Oriel Davies, Newtown

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button_lang_welshbutton_lang_frenchOriel Davies, Newtown

newtown_margaret_daviesThis art gallery is named after sisters Gwendoline and Margaret Davies, art collectors who helped thousands of Belgian refugees in the First World War.

The building was erected, as a gallery and community centre, in 1967 with a legacy from the sisters. It was designed by Alex Gordon (1917-1999), a pioneer of sustainable, low-energy architecture.

It was renamed Oriel Davies in 2003, following the first phase of a £1.7m upgrade. Completion of the work in 2004 resulted in enlarged exhibition and education spaces in a modernist building. Follow the link below for details of exhibitions, facilities and opening times.

Gwendoline (1882-1951) and Margaret (1884-1963) were the grand-daughters of the Victorian industrialist David Davies. They were raised at Plas Dinam, Llandinam, and became Wales’ foremost collectors of fine art. They are pictured here courtesy of Oriel Davies, Margaret on the right.

Soon after the First World War began in 1914, the sisters and their brother David (later Lord David Davies) began to help refugees from German-occupied Belgium to move to Wales. It’s estimated that they helped 4,000 refugees find shelter. They also sought out artists among the refugees, sending several to Welsh towns. They hoped the refugees would stimulate Wales’ artistic development by teaching and inspiring Welsh students.

Some Belgian refugees moved to Newtown. They arrived in December 1914 and were housed in a semi-detached villa owned by Hugh Lewis, chairman of Montgomery County Council.

newtown_gwendoline_daviesThe Davies sisters, fluent in French, helped at a French Red Cross canteen. Gwendoline sometimes left the area near the Western Front to visit Paris, where she bought paintings by Cézanne.

In the 1920s the sisters and their brother, who had served in the army, were leading peace campaigners. The sisters bought Gregynog Hall in 1920 and developed it as a centre for music and conferences. Their Gregynog Press produced limited-edition books.

During the Second World War they handed over Gregynog for use as a convalescent home for people from the armed services and domestic emergency services. Their nephew David was killed in action. After the war the sisters hosted Dutch children who had suffered under German occupation.

The sisters bequeathed 260 artworks to the National Museum Cardiff.

Postcode: SY16 2NZ     View Location Map

Website of Oriel Davies

To continue the Newtown in WW1 tour, walk northwards along Back Lane to where it bends right. The former army HQ is on the corner by the car park exit
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