Mention to anyone from the Valley communities that you are from Barry, and immediately you are told of a Club or Sunday School outing made to Barry Island, Cold Knap swimming pool, or to a works dance held at Bindles. These are the three places that are always remembered by them, but the most lasting memory of Barry that many people remember was their Annual Works Dance at Bindles. Some waited all year for this occasion, and said that "as soon as tickets came on sale, they were snapped up". They would try and book tickets for following year's dance at the end of that year's. A great number met their future wives or husbands there.
The Ballroom was built for a Mr. Martin, who was unable to pay for its construction. The builders, Messrs. Vickery Bros., sold the building to a consortium headed by Mr. Norman Hardy. The name "Bindles" came about when a name for the new venture was needed. A number of suggestions were put forward, until finally one of the directors at the meeting said that her nephew, who was an author, had written a series of books about a character named "Bindle", and that his latest book was called "The Night Club." A resume of the book was given, and on her nephew giving his permission to use the name, it was suggested that the new venture would be named "Bindles".
Many older people remembered visiting Bindles before the War and dancing to "The Melodists", the resident band. Another band mentioned was Ron Andow's, but the most popular was always "Bert Miller's Ballroom Orchestra" and his spot prizes. Some nights he would ask for a "pair of nickers" to be brought to the stage by the male companion, in order to claim a prize. Pandemonium usually ensued, as female patrons disappeared into the cloakrooms. Those in the know just sat there, or pulled two pound notes from their pocket, and strolled up to the stage and claimed the prize. The looks on the faces of the girls emerging from the cloakrooms was something to see!
During the war years, Bindles was the favourite ballroom for American troops stationed in Barry and Cardiff.
On a fine day, a great number of people from out of town would drive to Barry to visit Bindles for the very popular Tea Dances, organised by Miriam Gardner. Other bands that played there and are remembered include Stan Hopkins, who played for one of the most popular works dances, Distillers (or BP, as it later became), Billy Coulthard, Langdon Doidge and later Graham Williams.
In checking some of these memories I came across the following information -
On 17th March 1927 Bindles (Barry) Ltd. was registered. It was formed to take over land from Welsh Town Planning Trust of the one part and Messrs. J.Rattray, S. Davies, D. Martin and T. H. Munro of the other part, for a term of 986 years. A further underlease was negotiated with the same people, plus the building contractors, Messrs. H.S. Rendell. The terms of the lease allowed it to open a business as refreshment contractors, café proprietors, sugar and sweetmeat merchants, licensed victuallers, wine and spirit merchants, tobacconists, cinematography, theatre, music, concert, billiards, dance hall and hotel proprietors. Also in the lease was permission for the manufacture, repair and sale of motor vehicles.
In the late 40's Mr. E.H. Cheeseborough opened a small factory on the site, in which he made "Bindles Ice Cream" for many years. When a larger factory on the Port Road became available, the company moved there, still making ice cream, and later becoming "Bindles Frozen Foods".
The first year that Bindles opened, 1928, the Christmas dance programme was :-
Over the years the reputation and popularity of Bindles grew until by the 50's, Bindles was booked practically every night with clubs and organisations, both local and from many parts of the County, holding Dinner /Dances and social functions. A great number of national and local beauty competitions were staged there, including the Barry Carnival Queen, and when the Barry Branch of the Royal Air Force Association took over the running of the Carnival, the Miss Wings competition.
Dances were held on a regular basis by Miriam Gardner on Mondays, Sybil Marks & Phil Williams on Tuesdays, and by Bindles every Saturday. December of 1952 saw practically every night booked with :-
In 1970 the first Boxing Tournament was staged at Bindles. It was organised by the Llandaff ABC in aid of Cancer Research, and it raised over £700.
In 1974 in a bid to attract more customers, Bindles became "The Barry Variety Club" and advertised "A Night with the Stars". Cabaret nights with Greg Mitchell as resident compere featured many well-known artistes, at first on weekends and later over two or three nights. The first show featured Max Boyce, Iris Williams and Keith Gordon.
Over the following months many well known acts appeared, including Joe Brown and the Bruvvers, Los Zafiros, Bryn Phillips from the Comedians, Ray Allan and Lord Charles, Trini Lopez, The New Vaudeville Band, Salena Jones, Lionel Blair and his dancers, Aimi McDonald, Brother Lees, Tammy Jones, Matt Munro, finishing up with a return visit by Max Boyce.
1976 started off with Bier Keller Nights with the Amazing Bavarian Stompers, but the writing was already on the wall, with other night-spots in the area in competition, and offering cut price drinks and admission. These included the Whitehall Inn in Rhoose, the Merrie Friars at Barry Island, The Memorial Hall, The Golden Hind in Lavernock, and Butlins holiday camp at Barry Island.
A few years later roller-skating was introduced to Bindles on Sunday afternoons.
Some of the personalities who helped build and keep the reputation of Bindles over the years, and whose names readily spring to mind include Frankie "Tomo" Thompson, and later Big Norm, both doormen; Bindles photographer Laurie Coulthard, and later, his son Tony; Billy Phillips, Glen Thompson, Trixie Phillips, Ben Lobley (the official handshaker), Don Hall and Jackie and John Hamilton-Jones.
In 1982 Bindles closed its doors and became a television studio, later to be engulfed in flames in a disastrous fire that destroyed the ballroom. It was partially rebuilt and reopened as a restaurant and bar, only to close at the end of the century. The site was eventually sold and developed for housing.
© T. CLEMETT 2001