Plans have been submitted to convert the former Majestic Ballroom in Newport city centre into apartments.

Here is a piece written by Jim Dyer which was first published in South Wales Argus on May 30, 1986, about this popular Newport venue.

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 60s.

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 50s and 60s 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 60s, 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."

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.

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 to 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.

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.

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 60s.

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 70s 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.