Some Captured History of Glanamman and Garnant
Palace Cinema (Shew Sam)
Palace Cinema (centre) c.1928
The Palace Cinema invokes happy memories for many people who remember it. The building was reputedly opened by William John Richards in 1907 as a roller skating rink and was sited on Station Road, Glanamman.
William John Richards was born in Glanamman circa 1867 and was the son of a Blacksmith and Grocer named Morgan Richards, who kept the Cross Keys Shop in the village. Morgan had at least ten children in total, five boys and five girls.
Morgan's eldest son, Daniel, started his working life as a grocer. His second son, William (named above), relocated to Pontardawe, where he worked as a watchmaker. Joseph, or Joe as he was known locally, was Morgan's third son and he worked as a blacksmith before becoming a jeweller. David, like William, lived at Pontardawe as a young man, where he worked as a grocers assistant before he also became a jeweller. The youngest of Morgan's sons was named Samuel and it is believed that it was he who converted the roller skating rink into the Palace Cinema.
It is uncertain when the Palace opened as a Cinema, but it was certainly operating as such by the 19th of July 1913. One person who probably did not have happy memories of the Glanamman picture house was a man named Frank Powell who was shot on the premises on the aforementioned date. The 23rd of October 1913 edition of the Amman Valley Chronicle, gave an overview of the trial of 30 year old William Joseph Barnes, manager of Cwmamman Picture Palace, who was charged with maliciously wounding Frank Powell. The court heard that Mr Powell had been rude to a lady at the Palace and was "worse for drink". The prosecution claimed that the manager went to the office to get an air rife and when he returned, had pointed it at Mr Powell and shot him in the leg. The defence on the other hand, stated that Mr Powell became agressive when the manager tried to remove him from the premises for his unruly behaviour. The air gun had been brought to the manager to be repaired and was left in the office. It accidentally went off when the manager picked it up to move it out of the way. The Jury returned a verdict of "Not Guilty" and the manager was discharged.
The first films at the cinema were silent movies. News Reels and Serials were also shown and the venue was also used for other purposes, such as plays and concerts to raise money for local causes. Adverts would appear in the Amman Valley Chronicle, such as that which appeared in the 6th of March, 1916 edition. The timetable was as follows:
"Monday and Tuesday only, a three reel exclusive: The Sin of Jean Perlot. Replete with Charm & Human Interest.
The Serial that fascinates everybody - The Broken Coin, Episode 9: "Room 22."
Wednesday, Welsh Drama: Proceeds for Calfaria, Garnant
Thursday, Friday & Saturday, Palace Exclusive - The Only Way Out. Gripping and full of Incidents.
Also Pathe Gazette Nightly.
Usual Times and Prices."
Special holidays at the Palace Cinema would include Children's Matinee's such as the one shown on Easter Monday afternoon in 1916. The "Special Pictures" were shown at 3pm and the admission was 1d and 2d.
Later that year, in August, the Palace hosted a miscellaneous concert to raise funds for the Cwmamman Recreation Ground, with performances given by local artistes such as: Miss Mary Davies of Brynamman singing Soprano; Madam Llewelyn-George of Glanamman singing Contralto; Owen Morgans of Glanamman singing Bass; John Roberts of Glanamman, Elecutionist; Humour by Ceidrim (Edwin Rees); Penillion singing by Llinos Cwmamman (Llinos Thomas) and Berach Bach (Master David Bevan), of Glanamman.
On April the 30th of 1919, The Palace was the venue of a musical performance titled "Britannia and Her Daughters" by the Bethania Chapel Children's Choir. Mrs Leah Norah Folland was in attandance. At the end of the evening when acknowledgments were voiced, thanks were given to the Richards family of Glanamman, Brynamman and Swansea for the loan of the Palace. The firm known as "Richards Bros." had a Jewellers shop in each of the locations.
One of the Palace Cinema's part-proprietors, Joe Richards, died in 1922 aged only 42 years. The 4th of May 1922 edition of the Amman Valley Chronicle paid tribute to his readiness to help good causes and willingness to lend the Palace building to raise money for local causes. Joe worked at the Brynamman shop, but lived at "Greenlands", Glanamman, which was a house sited next door to the Amman Hotel on Station Road. Although he had many interests, it was said that his enthusiasm for the Cwmamman Choral Society meant that no one worked harder with them before their triumph at Mountain Ash in 1920.
The 1923 edition of Kelly's Directory listed M. Richards & Co. as the proprietors of the Cinematograph Palace. The company was also listed as "shopkeepers".
The first talking movies did not appear anywhere before 1927 and it is uncertain when the first one appeared at the Palace Cinema. In 1957, when the Palace was celebrating it's 50th anniversary, the manager at that time, Alwyn Williams, stated that the first talking movies shown there were "Sergeant York" and "The Singing Fool", the latter being released in 1928. "Sergeant York", however was not released until 1941.
The 9th of January 1930 edition of the A.V. Chronicle referred to the Glanamman Palace as "the cosy Valley picture house" and gave an extensive overview of the storyline to "The Wedding March", calling it: "One of the most pretentious screen products of the season". The production had a cast of over 2,100 people and "scenes of the utmost magnificence." It was, however, a silent movie.
During the same period, the very large Ammanford Palace Cinema was referred to as "the leading Valley picture house" and was already showing talking movies such as, "The Gamblers".
By the end of August 1931, the Glanamman Palace Cinema was also showing talking movies. An advert appeared in the A.V. Chronicle's 3rd of September 1931 edition which included the following text:
ON THE FINEST AND LATEST EQUIPMENT IN THE VALLEY"
The offering that Thursday, Friday and Saturday was "Dark Red Roses", "Aroma of the South Seas". The following Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday showed a musical comedy titled "Follow Thru". The times of showing during that period were:
Monday to Friday: 7.30pm
Saturday: 6pm and 8.30pm.
Entry prices were: 1s 3d, 1s, or 6d. Children entered for half price on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and first house Saturday.
Local people remember many things about the Glanamman Palace Cinema. Among the anecdotes are stories of how dark the cinema was and that it was not impossible to walk into the vertical pillars that were positioned throughout the building. Others tell of how it was difficult to hear the movies during heavy showers of rain because of the corrigated tin roof. The green metal building also became very hot inside when the sun beat down on it. Fondly remembered by some is the fact that "Shew Sam" had double seats in various parts of the building and these were very popular with courting couples!
Another memory is that the Palace Cinema would put on a free show as a New Years Day treat for the local children. The manager would hold up two film reels for the children to choose and the one gaining most shouts and cheers would be the one played.
The manager would sometimes burn old film reels on the land behind the Palace building and some local children would afterwards filter through the debris and hold remnants of the old films up to the light.
The Palace Cinema was eventually taken over by a Newcastle-Upon-Tyne based company named "Storrddart". Mr D. Joshua who worked as a projectionist at the Palace remembers that the most popular film star was Doris Day and that people would form long queues nearly reaching the River Amman in order to see her movies.
Visitors would buy sweets etc from either Siop Jenny (Clifton Shop) on Tabernacle Road, or from the small shop between the Palace Cinema and the Railway Signal Box.
"Shew Sam" closed in the mid 1960's and was later demolished after the land was purchased by the landlord of the Amman Hotel. The site is now the location of a car park and lock up garages. Some of the plush wine coloured velvet seats were used in the old doctor's surgery on Station Road, Glanamman.
Thanks to all of the local people who were so willing to share their memories of "Shew Sam".