In recent years, as student number have grown, the School of Art has been fortunate to occupy additional teaching and studio spaces in nearby ‘Old College’, as it is affectionately known in Aberystwyth. Opened as the Castle Hotel in April 1865, it is one of finest examples of the work of Gothic Revival architect John Pollard Seddon (1827-1906).
The 1860s saw the rapid expansion of Aberystwyth in anticipation of the arrival of the railway. An eclectic Neo-Gothic fantasy with conical spires, castellated towers, gargoyled parapets, and steep-pitched roofs like a French Renaissance chateau, Castle Hotel was built in just one year to provide superior accommodation for ‘people in the higher ranks’. Shortly before its completion, the developer behind the project went bankrupt and the hotel was sold to a group of philanthropists intent on founding Wales’s first university at Aberystwyth.
A ten-minute walk from the School of Art, ‘Old College’ is situated on the promenade between the Norman castle and Georgian Assembly Rooms. Life drawing classes take place in a spectacular hall with a high wood-vaulted ceiling and tall Gothic windows that look directly over the sea. Outside the multi-purpose teaching spaces, the grandiose interior with its arches and colonnades, elaborate spiral staircases, balconies, and rich variety of ornamentation provide unrivalled possibilities for perspective drawing. Such surroundings convey a real sense of history and fellow feeling for the generations who have passed through the venerated corridors of ‘Old College’.