The Town Hall
The Town Hall (1937-38, listed Grade II* 1971), also known as Hercules Hall, was designed to house a Jacobean ceiling, panelling and mullioned windows salvaged from Emral in Flintshire. Fronting the Hall are a fine set of wrought iron gates dated 1908 between stucco piers topped by a cornice and urn (Listed Grade II). Emral Hall was one of the great houses of Wales, home to the Pulestons for 700 years. The first, Sir Roger, was lynched while trying raise taxes on behalf of Edward I. The last was thrown from his horse against Emral chapel which he had shamelessly converted into a kennel; he died insane in 1775.
Emral was a deep three-sided house within a moat, the central and oldest part (early C17th), containing the remarkable barrel-vaulted plaster ceiling depicting the labours of Hercules.
A few years before the Second World War Clough had been consulting with Harley Granville-Barker and Terence Gray of the Cambridge Festival Theatre about plans for a miniature opera-house that he though he might build when his eye happened to catch a sad obituary note in Country Life announcing the demolition of Emral Hall. "Aghast at the news...I rang up the National Trust... Too late and no money. Then the V & A Museum... no room. So I felt I must instantly do something about it myself: packed a bag, caught a train, and reached Emral just as the sale was starting...So far as the ballroom section was concerned, the ceiling came up first, and there being next to no bidding for so awkward and speculative a lot, it was knocked down to me for a derisory thirteen pounds. But then of course I had to buy all the rest of the room at any cost; the old leaded glass in its mullioned windows, its fire grate, its oak cornices and architraves - the lot. And committed that far, it was but prudent to buy a great deal more of the old house wherewith to contrive an apt new building in which to embed my reconstructed ballroom. Whence the somewhat hybrid aspect of what is now Portmeirion's Town Hall, an unabashed pastiche of venerable Jacobean bits and pieces adding interest and dignity, as I think, to an otherwise straightforward modern structure." Clough's foreman joiner, R.O. Williams reinforced the ceiling from behind and, having numbered and sawn it into a hundred sections, lowered each one into straw lined crates. The photograph of the ceiling was sent from Harvey Barton, Bristol to R.O. Williams on 22nd August 1938. The high relief of the vaulted ceiling makes the hall acoustically excellent as such musicians as Sir Arthur Bliss, Gerald Moore, Yvonne Arnaud, Boyd Neel and Elena Gerhard have testified. The oval grille is from the Old Bank of England. The lantern is surmounted by an ornate copper crown on top of an upturned pig boiler. The Town Hall is Clough's single most substantial building at Portmeirion and one of his most successful.
A portrait sculpture by Jonah Jones stands at the foot of the hall stairs. It carries the inscription: "A tribute by one on behalf of the many who have shared his own pleasure in what has been here achieved." Jonah also carved a corbel of Clough's head on the Colonnade as well as slate plaques other applied and fixed carvings at Portmeirion. Of him Clough wrote: "Jonah Jones, a most versatile and sympathetic sculptor who is happily a neighbour and whose vigorous work I feel honoured to display".