Newport's Majestic Ballroom

By Jim Dyer
First published in the South Wales Argus 1986

© Jim Dyer 2012

Over the decades this building has catered for many uses but it will probably be best remembered as Newport's shrine for both local pop groups and nationally famous groups of the ‘sixties.

There must be many Newportonians of my generation who were regular visitors at the Majestic, 'the Stick'. The building’s still there, but the dance hall has gone, where many pimply-faced youths donned their Cuban boots and beehive hair. Then it used to be a swinging dance hall – coloured lights, huge stage, chalked dance floor and espresso coffee bar. Since it closed it has been various other things, including a bingo hall, but will always be fondly recalled for the well known bands which performed there.

It looks the same, though, nestled at the bottom of Stow Hill and set between other fine buildings. Its early history I know little about… one thing's for sure - it wasn't originally used for modern ballroom dancing or the thumping Liverpool sounds which hit the 'sixties in such a big way.

During and just after the Second World War it was called the Tredegar Hall, a picture house, but it was in the 'fifties and 'sixties that the Majestic saw its greatest times in common with the sweeping music mood of the country with a thirst for bee-bop and jive.


‘The Rank Organisation converted it to a dance hall in the 'fifties’, says Henry Butcher, a top saxophonist with the resident band at the time. ‘In those early days it was mainly modern dancing odd the strict-tempo style, particularly Victor Sylvester tracks when the women would don their sequinned dresses and men their immaculate dress suits.’

Joe Loss, Benny Goodman and Glen Miller were popular too, their numbers expertly adapted by the resident bands, one of which was Hughie Webb. 'Hughie was a great leader but liked things spot-on. If the tempo was a little out the dancers would complain and Hughie used to really lay it on to us before we started. The amazing thing was, after giving us a roasting, he would turn to the audience in his inimitable way and sweetly announce the next dance.'

Henry and his colleagues played the Majestic well into the 'sixties, but times were changing. 'Local pop groups were gaining in popularity,' Henry recalls, 'and soon we had to stand down on Monday nights or at least share the evening.'

Advertisements in the South Wales Argus would announce the week's entertainments:-


Tops in Pops – featuring the Top Twenty

Big Beat Nite

Select Party Night

Morning rock – Jiving to Top 20
Admission 1/- (5p)
Saturday Night is Gals Night
Dancing to Hughie Webb and the Majestic Orchestra

The Rock Scene

They even had special dance nights for ships visiting Newport Docks, as when HMS Daring berthed in December 1960. But inevitably the Monday evenings featuring Hughie Webb became 'Hughie Webb and the band plus The Strangers – Rock Group and Special Cabaret.'

Having passed through the Dickie Valentine and Lita Roza era - singers whose hits were on the lips many a Newport conscript – the Majestic was well on its way towards Teddy Boys and Mods and Rockers. Although there was the odd skirmish or two, there was nothing like the scale of violence we see today, and brothel-creepers gave way to smart red blazers, checked trousers and white slip-on shoes. The Majestic rolled on.

Pop became so popular that the local; groups began top get regular spots, particularly on Mondays which was the big night. But, history has a habit of repeating itself and even these budding pop-stars had to give way to the really big names of the day.

Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, Decca Records, May 1963
A memento from the early 1960s

If they were really lucky the locals – Vikings, Couriers, Plainsmen, Hurricanes, Cellar Set, Pieces of Mind, to name a few – could share the bill with a nationally known group, and no doubt they enjoyed this accolade.

Take 1964/5 for instance – what a feast of groups Newport saw! There were crowds four deep up Stow Hill to see the Searchers. The Yardbirds, featuring the famous Eric Clapton, were fantastic, but Gene Vincent, with his gammy leg, was a little disappointing as he came on late and only performed six or seven numbers. Hey Mama went down well with the Teds, jiving away 'til their heart's content.

Who remembers the Migil Five and Mocking Bird Hill? They were there too, as were the Swinging Blue Jeans, Merseybeats, Fairies, Marauders, Pat Wayne and the Beachcombers, Rebounds, Peter's Faces, Redcaps, Graduates, Mojos, Four Pennies. John Mayall, John Lee Hooker, Barron Knights, Beau Brummel, and many, many, many more whose names have long since slipped away into pop history just like Juke Box Jury and Ready Steady Go.

Brian Poole and the Tremeloes have long since parted company but I have a signed photograph of their Newport trip which brings back a few memories.

The Majestic continued to rock on through the 'sixties having its fair share of blues, pop, Mowtown, country and western and even a sliver of heavy metal.

Other Clubs

There were still the odd big band nights, but trends were changing as were the jivers and rock'n'rollers who now some decade on had other interests and even families to raise. It was being left to another generation of youngsters to cultivate their 'own thing.' Music and aspirations had changed considerably since the relatively carefree, swinging 'sixties.

Other clubs grew to compete with the Majestic for the patronage of Newport youth and indeed they could bring in big names. Suddenly it wasn't so trendy to go to the 'Stick.' Easier travel and the car meant such places as Cardiff and Bristol became more easily accessible to Newport fans for the bigger concerts that these cities could attract. Falling audiences meant a re-think for the future of the Majestic.

Into the seventies and the Majestic, once a Mecca for dancers of all kinds, became a bingo hall. In 1972 the Argus announced that Newport would shortly have its first bingo club and licensed premises within the same building.

In the same year planning permission was given for the ground floor to be changed into a bier keller. By 1986, it was still a bingo club, providing a different type of entertainment but still retaining the name that had served so well for many years. An era ended when 'the Stick' ceased its dances and I doubt whether there will be such a unique period as the 'sixties again. The Majestic was very much a part of this era and so completely encapsulated the mood of the youth at the time.

Jim Dyer – 9th January 12


First published in South Wales Argus on 30th May 1986


Ray French:

"The mention of the Yardbirds featuring Eric Clapton as being great when live at The Majestic (The 'STICK') was absolutely true. It was in April 1964. There were only 9 yes NINE paying members of the public there. The band all wore slick Mod style grey suits. Eric stood in front of a huge Marshall Amp taller than him and repeatedly butted it with the back of his Fender Strat so that it rocked back and fore making  huge distortion. I can name most of the 9 people present in the audience if anyone is mildly interested. At the half time break all the members of the group came and chatted with us and seemed genuinely interested in our opinions, with the exception of Eric who remained very quiet in the background. No alcohol was on sale at the time and I was asked to go and get 4 bottles of beer, given a ten bob note and went across the road where there used to be a pub at the side of the Westgate hotel. Being just 16 on the 13th April - and a very young looking 16 - I got refused but managed to get someone to buy the beer. Great days when you could see the best current artists and groups in Newport, Cardiff and Bristol, I really liked the old Corn exchange in Bristol. happy days indeed."