years of its  denominational life.     Surviving residents  of the  Borough recall their wedding ceremonies  and  their vows  taken  inside the old  building.

Regrettably  by  1920  the time  had  arrived   when   support from the flock, which  with  breakaway groups and  proliferation  throughout the years, was insufficient to  maintain  repair and  upkeep.

Consultation  between  the Trustees and  the  Miner's   Welfare  Committee resulted  in  an  agreement for purchase,   at a price of  1,600.     Shiloh passed  into the ownership  of the   'Miner's  Welfare'.     A bronze plaque mounted  alongside on  the front entry  door reads   "with the assistance of the  Miner's   Welfare  Club",     by the  next  year a concrete plaque impressed   "Miners'   Hall 1921"   was   mounted  centrally above the two front entry  doors.

In  the  meantime the  square  sectioned  tower which  was   mounted  by a slated,   four sided  spire  was  modified.     The  spire  was  removed and a flat roof was constructed at eave level.

Inside the  Hall   contained  the conventional features  of chapel design -a veranda ran  around  the three  side,   leaving the  north  wall to accommodate a  stage  -  the  width of the  building.

Since  1921  it  has  lead  a very chequered  life.     In  the earliest  years the problems  and  strifes  within  the coal industry ensured  that political themes  dominated  the gatherings  under it's  roof.      They  were frequent, fervent and  sometimes  very  noisy.     The  name  mentioned   most frequently was  Kier Hardie  -  the  most prominent  reference  was   "The  Kier Hardie Memorial"  an  annual event  where the  gorge of conscience  would  spill over and  flood  the congregation  with  rhetoric on  the injustice of the coal owners  and  reasoning appeal to continue the fight.

Children  would  be  dragooned  into patiently  holding a pole,   one each side of the  stage,   and  the blazoned  banner  "Keir Hardie  Memorial" held  taut    between.     Proceedings  normally lasted  tW3      hours and  the children  -  in  spite of the odd  relief -  decked  out in  their scarlet sashes  -  symbolism of socialism  welcomed  the end  of the proceedings whether this form  of child    indoctrination   succeeded  is  open  to considerable  doubt.

A list of formidable  speakers  was  always  to  hand  and  foremost of them were  A.J.   Cook  and  Jimmy  Madion   with  his  pallid  drawn  face and  long dark  hair.     Some of the less  well established  orators,   mainly of local origin,   were  most  difficult to  subdue or contain  and often  done their cause  more  harm than  good.     Election   meetings,   policy committees, polling day  headquarters  often   made their home  at the   'Miners'   . R.C.   Wallhead,   with  his  hoarse,   but emphatic Anglican  accent,   would rail   the opposition  and  bring the  house  down  -  no  wonder the  votes he attracted  were invariable of avalanche proportions.

As  part of these emotional scenes  recitals  were  held  with  a  Russian refugee violinist named  Soremus  whose soulful and  sometime melancholic recitals  would  be listened in  the respectful silence of appreciation.

A  wide variety of events afforded pleasure and  accommodation  to a wide public:   school gymnastic displays,   Jewish  wedding    reception of magnificent proportions,   speech  days,   evangelical gatherings,   choral and  glee party concerts,   auction  sales,   all-in-wrestling and  eventually in line  with changing customs the "Miners1   became the   'Miners'   Welfare Club"   who obtained the appropriate licenses to ensure the  need of the   'Bingo'   players  could  be  satisfied.

Probably the  most enjoyed and long lasting and  regular venue  were the  "dancing classes"  in  keeping with  human  behaviour the Saturday night  wrangling on  the old   Plymouth   Railway  which  ran  alongside the building,   became an  accepted  Saturday  night feature resulting in  many an  appearance in  court on  the following Monday.     In  spite of such high  spirited  and  challenging behavior it could  be  said  that two generations  of Merthyr youth  were able to carry and  recall many  happy evenings  at the  "Miners".

After 122  years  and  the evacuations  of the   'Miners'   Welfare  Club'   signs of neglect and  decay  were evident:   foundation  stonework  and  sections of the facade  had lost  quite a  degree of cement and   mortar  mix  and badly required fresh  pointing:   paintwork  was  peeling and  grass  grew freely at  doorways  and  the foundation  and  several windows  had  been broken.

Any amenity  which  has  provided  so  much  pleasure to  so  many people for so  many years  has  a right  when  abandoned  by it's  public,   to demonstrate  disapproval by exhibiting the  disheveled,   wear worn  and shabby appearance to the  world  at large

Not to be out  done it  now  commences  another era  under the  banner "Charbonnier"   - far removed  from  Shiloh and  the  Miners'   Hall.     Such a  name conjures  up  the   'can-can'   and  other things  French.     The decor and  fittings  -  with the  help  of modern  plastic technology  has  been transformed.     The  modern   needs  of dining out, cavorting to  disco,   being rendered  to  hallucination  by psychedelic a,   hearing impaired  by  way out  decibels are  met in  full.

One has  to  wonder what the old   miner with  his  box and  jack?   Yorks around  his   moleskins  and  his  thirty eight  bob  a  week  taking home pay  would  have thought about it all.

 
     

Miners' Hall - 1986

(Photograph Courtesy of Robert Jones)

 

Boxing at the Miners' Hall

(Photograph courtesy of Cyfarthfa Castle Museum and Art Gallery)

 

Photographs of a Fashion Show Held in the Miners' Hall in the 1960's

Do you know any of the names for these photographs?

   

   

   

 

 

Merthyr Musical Club Second Concert. December 7th 1944.

(Courtesy of Robert Fraser)

 

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