Penrhyn Hall, Tan-y-Fynwent
This building was constructed as a concert hall, using funds donated by Lord Penrhyn in 1857 on the coming of age of his eldest son. It displays the Italian classical architectural style which was fashionable in the early and mid 19th century.
During the Second World War the hall was rented from the city council by the BBC for its Variety Department. The department had been evacuated from London to Bristol in 1940 to escape bombing, but increasing bombing raids on Bristol led the BBC to move the entire department to North Wales. A coded message broadcast by the BBC regarding a “camel being ill at London Zoo” was the signal for the move.
One of the most popular radio programmes of the war years, It’s That Man Again (ITMA), was broadcast from Penrhyn Hall. It starred Tommy Handley and was written by Ted Kavanagh. It regularly drew audiences of over 16 million people. ITMA was a comedy series full of topical jokes and catchphrases that became well known nationally, such as Mrs Mopp’s T.T.F.N. (Ta TaFor Now!).
Another of the most popular shows broadcast from Bangor was Music While You Work, a twice daily half-hour broadcast for factory workers. As well as the entertainers, the BBC brought manyh administrative staff from London. Bron Castell (formerly St Winifred’s School) was purchased from the council for £3,250 and became the centre of operations and the BBC canteen.
Accommodation had to be found for BBC staff but was already in short supply because of the number of soldiers and child evacuees in the city. The BBC requisitioned houses on Anglesey and in Penmaenmawr and Llanfairfechan. BBC staff were not exempt from Civil Defence duties such as fire-watching. Many also voluntarily joined local Home Guard units or the Women’s Voluntary Service.
Today Penrhyn Hall houses the offices of Bangor City Council.
With thanks to Adrian Hughes, of the Home Front Museum, Llandudno
Postcode: LL57 1DT