Arch Wizard of Wales: Clough Williams-Ellis “Architect Errant”

Tish Farrell

Surely only a wizard could have conjured this  place – or so I thought, aged six, when we, the Ashford family first made pilgrimage to Portmeirion on the North Wales coast.

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“Cherish the past. Adorn the present. Construct for the future.” This was the life-long credo of Clough Williams-Ellis, the man who dared to build an Italianesque village on a beautiful Welsh headland.

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It was like stepping into a living picture book or melting through the mirror into Looking Glass Land. The houses were the rich, powdery, pastel shades of Loveheart sweets (does this strange confection still exist?). There were mythic frescoes in places were a child might least expect them, and best of all, a shell grotto that was just like the Little Mermaid’s deep-sea garden.

It was enchanting from the moment we stepped through the gatehouse entrance. How could there be so much colour, so many decorative…

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