London Welsh Centre, since 1920

The origins of the London Welsh Centre date back to 1920 when an organisation ‘Young Wales’ was formed to give a focus for young Welsh people in London.

Prior to this there was no formal meeting place for the Welsh in London outside the various Welsh chapels. Social gatherings on Saturday evenings  at a couple of hotels owned by a successful Welsh businessman (O.Picton Davies)  demonstrated the real need for a meeting place of non-sectarian character for the younger members of the Community.

The Young Wales Association was founded on 21st October 1920 at the Portman Rooms, Baker Street, when more than 400 members of the London Welsh community attended a meeting presided over by Dame Margaret Lloyd George (who became the YWA’s first President).  During the first decade of its life, the YWA lacked a permanent home. Meetings were held first in a little café in Villiers Street, then in the premises of Gwilym Thomas at 26 Upper Montagu Street and later, thanks to O. Picton Davies, at the Hotel Somerset.


The building was dedicated to the memory of those lost in the Great War (the first World War).

Ironically it was only two years  after the joyous opening ceremony took place that the country was again at war.

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 hosted entertainment such as dances and was used by a Welsh chapel (Eglwys Jewin)  for Sunday services when their own premises near the present Barbican site were bombed.

Despite extensive bombing in the area, the building at Grays Inn Road  remained unscathed throughout the Second World War and was returned to its original use early in the post-war days, fostering a very successful Youth choir from 1953 and an award-winning  Drama Society.


Later the benefactor’s grandson, Michael Williams became President and a bar was installed and formally  opened on  17th March 1971 by (Sir) Harry Secombe.

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.

The Centre provides Welsh language classes, something it has done more or less continuously at the London Welsh Centre since 1946. The Saturday morning Welsh classes for children, which began in 1957, resulted in the establishment of the London Welsh School a year later.

1925 saw the introduction of the Centre’s monthly magazine, Y Ddolen. When it reappeared after the Second World War in October 1946 it was called Y Ddinas. Today it is called LWCLl and it is produced for the members of the Centre on a quarterly basis.

The Centre also hosts concerts by visiting choirs from Wales, book readings, discussion programmes, regular meetings of its Forum, and a variety of other cultural events.


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