Sir Clough Williams-Ellis

(1883—1978) architect

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British architect. Main influences on his work were the Picturesque, aspects of the Arts-and-Crafts movement, the Italian Renaissance, and Mediterranean and English vernacular architecture. In the years before and after the 1914–18 war, Williams-Ellis had a flourishing practice, designing houses (among which was the remarkably precocious Llangoed Castle, Breconshire (1913–19) and other buildings, but he was also involved in the campaign to build cheap cottages, and was much influenced by Patrick Geddes. In 1919 he published Cottage Building in Cob, Pisé, Chalk, and Clay (later reissued in a revised edition of 1947). Among his most felicitous designs of the period were Glenmona House, Maud Cottages, and other additions to the village of Cushendun, and the McNaughton Memorial Hall and School, Giant's Causeway, all in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. In 1925 he began his most famous creation, the village of Portmeirion, Merioneth, Wales, a Picturesque composition of individual buildings incorporating Classical details, salvaged fragments, and vernacular elements. Several of the themes explored in Portmeirion were elaborated upon in The Pleasures of Architecture (1924, 1954), written with his wife, Mary Annabel Nassau (Amabel) Strachey (1894–1984).

He began to campaign for effective town-and country-planning, working with (Sir) Charles Reilly, (Sir) Patrick Abercrombie, and others. Among his polemics of the time were England and the Octopus (1928) and Britain and the Beast (1937), and he worked tirelessly for the Councils for the Preservation of Rural England and Wales, the National Trust, and the National Parks. After the 1939–45 war, Williams-Ellis was appointed Chairman of Stevenage New Town Development Corporation, but a growing disillusion with the Modern Movement (which he had once supported in Architecture Here and Now (1934—with John Summerson) and his independence of mind led to a short-lived association with ‘Silkingrad’, as wags called the New Town (after Lewis Silkin (1889–1972), the Socialist Minister of Town and Country Planning who had promoted the New Towns Act (1946). In his architectural works his handling of internal and external volumes was masterly, and his buildings are invariably pleasant, helped by his innate understanding of scale and materials. One of his most delightful creations was the garden at Plas Brondanw, Merioneth (begun c.1913). His last written works included Architect Errant (1971) and Around the World in Ninety Years (1979).

Brett (1996);Kalman (1994);Haslam (1979, 1995);Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004);personal knowledge

Subjects: Architecture.

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