Unity Hall - Ropewalk
The Unity Hall in the Ropewalk
This curious and near-derelict old building has a more interesting history than most people might imagine.
When I first saw it in 1994 I recognised it as a ‘tin tabernacle’, one those prefabricated corrugated iron-clad buildings that were popular around the turn of the 20th century as a cheap and simple way to provide extra meeting space for the burgeoning congregations created by the Revival. (There is a similar one in Goodwick opposite Capel Goedwig which was used as a reading room.)
However I could find no record of Unity Hall serving as a religious building in Fishguard. In 1994 it was still the home of the Labour Club but not for much longer; it next became Point youth centre until that moved to the Pop Works some years later. Since then the Unity Hall has remained empty and neglected. This is such a pity because it’s worthy of preservation and could be focus of great interest.
Thanks to a letter in the County Echo in February 2020 something about the building’s earlier history came to light. Fay Morgan-Oates wrote:
The Unity Hall near Lota Park Fishguard came from London. It was formerly [part of] a Welsh church, St. Padarn’s in Holloway, North London. The church was rebuilt in 1875, a brick structure with a hall attached to the side.
St Padarn’s closed in about 1974/5, the buildings taken over by another church and today is owned by a breakwater Catholic group, The Society of Pius X.
I am one of a small handful of people that knew both the Unity Hall and the church. My parents (Huw and Iris Morgan) attended the church from about 1946 to near enough its closure.
I have visited the Unity Hall when I was in my teens and my grandmother (Bessie Morgan) went to whist drives there. Below is a colour sketch I made in approximately 1965.
What a surprise this was!
I discovered that St Padarn’s church was situated in Salterton Road, Holloway in north London. It was established by the Welsh community in 1873. It closed in the 1970s and was sold in 1982 to the Roman Catholic group, mentioned above, and remains in use by them. At some point in the history of this church it would appear that the annexe must have been disposed of. Being a ‘pre-fab’ it could be dismantled and?sold. It must then have been conveyed to Fishguard, presumably by rail, and reconstructed for use as a temperance hall, possibly attached to Tabernacle Chapel.
Subsequently the building seems to have been used as an annexe of the Grammar School (and some local residents have memories of that). In 1955 it was acquired by the local Labour party as a meeting place and given a new name: Unity Hall. As such it was opened by no less a personage than Clement Atlee, the former prime minister and then leader of the Labour Party. A photograph (in private hands) exists of this event and the accompanying celebrations. See also Mr Clement Attlee’s visit to Fishguard
So, this little tumbledown building bears witness to a long history of serving a variety of needs: for the Welsh community in London (many of whom had migrated from west Wales to carry on dairy businesses); for the temperance movement, associated with the religious revival in Wales at the turn of the 20th century; for the Labour party at its post-war peak; and for the early years of a very successful youth organisation which brings so much benefit to the young people of the Twin Towns.
A recent comment by Welsh Vernacular Antiques on Twitter:
“Beautiful little abandoned zinc building in the centre of Fishguard. I do hope it stays and is given a new lease of life.”
What a shame Unity Hall has been left unused and unloved. Surely it deserves to be rehabilitated?