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William Haggar– Film Pioneer  
Born in Essex in 1851, at the age of 18 William Haggar ran away from home and joined a troupe of travelling players. Splitting from this band after a short time he remained on the road moving between companies of travelling actors. It was in one such company that he met his future wife, Sarah Walton, the daughter of the travelling company owner. They were married in 1870 and later formed their own company. During their years as travelling company owners they spent a great deal of time touring South and West Wales. It was during this period that they first visited Aberdare, a town that was to become one of their favourite venues.
William Haggar

In 1897 Haggar went to London where he visited an early cinema. He was captivated by the show and purchased his own projector in Exeter in September of that year. His first public performance of his 'Bioscope' show was on April 5th 1898 at Aberavon Fair. In 1901 he produced his first film of a train at the station at Burry Port where his show was playing at the time. It was the success of the 15-minute melodrama 'Maid of Cefn Ydfa', probably the first fictional film made in Britain, which launched him into his career as a filmmaker. His career was to last until 1909 during which time it is estimated that he made between forty and sixty narrative films , many of which featured members of his family, including his son William Haggar Junior.

Left: William Haggar

The death of his wife Sarah in 1909 persuaded him to give up film production and settle down as a cinema proprietor. He chose to settle at Aberdare and in 1910 William Haggars Coliseum (from 1912 it was renamed Haggar's Electric Palace) was opened on a permanent pitch at Market Yard. In 1912 Haggar married Mary Davies, daughter of Jenkin Davies, keeper of the 'Bird in Hand Inn' in Monk Street, Aberdare. He and Mary had a house built in Abernant, which they called 'Kinema House'

Right: One of Haggars' early travelling cinemas c1908

Haggar's early travelling cinema c1908
William Haggar pictured outside "Kinema House" in Abernant with his daughter and second wife.

The following years were busy ones in the life of William Haggar. In 1913 he purchased the freehold of the drill hall opposite his pitch at the market yard in order to begin building his own cinema. The same year saw him elected to the Merthyr Board of Governors and in 1914 he became a councillor for the Aberdare Urban District Council.

Left: William Haggar pictured outside "Kinema House" in Abernant with his daughter and second wife.

The cinema, which Haggar named the 'Kosy Kinema' was opened on the 23rd August 1915. This was a handsome building with folding seats for 700 people and was considered luxurious by the standards of the time. This cinema was later restyled 'The Cosy Cinema' and sold to Captain Willis of Pentre in 1927. Sadly the cinema was extensively damaged by a fire in June 1946 and was forced to close. The 'Kosy' was just one of a number of cinemas owned by the Haggars throughout South Wales and Southern England. The 'Palace' at Mountain Ash , was acquired in 1910 and opened in 1912.
After a career in the film industry spanning more than 25 years William Haggar died on February 4th 1925 at 'Maer-yr-haf' in Elm Grove, Aberdare, which was the home of his son Walter. Possibly better remembered in Aberdare for his roles as cinema owner and local councillor William Haggar has in recent years gained the recognition he deserves as the greatest early film pioneer in Wales. He was the subject of a Radio Wales broadcast entitled 'Haggar'sTravelling Picture Show' in June 1984.

Right: The "Kosy" Cinema, Market Street, Aberdare

The "Kosy" Cinema, Market Street, Aberdare
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