THIS week, local history enthusiast Mark Muller looks at the interesting history of Haverfordwest's Liberal Chambers.

ST MARY’S Street in Haverfordwest contains the most remarkable line of buildings; The Assembly Rooms, The Temperance Hall, The Old Borough Council Offices and this place - perhaps the oddest - The Liberal Chambers. They all line one side of the street below St Mary’s Church and each has a strong, fascinating history. (Which, have no doubt, I will present to you in turn in due course.) Not that long ago, it can be vaguely seen on some very old prints, that there were buildings on both sides with an extremely narrow roadway in between.

As with every building in the town of Haverfordwest, there were much earlier structures on all of these sites, especially in this, one of the oldest areas. It has been suggested that The Liberal Chambers is on the site of the Charnel House belonging to St Mary’s but other sources are probably stronger in placing that bone storage unit closer to the church.

What is certain is that it was given to the Liberal Party in 1913. In the basement (on a level with Dark Street) is a plaque on which is inscribed the following:

"The Freehold of these premises was the gift of Henry Seymour Allen Esq. D.L.,J.P., of Cresselly.

To the Liberals of the Town and County of Haverfordwest 1913."

In the 100 years since, the building has seen a multitude of uses. It has been residential, was used by Taskers as external classrooms and in the 1940s the upstairs became a snooker room.

More recently, the bottom floor has been used for offices whilst the upper rooms became the ‘studio’ of the recently deceased and much missed photographer, graphic designer, Buddhist and all round nice person, Joe Masters who lost his battle with leukaemia.

But most intriguing is the photograph shown, hitherto unpublished. Joe Masters was given the photo by Brenda Munt (The Munt photographic collection is a county treasure) not long before he died and was convinced that the figure on the balcony was David Lloyd George... there is a long standing legend of Lloyd George having addressed a crowd from this very balcony.

There are several strands that have to be examined here; David Lloyd George was in Haverfordwest in 1924, supporting his son Gwilym in the election of that year (which he lost) and would have most definitely called at, or even attended meetings in, the Liberal Chambers during his visit. Although he had spent time in Pembrokeshire as a very small child, this was the first time that he had been to the county as an adult – he states this in a speech he gave at the Palace Cinema during this visit.

The Western Telegraph dated October 30, 1924 had this to say: "The scenes witnessed at Haverfordwest are without parallel in the political history of the town. All day on Wednesday the offices of the Liberal Club were besieged with applicants for tickets and hundreds of disappointed people had to be turned away. The meeting (speech) was timed to commence at 7.30 but two hours before that a queue had been formed outside the Palace Theatre."

This is the description of people trying to get tickets for the speech in the cinema on October 22, which had difficulty getting under way due to the audience refusing to stop singing, ‘For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow’ or cheering. The ex Prime Minister was introduced by none other than... H Seymour Allen who was the chairman of the Pembrokeshire Liberals.

But in among all of this, there is a fly in the ointment; those with knowledge of costume history have advised that the clothes worn in the photograph would suggest an earlier period, probably not much later than 1916 or perhaps just a year or two either side.

Added to that, I must confess that I don’t recognise the gentleman on the balcony, who infuriatingly isn’t looking directly into the camera, as David Lloyd George (the one in question is in the centre looking down)... although I could never tell Joe that.

It could be that what we are seeing is a celebration of the building being handed over by Henry Seymour Allen, especially as if you look carefully at it, the plaque can be seen attached to the outside of the balcony.

I wait on your comments.