Vanished Wales: Coleg Harlech - The place that gave people a second chance at education

A short stroll from Harlech castle stands a cluster of old buildings that tell a radical tale. 

Today, they stand silent, but they were once home to an experiment that changed lives.

It was Coleg Harlech. For generations of men and women it proved transformative.

The college opened its doors in 1927 and offered students from Wales and around the world something priceless and precious: access to higher education without having to pay.

The centrepiece of Coleg Harlech was a grand Georgian building that was once the holiday home of an eccentric millionaire.

It became well known as a "second chance" college, often for people who had previously been unable to further their education for economic or social reasons.

Sheila Maxwell is a former bursar at Coleg Harlech. "The students just knew that there was more in them and they wanted to do something for themselves. So, a milkman from Wrexham could become a professor of economics.

"It was like a door that was ajar, and as you came to the college you widened that doorway out into a full education."

But running a residential college was expensive, and as the years went on those costs began to soar.

The education system was changing too. Coleg Harlech had to fight hard to attract students and funding.  

The college finally closed in 2017. The imposing buildings stand empty, awaiting a new lease of life.

Watch Vanished Wales on ITV Cymru Wales at 7pm on Friday, March 1, and catch up afterwards on ITVX.