Institute Building, Caernarfon
This three-storey building was erected in 1884 with the main aim of catering for the working people’s educational and cultural needs. There was a reading room and library on the ground floor, a lecture room on the second and an art room on the third. Two shops at street level generated rental income towards the building’s running costs.
In 1912 the Institute was extended to provide a council chamber on the first floor. The Art Nouveau style of the age can be seen in features such as the brass door handles and woodwork. The extension’s ground floor housed an enlarged library, which became the County Library. One of the gas lamps survives, and stained-glass windows reflect the building’s original prestige.
In the basement were the town’s public baths, used until the 1960s. During the First World War, troops stationed across the river Seiont were marched into town for their weekly baths!
The mayoral chair was presented by Caernarfon-born Sir William Preece (1834-1913) on being made the first Freeman of the Borough. He was the General Post Office’s chief engineer and a pioneer of wireless telegraphy and railway communications. He experimented with wireless in South Wales a few years before he encouraged his protégé Guglielmo Marconi to develop the apparatus which sent the world’s first over-water wireless signal near Penarth in 1897.
Also in the building are Caernarfon’s Royal Charters and Seals including the first, issued by King Edward I in 1284 on the birth in Caernarfon of his son, later King Edward II. The building contains chairs from the 1969 Investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales, and a granite “Logan Stone” from the Celtic Congress held at Caernarfon Castle in 1904 to promote unity between Wales, Brittany, Cornwall, Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.
Inside too is the stone on which a “curfew gate” pivoted. Nightly it closed the East Gate entrance to the walled town. A curfew bell, rung to signal the gate’s opening each morning, was known locally as “cloch yr uwd” – the porridge bell.
The Institute’s paintings are detailed on this HistoryPoints page.
The Institute remains the home of Royal Caernarfon Town Council and is normally closed to the public, except on certain days in September.
Postcode: LL55 1AT