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Following the rapid rise of the handloom weaving industry in Newtown in the early nineteenth century, this building was erected in 1832 to house the local flannel market. The building was built as a flannel exchange as a matter of civic pride to ensure the market was held in Newtown and not Welshpool.

As sales were only held once a week, it was also used as a public hall and a court of law. In 1890 it was bought by Sir Pryce Pryce-Jones who refurbished it and equipped it as a theatre and meeting hall. At the same time the town’s Post Office moved into the front part of the building.

In 1936 the entire building was converted into a cinema, a function part of it retains, together with other public entertainment facilities.

Did you know?

This building was erected in 1832 to house the local flannel market

In 1936 the entire building was converted into a cinema

By 1890 the front part of the building had become the Post Office.

Flannel produced in the area was sold to dealer's who would export the flannel to other markets using the canal and later the railway.

Gallery

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The Full Story...

In the 1820s Newtown was easily the largest flannel production centre in Wales and had developed a particular reputation for the finishing quality of the flannels in competition with the main rivals from the Rochdale area. The mechanisation of the carding and slubbing processes in Newtown, together with the development of bleaching techniques and wool sorting, all helped to centralise the industry in the town.

Between 1830 and 1832 a grand building, to be known as the Flannel Exchange, was planned by William Pugh of Kerry and designed by county surveyor Thomas Penson ( who also designed the parish church of St. David's in the town) and funded by public subscription. The Exchange was designed as a trading floor for woven cloth and was erected in an attempt to capture the flannel market from Welshpool.

Flannel produced in the area was sold to dealer's who would export the flannel to other markets using the canal and later the railway.

Certainly the grandest building in the town, the Flannel Exchange had paired Doric pilasters on a plinth with a screen of later pillars. When not in use for the sale of flannel it became The Public Rooms. It was used for concerts, exhibitions, auctions, lectures, conferences and bazaars, also the Quarter Sessions and Summer Assizes. During a typical year, 1881, it hosted a concert by the united Choral Society, Signor Bosco, "the only Conjuror and Ventriloquist in the world" performed and Dr. Kirton gave a lecture on "An Evening with the Water Drinkers of the Bible".

By 1890 the front part of the building had become the Post Office. Occasional films had been shown in the Public Rooms from before the turn of the century, but in 1920 it became the Scala Cinema.

in 1890 the Post Office utilized the Broad Street end .When the Post Office moved to its new premises in Short Bridge Street in 1937 the entire building was remodelled in Art Deco style to become the Regent Cinema. It closed in 1983 but was re-furbished and re-opened in 1987.

Further Reading