Our magnificent premises fronting on Grays Inn Road were completed and opened in 1937, donated by Sir Howell J. Williams under a charitable Trust to provide a non-political and non-sectarian educational and cultural centre in London.
The Trust’s objects include the promotion of knowledge and use of the Welsh language, the appreciation of literature, music and art and culture for the benefit of the Welsh community, and to provide an information bureau on matters concerning Wales and Welsh life in London. The new accommodation provided a spacious lounge and tea-room in panelled oak on the ground floor, and on the upper floor a billiard room and gymnasium. The building was dedicated to the memory of those lost in the Great War (the first World War). In line with Sir Howell’s strict views, he required that no alcohol was to be available on the premises. *
Ironically it was only two years after the joyous opening ceremony took place that the country was again at war. Use of the premises naturally declined when young men were enlisted and children evacuated. During the period 1940-1946 the Centre became a Services Club providing beds and meals for those Welsh (and a few Canadian) military people passing through London. It also catered for some entertainment such as dances and was used by a Welsh chapel for Sunday services when their own premises near the present Barbican site was bombed. Despite extensive bombing in the area, the building at Grays Inn Road remained unscathed throughout those turbulent years and was returned to its original use early in the post-war days, fostering a very successful Youth choir from 1953 and a prize winning Drama Society.
Today the Centre is the base for three choirs, The London Welsh Chorale, The London Welsh Gwalia Male Choir and The London Welsh Male Voice Choir. These three choirs have their roots in the Youth Choir of the 1950’s/1960’s era. Two other choirs – the London Welsh Rugby Club Choir and a new young male voice choir (to be named) also rehearse on the premises. The Centre provides Welsh language classes and organises concerts by visiting choirs from Wales, book readings, discussion programmes, regular meetings of its Forum, and a variety of other entertainment.
*Later the benefactor’s grandson, Michael Williams became President and this requirement was overturned. A bar was installed and formally opened on 17th March 1971 by (Sir) Harry Secombe.
Rita Clark: September 24th 2009