Metropole theatre and market hall, Abertillery

This was one of the biggest buildings in the Western Valleys when it opened in 1867 as a market hall and theatre. It was built on the site of the town’s first market hall by Alfred Prosser Williams. He was responsible for many of the district’s familiar landmark buildings.

The new market hall, larger than the old one, was big enough for more than 1,200 people to attend concerts and other events here. Some of the spectators would watch from the balconies, which were used during market hours for stalls selling dairy produce and poultry. The original balconies and cast-iron roof-support columns are still visible.

The building was renamed as the Metropole Opera House and Theatre in 1900. An early performer here was Arthur Stanley Jefferson, one half of the Barto Brothers comedy duo. He later achieved international fame as Stan Laurel, of the Laurel and Hardy duo, in the early years of American movies.

Colliers used the hall for mass meetings during disputes. In 1910 workers from the Cwmtillery and Rose Heyworth collieries passed a resolution here which demanded that the management recognise only the workers’ own doctors and agree that no men injured at work would be taken to other surgeries for treatment. It was common for industrial workers to suspect that doctors chosen by proprietors or managers might not be independent, for example when doctors gave evidence at inquests into the deaths of workers.

There was a skating rink in the hall before the First World War. People caught up in the roller-skating craze of the time whirled around to the accompaniment of a live orchestra!

Films were screened here in the 1920s and later. The building passed into public ownership in 1961 and, as The Met, continues to be a hub for community events (see link below). The building was extensively refurbished from 1999 to 2006.

In 2001 the Abertillery & District Museum moved into the ground floor. Its exhibits cover many topics, including local industrial and wartime history. Follow the link below for visitor information.

In 2022 a purple plaque was placed on the building to commemorate nurse Thora Silverthorne.

With thanks to Graham Bennett

Postcode: NP13 1AH View Location Map

Website of The Met

Website of Abertillery & District Museum

More Metropole history on Graham Bennett’s website