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Exploring Llandrindod Wells Today
Visitors to Llandrindod Wells may wish to tour the town and see for themselves how its unique Victorian atmosphere has been retained and adapted to meet the needs of the visitors today. As the railway station was the first sight that most Victorian visitors would have had of the town, and still is today for many visitors, it seems appropriate that this guided tour should start here.
Before leaving the southbound (Swansea) platform of the station, note the elegant Victorian canopy which was re-erected at the station following the demolition of the Pump House Hotel in Llandrindod Wells. Also on the same platform stands the former Llandrindod Wells signal box, a London and North Western Railway structure which has been restored as a museum, run by the local town council.
On the station forecourt the spacious concourse is now used as a car park. In years gone by it would have echoed to the sound of horse-drawn carriages sent from the numerous private hotels in the town, with porters on hand to help load and unload luggage. Now it is more likely to be the sound of the motor car or local taxis and buses which wait here to pick up rail travellers or local shoppers. Facing the station is a large house set in its own private grounds which was originally the Station Master's house. The former railway goods yard on the left is now the site of the large weekly outdoor market which is held every Friday and offers a wide range of products to complement the local shops. One of the two supermarkets in the town is situated directly opposite the market site.
Setting off up the graceful sweep of Station Crescent, the width and elegance of the streets of the town are immediately evident. There are a range of small shops and cafes on the right and the main Post Office buildings on the left. Constructed in the 1930s the style of architecture of this building contrasts sharply with the Victorian and Edwardian buildings in the vicinity, but is nonetheless attractive in its own right.
The main shopping area of the town is in Middleton Street, which faces the main Post Office, and in this street you can obtain everything from a thimble to a music centre, and a stick of liquorice to an elegant evening gown. Pleasant cafes also offer a variety of refreshments to cater for all tastes and pockets.
However our tour continues up Station Crescent and past the Post Office to the junction with Temple Street, which is the main A483 road from Swansea to Manchester. Down the road to the left are Llandrindod Hospital, the British Legion and local Fire Station, but our tour takes us right, where there are more shops on both sides of the road to the zebra crossing. On the left, just beyond the crossing, is the Town Hall, with its very attractive Memorial Gardens. The Town Hall was built originally as a doctor's house and later used for offices by Llandrindod Wells Urban District Council until local government re-organisation in 1974. It is now occupied by Llandrindod Wells Town Council, the Victorian Festival Committee and other local organisations. The Tourist Information Office and Visitor Centre, which is open throughout the year, is also located at the side of the Town Hall, with convenient parking available to the rear of the building in Beaufort Road. The Radnorshire Museum is in the Memorial Gardens, just to the rear of the Town Hall, and has been recently refurbished. It is well worth a visit, with many items of local interest on display.
Directly opposite the Memorial Gardens are Temple Gardens, which have been landscaped to provide a spacious and attractive area to rest and soak up the unique atmosphere of the town. From the gardens can be seen our three largest hotels, The Commodore, The Glen Usk and The Metropole. The Victorian elegance of South Crescent, Lindens Walk and the Memorial Gardens, with the Cenotaph at its centre, are seen to best effect from Temple Gardens. The Bandstand situated in the gardens is used by the Llandrindod Wells Silver Band, local choirs and visiting groups throughout the year and for many events during Victorian Week, when the town is packed with visitors.
Returning to Temple Street, we continue south past more local shops to the crossroads known locally as Five Ways. Directly opposite, on the corner, is the Grade II listed "Tom Norton Building", known as the Automobile Palace. Established in Llandrindod during the early years of the century by Tom Norton, the Automobile Palace was at one time one of the largest employers in the town. When the business ceased trading the building was acquired by the Development Board for Rural Wales and externally renovated to its former splendour. Internally, it has been adapted in a most pleasing fashion to provide retail outlets, a cycle shop, cafe and the Llandrindod Wells Cycle Museum, a venture unique to Mid Wales and well worth a visit. The Job Centre has also been re-located to the refurbished building.
Turning left at Five Ways we pass the former Weslyan Church on our left, which has been tastefully restored externally and used as offices by Powys County Council. Take a moment to look back at the striking building adjacent to the church. This is Coleg Powys which offers a wide range of day and full-time courses, and evening classes. It also houses a beauty therapy unit and fitness centre. The building was originally the Ye Wells Hotel, until commandeered by the army during the Second World War. Continuing up the hill the putting and crazy golf courses are on the left and, just past these on the same side are the re-sited foundations of an ancient church dedicated to Saint Maelog. These were discovered during excavations for a new housing estate in Cefnllys Lane and carefully re-located with the co-operation of the site owner. On the opposite side of the road is an attractive and extensive children's play area, very popular with local children and visitors.
The play area is adjacent to Llandrindod Lake, which was built as a boating lake towards the end of the 19th Century. The original boathouse, which can be seen to the left of the lake, was converted into a private residence some years ago when a new cafe-cum-boathouse was built. Llandrindod Lake has always been a major attraction for the town, and the Lakeside Cafe, which was recently completely rebuilt, provides light refreshments and full meal services in attractive surroundings, affording its diners panoramic views of the lake and surrounding area. There is also a small craft and confectionery shop beneath the cafe. The lake, which has always been a popular venue for fishermen, has recently been drained and cleaned out, new planting carried out and fish stocks re-introduced. There is an abundance of wild life to observe, with a wide variety of ducks, geese and swans. The island in the middle of the lake was for many years used by fishermen, but now provides an undisturbed habitat for birds, insects and other wildlife. The picnic area to the left of the Lake Cafe is popular in the summer, and behind this can he seen the Powys County Council Offices, built on the site of the Pump House Hotel. Notice the striking sculpture of the Red Kite on top of the building, a bird which is unique to this area of Mid Wales.
Following the road around the lake, large expanses of deciduous woodland rise up to the Golf Club, with the clubhouse visible on the skyline. There can be few more dramatic settings for a golf course, and by turning left up the steep hill at the far side of the lake, past the Hall Farm and Old Parish Church (a lovely walk for the more energetic, but also easily accessible by car), the visitor is rewarded with breathtaking views over the town, and beyond this the rolling hills of Radnorshire and, to the south, the Brecon Beacons.
Turning right at the junction for the golf links, continue over the brow of the hill and down Grosvenor Road to the Ridgebourne. This is one of the oldest areas of the town, and a cluster of shops, a pub and garage provide a wide range of goods and services. Turning right at the bottom of the hill into Temple Street, the wide street and the solid but elegant Victorian and Edwardian buildings give a sense of space and permanence. Continuing along Temple Street we return again to the Automobile Palace and Five Ways, with a wide selection of shops and cafes for visitors. Turning left into Spa Road, we proceed up the hill to Holy Trinity Church, which dominates this part of the town and has been a centre of active worship since 1871.
A short detour to the left just before the church takes us to The Pavilion and Radnorshire Indoor Bowling Centre. The Grand Pavilion, as it was formerly known, was built in 1911, and for many years served as the local cinema, conference centre and venue for large dances and social functions. It has been extensively refurbished in recent years, and is now establishing itself as the premier conference centre in Mid Wales, whilst still able to cater for local entertainment and dances. The Indoor Bowling Centre is adjacent to the Pavilion and although only a few years old has already become a mecca for bowling tournaments and for visitors wishing to use the excellent facilities available. The local tennis club also has three courts next to the bowling centre. These two facilities between them provide visitors with sport for fine or foul weather all the year round.
Returning to the church, turn left past The Commodore Hotel, taking time to look along Middleton Street on your right with the Post Office, which we passed earlier, to be seen at the end of the street. The entrance to the other town supermarket is on the right just beyond Middleton Street. Continue over the railway bridge and bear left into Park Crescent, with a further cluster of shops on the left and the Christ Church flats on the right. Park Crescent leads down into the Rock Park, where an ornate iron archway beckons visitors to sample its many delights. This entrance provides pedestrian access only. With a little imagination it is possible to imagine how it would have been 100 years ago, when visitors would have been queuing from the early hours of the morning to take the waters, which were so efficacious and said to cure most of the ailments of the day (a lengthy course of treatment was recommended, to ensure that visitors stayed as long as possible). The large building straight in front of you is the Gwalia, built as a hotel at the height of Llandrindod's popularity as a Spa town. The cream of the society of the day stayed here, perhaps the most famous being David Lloyd George. This hotel, along with most hotels in the town, was commandeered by the army during the Second World War, following which it found a new use as the administrative centre for Radnorshire County Council until local government re-organisation in 1974. It is still used by Powys County Council today.
Free Chalybeate Sping Llandrindod Wells
The Rock Park is also easily reached by car, using the road which goes down the hill to the left of the Gwalia. At the bottom of this hill, turn left into the Rock Park, over the newly rebuilt bridge, to the former pump rooms. The interior of the pump room has been tastefully restored to reflect its former glory, and it is still possible to sample the waters for which the town became so famous, Saline, Sulphur and Magnesium. A service of light refreshments and full meals is also available to help re-charge the batteries. Opposite the Pump Room, a fingerpost points to an invigorating chalybeate spring which continually trickles from a marble fountain. There are exciting plans to create a hydrotherapy centre where the baths were previously situated. It is worth spending a little time wandering around the maze of paths in the Rock Park, where with just a little imagination one can almost see the Victorian gentlefolk strolling through the park, the ladies with their parasols and long, elegant skirts, and the men in morning suit and top hat. If you venture into Llandrindod during Victorian Week, your imagination will become reality, as many visitors and local people re-create the elegance of an era long gone.
Now follow the road past the pump rooms where the international outdoor bowling greens are situated. Set in a peaceful and beautiful part of the park, they are a credit to Powys County Council and a hardworking bowling committee who maintain the greens to the highest standard, such that several international competitions have been staged there and more are planned for the future. There is a new clubhouse overlooking the three flat greens and the club continues the tradition of top class bowling with which Llandrindod Wells has been associated for very many years. The town itself has produced many bowlers up to national and international standard, and a thriving young membership should see this record continue into the future.
You now need to re-trace your steps to the Gwalia for the final stretch back to the station. At the Gwalia continue into High Street, with Christ Church flats on the right. This was, until the turn of the century, the main shopping area of Llandrindod and the Post Office was at Cadwallader, the large building on the corner of Park Crescent and Park Terrace. The Market Hall also stood in High Street until destroyed by fire in the 1950s. There were many shops all along High Street and Park Crescent, and although several have now closed, it is still possible to picture how it might have looked a century ago. Continuing along High Street, the railway is now on the right, next to a large car park. The new Baptist Chapel is on the left in Dyffryn Road, replacing the much larger building demolished in 1994. The building on the left and across Dyffryn Road, which now houses the Police Station and Magistrates' Court, was originally used as County Offices, as can he seen from the inscription on the front of the building. Down the lane just beyond the police station is the 16th Century Llanerch lnn, perhaps the oldest surviving building in the town, which provides a selection of bar meals and real ales. The footbridge on the right over the railway station leads back into the town centre from where we started.
We trust that this short tour, which can be done by car or on foot, will help you to enjoy your visit to our town.
Reproduced with kind permission
from the booklet 'Llandrindod Wells Town Guide'
copyright Llandrindod Wells & District Chamber of Trade Visit http://www.llandrindod.co.uk
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