Port Talbot YMCA
This building is where Hollywood star Sir Anthony Hopkins first tried acting.
The YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) was founded in London in 1844 for workers to meet for prayer and Bible studies. The Aberavan and Port Talbot District YMCA was founded in 1898 by representatives of local churches. Its president was John Phillips, mayor of Port Talbot. It aimed to provide services and opportunities for local young men.
Individuals who supported Port Talbot YMCA in the 20th century included: Sir Sydney H Byass and his wife Lady Eveline, who donated a silver cup in 1907 for winners of the air-rifle target shooting competition; Sir Geoffrey Byass-Bart; and Sir David Evans Bevan. During the Second World War the YMCA Women’s Auxiliary helped run the centre, where soldiers received hot meals. In 1949 the YMCA presented its Order of the Red Triangle to Port Talbot YMCA, in recognition of the wartime service provided to soldiers and the community.
In the 1940s and 50s Port Talbot YMCA’s coffers were swollen by door takings from its popular dances and shows. It made financial contributions to struggling YMCA branches, including those in Swansea and Cardiff and contributed to rebuilding of the bomb-damaged YMCA headquarters in London.
On 18 February 1955 Anthony Hopkins was at a loose end at the YMCA and stumbled on a rehearsal by the drama society, which produced at least one play annually. Invited by society chairman Cyril Jenkins to take part, the 17-year-old was given a single line: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” From there, he went on to become an Oscar-winning filmstar.
Sir Anthony visited the YMCA in 2008, when he asked to meet the homeless men at the YMCA hostel. On display inside the building are props from some of his film roles which he has donated, including a whip from The Mask of Zorro and a hat from Nixon. His wife Stella created a montage of photos of his many roles and gave it to Port Talbot YMCA. Members of the public are welcome to view these items and visit the café.
Postcode: SA13 1HU