•   Bala- an historic, market town
  •   Christ Church, Bala- several Heritage Trails available
  •   Coleg y Bala- on the Town Trail
  •   Follow the Town Trail- experience Bala's rich heritage
  •   Tomen y Bala and the Gorsedd Circle- on the Town Trail

History of Bala

Overview of history of Bala

The historic market town of Bala sits at the head of Llyn Tegid, in south Snowdonia and plays an important part in Welsh history and culture. Bala, Ontario, Canada was named after it in 1868 - they have since become twin towns.

Originally Bala is likely to have been the  administrative center of the commote of Tryweryn, and it was still fortified in 1202, when Prince Llywelyn ap Iorwerth,  drove out Elis ap Madog, Lord of Penllyn.   Bala must have retained its strategic importance because a Norman borough was established beside it in 1310. At the same time the town was granted a charter and permission to create the role of  mayor.

The Castle Mound was erected during this period together with the parallel pattern of the town’s streets. Roger de Mortimer’s aim in establishing the town was to calm the hostile population of the Penllyn area, which is the district surrounding the lake.

The name Bala indicates where a river flows from a  lake – in this case the River Dee. Llyn Tegid (“Bala Lake”) is  the largest natural lake in Wales. The lake was formerly called "Pimblemere" -  a mis-pronunciation of "Pum Plwy - Five Parishes’ - mere" according to some or pebble mere by others.

There are many examples of Bala's  historical importance – for example  the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar obtained horses for his army from the area.

In 1485 Henry Tudor’s army marched through the area on his journey to the Battle of Bosworth. Rhys ap Meredudd joined him and, following Henry’s victory, the family earned considerable privileges from the new king, Henry VII, which in turn led to the establishment of the Rhiwlas estate .

The wool industry was important to the town, especially the tradition of knitting socks - George III insisted on wearing Bala knitted stockings to relieve his rheumatism.

Bala has had a profound influence on Wales and further afield: the religious revival experienced here led to the establishment of The British and foreign Bible Society after the Rev. Thomas Charles was inspired by Mary Jones’s long journey barefoot  to Bala to obtain a Welsh Bible.   

Betsi Cadwaladr was also from Bala.  She travelled to the Crimea to nurse and was  instrumental in improving conditions for the wounded soldiers.

On the outskirts of town is the home of Michael D Jones who was at the forefront of establishing the Welsh settlement in Patagonia.

Tom Ellis, who was MP for Meirionnydd and chief whip of the Liberal Party, is commemorated in a striking sculpture on the High Street by the renowned scultor,  Sir  W Gascombe John. 

Pick up a copy of 'Tro Trefol Y Bala - Bala Town Trail' which guides you on a historical wander through the town from the Tourist Information Point or download from GoBala.

More detailed information is provided by the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust: Historical Landscape of Bala & Penllyn

GoBala for Heritage Trails