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Bala - Overview

Bala is a small town situated at the north end of Llyn Tegid and surrounded by hills and mountains. The historic origins of Bala cannot be entirely verified. There are traces of a Roman presence in the area, but Tomen y Bala, a steep-sided circular mound, almost certainly originates in the twelfth century. Associated with the llys of the Penllyn commote, its conquest was recorded in 1202. In 1310 a planned borough was established. In 1324 the small community received its first borough charter and a settlement began to spread along what is today’s High Street.

Today, Bala is most prominently associated with the rise of Nonconformism during the eighteenth century which had a lasting impact on the town. In 1800, Thomas Charles, a local school founder and Calvinistic Methodist clergyman, was visited by 16-year old Mary Jones from Llanfihangel-y-pennant, 25 miles to the west, who wanted to buy a bible. He was so impressed by her determination that together with influential friends, he established the British and Foreign Bible Society a few years later. In 1837, Lewis Edwards established Coleg y Bala for the Calvinistic Methodists here. Later in the century, Bodivan, the theological college of the Welsh independents followed. The principal of the Bala Independent College from 1855, Michael D. Jones, is best known as the founder of Y Wldfa, the Welsh settlement in Patagonia.

When the noted German linguist Hugo Schuchardt stayed in Bala for two weeks in 1875, he delighted in the quality of the college libraries and enjoyed practising his Welsh with the local population, the college students and theology lecturers alike. Between talks, Schuchardt spent his time searching for the mysterious afanc living at the bottom of Llyn Tegid or rambling about the surrounding countryside in the footsteps of Welsh poetry and mythology.

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