About the Society
Historical Notes






The first attempt to set up a Reading Room and Lending Library was by the Rev. John Griffiths when he inaugurated the Aberdare Mechanics Institute, and he delivered the First Series of Popular Lectures to defray expenses. It contained a Reading Room and Library.

1855 Sept

A meeting was held at Saron, Aberaman, with the purpose of establishing a Reading Room in the neighbourhood. The chairman was David Williams, Ynyscynon. He promised an annual subscription of one guinea with an additional guinea for the first year.

A similar institution must have been in existence in the 1850s.

1858 Sept

An account in a local paper: ‘Aberdare Reading Room has recently moved to more convenient and spacious premises at the Temperance Hall’. Account in the History of Bethania, ‘Bras a Brysiog Hanes Bethania Aberdâr’, p.20 records how William Morgan, (Y Bardd), made an announcement that the Reading Room had moved to the Long Room of the Temperance Hall and urged teetotallers to use it.

Chapel libraries were to prove a very prominent feature later on in the century but they had not as yet made their appearance.


The first indication is in the minute book of Hen Dŷ Cwrdd on October 3rd where the Rev. R.J. Jones and Edward Howells were commissioned to buy books for the new library. A short time later Mr Lewis Noah Williams was chosen Librarian.


John Lloyd, in his History of Cwmaman, states that there was a Public Reading Room there in this year.

It does not appear that the Reading Room at the Temperance Hall was satisfactory and things did not improve when it was moved to the other side of the street.


There were a series of lectures at the Temperance Hall to raise funds for a new Reading Room. At Merthyr, there was a large and flourishing library of about 5,000 subscribers. Aberdare could boast of only this miserable place opposite the Temperance Hall.

This was only the first of many abortive attempts to set up a Public reading room and library in the town.


The Aberdare New Reading Room and Library


The Rt. Hon. Lord Aberdare of Dyffryn
Sir G. Elliot, Bart., London
Richard Fothergill, M.P., Abernant
Henry Richard, M.P., London
David Davis, J.P., Maesyffynnon
T. Spencer, Esq., Gadlys Aberdare


Rees Hopkin Rhys, J.P.
James Lewis, J.P.
David Davies, J.P.
Dr. Evan Jones
John Johns, Leather Merchant


The Committee was to consist of the principal gentry, tradesmen and artisans of the town.


Major Powell of the Brecon Old Bank


Mr. Marshall of the West of England Bank


Benjamin Powell, 17 Canon Street, Aberdare

The cost of the scheme was estimated at £5,000 and a site in Canon Street having been secured, the committee solicited support. £700 had already been promised but there was little support, and nothing came of the scheme.




Ten years later Dr. Evan Jones was High Constable and he endeavoured to revive public interest in the project but with no success.


A particularly good opportunity arose in consequence of the Queen’s Jubilee. Sir William Thomas Lewis of Mardy House, on behalf of the Marquis of Bute, offered the plot of ground on which the Constitutional Club now stands for the purpose of building a library together with £1,000 towards the cost but for reasons known only to itself the Board of Health turned the offer down. For some years after 1887, this matter was an issue at local elections for the Board of Health up to 1893. It was ten years later that the idea eventually bore fruit.


Even then, it had to make do with a rented building until 1962. Meanwhile the thirst for knowledge had been satisfied by chapel and church libraries and reading rooms in outlying hamlets.


As early as this, Bethania Chapel spent £20 on books and £8 for furnishing a reading Room.

1881 May

The chapel paid £4..7..6d for a set of “Y Gwyddoniadur”, also 26/- for James Hughes’ “Esboniad ar yr Ysgrythyrau”. Churches as well tried to fill the gap left by the lack of a public town library.


Aberaman. Even before the building of St. Margaret’s, there was a Church Club and Reading Room in the district, opened in January 17th 1882, with nearly 200 members. The Library consisted of 230 books, a set of Chamber’s Encyclopedia and numerous papers and periodicals.

1893 Nov 13

Library at Ebenezer Trecynon: between 1892 and 1897, accounts show £90..13s..3½d was collected in various concerts to subsidise the Chapel Library. The Reading Room was open on Monday, Thursday and Saturday Evenings and on Sunday afternoons after Sunday School for the exchange of books for home reading.

1898 Sept 17

Catalogue of this year shows 279 English and 170 Welsh books besides numerous weekly, monthly and quarterly journals. These are three geographical examples but they are typical of all chapels and churches between 1880 and 1900. They catered for specialist minority groups. They were, however, a substitute for a public library, the honour of pioneering goes again to Cwmaman.


Some tradesmen in Cwmaman opened a public reading room at 63, Fforchaman Road. Sometime about 1882 they moved to more commodious premises at 10a Railway Terrace where they had two rooms: 1 for reading and 1 for games. Members paid 3d a week.


Mr. W.D. White together with Thomas Isaac, Alfred Duke and D.E. Davies brought the matter of a better reading room before workmen, and colliers agreed to pay ½d in the £ towards the cost. They rented the Tea Caddy Shop in Glanaman Road for £1..15..0d a month and water rate. Two rooms, one for billiards and one for reading room and library combined. John Davies was Secretary until 1886 and he was succeeded by Thomas Harries who continued to serve for over a quarter of a century. W.J. Heppell succeeded White as Chairman and it was Heppell with Rees Rees of Cwmaman Collieries with three clergymen, the Revs Thomas Humphreys, H.A. Davies and W.D. Morris, who launched an appeal for a Public Hall. They had £450 in hand from the committee of the old British School, together with £50 from the committee of the old Reading room. The Treasurer was W.D. Morris and he remained so for over 20 years.

1891 Mar 21

Lease for 99 years obtained from the Cwmneol Estate and in the same year, the collieries raised the poundage to 1d.

1892 Mar

The new Institute was formally opened by Lord Aberdare. The new Library began with 500 English books and 100 Welsh books.


On a Sunday morning in May, the whole building was destroyed by fire.


From July 20th in 1896 to July 1897, the reading room occupied temporary accommodation in Fforchaman and in July 1897 moved back to that part of the Institute, which had already been repaired. The whole building was re-opened 6 months later by Lord Aberdare.

1906 June 18

The lesser hall was opened. In addition to library and reading rooms, billiard room and games room there were baths and other rooms.


The library consisted of 4,273 volumes besides papers and magazines. The value of the property was £6,856 and the treasurer had nearly £800 in hand. The number of books issued was 10,700. Between 1881 and 1911, the reading room at Cwmaman was the centre for the most intense social and cultural activities in the Aberdare Valley. Cwmaman Celebrity Concerts were held there conducted by W.J. Evans and Edward Lewis. There was an Ambulance class as early as 1889 conducted by Dr D. Davies-Jones. A great number of classes were held in Mining Engineering conducted by Kensington Engineering Department, lecturer J. Saulier of Cwmaman Colliery, 10 daily newspapers, 3 copies each of the 4 leading dailies and 63 weeklies.


The local council adopted the Public Libraries Act and opened the Central Library with Mr. W. Henstone Sturdy as Librarian. Originally the library rate was 1d, in 1913 it had risen to 2d and in 1958 was 11.82d (?).

1903 May 3

Reading room and library opened at the Church Club Building by Mr Marchant Williams. There were 2041 volumes. 1498 in the lending department and 343 in the reference library and there were 200 Welsh books.


Only 53% of the total number of books borrowed were fiction.

1910 Apr 30

Minute from the Library Committee.

31,725 volumes issued. Mr. J.H. Bruton proposed that steps be taken to erect a more suitable building as soon as possible.


The daily average of books issued
July 1913: 104,
November 1913: 164,
March 1914: 173, a particularly wet and stormy month.


The number of books was 16,559. 72,593 books were issued of which 33% were fiction.


There were over 100,000 books in stock in the central and subsidiary libraries.


The number of volumes issued during the year ending March 31st was 291,287.

1902 Sept

The Aberaman Institute project was initiated by W.W. Price in September this year. At a public meeting in the autumn of 1903, he was appointed Hon Secretary of the movement. The site of the present institute was bought from Capt. Roberts. Colliers agreed to pay poundage, and money also came from Aberaman British Schools when they were bought by the new Schools Board, and £100 from D.A. Thomas. The P.D. was paid £300 for the buildings on the site and lease. £5,000 was borrowed from The Cwmbach Co-operative Society. It was decided to complete the theatre first and this was to grant a lease on it to Mr. W.J. Withers of Welsh Halls


Ltd., Merthyr, but before leasing it, a concert was arranged for Monday December 21st 1908 when The Mikado was performed. There were a lesser hall, baths, reading rooms, committee

1909 Jun4

rooms and a lending library. The ceremony of opening was performed with a golden key by Keir Hardie, M.P. The secretary of the whole project from September 1903 until 1928 was W.W. Price.


Cwmbach had been talking for many years about a public hall and reading room.


A public meeting at Bryn Seion Vestry to build a hall and reading room at a cost of about £2,500. In May of the following year, an appeal for subscriptions was circulated but it all came to nothing.


Cwmbach Institute was opened.

1902 Aug 25

Trecynon Hall and Institute was opened. It was built by D. Tyssul Davies.


Abercwmboi Institute foundation stone was laid.

1915 Jan

The Abercwmboi Institute was opened in January, and the Hall in March.

1937 Nov

Coliseum opened by Oliver Harris and Finlay Gibson. It cost £9,300 and in this month, Tyssul Davies died.






The Aberdare and District Miners Federation Offices, 20 Commercial Street.
Constitutional Club, The Aberdare Free Church Girls Club Canon Street
Aberdare Independent Labour Party Institute, 2 Cardiff Street
Aberdare Liberal Club, Cardiff Street
Y.M.C.A., Commercial Street
Cynon Valley Band Club, Victoria Square
Aberaman Original Silver Band Institute
Aberaman Red Triangle Boys Club, near Wyndham Crescent.