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National Library of Wales, Penglais Road, Penglais, Aberystwyth

Description: National Library of Wales, Penglais Road, Penglais

Grade: II*
Date Listed: 21 July 1961
Cadw Building ID: 10417

OS Grid Coordinates: 259415, 281622
Latitude/Longitude: 52.4141, -4.0673

Location: 34 Brynglas Road, Llanbadarn Fawr SY23 3BU

Locality: Aberystwyth
County: Ceredigion
Country: Wales
Postcode: SY23 3BU

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Listing Text

Prominent elevated site facing W above the town centre, reached by a road off Penglais Hill.

A Welsh Library was first formed by the Society of Cymmrodorion, established in 1753. Plans for a National Library of Wales were not successful until 1904, despite having been presented a site in 1896, when the government decided to establish the National Library at Aberystwyth, and the National Museum in Cardiff. Royal Charter was granted in 1907 and the Library opened in the Old Assembly Rooms in 1909. The effects of the 1911 Copyright Act resulted in the start of the present building. Designed by Sidney Kyffin Greenslade, assisted by Reginald Blomfield and carried out in stages under Adams, Holden and Pearson; occupation began in 1916; stone and woodcarving by Joseph Armitage 1932/36. Central block opened in 1937 and the final section of the original design opened in 1955. The subsequent addition of the 'Bookstack' to rear, opened in 1982, is not of special interest.

An ante lobby leads to the 3-storey aisled entrance hall with similar Art Deco- Classical detail; railed first floor gallery with recessed upper windows below fretwork band, panelled ceiling. Main staircase (T-plan) to rear with corridors to either side leading to Summers Room. To N the catalogues are housed in the ante room, with lavish classical detail including pedimented aedicules; coved and panelled ceiling to full height Reading Room running the whole of the N side; 3-tier galleried 'aisle' bays, tunnel vaulted panelled ceiling, cross roofs to end and central bays; unfinshed whitewashed rubble piers. Statue at W end by W Goscombe John of Sir John Williams (1903), chief founder of the library. The corresponding room (Print and Map Room) on S side is single storey and heavily panelled with elaborate classical timber doorcase.

The square plan is composed of 4 three-storey ranges around 4 rectangular courtyards formed by the central entrance hall, main staircase and transverse corridor link ranges. Art Deco/Greek classical style; W and S front faced in Portland Stone and Cornish granite, those to N and E are brick with Portland dressings. Half hipped slate roofs with glazing to top. Broad 11-bay main or administrative block front with rusticated ground floor, and channelled overall mezzanine below pilaster panels, cornice, fluted and bolection moulded banding. Central 5-bays advanced and flanked by stepped back bays with advance and stepped end pavilions and parapets, also to centre. Transverse Pediments to ends of central section visually separating it from the pavilion ends to N and S ranges. Incised lettering to entablature. Recessed central entrance bay with fluted Ionic columns in antis flanking 2nd floor window-frame and balcony brought forward over advanced porch. Black metal frame windows with Art Deco balconies, full height staircase windows beside end pavilions which have tall arched headed windows with glazing bars in lugged architraves with keystones and flanked by pilasters with Celtic interlace decorated swags. Inverted T-plan staircase leads from upper, walled, terrace to main entrance.

Nine-bay right (S) side elevation with similar detail; central and end bays stepped forward with tall second floor windows, over mezzanine, other bays have equal height upper floor windows. Tall windows throughout N side elevation with plainer detail Single storey brick link range between end bays of original U-plan and 1955 brick rear range with further reduced detail.

Reason for Listing

A Stuart Gray, "Edwardian Architecture", (1985), p.201.
Lewis, "Born on a Perilous Rock", p. 185-190;
F Pearson, "Goscombe John at the National Museum of Wales", (1979), p.81;
Thirties Society Journal, No 3 (1982), p.30;
The National Library of Wales, (1974).

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Prominent elevated site facing W above the town centre, reached by a road off Penglais Hill.

Source: Cadw

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.