The National Library of Wales

button-theme-evacThe National Library of Wales

Photo of NLW when newThe National Library of Wales was established after gaining a royal charter in 1907. By 1916 the initial building (pictured right), designed by Sidney Kyffin Greenslade and Reginald Bloomfield, was ready for manuscripts to be moved in. The central section opened in 1937 and the final section of the original design opened in 1955.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, various groups and collectors had argued that a comprehensive collection of Welsh documents was needed. Cardiff library bought one major collection in 1896, in the hope that this would form the nucleus of a national institution. However, the Privy Council advised in 1905 that Wales’ national library should be in Aberystwyth. Two years later, the library opened in a temporary base at the town’s Old Assembly Rooms.

The library’s first president was the distinguished obstetrician Sir John Williams, who lived in a seafront house in Aberystwyth and donated one of the library’s foundation collections of books and manuscripts.

During the Second World War, objects from many institutions in England were moved to the NLW, to reduce the risk ofOld photo of interior of NLW destruction in air raids. The most valuable items were kept in a purpose-built storage tunnel near the library. Institutions which deposited valuables here included the British Museum, the National Gallery, universities, the House of Commons, the Royal Society, the LMS railway company and even a Dutch museum. British Museum objects evacuated here included the Magna Carta, original works by Shakespeare, Dryden and Milton, and drawings by Michelangelo and da Vinci.

From 1941 to 1946, the War Cabinet’s historical section was based at the NLW, where work began on writing the official history of the war.

The original three-storey building forms a square, within which are four rectangular courtyards. The exterior, in Classical style, and the prominent hillside position gave rise to the nickname “The Welsh Parthenon”. In 1996 a large new storage building was completed (the photo below shows it under construction).

In 2004 a £5.3m extension was unveiled. This was designed partly to make the institution seem more inviting to the growing numbers of non-academic visitors, including tourists and people researching their geneaology.

The libraNational Library under constructionry’s collection includes six million books – but many other resources too. These include photographs, 250,000 hours of archived film and television material, 50,000 works of art and 1.5 million maps.

By 2013, the library was receiving about 90,000 visitors annually. A further 2,000,000 were visiting the library’s website each month to view the extensive digitised resources available online.

Postcode: SY23 3BU View Location Map

Website of National Library of Wales