Llanwrtyd Wells has just celebrated the 150th anniversary of the opening of its Railway Station on 6th May 1867. After congratulatory speeches over 100 members of the community crowded into the station building for afternoon tea arranged by ‘Friends of the Station’, a group of volunteers who look after the planting at the station.
The establishment of rail link was an important event in establishing the development of Llanwrtyd Wells as an important spa town. Soon trains were bringing thousands of visitors from South Wales and elsewhere for their summer holidays and to ‘take the waters’. As a consequence the town grew rapidly to accommodate these large numbers of visitors – many of the buildings that one sees around the centre of the town were built at this time during the late 1800s.
An interpretive board situated at the railway station describes how things have changed since then when a station master, a booking clerk and two porters were on duty to meet five passenger trains arriving each day. Older residents can remember the town at that time with over 30 shops, two golf courses and a bowling green – so hard to believe now! Visitors to the Heritage and Arts Centre are able learn more about this fascinating period in Llanwrtyd’s history and listen to members of our community talking about their memories.
Mr John Price (in the centre of the photograph with ‘Friends of the Station’ and children from Ysgol Dolafon) was the last signalman, employed from 1969 until 1986 and often also deputising as station master/porter/booking clerk/parcels clerk/public relations officer too!). At 20.15 on 6th July 1986 John filled the kettle as usual so that up and down train drivers could make a can of tea when they arrived, and then, for the last time, walked up the platform to operate the necessary points and signals and walked back to hand over a ‘train staff ticket’ to each of the drivers to allow the two trains to proceed along the next section of the line.
The station has remained unmanned ever since.
Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines, who was one of the children rescued by the late Sir Nicholas Winston when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938 and who came to school in Llanwrtyd Wells, paid another visit to the town on 27th April. She is currently associated with a project to erect on 27th May a memorial in Prague Railway Station to remember the selfless love and sacrifice of the parents who sent their children to a foreign land and into the arms of strangers fearing they may never see them again. The memorial will depict a railway carriage window with the hands of parents on one side and those of the children on the other. Most of the parents perished in the Holocaust.
The story of the children’s arrival in Llanwrtyd Wells is one of the many incredible stories of the town’s history exhibited in the Heritage and Arts Centre. Accompanying Lady Milena on her visit was a film crew who are making a documentary of the story to be broadcaston Czech television.
Llanwrtyd Wells has enjoyed a long and fruitful association with the former children who were at school at the former Abernant Hotel, now an adventure centre for schools. Children attending the centre nowadays learn about the tragic story of the Holocaust and the Czech children who came to safety in Llanwrtyd.
Llanwrtyd Wells is twinned with Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic and a meal was held in the Neuadd Arms Hotel with members of the Town Council and Twinning Association to celebrate Lady Milena’s (pictured second from end of table on left) visit with members of the film crew.
Following last years successful first summer the award winning Heritage and Arts Centre will reopen its’ doors on Thursday 13th April at 10.00am. The Centre will be open throughout the summer and autumn from Thursday to Sunday between 10.00am and 4.00pm.
In November 2016 the Brecon & Radnor Branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales presented us with its ‘Rural Wales Award’ for the community effort in the revitalization of an old building and delivering a complex project which promotes an awareness and understanding of the local heritage. Visitors have regularly congratulated us on the quality of the refurbishment and the interesting and well-presented display.
The Art Gallery will provide added interest in the coming year with a series of month-long exhibitions by different artists and crafts people who will often be present to demonstrate and discuss their work. See our What’s On section for further details.
You will find a warm welcome awaits at the Heriatge Centre in Britain’s Smallest town so why not pay us a visit.
Entry to the Centre and Art Gallery is free and the display area is accessible to all.