Prichard-Jones Hall, Bangor University


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Prichard-Jones Hall, Bangor University

The great hall at Bangor University is named after John Prichard-Jones, who donated £15,000 towards its construction. Born on Anglesey, he made his fortune as a partner in the Dickins & Jones department stores in London, acquired by Harrods in 1914.

Photo of Prichard-Jones hall
Students dancing during a ball at PJ Hall.
Courtesy Bangor University archive

The hall was designed as part of the university’s main building by London architect Henry Hare. Little of the hall’s interior has changed since its opening in 1911. The electroliers (electrified chandeliers) continue to hang from the ceiling, and the walls are lined with the original wainscot panelling. The most significant change was the installation in 1973 of an organ with more than 1,700 pipes, incorporating elements of an 1880 organ from Bangor’s Tabernacl chapel.

On 23 August 1939, a week before the Second World War began, the National Gallery in London began to evacuate its most precious paintings to Bangor, to escape the expected aerial bombing. More than 500 paintings, including works by Botticelli, Rubens and Rembrandt, were stored at PJ Hall. Others were kept at Penrhyn Castle. These locations were chosen for their large door openings and rooms.

Railway vehicles were specially designed for the paintings’ transport to Bangor station, accompanied by armed guards. Steel bars across were fitted across the window apertures at PJ Hall.

Photo of Bangor paintings van
A National Gallery painting arriving at PJ Hall, 1939.
Courtesy Bangor University archive

The paintings remained in Bangor until summer 1941, when they were moved because German planes were following the North Wales coast to bomb industrial North-west England. The authorities feared a stray bomb could hit PJ Hall or Penrhyn Castle. Moving the paintings to Manod quarry, Blaenau Ffestiniog, required the road to be lowered by 60cm under some railway bridges to allow the passage of Van Dyke’s portrait of King Charles I on horseback! The government retained the adapted quarry tunnels until the 1980s, in case of war.

Many generations of students have sat exams, danced or attended graduation ceremonies in PJ Hall, which also has a long tradition of providing musical entertainment for North-west Wales. Performers have included Aled Jones in 1984, then at the height of his fame as a boy soprano, and Bryn Terfel at a 2012 concert to celebrate PJ Hall’s centenary. 

With thanks to David Roberts of Bangor University, and Adrian Hughes of the Home Front Museum, Llandudno

Postcode: LL57 2DG    View Location Map

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