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Clough Williams-Ellis

Clough 90 And Lion 1973Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis, Kt. CBE. MC. LLD. FRIBA. FRTPI. FILA etc. (1883-1978). Born at Gayton, Northamptonshire on 28 May the second son of the Rev. John Clough Williams-Ellis and Ellen Mabel Greaves. Educated at Oundle School; Trinity College, Cambridge; the Architectural Association School, London (for three months, 1902-03).

In private practice, London and Merioneth 1905-1914 and 1919-1978. Inherited Plas Brondanw, Merioneth in 1908. Best known for Portmeirion (1925 to 1976) built on his own private peninsula on the coast of Snowdonia where he built to show that the development of a naturally beautiful site need not lead to its defilement and that architectural good manners could be good business.

His lifelong concern was with Architecture, Landscape Design, the protection of Rural Wales and Conservation generally. At Portmeirion he gave his ideas physical and practical expression.

Clough Ac Amabel Diamond WeddingIn 1915 he married Amabel Strachey (1894 -1984). They met at a meeting at which he took up a challenge set by her father St. Loe Strachey, editor-proprietor of The Spectator to design affordable rural housing.

"I liked this sporting offer and the engaging way in which it was made, but I liked even better the looks of a young lady whom I had seen earlier, moving about amongst the audience." His four bedroom cottage beat the field at precisely £101.

Clough and Amabel were married at St. Martha's Church on the Pilgrims' Way on 31st July 1915. Clough was a volunteer Lieutenant in the Welsh Guards and later served in the Royal Tank Corps till 1918 (awarded the Military Cross).

They had two daughters, Susan, an Artist (married Euan Cooper-Willis 1945, four children), and Charlotte, a Scientist (married Lindsay Wallace 1945, five children) and one son Christopher (1923-1944), who fell in action before Monte Cassino as an ensign in the Welsh Guards. He had joined straight from King's Cambridge.

CWE2Clough writes in Architect Errant: "His room mate in the Gibbs building there, Euan Cooper-Willis subsequently married our elder daughter Susan. The armistice was thus a time of both pleasure and of almost unbearable pain. We soon had grandchildren to add to the pleasure. We decided that since we, Christopher's parents, were alive, we should try to be so properly, and to keep the wound to ourselves."

Clough did not often write about his own feelings however among his unpublished papers is a note written in his 90s entitled Report on X:

"He is narrowly un-emotional and even-tempered - only twice in his life having contrived to make a show of temper by deliberate intent. His dominating interests are visual, natural scenery - preferably dramatic, and architecture, in which latter, though academically ill-equipped, he none tthe less claims to have a natural instinct for responding to a site or a building's requirements appropriately, and to have a judgement of proportions, particularly, that is unerring. He almost certainly has a weakness for splendour & display & believes that even if he were reduced to penury himself he would still hope to be cheered by the sight of uninhibited lavishness & splendour unconfined somewhere which is why he feels that Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens or something like them should be spread around the civilised world giving everyone a taste of lavishness, gaiety and cultivated design."

Clough On Piazza 1973 Hi ResAA tireless campaigner for the environment Clough was a founder member of both the Council for the Protection of Rural England in 1926 and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales in 1928 (and of which he was president for twenty years). He was an advocate of rural preservation, amenity planning, industrial design and colourful architecture.

He was an influential advocate of the establishment of National Parks in England and Wales and was responsible for the demarcation of Snowdonia National Park's boundary which he presented to King George and Queen Elizabeth in 1951. He built for clients in Wales, England and Ireland and even once in Shanghai. His contribution to architecture has been considerable, although critics excessively sympathetic to modernism tended to ignore his achievements.

Fellow Architects were drawn to Portmeirion, notably Frank Lloyd Wright who came in 1956 during his one and only visit to his ancestral country - Wales.

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