If you are ever stuck for a topic to start a discussion with a group of people from Roath just show them this picture and ask them what the building used to be used for. You’ll get lots of different answers, and many will be right, but not all. Some will say it was a church. Well, it almost was, but not quite.
Using newspaper archives and other mentions of the hall the following history has been pieced together:
1873: A prospectus for Roath Public Hall issued.
~1881: Construction of Roath Public Hall
1883: First press records of events and concerts
1894: Purchased by Roath Congregational Church.
1898: Roath Public Library
1912-15: Roath Electric Theatre (silent movies)
1916 to ~1940: Stacey Hall
1940-45: Military barracks (Home Defence) depot
1950: Star Ballroom & Stacey Labour Hall
1959 to ~1989: BBC Studios
~1990 to ~2000: Yamaha School of Music
~ 2000 to present day – vacant
The first mention of Roath Public Hall appears in the newspapers of January 1875 announcing the setting up of the Roath Public Hall Company. The prospectus states the intention to construct hall in Stacey Road able to accommodate 600 plus a reading room. The justification being that Roath’s population has expanded to 12,000 and there was nowhere to hold concerts or lectures. Two thousand shares would be issued at £2 each. Top of the list of the Trustees was John Cory, the wealthy Cardiff ship-owner, coal exporter and philanthropist. Yes, that’s right, the man with a statue outside the museum that was unusually erected when he was still alive. He was living in Roath Road (Newport Road) at the time but went on to purchase Duffryn House, St Nicholas.
In 1879 the papers report that Roath Public Hall has not materialised and the only evidence of it was a brass plaque outside the residence of the secretary to the company. The article pointedly explains that the Catholics have meanwhile constructed a Guild Hall in Roath.
By 1883 however Roath Public Hall has evidently been constructed and opened and records of events begin to appear including:
April: A fundraising concert for a new Baptist chapel.
August: A German and Oriental concert, reported as being poorly attended.
October: A talk entitled ‘Escaped Nun’ delivered by a Edith O’Gorman Auffray recounting her days as a nun in USA before she ‘escaped’ and converted to Protestantism.
In September the same year a new music licence was granted to the hall, it having been demonstrated that 400 people could be evacuated in three and a half minutes.
From here on mentions of Roath Public Hall in the newspapers are frequent and they give an interesting insight into social history and history of the building over time. Here’s a few examples, supplemented with information from other sources:
1886: A fundraising concert for a new organ at St Margaret’s church.
1887: Cardiff Liberal Association hold a talk entitled ‘Ireland: Past, Present and Future’.
1888: Cardiff Jewish Literary and Musical Institute hold a series of soirees.
1888: Cardiff Liberal Association: ‘Coercion versus Conciliation’ or ‘England’s duty towards Ireland’.
1888: A meeting of the Cardiff Free Library and Museum Committee discussed an experiment of a branch reading room at Roath Public Hall. (this wasn’t to materialise for another ten years). In the mentime a reading room was opened at Clifton Street Methodist church.
1894: Building sold to Roath Congregational chapel that had until now been meeting in a temporary building on Roath Road (Newport Road). The church met in the building behind Roath Public Hall and submitted plans to convert the hall into a church. It is believed at this change of use never took place.
1897: Dance classes being held at the hall.
1898: Roath Branch Library opens in the hall. Said to be a lot better lighted and ventilated than the previous location and able to accommodate a lot more readers. The move however is only temporary as the corporation has purchased a site at Four Elms on Newport Road and the new library constructed and opened in Oct 1901.
1899: An evening in which ‘a series of tableaux vivants of exceptionally high merit’ were part.
1909: Cookery lessons being delivered.
1909: Plans submitted for an outdoor washhouse
1911: Plans submitted for a ‘Cinema Box’
1912: listed as ‘Stacey Road Kinema’
1913: listed as ‘Roath Electric Cinema’
1915: For sale – ‘Roath Public Hall, together with the Chapel at the rear. The hall has two floors with excellent headroom, the upper floor recently having been used as a cinema …..’
1918: A series of entertainments held for soldiers at Stacey Hall headquarters of the R.D.C. at Cardiff.
1918: An interesting cutting reading: Outside Stacey Hall in Cardiff is to be seen what is probably the oldest trophy in Cardiff. It is composed of the Turkish, Sardinian, French and English flags in a row with the word Peace underneath. The trophy was made in Manchester and was first displayed at the end of the Crimean War.
1920: Members of the Gwaelodygarth Welsh Dramatic Society gave a performance of ‘Asgre Lan’.
1921: Cardiff University College Dramatic Society gave a performance of ‘Arms and the Man’ in aid of the college war memorial.
1928: Mr E.Roy Calvert, Secretary of the National League for Abolition of the Death Penalty gave a talk ‘Why Capital Punishment Must Go’. (It was another 40 years before it was abolished)
1929: Four hundred people turn up for the payment of Christmas relief, a top-up to the standard weekly payments to the people of Roath and Plasnewydd wards in need of support. The extra 1s 6d came as a surprise to many recipients.
1940-45: Military barracks (Home Defence) depot
1947: Well appointed Cardiff Ballroom tenancy advertised. ‘Perfect maple floor, 60ft x 30ft’. Applications to the Secretary, Stacey Hall.
In the late 1940s it was Star Ballroom, upstairs, large sprung dance floor with mirrors and seating around the perimeter. Rock ‘n’ Roll dances there from 1956 onwards.
1956: Beginners Ballroom dance class every Friday night.
1950s: Recollections from people of Whist Drives with 30 plus tables, four players per table.
1950s: Local Labour party offices and Labour League of Youth meetings.
1959: James Callaghan MP, future Prime Minister, holds constituency meetings.
1959: BBC opens new Stacey Road studio. The arrival of television prompted the BBC to purchase a ten acre site at Llandaff in 1952 to house all its operations in the city, but construction of the new headquarters was delayed due to the cost of the project, so in 1955 the Broadway Methodist Chapel in Roath – followed in 1959 by premises in nearby Stacey Road – were taken over to accommodate the fledgling television service. Stacey Road studios were headquarters of the news broadcasting services.
1966: Wales Today and the Welsh language news programme Heddiw were broadcast from Stacey Road at the time of the Aberfan Disaster.
1968: Forty Welsh Language demonstrators occupy the Stacey Road news studios.
1974: BBC cease broadcasting Wales Today from Stacey Road.
1990: BBC Film operations stayed at Stacey Road studios till 1990.
1990s: Yamaha School of Music – exact dates of occupancy uncertain. Anyone remember going there?
~ 2000 to present day – vacant
Please feel free to share your memories of the building, provide more accurate dates, additional information or highlight any errors. Photographs would be particularly welcome.
I learned to do old time dancing there the mc was Norman Olbury I danced. with his wife sometimes and a lady mrs sturley
Sorry, it wasn’t no. 16,my husband lived with his family at no. 16, the family name was Glover.
Thanks Lucy for the correction. Just looked at an old map and the hall is labelled as No.16a and the house to the north as No.16. I have changed the title.
Very interesting piece. So much potential for it to even become a museum or to be used for the community. Is there any reason why it has remained derelict and empty for so long?
I also learned old time ballroom dancing at the star Ballroom with Norman Olbury and his wife from 1950 until about 1954 on a Saturday morning, My parents had ballroom dancing lessons on a Friday evening during the same period