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Gladstone’s Legacy - A Bed and a Good Book

Gladston's Book Collection St Deiniol Library photoI often have requests from travelers venturing to European shores for unique places to stay at a budget price, or for a special experience to lodge in monasteries amongst the monks, college dormitories, oddball hostels, haunted castles or ice igloos. I have spent long nights studying in libraries, perhaps drifting off into the occasional droopy eyed nap, but never actually slept overnight as an accommodation. St Deinoil’s Library in Hawarden in North Wales near the English border is such a place, called Britain’s finest residential library.

William Gladstone

William Ewart Gladstone imageWilliam Ewart Gladstone was one of England’s most prominent politicians of the Victorian age, born in Liverpool, educated at Eton and Christ College, Oxford. A successful merchant before becoming an MP, Gladstone developed a reputation as a powerful orator, rising through a number of positions in the government, ultimately to Prime Minister. Gladstone was first an ally and later a bitter rival of Benjamin Disraeli. The acrimony between the two great political figures of the 1800's was referred to as the "Great Parliamentary Duel", not a literal one, but a public and personal mud fight. It started in 1852 with Gladstone's forceful reply to Disraeli's first budget speech.

Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli photoAfter the change of government following the vote against the budget, Gladstone succeeded Disraeli as Chancellor. After an acrimonious exchange of letters between the two over the furniture in the Chancellor's Downing Street residence and the Chancellor's robes. which Disraeli refused to hand over to Gladstone. Their mutual antipathy reached its zenith during the 1870's with Gladstone's attacks on Disraeli's foreign policy. In 1878 Disraeli described Gladstone as "a sophistical rhetorician inebriated with exuberance of his on verbosity".

St Deinil's Library Victorian photoGladstone was devoutly religious and might have been a reverend if he’d not been a politician. He was a voracious reader and amassed one of the largest private collections of books in England. Gladstone had married into a wealthy Welsh family and inherited his wife’s family home at Castle Hawarden, where his book collection grew. Late in his life, Gladstone thought he should share his library with the public, "to bring together readers who had no books and books who had no readers”. Gladstone’s vision was that his volumes on divinity and humanity should be available to members of all Christian denominations, but he also wished students from other faiths, or no faith, to have equal access. These readers would need a place where they could stay and read with time to think and write in a scholarly environment.

Gladstone Statue St Deiniols HawardenGladstone's Library or St Deiniol’s Library (pronounced Day-neol, sometimes Die-neol) and named for the Welsh born saint, was begun in 1889, first consisting of two large rooms with iron book cases known as the “Iron Library” with seven smaller rooms as studies. After his death in 1898, a beautiful permanent building designed by John Douglas was opened in 1902 as a national memorial to William Gladstone, with the residential dormitory wing added later. Gladstone’s original collection of 32,000 books first moved by wheelbarrow from Hawarden Castle to the residential library has grown to over 200,000 volumes. Once described as “a temple of learning…a place for restful meditation, for research, for mental and spiritual refreshment and stimulus – amid charming natural surroundings”, St. Deiniol's Library remains today as Gladstone envisioned - a quiet haven where writers, students, researchers, book lovers, clergy and laymen of all denominations can work or rest for a minimal charge. St Deiniol's especially attracts writers working on their own books.

Lodging B&B at Gladstone's Library

Lounge at St Deniol's Library photoThe 30 rooms, singles, twins and doubles, are available for £70 for single ensuite Bed & Breakfast, £60 per night standard rate, discounted rate for students and special prices for multiple nights or long term study. Modest comfortable accommodation for short or long term stays, with a collegiate and almost monastic feel. Meals are served in a cafeteria style restaurant with set times and a common lounge with liquor cabinet on the honor system, for communing with others seeking solace or scholarly pursuits, mostly theological research. The library includes Gladstone’s historic collection and many of his thousands of personal writings and correspondence, but is kept up to date with current additions. Books from the library are not allowed to be taken out, though a reading selection is available outside to be borrowed for in room reading.

Getting There

St Deiniol's is located in the picturesque little village of Hawarden, only about 10 minutes drive from Chester and the M56 motorway. Meeting rooms and conference facilities can be rented for functions such as business meetings, training courses or seminars and a number of in-house educational or discussion courses are held throughout the year open to anyone wishing to attend. © Bargain Travel Europe

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St Deiniol's Library

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