Gregynog and the sisters
The Davies family was – and is – a family with a social conscience. Originally their wealth came from their grandfather, David Davies, who became one of Wales’ greatest Victorian entrepreneurs. However it is his grandchildren, Gwendoline and Margaret (known as Daisy), whose history is synonymous with Gregynog.
Along with their brother, David, they were very aware they owed their wealth to the labours of ordinary Welsh people, and at an early stage came to feel that they had a duty to ‘give something back’.
By the end of the Great War they had already given away large sums of money to a range of good causes – while brother David had become Liberal MP for Montgomeryshire.
It is their passion for the arts, however, which differentiates them from other Victorian philanthropists. Even before the war they had begun collecting paintings and other works of art, notably French Impressionists and post-Impressionists – Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Cezanne and Pissarro.
During the First World War, the sisters had spent time at the front running a canteen for French troops, witnessing first-hand the terrible suffering of the soldiers. During these years the sisters came to feel that after the war they must do something for the Welsh soldiers returning from the trenches – to help enrich their lives through the experience of art and music. The sisters were also aware of a need to improve the standards of art, design and craftsmanship in Wales, so in 1920 they bought the mansion from their brother to set about turning it into an arts and crafts centre for Wales.
After the sisters’ death, the Hall was bequeathed to the University of Wales and while the sisters are no longer with us, their artistic and musical legacy lives in both in the house and its cultural programmes.
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The young Davies' were very much aware that they owed their wealth to the labours of ordinary Welsh people, and at quite an early stage came to feel that they had a duty to ‘give something back’.