The New Town Hall, 1881
Arts, culture and music had been an important part of life in the Llynfi Valley for generations, making their home in chapels and local eisteddfodau before we had a central Town Hall.
The earliest recorded eisteddfod in Maesteg took place in 1838 at the Coytrahen Arms, which then spilled over into Carmel Chapel, a far from ideal situation that no doubt was replicated in public houses and chapels throughout the valley. Upon the opening of the Town Hall the Rev. Edward Jones of Tabernacl Welsh Baptist Chapel, expressed relief at having a secular venue in which to hold cultural events. The chapels “were blamed for holding concerts and eisteddfodau in their chapels . . . As there was no other place at their disposal they were bound to make use of their chapels for these purposes. Now, however, they had a place in which they could concerts and eisteddfodau. He expected that in time to come Maesteg would be a prosperous place.”
The need for a Town Hall was attested for many years prior to its construction, before there was much of a town to speak of, as in this excerpt from the Cardiff Times dated November 6th 1869 shows.
TOWN–HALL—This place, different to others of less note, has been heretofore without any hall to hold public meetings, concerts, lectures and entertainments. We hear however, that such a building, intended also to comprise accommodation for the instruction and amusement of the working class after hours of labour, is in contemplation.
The same newspaper lamented the lack of progress as a “considerable disappointment to the public” 28th March 1874.
There were plans at one time to build a Town Hall on the Garn behind Carmel Chapel.
At last in 1880, with Talbot Street yet to be built and Maesteg Town Centre consisting of little more than Commercial Street, construction began on Maesteg Town Hall on a parcel of land nicknamed “Cae Tri Chornel” (three corner field), which goes some way in explaining the unusual shape of the building. The architect was Mr. H.C Harries of Cardiff.
The foundation stone was laid 31st October 1880 by C.R.M Talbot MP, who also donated £500 towards the cost of the building. The miners of the Llynfi Valley levied a day’s wage to meet the cost of the building, which exceeded its original estimate of £3000.
In his book Ty’r Llwyni, 1961, David Davies recalls that Mr Talbot, upon laying the stone, noted “how great the advancement was, that Maesteg had made in recent years, and referred to the time when it was just a wooded valley, the only in habitants being owls and ravens.”
Maesteg Town Hall finally opened on the 22nd October 1881 by Mr David Chadwick, chairman of the Llynvi and Tondu Company who described the venue as “a magnificent momento of the public spirit of Maesteg”. A procession was made to the Town Hall led by the Maesteg Brass Band, and the meeting that then took place within was attended by around 1000 people, roughly 10% of the population of the town at the time.
Mr Chadwick passed the key to Mr D. Grey, chairman of the board of health, who remarked that “It was not the Town Hall of a party – the Hall of a few – but that the building belonged to the people of Maesteg”. The band played ‘Men of Harlech’ to conclude the event.
That evening a grand concert was held and the hall was full.
The commitment showed by the workers of the Llynfi Valley in contributing so much to the construction of the building is reflected by the sense of ownership and pride the people have of Maesteg and district hold toward their Hall today. It was said in a speech at the opening ceremony that
“Everyone of them therefore who looked upon that grand and useful edifice as being a portion of his own individual property”
Maesteg Town Hall was extensively redeveloped and expanded in 1914. The original building looked very different to how it looks today, with a smaller stage, a balcony overlooking the square and a more intricate façade.
The building is of Queen Anne style of architecture, a style now greatly in vogue. The hall is 85 feet long, by 45 feet broad, and 40 feet high, with a gallery capable of seating 350 persons; the ground floor is covered by a commodious Market-place, Board-rooms &c. The great hall is reached from the street by a double flight of stairs; the stage is admirably constructed with most convenient retiring rooms, cloak room, and a first-class entrance.
Cadrawd’s ‘History of Llangynwyd Parish’ 1887
The Bridgend Chronicle on 28th October 1881 reported that
“Maesteg at the present moment possesses a building which, for architectural beauty, cannot be surpassed in South Wales”
Long may it continue.