Currently, details on the building of the Hall are sketchy. However, we are told that at least one of the characters is a stonemason, with the photo (possibly) being the Stonemason’s team who helped build the Hall. We have been told that the young gentleman to the top of the picture is a man by the name of ‘Eddie Wilkins’. A man of Cross Hands and very well known locally as an extremely gifted stonemason. In fact, it seems that Eddie was involved in much of the impressive stonework projects immediately around Cross Hands and the Gwendraeth Valley and was widely regarded as a master of his work. Eddie was a devout Christian who didn’t work Sundays (not unusual for the time), but Stonemasons were often required to work Sundays to finish projects. So, it seems that Eddie, although in high demand, may have been in the very enviable position of being able to turn down work through his strict principles. The Hall today is a lasting tribute to them all.
We would love to hear from anyone who can identify any of the stonemason team in the above photo, please.
Originally built in 1904, the much smaller hall (photo below) was already established as the community Public Hall.
The magnificent building you see today was built in 1932 and incorporates ancillary rooms at the rear end of the building, whilst the main building graces a beautiful auditorium, balcony and impressive stage – much adorned with the original Art Deco plasterwork. Of particular note was the hall’s French facade design which once graced the auditorium ceiling, being Italian in design but, sadly, no longer exists.
The upkeep of the Hall was funded by the Miners contributing 1p from their weekly wages.
In it’s hey-day, the Hall, regarded as one of the finest in South Wales, boasted some top actors and orchestras. At its prime, the Hall was the main attraction in the area with weekly shows ranging from variety, drama, oratorios and opera. And amongst the leading stars was celebrated actress Sybil Thorndyke and actor Huw Gruffudd; singers Cleo Lane and Johnny Dankworth and the London Symphony Orchestra. Top Welsh comedians Ronnie and Ryan also appeared on stage and local actors who started their careers at the Hall are Ernest Evans, well known as Sgt Jenkins in ‘Pobol Y Cwm’ and Buddig Williams who currently plays ‘Aunty Marion’ on ‘Pobol Y Cwm’.
With the demise of the coal industry and the popularity of television, the Hall slid into obscurity. Sadly, in 1984 the Hall closed as it fell into disrepair and became the village eyesore. It was in 1991, the then Deputy Mayor, Cllr. Bryn Davies, who was continually fighting hard to keep the Hall open, began his quest of securing a grant that would restore the Public Hall to something like its former glory. A £640,000 grant was made available with thanks to the Welsh Office, Llanelli Borough Council and Carmarthenshire District Council to restore the Hall to its former glory.
This black and white photograph depicts the original hall (to the left) built in 1904.
The Hall re-opened for the first time on the 26th of April 1996 with a capacity audience. The first Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council opened the Hall to a concert from Cross Hands District Ladies Choir, Cor-Y-Rhyd and pupils from the nearby Maes Yr Yrfa and Gwendraeth Secondary Schools.
Today, the Hall is run by volunteers from the Community. Although retaining its ability to host live stage performances, much of the entertainment today is in the form of a Cinema, with nominal admission charges to view the latest film releases.
Cross Hands Hall Management Committee is committed to keeping the Hall up and running as a vital and vibrant hub for the community as a whole.
With thanks to the late Helen Thomas, of Cross Hands, for parts of the narrative.