Early Days


The incomplete Castle hotel is purchased by the Welsh University committee from the railway contractor, Thomas Savin for £10,000, a fraction of the amount it had cost to build.


After having difficulty in raising funds for the University, a special meeting of the committee convenesand resolves to reorganize the Guarantee Fund and establish five regional committees (London, Manchester, Liverpool, North and South Wales), each of which are to accept responsibility for raising an annual quota of £400 for running expenses, over a three-year period. It was soon after agreed that the College would open no later than 1st October 1872.


At 9.00 am on 16 October 1872, assisted by two professors and a Registrar-Librarian, Thomas Charles Edwards welcomes twenty-six students to the converted hotel which becomes ‘the people’s University.’ “The town of Aberystwyth observes a general holiday – there were many eloquent speeches, much music and happy singing; all was joy and marvellous triumph.”


Aberystwyth is the first University institution in Wales to offer courses in Chemistry, Comparative Philology, English Language and Literature, French Language and Literature, Geography, German, Greek, Hebrew (also Arabic, Syrian, Sanskrit, Turkishand Persian), History, Italian, Latin, Logicand Philosophy, Mathematics, National Sciences and Astronomy.


The Literary and Debating Society begins under the Presidency of W. R. Evans and flourishes.


The first students took residence within the College.


Department of Welsh Language & Literature is established.


Department of Physics established – the first in Wales.


The chapels throughout Wales declare that the last Sunday in October, University Sunday, will be devoted to a collection for the University. Over 70,000 people contribute (mostly small amounts, which was all they could afford), and £3,100 is raised. The generosity confirms that Aberystwyth holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the Welsh people.


First volume of the College Magazine (later called the Dragon), which is embellished with the College motto, 'Nid Byd, Byd Heb Wybodaeth’ (‘A World Without Knowledge, Is No World’).


Professor Henry Tanner of the Royal Agricultural College and Harry Parnall, Vice President of the University, seek to establish agriculture as a subject in the curriculum. Parnall financed and Tanner delivered a series of lectures on ‘The Principles of Agriculture,’ which were subsequently published in both English and Welsh. These initiatives were curtailed by the economic difficulties of the ‘Great Depression.’


Enrolment of first woman student, L. Patrick (née Davies). Student numbers top 100.


First women’s hall of residence, Abergeldie.


On 9 July, the University’s iconic building, known to later generations as ‘Old College,’ is partially destroyed by a devastating fire. The cause is never ascertained.


College scholarships are made available to all, irrespective of creed or race. The Principal, Thomas Charles Edwards had stated that ‘great colleges become what they are by opening their gates to all comers.'


Stuart Rendel buys the Gogerddan estate on Penglais and donates the land to the College.


The College Critic, intended as a less reverent alternative to the College Magazine, appears in handwritten form. It was soon suppressed.


Cymdeithas y Geltaidd is established.


W. T. Jones of Melbourne, Australia contributes to build an ornamental inner roof of the College corridor, thus creating the Quad. “Here, daily, between lectures an elaborate separate crocodile perambulation of men and women circulate, and all sorts of tricks and strategies had to be learned in order to circumvent the official near-segregation of the sexes!”


Principal Thomas Charles Edwards tours America and raises £1,050 from Welsh Americans to equip a new College Library. He wrote about the tour in the College Report of that year.


Department of Agriculture is established.


Department of Education is established.


The Old Students’ Association is founded by Thomas Ellis M.P. The OSA aims to enable former students to renew the fellowship of College days, to raise funds on behalf of the College and to further the educational interests of both the College and Wales in general.


The new Library in the Old College building is completed. It was funded by donations from Americans and Canadians of Welsh descent. It was known as the ‘General Library’ until 1976, when most of the collections were moved to the new Hugh Owen Library.


University of Wales incorporated by Royal Charter.


The College Song with lyrics by Professors Anwyl and Ainsworth Davies, music by Mr David Jenkins, is composed to celebrate St David’s Day.


On 26 June, the Prince of Wales is installed as Chancellor, and the Princess of Wales opens the new women’s hall of residence in her name, Alexandra. Vulgarly referred to as ‘The Hostel,’ others soon christen the ladies’ hall ‘The Dove’s Nest.’ Prime Minister Gladstone receives an honorary degree.


Three instructors in Dairying are appointed to establish travelling dairy schools to provide local training in butter and cheese making. Instruction in dairying became a prominent feature of agricultural training at Aberystwyth as evidenced by the well-regarded Dairy School.

Rise of the University

College by the sea to College on the hill