Former Medical Hall, now Joe Brown’s, Llanberis

Former Medical Hall, now Joe Brown’s, Llanberis

This building was erected c.1830 and was once the village’s Medical Hall, where medicines were dispensed. It was an important health facility for residents long before the NHS was founded. When DP Williams ran the Medical Hall, he also played a role in public health messaging.  In 1872 he told the local population not to believe rumours that smallpox was spreading through Llanberis. He produce letters from three doctors as corroboration.

When the 1881 census was taken, the composer Joseph Parry of Merthyr Tydfil happened to be staying in the building with his son Joseph Haydn Parry. They were preparing to give a performance the following evening at the town’s concert hall. Parry was the first musical director of Aberystwyth University. His most famous composition is the love song Myfanwy. The South African anthem Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika is based on his hymn tune Aberystwyth

In 1965 Joe Brown and his wife Val opened a shop here. Regarded as one of the greatest all-round mountaineers and rock climbers of all time, Joe was born in the Manchester slums in 1930. He discovered climbing by accident while camping in Derbyshire aged 16. Naturally talented and strong from working as a builder’s apprentice, within months he was repeating the hardest routes in the country and adding more of his own.

His many climbs included Everest’s north-east ridge and Kangchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain. He helped archaeologists to access inaccessible caves in Petra, Jordan, search for lost Inca gold in South America and even hunt the mythical Yeti in Nepal! He was filmed for climbing scenes in action movies. See the footnotes for more about his exploits.

Joe’s heart was here in Snowdonia, with its varied landscape, rich history and wealth of rock types. His favourite cliff of all was Clogwyn Du’r Arddu, below the summit of Snowdon and visible from the village. In 2011 Joe was awarded a CBE for services to rock climbing and mountaineering.

His last climb was in the Llanberis Pass aged 80. Afterwards he said his knees had hurt too much on the descent. He died in April 2020.

With thanks to Zoe Brown (Joe’s daughter) and Ken Jones

Postcode: LL55 4HA    View Location Map

Website of Joe Brown's and The Climbers Shop

Footnotes: Joe Brown’s climbing exploits

Aged 23, Joe was invited to join an expedition to Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. He was the first working-class climber to be invited on a National Himalayan expedition, planned as a reconnaissance for a future climb. The team proved so strong that it made a bid for the summit. Joe and George Band, the youngest team members, reached the top. Joe was first to arrive at the summit, making him a household name.

He returned to work as a builder, but television appearances after the trip grew into work across his lifetime, including climbing outside broadcasts, extreme fishing, and technical work for climbing sequences in feature films including James Bond, Rambo and even standing in for Robert de Niro in The Mission.

The year after Kangchenjunga, Joe made the first ascent of the Mustagh Tower, Pakistan, with Ian McNaught-Davis, part of a tiny informal four-man expedition. Joe always preferring trips with small groups of friends to big, high-profile expeditions. Over 50 years Joe travelled widely, and his climbs included Ismoil Somoni, El Torro, Roraima, Trango Tower, Cotaphaxi, Thalaysagar, Denali, Everest NE Ridge and Latok II.