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Holt Hostel

A Grade II Listed Building in Llanferres, Denbighshire

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Latitude: 53.1368 / 53°8'12"N

Longitude: -3.1845 / 3°11'4"W

OS Eastings: 320858

OS Northings: 360615

OS Grid: SJ208606

Mapcode National: GBR 6Y.6DYN

Mapcode Global: WH77C.1FW3

Entry Name: Holt Hostel

Listing Date: 16 November 2004

Last Amended: 16 November 2004

Grade: II

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 83167

Building Class: Recreational

Location: On the slopes of Moel Findeg, c750m SE of the village of Maeshafn, in woodland on the NE side of the lane

County: Denbighshire

Community: Llanferres

Community: Llanferres

Locality: Maeshafn

Traditional County: Denbighshire

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Holt Hostel was opened in 1931, the first purpose-built Youth Hostel in the UK. The Youth Hostels Association had been founded in 1930, part of an open-air movement which was gathering pace during the 1920s and ''30s, hand in hand with the conservation movement (the Council for the Protection of Rural England - one of the sponsors of the YHA). The building was designed by Clough Williams-Ellis, himself a leading advocate of countryside recreation. Its simple construction and functional character provide a clear expression of the founding philosophy of the Association, whose motto was ''to help all, especially young people of limited means, to a greater knowledge, love and care of the countryside''. Holt Hostel was so named because the Holt shipping family of Liverpool were its benefactors; it was built on land leased from the Colemendy Estate, but acquired for the YHA in 1937. The original design has had major and minor modifications over the years. Major changes include the early construction of a stone-arched terrace or balcony to the front (also thought to be the work of Williams-Ellis), its removal and replacement by a smaller timber balcony, and the construction of an additional room under the rear loggia. Minor changes include the replacement of most of the original windows, and the removal of their shutters.
The building has latterly been used only for pre-booked parties, and on inspection in September 2004 was facing closure.


Purpose-built Youth Hostel, in a simple and functional Neo-Georgian style. Essentially single-storeyed, but with basement accommodating the slope of the ground, which originally provided a large bicycle store. Timber construction, weather-boarded, on a rendered brick basement. Felted roof. The building comprises a shallow gabled central range, pedimented to the front and rear, with flanking flat-roofed ranges with bold overhanging eaves: this form is a clear expression of function, since the central gabled range houses the kitchen and common room, and the dormitories occupy the flanking blocks. This simple construction and form is given careful architectural treatment: the basement and pedimented central section are white-painted in contrast to the dark stain used elsewhere, and corner pilaster boards and eaves are also white, as are the window frames.
The entrance front has a 3-bay pedimented section to the centre, comprising door and flanking windows, but these are modifications to the original design, which had 3 identical full-height with distinctive horizontal small panes, and lozenge overlights. Single windows in the outer bays: these and the 5 windows in each return elevation were originally small-paned sashes (apparently single sashes which dropped down within the walls); the side windows originally had louvred shutters which have been removed (but still survive on site). A modern timber balcony on rendered supports provides access, replacing the earlier stone-arched balcony and its flanking stone stairs. Underneath the balcony, a fine inscribed slate records the early history of the hostel: ''The Holt Hostel. This building was made possible by the generosity of the Holt family of Liverpool and was opened at whitsuntide 1931. The land was given in May 1937 in memory of Gwendolen Symonds who loved the young and all beautiful places and was a pioneer in Liverpool of the Youth Hostel Association of England and Wales''.
Paired doors to basement in each return elevation are original: boarded doors with lozenge-glazed top lights.
Rear elevation has also been altered: the central bay is recessed behind the pediment, but the original symmetry has been marred by the insertion of an additional room in the left-hand side of this loggia. However the original doorway into the kitchen, and its flanking window, both survive intact: the door is part-glazed with distinctive horizontal panes, matched in the glazing of the window alongside it; lozenge-glazed over-light to door.


The original layout survives virtually intact; the central front room is the common room, with beamed ceiling and boarded walls and floor; behind it is the kitchen. In each flanking wing, long corridors give access to 4-bunk bays, with wash-rooms to the front, and a warden''s bedroom to the rear right.

Reasons for Listing

Listed as the first purpose-built Youth Hostel in the UK (and one of a very few such prupose-built hostels), designed by a leading C20 Welsh architect. Notwithstanding alteration to detail, the building retains a clear sense of its original simple character, (not least in the retention of its original plan), and represents an excellent architectural mirror to the purposes and aspirations of the Youth Hostels movement at its foundation.

Other nearby listed buildings

  • II Telephone Call-box to N of Miner's Arms PH
    On small green area to N of Miner's Arms PH
  • II Aberduna Engine House
    Situated in the edge of woodland NE of Aberduna Quarry. Reached by a footpath running W from the by road between Maeshafn and Gwernymynydd.
  • II Stable Block to W of original Farmhouse at Fron Farm
    Immediately to the W of the L-shaped agricultural range on a slight rise.
  • II Nant Cottage
    Reached along a by-road E off A494 towards Maeshafn; NE of Llanferres. Set back from the road, below the hill on a levelled site.
  • II L-Shaped Agricultural Range at Fron Farm
    Opposite and parallel to the original farmhouse at Fron farm, and now partly enclosed by modern lean-tos.
  • II Former Farmhouse at Fron Farm (excluding the modern house attached to N)
    Located to NW of Nercwys village, off a narrow lane off the Maeshafn- Mold road, set back within its own farmyard and adjacent to, and at an angle with the present farmhouse.
  • II Ty'n y Fedw
    In the grounds of Colomendy Hall, on the edge of woodland approx 0.5km SSW of the hall, and S of Glan Alyn. The house is set in a stone-walled enclosure, bounded by the remains of its farm-buildings
  • II Pont-y-Mwynwr
    Situated 0.9 km W of Maeshafn close to a bridge over the River Alyn, set back off the road. Reached along a by road E off A494 towards Maeshafn; NE of Llanferres.

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