By Megan Griffiths
The opening of the Temple of Peace on the 23rd of November 1938 marked the culmination of Lord Davies’ vision to create a symbolic building not only to serve as a memorial to those who died in the First World War, but also as an expression of the ‘health of the people and peace of the world’. Lord Davies of Llandinam provided £60,000 towards the £72,000 cost of the building, with the remainder coming from the Association which Lord Davies himself had founded in 1912, aiming to work towards the elimination of tuberculosis in Wales.
The day was important enough to warrant a special train from Paddington to London to transport key dignitaries and officials from London to Cardiff. The opening ceremony included an introductory address by Sir Charles Bird, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and the key to the building was presented by the Architect of the building, Sir Percy Thomas. He designed the building with the aim of conveying the importance of the two ideas it was born from by fulfilling the requirement of creating the administrative headquarters for the association fighting tuberculosis and the League of Nations Council. In addition, it was also designed with a symbolic purpose in mind to serve as a reminder of the First World War.
The building was then unlocked and declared open by a Welsh Mother, Mrs Minnie James, 72, who lost 3 sons in the War. Lord Davies asked that the building not be opened by a dignitary or celebrity but by a mother, supported by other mothers from around the world, as a symbolic gesture to ‘obliterate distinctions of creed, politics and class’ just as the soldiers did in the trenches and as a way of demonstrating how peace and health touch all of us in some way. With the building now declared open, a service of dedication took place inside the temple itself. The temple came alive for the very first time with the sounds of hymns, music sung by Llandaff choir and prayers and addresses by figures such as the Archbishop of Wales, the very Reverend Dean of Llandaff and the Right Honourable Viscount Cecil of Chelwood. Despite the presence of these important figures, representatives of the Mothers of the World also participated in the service by reading messages of goodwill. These women came from all over England, Scotland and Ireland and from further afield: Canada, France, the Union of South Africa and the USA, to name just a few.
The rest of the day was filled with a civic reception and luncheon hosted at the City Hall, by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, on behalf of Cardiff City Council. They made a number of toasts to ‘His Majesty the King’, ‘Wales and the Welsh People’, ‘The Welsh National Temple of Peace and Health’ and to the ‘The Lord Mayor and Corporation of the City of Cardiff’. A further reception was held later on by Lord and Lady Davies for representatives of branches of the Welsh Council of the League of Nations due to the building’s new purpose as the home for the Council. An important aspect of Davies’ vision for the temple was to act as a reminder of the League of Nations buildings in Geneva and to serve as an example to other nations of how the confederation embraces Britain and the British Commonwealth. Therefore, it seemed apt that this reception was followed by their first meeting in the Temple of Peace; one of very many meetings to come in the future.