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Latitude: 53.1226 / 53°7'21"N
Longitude: -3.9567 / 3°57'24"W
OS Eastings: 269158
OS Northings: 360169
OS Grid: SH691601
Mapcode National: GBR 5X.7CBF
Mapcode Global: WH54Q.6S30
Entry Name: Helyg
Listing Date: 28 March 2018
Source ID: 87760
Building Class: Recreational
Location: On the south side of the A5, c 3.5km W of Capel Curig.
Community: Capel Curig
Community: Capel Curig
Traditional County: Caernarfonshire
Helyg probably originated as a small cottage on the Penrhyn Estate and was possibly the ‘wretched hovel’ mentioned by George Borrow in ‘Wild Wales' (chapter XXV). It is shown on the 1st ed OS map as a small N-S building, with a small extension on its N end (possibly the existing coal store) and a smaller separate building to its S. An irregular enclosure to the SW is shown attached to the building.
Helyg was thought to have been a road-mender’s hovel before it was acquired on a long lease by the Climbers’ Club in 1925. The club purchased it in 1932, and extended the original two room, lofted cottage in 1933 to provide additional sleeping accommodation and a bathroom. Photographs of 1934 displayed inside the property show that there have been some minor changes since then – the replacement of a casement window in the E elevation of the old cottage, the chimneys reduced in height, and the loss of a third (axial) chimney probably in the E wall of the extension.
The Climbers’ Club itself was conceived in 1897, and aimed to encourage mountaineering, particularly in England, Wales and Ireland (it was preceded by the Alpine Club, and by the Scottish Mountaineering Club). At its formal establishment the following year, Charles Edward Matthews became its president. It almost immediately attracted 200 members, largely professional gentleman climbers. Early members included Winthrop Young and George Mallory, who as president in 1923-4, set up ‘the de-moribundisation sub-committee’ in an effort to revive the fortunes of the club, whose membership had been decimated during WWI. The committee recommended the establishment of a club hut for north Wales.
The club already had a strong Welsh bias, evolving as it did from the Society of Welsh Rabbits, and initially using the Pen-y-Gwryd hotel as a base. Helyg was found thanks to the efforts of Herbert Carr and Raymond Greene. They considered that the ‘adjacent rough shed could form an admirable coal store or wine cellar’. This ‘old ruined outhouse’ was duly converted for use as coalshed and store in 1930.
A garage (listed separately) was also quickly provided – newly built on a site on the opposite side of the road, designed by Stewart McLoughlin and completed in 1927 – the garage allegedly cost more than the main building, and was paid for by another prominent mountaineer and founder member of the club, W.E.Corlett. The garage was deemed ‘very suitable… which owing to its low setting, local stone, and Capel Curig slates, snuggles down to the moorland like a native’.
The Climbers' Club also has huts elsewhere in Wales, at Llanberis (Cwm Glas Mawr and Ynys Ettws) and Pembroke, but Helyg is the primary and original club base. It retains an Everest commemorative plaque in its lounge, detailing the club members involved in expeditions to Everest, and demonstrating its links with the foundation of climbing in the UK.
Climbing club hut. ‘H’-Plan single storey, comprising 2 N-S gabled wings with central linking entrance section. Rubble stone (roughly squared and coursed in later part) with slate roofs, stone stacks, coping and kneelers (on later part). Modern windows.
Entrance in S side of linking part, door with flanking glazing. S gable of W wing (the 1933 extension) projects forward to left, with central window and rooflight to its E roofslope. W elevation has 2 windows offset to left, stack to N gable, 1 rooflight in each of NE roof of W wing and in N slope of linking section. Original cottage to E has doorway and stack to N gable, single small window in E elevation and 2 rooflights. S gable end has central window in original doorway, with plaque above ‘1986 Improvements In Memory of E Stuart Chantrell (Hon Custodian 1928-1957) and to the Generosity of HRC Carr (1925-1986)’.
Entrance to hallway with modern stairs, small below stair shower room. Loft above contains WCs. Bunk room and lounge in west wing of 1933 to the left, with queen post roof trusses. S half divided into bunks, and tongue and groove screen separating lounge to N. This has fireplace in N wall with stone surround with corbelled slate mantle and curved slate hearth. Above fireplace, timber plaque commemorating Everest expeditions between 1921 and 1953, with Climbers' Club members’ names, with Everest in relief and club logo above. Cupboards in recesses to side of fireplace, at the time of inspection containing Climbers' Club memorabilia. Original cottage to right of entrance hall houses kitchen, with ladder access to boarded loft to south part. Detail altered but plan and layout retained.
Included for its special architectural and historic interest as an early climbers’ club hut incorporating a simple traditional cottage, extended and altered by the Climbers’ Club in the 1930s in a sensitive fashion following the styles and techniques of a traditional Snowdonian vernacular building. The building is of special historic interest as the first club hut established by the Climbers’ Club, providing the club with a base in Snowdonia, which played a vital role in the development of Welsh climbing in the inter-war period. The hut has particularly strong associations with successive Everest expeditions from the 1920s, and it played an important role in enabling the preparations for the first successful ascent in 1953. Of the 15 mountaineers of this expedition, seven were members of the club.
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