Guest Memorial Library


SKU: GL Category:


Who would have thought that the eminent architect responsible for the Houses of Parliament, Sir Charles Barry was behind this jewel of the valleys? He was the favoured architect of the Guest family and had previously re-designed a new home for them at Canford Manor in Dorsetshire. Lady Charlotte Guest commissioned the Guest library and reading room in memory of her husband, Sir John guest who had passed away in 1852. This continued the educational and philanthropic work of Lady Charlotte who was responsible for the commissioning of the “Dowlais Central Schools” completed in 1863 and also by Sir Charles Barry. Perched nearby on an elevated slope, when the Memorial Library was finished in 1863, it formed a contrasting neoclassical backdrop to the Gothic styled school.

Although only two stories the memorial library is impressive in scale arranged around a cruciform plan with the main rooms clad in coursed brown sandstone raised on a plinth formed from massive rock faced stone blocks. The building is dominated by the front “tetrastyle” portico and as a child I always felt intimated entering through the grey roughly hewn colonnade at ground level. Above the entrance is the loggia space of which Barry was so fond of employing in his designs, no doubt inspired by his love of Italian palazzo architecture. I love this loggia too; it is an inside/outside space and fondly remember walking through the tall french windows and resting on the balustrade between the large bath stone Tuscan columns, sheltering beneath the fine entablature and pediment which they support.

The Dowlais central schools were demolished in the 1970s but the Guest Memorial Library continues on today as a club/events venue.