I’ve been aware that St Deiniol’s Library is something special for many years, but a conversation in Ludlow during the summer set me thinking. A fellow writer who lives in the South of England told me that she’d spent time there working on her novel, and she’d found it a wonderful ‘get away from it all’ place where she could write and research. Given that St Deiniol’s is quite a journey from her home, it was clear that the place must exert a strong pull.
When I was playing about with ideas for my next novel, it struck me that somewhere like St Deiniol’s might provide a good background.for a few scenes. So it was about time I had a look at the place, even if I meant to transplant a fictionalised version of it to the Lake District. And I’m very glad I did.
Let me explain. St Deiniol’s Library is tucked away in the small Welsh town of Hawarden, not far from the border with my home county, Cheshire. It was founded in 1889 by William Ewart Gladstone, the legendary politician who served as Prime Minister no fewer than four times. Gladstone came from Hawarden and he donated his own massive book collection to get it off the ground, though he didn’t live to see the project completed.
It’s now a remarkable – I’m tempted to say, unique - place, with a wonderful book collection that has an emphasis on scholarship and religious studies. The interior of the library is marvellously atmospheric, but there is more - you can actually stay there overnight! For St Deiniol’s is a residential library which accommodates visitors at a remarkably modest price. There’s not only a pleasant restaurant but a lovely drawing room where you can read to your heart’s content in peace and quiet. Conferences take place regularly – one on creative writing next spring, I noticed - and there are plans to build an Islamic studies reading room.
I only had time for a short visit to St Deiniol’s, but I was seriously impressed. I will be back, for sure.