Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, Designer of Portmeirion

(1883-1978)

Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in 1973 with plaque presented on his 90th birthday
Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in 1973 on his 90th birthday. Image ©2013 Portmeirion Ltd, courtesy www.portmeirion-village.com (cropped)

Architect and environmentalist Clough Williams-Ellis created the village of Portmeirion, Wales, helped establish the British National Parks system, and became knighted for his "services to architecture and the environment."

Born: May 28, 1883 in Gayton, Northamptonshire, England

Died: April 9, 1978

Full Name: Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis

Childhood: Moved to Wales with his family when he was four.

Training:

  • Studied mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge. Never graduated.
  • Trained for several months at the Architectural Association in London, 1902 and 1903.

Career Highlights:

  • Designed numerous buildings at cottages in England and Northern Ireland
  • 1925-1975: Portmeirion, Wales
  • 1930s: Designed the former summit building on Snowdon
  • 1945: Helped establish the British National Parks
  • 1971: Knighted for "services to architecture and the environment"

An Architect's Love of Italy in Northern Wales:

The flamboyant and largely self-taught Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis devoted his life to the cause of environmental preservation. His work on the resort village of Portmeirion, Wales represented his efforts to prove that it was possible to build beautiful -- and colorful -- housing without defiling the natural landscape.

Located on Sir Clough's private peninsula on the coast of Snowdonia in Wales, Portmeirion first opened in 1926.

That year, Sir Clough also founded the CPRE (Council for the Protection of Rural England). He established the CPRW (now Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales) in 1928. In 1947, he wrote On Trust for the Nation for the National Trust.

Sir Clough added new structures to Portmeirion every year until 1939, and construction continued until 1972.

He was 90 years old when the village was completed.

Biographers report that American architect Frank Lloyd Wright thought highly of Sir Clough's work in Portmeirion. Wright, who also boasted a Welsh heritage and a concern for conservation, visited the village in 1956 and praised the innovative combinations of architectural styles.

The name Portmeirion also describes a line of pottery that Clough's eldest daughter, Susan Williams-Ellis, created with her husband.