Chapter 4:

           Up until 1941 the war was something to be read about in the newspapers but this soon changed as it came much closer to home when Swansea was to suffer quite extensive damage as a result of the German night-time bombing raids on the town. Pontlliw had its own momento of these raids in the form of a bomb crater, the result of a stray bomb which fell near the lodge, on the field where Woodfield Avenue was later to be built. There was a modicum of protection for some of the villagers in the shape of an air-raid shelter which was built behind the houses on Oaklands Road, where numbers 2-4 Woodfield Avenue now stand, this was still in evidence when development work commenced on the site.

          The hall was still in use during this period although not as busy as it had been, when in June of 1941, under the emergency powers in force at that time, the hall building was requisitioned by the Ministry of Food as a cooking and feeding centre. Several other Village Halls in South Wales, those that served no purpose other than being social centres, were to suffer the same fate.

          Little time, if any, was allowed for clearing the hall of the items belonging to the committee, and as no other storage space was available at such short notice for the 300 chairs and tables and in particular the full-size billiard table, these were left in the hall in the care of the new occupants. And so it was, only ten years since the hall was bought, that the village was again without its own social centre.

          The building served as a Ministry of Food cooking and feeding centre until the end of the war, when it was taken over by the Ministry of Education, when it became a cooking centre primarily for school meals. Although the war ended in 1945 the building remained in use, providing school meals until well into the 1950's.

          May 1946, and the village hall committee were to suffer yet another blow. As land-owners, albeit not yet developed, they were now expected to pay the government's new land tax, which amounted to 11/9/6d per annum, even though they had no source of income nor had they any since 1941. Surely, nothing else could go wrong, or could it?

          At the end of 1946 the committee were to find themselves in a very difficult situation. Their entire assets amounted to 34/2/3d in the deposit account and 3/2d in the current account. Their only source of income, the hall and its equipment, were still held under the government requisition order with no sign of it being released in the forseeable future, and as yet not a penny had been received in compensation nor was there any hint of any being forthcoming. The land was now more of a liability than an asset as the new levy would quickly deplete what little resources were available. This was undoubtedly one of lowest points in the whole history of the village hall committee, and there seemed little anyone could do to help.

          1947 was to open on this very bleak note, but closed at least a little brighter. The question of compensation for the requisition of the hall was at long last to be discussed. Acting for the committee, in negotiation with Swansea Corporation, the present tenants, was solicitor Mr Rhodri Harries, and agreement was reached in early August when Swansea Corporation offered the committee a quarterly rental of 13/13/0d for the use of the hall, this constituted a weekly rental of one Guinea (1/1s). This was to be backdated from the date of the requisition order and would be paid quarterly for as long as the order was in force. There was no question at this time of the hall being released back to the committee.

          On August 16th a cheque was received from Swansea Corporation for the total back rental from June 1941, amounting to 306/7/4d. At least now the committee could hold its head above water and meet the cost of the land tax.

          Over the next two years or so, the only entries that appear on the accounts are for the annual payment of the land tax and the regular quarterly receipts for hall rental from Swansea Corporation.

          The committee entered the 1950's in a much rosier position than ever. Even though their major asset, the hall, was still tied up, they now had the grand sum of 448/5/6d in the bank, and this was increasing at the rate of 13/13/0d a quarter, plus interest, without any effort on their part.

          However, the committee were not seen to be doing anything about their main aim and purpose, that of providing a social centre for the village, so a public meeting was called for Wednesday March 8th 1950 to explain the situation with regards to the hall and the committee's position. It is documented that this meeting was held in the school hall but no report of the meeting is available.

          Also, on April 14th 1950, as mentioned earlier, is the record of the payment of 10 to Joseph Thomas, as 'a token of good will for over 30 years service to the committee'.

          1951, with the war now long over and an air of normality settling upon the community, the committee once again turned its attention to providing some form of social event for the village. At the committee meeting of March 14th the entire proceedings revolved around the arrangements for a forthcoming concert to be held on Thursday March 29th, this was to be the first event organised by the committee since the requisitioning of the hall, the concert was to be held in the school hall, and an advertisement had been placed in the 'Llwchwr Gazette', also the tax office had been notified regarding the entertainments tax.

          There were to be two raffles, the first prize being 1lb of butter, secured by Mr.W.Burgess, remember of course that rationing was still in force at this time and 1lb of butter was a rare commodity indeed. Incidentally, the aforementioned gentleman chaired this meeting and it is noted either intentionally as a comment on his stature, or by an oversight, that in the absence of the chairman Mr.W.H.Burgess 'filled the chair'.

          Chairs were to be borrowed from Penllergaer Church Hall, as the village hall chairs were still locked away, and no chairs were available at the school as desks were still the order of the day. Tea and biscuits would be served to the artistes following the concert. Six stewards were appointed, 2 at the door and 4 inside to make sure that 'every seat was occupied and children were kept in order'.

          The record of the occasion reads "The Concert, held on Thursday, March 29th for the benefit of the Hall, was a great success. The School hall was packed and the Llan Gang (a party of ten artistes) provided an excellent programme that was much appreciated". The proceeds of this concert amounted to 18/6/0d and in addition the 1/1/6d hire charge for the school hall was refunded, and H.M.Customs & Excise also refunded the 2 entertainments tax. All in all, a very rewarding evening.

          Personally, one of my most vivid schoolday memories was of this concert. The children, most of whom had never been to a concert before, were seated in rows on the floor close to the stage, and gazed in wonder at the proceedings unfolding before their eyes. I was an impressionable 9 year old at this time and children respected, and even feared, the local bobby. The performance included a medley of Gilbert & Sullivan songs and 4 or 5 huge gentlemen in blue had just burst into song. All was well until the line "We'll run you in", when what seemed to be the biggest of them pointed a finger directly at me. I remember looking around for some means of escape but all I could see was a sea of people, every seat was filled, many more were standing around the sides and at the back of the hall and even sitting on the window sills, I was trapped, and it seemed as if everyone was looking at me. Guilty consience? I only know it was a very frightening experience, and needless to say the rest of the concert did not command the same amount of interest.

          The success of this concert was to herald a new beginning for the hall committee, and a renewal of interest in the 'Pontlliw Public Hall and Library'.

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Pontlliw Village Hall  (The Story of a Dream Come True)
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Norman Smith / Pontlliw Village Hall 1993 - 2009