Bream Miners Welfare Cinema in ruins.
Bream Rugby Club. This was taken following the fire of 1946, when the gutted Miners Welfare Cinema was re-built. The lorry belongs to Immins and Co. The current rugby club car park in still an orchard.
The Bream Miners Welfare Hall was completed in 1927 to provide a venue for social events. It was converted into a cinema in 1938 and very badly damaged in a fire in 1946. It was re-built as a cinema but later bought by Bream Rugby Club in 1960. Bream R.F.C. has been based there since then. Previously Bream R.F.C. had been based at the Rising Sun, Bream. There is an excellent collection of photos of old Bream teams on display in the club's "Stan Wildin Player's Bar" (this room was incorporated into the main bar in 2009).
The following is a contemporary account of the fire taken from newspaper cuttings:
"Fanned by a raging wind which whipped up great flames, reported to
have been seen in Gloucester, fire swept through Bream Miners' Welfare
cinema in the small hours of Wednesday morning and reduced the fine building
to a gutted shell - a poignant ruin, the sight of which will be burned
into the memory of the local people as an unforgettable memorial to village
enterprise and endeavour.
Scores of villagers, standing in the squally rain of that grim night, watched the tragedy sadly, and none was more sad than the Hall Secretary, Mr Albert Brookes J.P., who for 22 years has given up many hours of his retricted [sic] spare time to the interests of the Miners Welfare scheme in Bream and particularly in more recent years since the premises were converted to a cinema.
With the falling of girders and masonry studding the swish and crackle of the inferno the building and all its valuable apparatus and app??ments were quickly destroyed, and the unhappy people who looked on could do little or nothing to aid the valiant efforts of the West Dean, Cinderford and Lydney fire brigades who were promptly in action, with Messrs. E. C. Wright (Coleford), H. Cox (Lydney) and H.W. Meredith (Cinderford) in charge. Assistance was also given by Gloucester fire brigade.
It is estimated that the damage totals £5,000.
The fire was discovered shortly after 2.30 on Wednesday morning by Mr. Reginald Meek, who keeps a shop and lives near the hall. He roused some local people, including Mr. Brookes, P.C. R. Weekes and P.C. J. Brown. The Lydney and West Dean N.F.S. was called and they responded quickly. When they arrived the hall was one sheet of flame, burning fiercely against the night sky, the blaze visible from most parts of the Forest.
The hard work of the two brigades was frustrated by the firm hold which the fire had secured and within an hour this hall - which Bream had always regarded with love and pride - was a wreck.
Good pressure for the water supply was obtained from the hydrant near Messrs. Williams and Cotton's shop and in addition there were 10,000 gallons on the premises.
As the fire-fighters toiled at their task they were confronted by by another danger - the possibility that the overhead electricity cables running near the hall would crash. An emergency call was put in to the West Gloucestershire Power Company at Lydney and a crew was sent out to disconnect the local supply and thus avoid any possible further trouble.
As is usual it is difficult to find the cause of the fire but the strongest possibility is that a lighted cigarette end was dropped during the performance of "Since you went away". It is thought that the fire started in the back of the hall and not in the operating box.
It was a rather pathetic interview that I had with Mr. Albert Brookes on Wednesday morning, not far from the charred building, with the bitter smell of the night's devastation in our nostrils (writes a Three Forest Newspapers reporter). He told me - as i knew - that the hall represented much of his life's work. Years of hard work had literally gone up in smoke and Mr Brookes gave me a clear and moving account of the night's horrible happenings.
"When I arrived" he said "the inside of the hall was a mass of flames. It was impossible to get in because the fire was so fierce and the roof was about to collapse. Soon afterwards there came a rending crash as the roof caved in. That was a terrible moment; I shall never forget that awful roar - the grinding of falling girders, the cracking of slates and the creaking and spluttering of burning timber".
"Several thousand feet of film were ........There were between 60 and 100 of the ?? people on the scene but they could do nothing; the blaze was completely beyond their control. The fire brigades did their utmost, but their task was hopeless from the start"
??? is the obituary notice of one of the ??? halls in the Forest, housed in the ??? village. It was built at a cost of over ????? and many improvements have been carried out. When it was completed in 1927 a great ambition, laudable to the extreme was realised. There was no other adequate accommodation for social events in Bream. At the end of 1938 the hall was converted into a cinema and an admirable success has followed the project. It was hoped in Bream that the cinema would develop further and as recently as last year plush seats were installed at a cost of £350.
Mr Brookes has suffered a personal loss through the fire. He had hidden away in the cinema an expensive canteen of cutlery intended as a wedding present for his son Norman among the ruins on Wednesday morning Mr Brookes found fragments - another piece of grievous evidence in this tragic tale of great loss to an enterprising village community.
Thanks also to Desmond Brookes.
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