Allow me, please, to continue with the seventh part of this brief history.
The Old College
GR: This is the oldest part of the university, and was constructed in three stages; originally, this land was owned by the Price family, and in 1795 Sir Uvedale Price commissioned John Nash to construct him a house here. It stood where the tallest part of the old college stands now, which stands out in a slightly different colour stone to the rest of the college. The house that stood there was a tall gothic structure; built with a triangular plan and an octagonal tower on each corner, it was one of Nash’s earliest gothic projects, and stood as a testament to his design until 1897.
Castle House brought tourists into Aberystwyth well into the mid-nineteenth century and in 1864 a man called Thomas Savin, who was an important railway entrepreneur, bought the house and built the rest of the buildings that we see today around it. This grand Castle Hotel cost him a fortune, and just as it was nearing completion a stock market crash meant that Savin went bankrupt and was forced to sell the hotel. It was then bought by a small group of people who were trying to set up a welsh university, and that is how the university here began.
C: And what is that image on the side of the college?
GR: There are three mosaics on the end that faces the castle; the centre mosaic shows Archimedes, icon of science and learning, being presented with the two ‘modern’ exploits that made Aberystwyth what it was when the college was being built; those namely being sea trade, which had increases significantly since the previous century, and the railway, which had opened in 1864, only a year before Castle House had begun to be expanded and built around.
C: But, wait a minute, you said earlier that Castle House was knocked down in 1897, how comes the rest of the buildings of Castle Hotel are still here, and just that part has been replaced?
GR: In 1885 there was a terrible fire that destroyed a large part of the building, three men were killed and four severely wounded, as well as the library, laboratory, and museum and their contents all being destroyed. Rebuilding work was slow and by the 1890s it was decided to extend a part of the structure that had been too severely damaged to be repaired; this part was unfortunately the remnants of Castle House, which was taken down and the larger building that stands now put in its place.
C: I see, a shame for sure – I should have liked to see how Castle House looked.
GR: Well, I hope you are not too disappointed with what stands today!
C: For sure, not at all, sir.
GR: Very good to hear, so shall we wander a little further?
C: Aye, sir, gladly, carry on!