A Brief History of the Norwich Welsh Society


In 1965 a group of Welsh friends, nostalgic for their homeland, decided to go out for a meal on the first day of March to celebrate St. David’s Day. The idea of forming a Norwich Welsh Society came from this gathering. (These friends may not have known that there had been, at least, two previous attempts to form such a society. The first, in the 1920’s was very short lived but the second had been more successful but had agreed to close down soon after the start of WWII). The dinner plans continued and a second celebration was held in 1966 but then, when plans for the formation of the Society were almost complete, the driving force behind the idea (and due to be the first President), Mr. Trevor Jones, was required to leave Norwich. However, this was not allowed to prevent the birth and the first President, Mr Horace Rowley, was duly elected at the inaugural meeting of the Norwich Welsh Society in 1967.


The new Society rapidly gained a membership in excess of fifty and settled into a programme of monthly meetings from September to May with at least one outside meeting in the summer (often accompanied by welsh rain!). The high-point of the year has always been the St David’s Day Dinner and church service on the closest Sunday.  For many years the Society has supported the Welsh charity TENOVUS (known for its research work on cancer and its care of cancer patients) with collections during the St. David’s Day celebrations.


For many years monthly meetings were held at the Assembly House in Norwich but these were brought to a sudden end by a fire in 1995 which caused severe damage to this wonderful building. This fire was almost the start of the end of the Society; in 1995 meetings were becoming less well attended and the forced change of meeting place triggered an accelerated reduction in the audience, causing embarrassment to those who did attend. This reached a crisis in 2002 when it was suggested at the AGM that the Society should close but the membership responded with a determination to prevent it.

A new format for the annual programme was agreed which introduced a more social character to the meetings; outside in the summer and inside for the rest of the year. This does involve several meals, in addition to the St David’s Day Dinner, but also involves Welsh cultural topics such as musical evenings, Dylan Thomas evening and in recent years groups have met to discuss Welsh history and writing while three groups meet to speak welsh at different levels!


As we approach our fiftieth anniversary the Society feels it has the strength to resist the demise experienced by many societies both cultural and Celtic. We have a growing membership, including younger ones and a vigorous committee who try something new almost every year. While the Society was founded for people who are Welsh by birth or descent we also welcome new members who are non-welsh but (like us) have a love of Wales, its language and culture.


Anyone who would like to join us is invited to complete the contact form on the website (norwichwelshsociety.org.uk).