Gwendoline Elizabeth Davies, philanthropist and patron of the arts, was born on 11 February 1882 at Plas Dinam, Llandinam, Montgomeryshire. Gwendoline was very close to her younger sister Daisy.
Gwendoline Davies was born at Llandinam, daughter of Edward Davies and his wife Mary, who was the daughter of Evan Jones, a Calvinistic Methodist minister. Edward was the only son of the industrialist and philanthropist David Davies. Gwendoline's brother David Davies, 1st Baron Davies, was elevated to the Peerage in 1932 and her sister was Margaret. Both girls were educated at Highfield School in Hendon.
In 1908 while travelling in Europe, the sisters began to collect art. In particular, they purchased many works by the Impressionists and post-Impressionists, although they also acquired holdings of 20th-century modern artists, such as Josef Herman, Oskar Kokoschka, Augustus John, Stanley Spencer, Frank Brangwyn, and Eric Gill. Hugh Blaker, art collector who was curator of the Holburne Museum from 1905 – 1913 was an adviser to the Davies sisters and assisted in securing their vast art collection.
Together they established a Welsh centre to further art and design in 1919. Both sisters moved from Plas Dinam to Gregynog in 1922. Gregynog Press, which was started in 1921, published 42 volumes in English and in Welsh. Gregynog's high standards in design, printing, illustration, binding became well-known. Gregynog also provided training and employment for local people.
Whereas art was Margaret's passion, Gwen was a talented amateur musician. From 1933 to 1938, they sponsored the Gregynog Music Festival at their estate, a 3–4-day affair that included poetry readings. The festivals played host to important composers and other musical figures of the period, including Ralph Vaughan Williams, Edward Elgar, Gustav Holst, "the conductor Adrian Boult, and the poet Lascelles Abercrombie; and performers including Jelly d'Arányi and the Rothschild Quartet."
The Second World War brought an end to the sisters' book publishing and large-scale music-making ventures at Gregynog, which became a Red Cross convalescent home. When peace came Gwen Davies's deteriorating health prevented a return to the former activities. She died of leukaemia on 3 July 1951 at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford.
It was revived during 1955–1961 by Ian Parrott, who was Gregynog Professor of Music at Aberystwyth for more than 30 years. The festival was revived again in 1988 by the tenor Anthony Rolfe Johnson. It continues under Rhian Davies's direction.