Historic Landscape Characterisation

Bala and Llyn Tegid - Area 3 Bala Nonconformist buildings (PRN 24703)



Historic background

Bala became well-known through-out Wales from a religious point of view during the evangelical revival of the first half of the 18th century. The Calvanist Methodists founded their first church in 1745, and from the 1760s onwards the annual sassiwn was held here for the transaction of the business of the new denomination in north Wales, and for the preaching of the Gospel to the multitudes who crowded into the town from all parts of Wales.

The 'Green y Bala' (later covered by the railway station (area 04)) was famous throughout Wales for its moving assemblies, and ever since Bala has held an important place in the history of the Welsh Calvinist Methodist church. Two facts may account for this. Bala was associated with Thomas Charles, who settled here in 1783. He was the founder of the Welsh Sunday School, and was associated with the British and Foreign Bible Society. Also, Dr Lewis Edwards, who had married a grand-daughter of Thomas Charles, started an academy for young preachers and others which in time became a Theological College (area 03), which possesed one of the finest theological libraries in Wales. The building, which included a tower and had commanding views, became a preparatory college for students hoping to enter the Ministry in the Presbyterian Church of Wales.

On the other side of the road is Bodiwan, formerly a college belonging to the Welsh Congregationalists. Michael Jones was a minister near Bala, but following a quarrel with part of the congregation, he moved out of the chapel house to Weirglodd Wen (at the southern end of the lake (area 15)), where he founded a Nonconformist academy. He then established it in Y Bala as an Independent College and served as its Principal. His son, Michael D. Jones, (1822-98), who also lived in Weirglodd Wen, succeeded his father as Principal and master-minded the new Welsh colony in Patagonia (see above). The college's functions have since been transferred to Bangor.

Dr Lewis Edwards (1809-87) oversaw the growth of the Methodist academy from its origins by Thomas Charles’ house, next to the present Capel Tegid (area 02), to its second home between y Plas and the High Street, to the substantial building erected in 1867 on a site overlooking the town (now Coleg y Bala), whose library he built into a cultural institution of significance. In 1845, he began to publish Y Traethodydd (The Essayist), a quarterly of genuine intellectual distinction (Williams, 1985, 203).

The 1946 RAF vertical aerial photographs (106G/UK 1455 3171-6 2 May 1946) clearly show the pocket of development comprising this character area (and an area immediately surrounding it) as very definitely set apart from the rest of Bala (area 02, and area 04 yet to be developed). There was, as yet, no infill next to the line of the railway or modern housing to the west of the minor road.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Nineteenth-century architecture and associations, non-nucleated settlement

This particular character area is small, consisting of only a few buildings. Coleg y Bala was built in 1867 as an educational academy and became a Theological College in 1891. Since 1969 it has been run as a youth centre by the Presbyterian Church of Wales, offering Christian education courses, and is apparently prospering. Across the road is Bodiwan,the former home of Michael D Jones (built 1898/9). The stone buildings are confident and imposing, situated in an elevated position above the north side of Bala, with commanding views across the valley.


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