Dominating the view of Upper Bangor. The University
was founded in 1884 after the city of Bangor was chosen as the
University's North Wales site. First established at the former
Penrhyn Arms Hotel; the present Penrallt site was donated in 1902.
Built 1907-11 by Henry T Hare, architect of London; chosen following
a competition assessed by Sir Aston Webb and with other entrants
including W D Caroe. The designs were modified by the University
(Isambard Owen in particular) to take full advantage of the site.
Contractors were Messrs Thornton & Sons of Liverpool; cost ca
£175,000. Foundation stone laid by Edward VII on 9 July 1907;
opened 14 June 1911. "Collegiate Tudor" style with arts
and crafts influences; Hare also called it "generally
of late Renaissance character". Designed around two courtyards,
the larger of which was never completed (later enclosed with ranges
by Sir Percy Thomas 1966-1970). The entire scheme is linked and
focused upon the cathedral-like central tower. Buff-coloured Cefn
stone in snecked courses with freestone
dressings and flat buttresses;
slate roofs with parapet and stone chimney stacks. Spandreled
windows with leaded lights. Tudor style down-pipes etc dated 1909.
Metalwork by William Bainbridge Reynolds of London. The building
was described in his obituary as Hare's finest work.
Starting at the NW Hall range facing College Road. 2-storey, 6-window front with advanced end pavilions; altered to right by addition of modern entrance block closing the NW side of the SW courtyard. Steep roof, Crenellation parapet and bellcote with lantern and spirelet. Tall segmental headed hall windows, double-transomed and with panel tracery; projecting flat roof ground floor with entrances to either end, deeply recessed doors. Left hand end pavilion has central stepped buttress flanked to 2nd floor by 2 segmental headed windows with unusual tear-drop oculi; right hand pavilion is lower with dentil cornice over 3-light window. The original main entrance is on the SW gable end of this range. Broad gable with Tudor octagonal end turrets and Baroque niches containing statue of Lewis Morris to apex. Central segmental headed 4-light double-transomed and panel traceried window with flanking buttresses. Advanced below is a triple arched porch with panelled pilasters, coats of arms and Latin inscription dated 1911. Enriched spandrels over recessed entrances with double doors and lugged architraves to each. Shaped gables at right angles to either side, to the advanced end bays of the adjoining ranges; commemorative tablets with garlanded borders below each gable. At the top of the steps up to the entrance are cast-iron square, tapered lamp standards with bracketed octagonal lamps and openwork ornament.
The spinal/administrative range, together with
the Library, forms an L-plan group to the E side of the SW courtyard.
The former has an 8-bay, 2-storey front, the advanced left hand
bay as above, parapet is balustraded
over cross frame windows with architraves
to 1st floor and semicircular pediments to ground floor. Baroque
entrance to centre with small-pane circular window over door. The
2-stage tower to right has crenellated parapet and taller stair
turret to SE side; splayed corners. 2 segmental-headed double-transomed
windows flanking ogee
niche to each face; niches
contain statues of Welsh historical characters over coats of arms.
The Library at right angles has a 9-window front
with central royal coat of arms; 2 bays are advanced with tall 1st
floor oriel windows. crenellated parapet and gabled
and panelled buttress
Arched headed lights, square headed 1st floor windows and segmental
headed ground floor windows and entrance which has open pedimented
doorcase, lugged architrave
and double doors. Plaque with Latin inscription. Gable end to Penrallt
Road has full height buttresses,
extruded corners and small attic windows. Central a-storey splayed
bay with horseshoe shaped high arch above containing recessed 3-light
window - no leaded glass to this elevation.
The 3-storey SE side of the Library overlooking
the city has 1+9 bay front (stylistically foreshadowing Sir Edwin
Lutyens at Castle Drogo). Attic to the advanced and gabled
end bay with Baroque scrolls over stepped buttresses;
2nd floor has statue flanked by cross frame windows under overall
label. Symmetrical to right with a repeat of the courtyard elevation
as above with the addition of a slightly swept out ground floor
with single light windows and entrances below the oriels; 1st floor
windows set in splayed recesses. Forward to right beyond the tower
is the SE range of the NE courtyard. This has a gabled
SW end with slate hung attic to left and chimney breast to right,
the latter with open pedimented
tablet. 2-storey porch facing Penrallt Road entrance with part balustraded
parapet, tapered buttreses on chamfered
corners and round archedentry with multipane fanlight - swagged
The main 3-storey and attic SE elevation is symmetrical
with an especially collegiate feel to it. Tapered cross range gable
ends advanced at the end, of l0-bay range, the ground floor of which
and the central 4 bays open, forming a loggia; stone chimney stacks
and flat roof attics over parapet. 2nd floor cornice
extends to edges of end pavilions over shield; splayed broad oriels
to lower attic, narrow windows to upper attic. 1st floor pediments
Lintels over 1st floor windows and broad ground floor windows, bowed
to centre and with high parapets
containing UCNW monogram, 1st floor double transomed
windows between have lugged architraves
and open pediments. Stilted arch arcade windows and part glazed
doors to ends of loggia.
The NE end of this range is a repeat of the SW
gable end. Advanced to its right is a 3-window bay with boldly tapered
1st floor windows. 9-bay tall roofed range beyond set into the hillside;
largely 2-storey and attic with higher attic to south-eastern 3
bays, also with double transomed
ground floor windows. Dividing pilasters
to remaining bays. Segmental headed entrance to NW end bay and a
smaller one lower down. Octagonal bellcote. The gabled
NW return elevation is partly screened by the broader gable end
of the hall range. This has a stronger arts
and crafts feel to it - 4-light gable window, crenellated broad
with narrow lights (3 stair projection) and grilles to lower windows.
The enclosed NE courtyard is terraced with similar
detail to that on the .exterior of each range. The Hall range is
at the top and has an ivy clad ground floor projection. The inner
side of the SE range is symmetrical; lower gabled
projection with polygonal corner turrets, lateral chimney breasts
and frontispiece with 3-light transomed
window over scrolled inscription and round arched entrance. Six
2nd floor and three 1st floor segmental headed windows to either
side; projecting ground floor. To SW the range is dominated by the
tower’s 6-storey NE face; including splayed oriel with crenellated
parapet and recessed plain Venetian window; lowest stage splayed
out. Twin gabled
3-storey block projects to right of the tower matching similar projection
opposite (NE range).
The 4-tier terrace has rubble walls, freestone
copings and ball finial
s. Main doors open onto a part groin vaulted entrance hall with original 3-lamp light fittings and brass War Memorial tablets by F Osborne Co Ltd of London. Straight ahead is the 150 ft long Prichard Jones Hall. 9-bay arched coffered ceiling with panelled ribs and strapwork ornamented ceiling panels, apsidal dais end; coats of arms over windows, panelled dado and other fine woodwork detail etc. Gallery raked over the entrance hall with panelled screen front and segmental open-pediments to the 3 doorways. Original brass light fittings (octagonal). Main staircase lies to SE in groin vaulted stairwell - marble topped 'closed' stone balustrade
; stained glass window. Open pedimented
and carved doorcase at top leads to hall gallery. To SE run 2 tiers of groin vaulted corridors with panelled ribs (not glazed until after 2nd World War). 1st floor has various bronze oval plaques, panelled doors and cornice
s and similar pedimented
doorcase at SE end leading to back stairs; plainer ground floor corridor. Stained glass windows at SE end by Dudley Forsyth of London 1910, the ground floor one is the Venetian window with a further window beside it with classical subject and signed "Architectus Dedit" with the monogram of a hare.
Short arms of the passages lead off to the Library, that to the 1st floor contains a porcelain museum. The finest single room is the Council Chamber on 1st floor - segmental vaulted ceiling with panelled Jacobean plasterwork and coats of arms of the Welsh Princes full height wainscoating, segmental pedimented doorcases and ashlar fireplaces and overmantels with panelled and enriched pilasters; moulded dog-irons, hoods and firebacks. Welsh mottoes over fireplaces; also contains 2 busts by W Goscombe John, one of William Cadwallader Davies and another of Sir Isambard Owen. NE range has smaller hall with coved ceiling ridges. SE range has metal staircase with barley twist uprights to courtyard side. Library range contains the ground floor Lloyd Reading Room which Hare had intended to be a museum and the 1st floor Shankland Library with segmental vaulted roof with square panelling and 36 heraldic shields in oak frames. Two bays are screened off (corresponding to those with external oriels) and have broken Baroque pedimented openings - 1 bay also has wooden gates. Splayed oriel over entrance with similar doorcase.
Architecturally, one of the most significant public buildings of the period in Britain and historically, the foremost institution in Wales to pioneer the academic development of the Welsh language.
References: University College of North Wales Centenary Publication (1984).
Official Guide to Bangor Town Council (1930) pp 23 and 30.
J Gwynn Williams, "The University College of North Wales Foundation 1884-1927" (1985)• pp 266.
The Builder, vol 92 (1907), pp 38-39, 162-3, 194-5 and 299. Building News, May 14 1909.
Architect’s plans in University Archives. RIBA Library Biography file.
The Main Arts Building (Other Sources)
1. 360° Quicktime Panorama (in
the corridor outside the PJ Hall) showing the plaques of members
of college who fell in the Great War.
memorials inventory listing.
3. Image of the Shankland
Reading Room part of the Main Arts Library.
4. Image taken during the construction
of the building
Sir John Pritchard Jones (1845-1917)
Sir John Pritchard Jones contributed in total £17,000 to
the construction of the great hall. Photograph
of Sir Pritchard Jones
Henry T Hare, Architect (1861-1921)
Henry Hare who became president of the Architectural Society in
1902 and President of the Royal
Institute of British Architects
(1917 - 1919) also designed - The 1907 extension to the Normal College,
Bangor including (Athrolys, Huw
Owen, Fon, Eryri,
Outside of Bangor notable builds included
The Municipal Buildings -
1905 (offices of Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council), Wolverhampton
Central Library -
Town Hall -
Buildings Stafford -
1895, Bailey Hill Water Tower (Luton), Hoxton
1898, Fulham Central Library, Hammersmith Library (1905), Westminster
building should be a worthy landmark to the district where it is
built, and should impress itself on the passer-by as a dignified
expression of the public spirit which has promoted its erection".
Thomas Hare Portrait (by William Llewellyn)