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The Picture House

This building was once home to a branch of Tesco.

Market Street, Ebbw Vale, Blaenau Gwent, NP23 6HP
Purpose built in 1970 as a supermarket, this building stands on the site of the Astoria cinema. Built in 1940, the picture house is recalled in the name of this Wetherspoon pub. The town of Ebbw Vale owes its existence to the iron, steel and coal industries. The transformation of an isolated area, at the head of a wooded valley, into an industrial town began with Ebbw Vale Ironworks, set up in 1790. Within 30 years, the industrial system had taken a firm grip of the valley.

Prints and text about the history of this building and Tesco.

The text reads: Shoppers once bought ‘value for money’ groceries on the site where you are now enjoying good food and drink in a relaxing atmosphere. This building was once home to a branch of Tesco, founded by the enterprising Jacob, or Jack, Cohen.

Jack’s family was among more than a million Jewish refugees who fled pogroms in Poland in the late 19th century. His parents arrived in Britain in 1882, determined to build a new life.

Enterprising Jack beat the post-First World War depression by acquiring a barrow and buying and selling goods as cheaply as he could in the East End of London. 1924 was a landmark year. Not only did he marry Sarah ‘Cissie’ Fox, the daughter of a Russian immigrant, he also met TE Stockwell, of tea importers Torring and Stockwell. When he and Stockwell struck a deal to sell cheap tea they needed a brand name. They settled on Stockwell’s initials and the first two letters of Jack’s surname.

In 1931, Cohen formed two private companies – J E Cohen & Co Ltd, and Tesco Stores Ltd. By 1939, Tesco owned more than 100 stores in London and the Home Counties. Today, Tesco is one of Britain’s top retailers, still meeting the needs of the nation’s shoppers.

Top: Jack Cohen’s marriage to ‘Cissie’. 1924
Above: Tesco store, c1939.

Old movie prints, including stills from the film Frankenstein.

An old photograph of Ebbw Vale.

A photograph of Bethear Street, Ebbw Vale, c1910.

If you have information on the history of this pub, then we’d like you to share it with us. Please e-mail all information to: