Hagg*r One Name Study

William Haggar Pioneer of the Cinema in Wales

Arthur William Haggar (always known as just William) born in 1851 in Dedham, Essex as the illegitimate son of a housemaid Elizabeth Mary Haggar born at Frating Essex in 1831.  William and his mother were living with Elizabeths uncle William and his wife Helen.  Although Williams father name has never been discovered it appears his mother got a regular income, via a firm of solicitors, so perhaps as is suspected he was the illegitimate son of one of the men in the big house where his mother had been in service.  Elizabeth married in Bury Lancashire in 1861 to Robert Bridgstock and by 1871 as a widow married again to James Taylor in Islington.

William during his childhood spent much of it with his Grandparents he learnt to play the cornet and joined a travelling theatre.  In 1871 he married Sarah Walton in Walshingam, Norfolk and she was an actress.  They went onto have eleven children with eight surviving to adulthood.  The first child was William Junior born in 1871 followed by - Frederick 1873, George 1875 - 79 (died of smallpox after a smallpox vaccination), Ellen 1877 - 1890 (drowned in the River Wye), James 1879, Walter 1880, Archibald 1882 - 1894 (died of diphtheria), Rose 1885, Violet 1887, Henry 1889 and Lily May 1891.

He became the boss of his own theatre company and bought a very early film projector with the light generated by a dangerous mixture of hydrogen and oxygen and the film turned manually.  He then bought a portable engine to generate electricity.  The children were all brought up in the world of entertainment and all could play a musical instrument and adapt to various roles on stage.  Whilst running his company he also learnt the art of photography and had a plate camera and had a travelling studio, offering customers framed pictures of themselves.

Eventually he started making his own films, in 1902 he filmed The Maid of Cefn Ydfa a romantic tragedy, it was filmed in 90 minutes and lasted 6 minutes.  It was a huge success.  He continued to make films including a slap stick comedy.

In 1909 Sarah died and William decided to settle down in Aberdare, South Wales and his travelling bioscope was set up in the Market Square with William and some of his children living in the wagons.  In 1910 he acquired the Royalty Cinema in Llanelli and started to build a chain of cinemas.

In 1912 married for the send time and his wife was May Davies.  William was very well respected in Aberdare and very generous towards local causes.  He became a a Poor Law Guardian and was voted a member of the Aberdare District Council.  He died in 1925 soon after the loss of May in 1924 and left an estate of £16,912, well over a million pound today.

My research has been greatly assisted by two books, both written by family members that describe Williams life and give  details about him and his families life in the entertainment industry.

William Hagger - Fairground Film Maker - Biography of a pioneer of the cinema  by Peter Yorke  (Grandson of William)  Published 2007

From Mummer's Booth to Silver Screen: The Life and Times of the Haggar Family by Vikki Haggar (Great Granddaughter of William) Published 2016.

For those wishing to know more the second of these books is a very easy read and is available via Amazon, the images below are copied from the book as a taster.


William Haggar with his family at the

wedding of his son Walter in 1906

The plaque in Aberdare market square to William Haggar using his full name

William with his second wife Mary outside Kenmare House

their home in Aberdare

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