Culture and Entertainment

Holidays in Llandrindod Wells

In common with many other spa towns like Bath, Cheltenham and Buxton, Llandrindod Wells grew to prominence as a health spa and tourist resort during the latter half of the nineteenth century. In 1891, the town boasted 9 hotels and boarding houses; in addition 43 lodging houses catered for the huge seasonal influx of holidaymakers every year, most of them brought to the town by the railway. These accommodated up to 2,600 visitors at any one time, and the town played host to over 31,000 visitors per year.

View in Rock Park, Llandrindod Wells
View in Rock Park, Llandrindod Wells
Powys County Archives

Gwalia Hotel, Llandrindod Wells
Gwalia Hotel, Llandrindod Wells
Powys County Archives

In Thomas' Llandrindod Wells Guide of 1891, the author warns of the difficulty of obtaining accommodation during the busy summer months:

". . . when the place is crowded and beds are at a premium, and have to be ordered and engaged weeks beforehand, or else the unfortunate votaries of pleasure have many discomforts to put up with and find that a carpeted floor or dining room table is the softest bed they can obtain for "love or money"."

Situated on one of the highest points in Llandrindod Wells, with a fine south aspect, commanding an uninterrupted view of "Ye Olde Druid Circle," Temple Gardens, and the surrounding country.
Only a few minutes' walk from Station, Post Office, and all Mineral Springs.
Private Apartments (En Suite).
Smoking and Billiard Rooms. Tennis and Bowling Green.
Tariff, on application to Mrs. JEFFREY JONES.

Brynawel, South Crescent. PRIVATE HOTEL
Advert for Brynawel from
Thomas's Llandrindod Wells Guide

Powys County Archives

All the popular tourist guides of the time extol the virtues of Llandrindod's climate, facilities and atmosphere. In Heywood's Guide of 1891, prospective holidaymakers are assured that:

". . . there will always be found a decent class of people here, chiefly of the middle class, professional and business people. A good sprinkling of clergy and dissenting ministers will also be found hob-nobbing together, and, for a time at any rate, living in unity, and one rarely visits Llandrindod without seeing a lot of literary or musical celebrities, and other well known people from all parts of Wales."

The entry for the Gwalia Hotel in the 1891 census - taken in April of that year and therefore not in the thick of the main tourists season - bears this out:

1891 Census
Gwalia Hotel, Llandrindod
Name Position in
Age Occupation Place of Birth English/Welsh
Edward Jenkins Head M 54 Private hotel keeper Cardiganshire Llanvighangel-y-creddyn Both
Elizabeth Jenkins Wife M 54   Cardiganshire Llanbadarnfawr Both
Elizabeth Jenkins Niece S 24   Cardiganshire Llanvighangel-y-creddyn Both
Margaret Jones Serv S 25   Cardiganshire Emlyn-Henshafod Both
Laura Hughes Serv S 15   Breconshire Builth Both
Arthur Duggan Serv S 19 Barber Herefordshire Morton Jeffreys English
George Dobson Serv S 22   Cambridgeshire Ely English
Thomas Morris Visitor S 54 Sadler retired Montgomeryshire Llanllwchaiarn English
David Davies Visitor M 38 Poor rate collector Glamorganshire Cardiff Both
Clara N Davies Visitor M 29 Professor of music Glamorganshire Cardiff Both
Jennie Price Visitor S 27   Glamorganshire Cardiff English
Theresa H Asher Visitor S 19 Musical student Glamorganshire Cardiff English
Joseph Sykes Visitor M 31 Solicitor Cheshire Stockport English
William L Griffiths Visitor S 25 Architect Monmouthshire Blackwood Both

Lily Hanbury
Lily Hanbury
Powys County Archives

Miss Lily Hanbury, the Shakespearean actress, was a frequent visitor. She also premiered the part of Lady Windermere in Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan, first performed in 1892.

Ostensibly, the main reason for visiting Llandrindod was to 'take the waters' at the mineral springs - a serious matter for health conscious Victorians. There was little to distinguish the pursuit of good health from having a holiday. However, the town was offering more than just health benefits to visitors by 1891.

Taking the Waters at Llandrindod Wells
"Taking the Waters at Llandrindod Wells.
You can drink the waters all day for sixpence,
I wish it was the same with Beer."

Powys County Archives

Llandrindod also offered various leisure activities, such as the lake, sports, excursions and entertainment.

Park House Boarding Establishment
Park House Boarding Establishment, Llandrindod Wells
Radnorshire Museum