In the beginning it was known as the Assembly Hall. It was built as an initiative of the elders of Sychnant Chapel. The land was donated by Anne Jones, who owned the Pant y dwr Shop and the £600 that was needed to build the hall was raised by public subscription and Ann Jones’s son, Evan Jones, acted as guarantor. Evan Jones was a leading light in the village, Justice of the Peace and Sunday school choir master. One principal contributor was Thomas Hamer, Green Farm.
The building took place during1906. It was timber framed, built off brick foundations and clad in corrugated iron sheeting. The roof was also corrugated sheeting, supported by trusses. Internally the walls were lined with timber. It measured 21.25m x 11.5m overall.
Thereafter the hall was an integral part of village life. Over the years it became the venue for ‘Penny Readings’, ‘Twopence Halfpenny Concerts’, whist drives and numerous family gatherings for funerals, weddings and christenings. Every year between 1906 and 2010 it has hosted the annual eisteddfod and since the 1930s the Annual Show has been held in the hall and in nearby fields (the 2016 Show was the 80th) . The Pant y dwr Eisteddfod was renowned in mid Wales and special trains were run to enable people to attend.
Before Smart Phones, TV, Radio
One of the first recorded events in the hall was the meeting of the Parish Council on 11 December 1907 and their vote of thanks to the trustees of the hall for kindly granting, free of charge, the use of the hall for council meetings. In those days people made their own entertainment, especially before the advent of radio broadcasting in the 1920s. The concert held on 6 January 1916, in conjunction with Green Chapel Sunday School,was a typical event, bringing the whole community together. The Mayor of Brecon presided. The country was at war with Germany and some of the programme of recitations, carols and songs reflected the patriotism and militarism of the times.
Christmas Carols, conducted by Mr E W Jones, JP
Duet,‘Wrap the Flag Around Me Boys’, by Master Price and Willie George
Recitation,‘In the Trenches’, by Kinsey Morgan (later Mayor of Rhayader)
Recitation, ‘British Freedom’, Bert Lewis
The programme ended with Christmas tree awards and ‘God Save the King’.
Coronations and Jubilees
The hall came into its own every time there was a national event to celebrate: a coronation in 1911, 1936 and 1953; a silver jubilee in 1935 and 1977, VE Day in 1944 and the Prince of Wales Investiture in 1977. For all these events, committees were formed to organise fund raising, sports activities, commemorativemugs for the children, a bonfire and a big feast. During the First World War contributions to a National Relief Fund for soldiers and a war Contribution Fund were organised and for the Second World War £60 was collected for a Spitfire Fund.
In 1966 there was a major constitutional change when Sychnant Chapel offered the hall to the community, together with £190 of assets, for the nominal transfer fee of £1. A parish meeting was held in the hall on 12 December 1966 to assess public opinion on the offer. There were 91 people present and on a show of hands the meeting unanimously decided to accept the offer. A hall management committee was established and a year later, in December 1967 the transfer was formalised with a legal conveyance from the Presbyterian Church of Wales to the new trustees of the hall. The conveyance states that the hall is ‘for the use of the inhabitantsof the Parish of St Harmon and the neighbourhood without distinction of sex or of political, religious or other opinions and in particular for use for meetings, lectures and classes and other forms of recreation and leisure time occupation with the object of improving the conditions of the life of the said inhabitants’. The name was changed to St Harmon and District Parish Hall and in 1971 the hall was registered as a charity.
St Harmon and District Parish Hall
In 1969 the hall trustees were able to acquire a strip of ex-railway land at the rear of the hall measuring almost one acre, from a neighbouring farmer. The extra land cost £100 and it was to come in very useful in the future.
After 60 years the hall by now was beginning to look a bit worn and the committee set out to raise money to refurbish the structure and the fittings with a programme of concerts, dances and socials. On a snowy day in January1969 a party of 47 people did a sponsored walk and raised £250 towards the renewal. Fundraising was slow but steadyover the next two decades but was then given a boost in the 1990s when the BrynTitli Wind Farm was built and the hall became eligible for grant aid from the windfarm company. Between 1994 and 2004 a series of applications to the fund brought in a total of £9095 for general maintenance and running costs and some modernisation and improvements to the lighting and heating.
Falling into Disrepair
However, despite the improvements, the use of the hall was declining. The money being spent could not keep pace with the deterioration. The corrugated iron cladding had done well to last for over 100 years but the hall was really showing its age. The acoustics were still as good as ever but the place was difficult to heat, difficult to keep clean and the lack of storage space created clutter. People were still using the hall, but out of necessity because there was no alternative. The hall committee felt they were doing their best to keep the place going with the resources available.
Around the year 2000 things came to a head. A new committee took over and a new set of trustees was appointed. The trustees first action was to conduct a needs assessment survey. The survey simply asked ‘Do you want a new hall, yes or no?’ and also what type of facilities were needed in the hall. Volunteers visited every household on the electoral role and there was a 96% response. 83% were in favour of a new hall and the existing facilities were felt to be woefully inadequate.
Revitalised – the New Community Hall
Then nothing much happened. The difficulties of raising money became apparent. The hall activities ticked over; the committee dwindled and met infrequently. Then around 2008 there was a revival of interest. There were public meetings, the committee was enlarged and a fundraising group was formed to apply for grants. It took two years of repeated grant applications but in September 2010 the Welsh Assembly awarded a grant of £300,000 and subsequently a grant of £120,000 was obtained from Bryn Posteg Waste site. Other small grants brought the total to £447,000. The original intention had been to modernise the existing structure but after discussion it was decided to make use of the additional land at the rear of the hall and build a new hall. It was renamed the New Community Hall, Pant y dwr. It was opened on 15 December 2012 by Roger Williams MP and Kirsty Williams AM and it has gone from strength to strength ever since
© PB 2016
St Harmon Community Council Minute Books1898-2002;
Brecon and Radnor Express, 6 January 1916
Express and Times Gazette, 9 March 1968; 4 January1969
Receipts for Hall Building Funds, Powys Archives (Acc 1934)
Interior of the hall photograph courtesy of CARAD and the late Carol Davies
Fundraising, Pant y dwr Show photographs and exhibition poster courtesy of Liz Cook
Eisteddfod Programme courtesy the Radnorshire Society