Literary Institute, Aberdyfi

button-theme-evacLiterary Institute, Aberdyfi

This unusual building was a seaside bath house before becoming the Literary Institute in 1882. Members of the Plymouth Brethren, an evangelical group founded in 1831, had worshipped here.

Only the top part of the building is visible from the street. Inside, stairs lead down to a lower section where the floor is on two levels – the lower level being the former floor of the pool. Baptisms were sometimes performed there. This area of Aberdyfi is still known as Bath Place.

The Literary Institute rented the building initially. In 1882 art and science classes had only just begun when a Reading Room was suggested. Weeks later, on 1 December, a Reading Room was opened for subscribing members in an old chapel. Later it moved into the institute building. By 1898 the institute housed c.800 books. Members also read newspapers and magazines here (few could afford their own copies). The institute’s alcohol ban remains in force.

In 1903 the rector of Aberdyfi threatened to resign as vice-president if a billiard table was purchased for the institute. Institute members then voted 41 to 18 for the billiard table! The tradition of playing such games continues to this day, with snooker leagues using the institute’s snooker tables.

In 1906 a ceremony was held here to present a gold watch and chain, on behalf of President Roosevelt of the USA, to John Phillips, of Chapel Square, Aberdyfi. John was second officer of the British steamer Horsa in November 1904 when it came across a sinking American barque near the Straits of Florida. He led a rescue mission in the steamer’s port lifeboat, saving the injured captain, six sailors and a dog.

In 1908 a “Bible Land industrial exhibition” here raised funds for “distressed Armenians” and other Christians living in the Turkish empire. During the First World War, Belgian refugees were given free admission and the armed forces used the building to enlist local recruits.

During the Second World War, a church school in the institute educated evacuee children, who had been sent to Aberdyfi to escape aerial bombing of cities. They were taught here while they became familiar with the village. The school was eventually amalgamated with the state school.

The institute received many gifts and bequests, notably in 1922 and 1948. Today it’s home to Aberdyfi Community Council and has one of the UK’s last surviving Reading Rooms, stocked with Welsh and English periodicals. Other rooms can be booked for events. See the link below for details.

With thanks to Avril Richards

Postcode: LL35 0LN    View Location Map

Literary Institute web page – Aberdyfi.com website