Penallta Workmen's Hall and Institute

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Minute books, 1922-1954 and 1962-1977

Administrative / Biographical History

Penallta Workmen's Hall and Institute was situated in Ystrad Mynach [Ystradmynach].

The miners' institutes and halls developed from the latter part ofthe nineteenth century. This coincided with the development of the coalfield when a great influx in population created new demands for self-education and a need for meeting places for both lodge business, evening classes and community recreation. The institutes strongly reflected the role of the community and as a result they became focal points for the mining village and its locality.

The institutes were largely financed by the miners themselves through weekly deductions from each miner's wages at the local colliery, although sometimes coal-owners made contributions. In 1920 under the 1920 Mining Industry Act, the Miners' Welfare Fund was set up to be administered by the Miners' Welfare Commission. The fund provided amenities for the miners, including welfare halls and institutes, pit-baths and scholarships. Many institutes and welfare halls received maintenance grants after 1920 from this fund.

The miners' institutes contained libraries, reading rooms, games rooms and other facilities for recreation such as cinemas, theatres and billiardrooms. They also provided accommodation for meetings, most notably National Union of Mineworkers [NUM] (South Wales Area) Lodge meetings. In many instances lodgecommittee members were also heavily involved in the running of the institutes. The libraries provided a rich educational resource for the community and some ofthem at their peak rivalled the largest public libraries then existing in Britain.

The golden era of the institutes after World War Two was followedby their demise in line with social trends. These included the provision of secondary education and local library facilities, changes in social activities for example the growing popularity of television, bingo and the development of clubs and most importantly, the contraction of the coalfield following the pit closures from the 1950s onwards. Many of the old halls and institutes ended up being converted into miners' clubs.

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