Former Bon Marché department store, Abertillery

This building housed a prestigious department store during Abertillery’s industrial heyday.

The store had several false starts before Joseph Henry Powell formed a new partnership in 1892 with Griffith Owen Jones, who had moved to the area from Carmarthenshire. Menswear was the main focus. The shop also employed milliners, and “young ladies” in the fancy goods department.


Business boomed and the partners opened similar shops in other Valleys towns, including Brynmawr. The Abertillery shop was expanded in the early 20th century. It was considered a higher-class shop than the Pontlottyn department store, just across Commercial Street (now a JD Wetherspoon pub). Staff used to have an annual trip to Gilwern, where they would have a meal at the canal-side Navigation Inn.

One of the staff, Benjamin Evans, left to serve with the South Wales Borderers in the First World War. After fighting in many battles during three years of active service, he died from gunshot wounds at a hospital in France in April 1918, aged 24. His parents, Benjamin and Bridget, lived in Nantgaredig, Carmarthenshire.

In 1920 the Bon Marché took over the rest of the premises in its block. The frontage was later extended across the building, and shoppers were presented with an ever widening range of goods – including furniture from 1927 and wallpaper and paints from 1931. After the Second World War you could also buy toys, stationery, china, electrical goods and sports accessories here. Children visited Santa Claus in his grotto at the Bon Marché in December.

The Bon Marché was damaged twice by fire, in 1894 and 1939. The 1894 fire began in a chimney and set light to goods near a fireplace. Had the fire not been spotted quickly, the entire building could have been ruined, as Abertillery had no firefighting appliances.

The store closed in the late 1960s. The electricity board used part of the building as a sales outlet and showroom. The building was later converted into a Gateway supermarket.

With thanks to Graham Bennett. Sources include: ‘Abertillery and District History 2000’, by Abertillery & District Museum Society

Postcode: NP13 1DJ View Location Map

More about the Bon Marché on Graham Bennett’s website