Small Town Life from Martin Schell – Part 3

This is an excerpt from  Martin Schell’s book Small Town Life: Fishguard in the 1960s and 1970s

There was a cinema in Fishguard throughout most of the 1960s and 1970s, but it hadn’t always been a place where people would sit in the dark for their excitement. The original building had been constructed some time between 1878 and 1885, on a plot of land donated to the Fishguard Temperance cause by John James and Son, Trenewydd.

In the early days of Methodism a certificate was required for congregations to gather for the purpose of religious worship.  On 1 October 1812 David Williams, farmer of Velindre and the father of Jane (who was to be the wife of John James Esq of Trenewydd), applied to the Clerk of the Peace for the registration of his home at Velindre and Trehowel and also a small building opposite the farm at Trenewydd.

David Williams called this small building Ty-Wesley after John Wesley, who started the Methodist movement in England. 

In the next 20 years so many people attended Ty-Wesley that his son-in-law John James Esq of Trenewydd decided to build a larger chapel on his land, plus a cottage, stable and a small graveyard at a total cost of £200.  They called this chapel Salem. 

There was obviously a strong Methodist culture in the James of Trenewydd household, and so it is perhaps of no surprise that their desire to maintain and possibly improve the moral fibre of the community manifested itself in the provision of a Temperance Hall.

A Temperance Hall was a community meeting place for concerts and cultural activities, but its main purpose was to keep people away from the local taverns. 

John James Esq of Trenewydd presented a plot of land in Fishguard to the cause, and the building’s foundation stone was laid by Martha Phillips Harries of Cefnydre in June 1878.

After just 23 years, in 1901, the use of the building was changed and it became the Fishguard British School. Various online sources list the conversion of the building into a cinema as being between 1917 and 1937.

It appears that in 1922 the first films were shown at the 450-seat Picture Palace, with a projection room having been built out over the main doors.  This box-like addition can clearly be seen protruding conspicuously at the front of the building in the picture above, detracting from its original grand façade.

I recall the Picture Palace from the mid-1960s, with glowing cigarette ends being flicked from the circle into the stalls below and its primitively noxious toilet facilities, and it finally closed some time between 1966 and the late 1960s.

Martin Schell

Martin Schell grew up in Fishguard in the 1960s and 1970s, and lived here until 1989.  This is an excerpt from his book Small Town Life: Fishguard in the 1960s and 1970s, available on Amazon Kindle and a snip at £2.50.  Other titles by him are available there too.

Kitty Parsons

Kitty Parsons

Kitty is an incomer, with five summers under her belt and the knowledge that even the wettest and greyest of winters have not diminished her love of Pembrokeshire. She knows she will never live long enough to be considered a local but hopes to leave some small mark through writing about this beautiful county and its people.

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