Portmeirion

Portmeirion is a tourist village in Gwynedd, North Wales. It was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in the style of an Italian village, and is now owned by a charitable trust.

Portmeirion
Portmeirion, Wales (48559387366).jpg
The Piazza
Portmeirion is located in Gwynedd
Portmeirion
Portmeirion
Location within Gwynedd
OS grid referenceSH588370
Community
Principal area
CountryWales
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townPENRHYNDEUDRAETH
Postcode districtLL48
Dialling code01766
PoliceNorth Wales
FireNorth Wales
AmbulanceWelsh
UK Parliament
Welsh Assembly
List of places
UK
Wales
Gwynedd
52°54′43″N 4°05′56″W / 52.912°N 4.099°W / 52.912; -4.099Coordinates: 52°54′43″N 4°05′56″W / 52.912°N 4.099°W / 52.912; -4.099

The village is located in the community of Penrhyndeudraeth, on the estuary of the River Dwyryd, 2 miles (3.2 km) south east of Porthmadog, and 1 mile (1.6 km) from Minffordd railway station.

Portmeirion has served as the location for numerous films and television shows, and was "The Village" in the 1960s television show The Prisoner.

HistoryEdit

 
Sir Clough Williams-Ellis at Portmeirion in 1969
 
Castell Deudraeth

Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion's designer, denied repeated claims that the design was based on the fishing village of Portofino on the Italian Riviera. He stated only that he wanted to pay tribute to the atmosphere of the Mediterranean. He did, however, draw from a love of the Italian village stating, "How should I not have fallen for Portofino? Indeed its image remained with me as an almost perfect example of the man-made adornment and use of an exquisite site."[1] Williams-Ellis designed and constructed the village between 1925 and 1975. He incorporated fragments of demolished buildings, including works by a number of other architects. Portmeirion's architectural bricolage and deliberately fanciful nostalgia have been noted as an influence on the development of postmodernism in architecture in the late 20th century.

The main building of the hotel and the cottages "White Horses", "Mermaid", and "The Salutation" had been a private estate called Aber Iâ (Welsh: Ice estuary), developed in the 1850s on the site of a late 18th-century foundry and boatyard. Williams-Ellis changed the name (which he had interpreted as "frozen mouth") to Portmeirion: "Port-" from its place on the coast; "-meirion" from the county of Merioneth (Meirionydd) in which it was sited.[2] The very minor remains of a mediaeval castle (known variously as Castell Deudraeth, Castell Gwain Goch and Castell Aber Iâ) are in the woods just outside the village, recorded by Gerald of Wales in 1188.

In 1931 Williams-Ellis bought from his uncle, Sir Osmond Williams, Bt, the Victorian crenellated mansion Castell Deudraeth with the intention of incorporating it into the Portmeirion hotel complex, but the intervention of the war and other problems prevented this. Williams-Ellis had always considered the Castell to be “the largest and most imposing single building on the Portmeirion Estate" and sought ways to incorporate it. Eventually, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Regional Development Fund as well as the Wales Tourist Board, his original aims were achieved and Castell Deudraeth was opened as an 11 bedroom hotel and restaurant on 20 August 2001, 23 years after Williams-Ellis's death, by the Welsh opera singer Bryn Terfel.

The village of Portmeirion has been a source of inspiration for writers and television producers. For example, Noël Coward wrote Blithe Spirit while staying in the Fountain 2 (Upper Fountain) suite at Portmeirion. George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells were also early visitors. In 1956 the village was visited by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and other famous visitors have included Gregory Peck, Ingrid Bergman and Paul McCartney. In the late 1950s, ex-RAF photographer Stanley Long visited Portmeirion with the sole intention of creating a collectible stereoview series through VistaScreen; this would be exclusively available in the gift shop.[3] The village has many connections to the Beatles too. Their manager Brian Epstein was a frequent visitor and George Harrison spent his 50th birthday in the village in 1993. It was while Harrison was in Portmeirion that he filmed interviews for The Beatles Anthology documentary. Musician Jools Holland visited whilst filming for the TV music show The Tube, and was so impressed that he has had his studio and other buildings at his home in Blackheath built to a design heavily inspired by Portmeirion.

 
Portmerion Hotel

The grounds contain an important collection of rhododendrons and other exotic plants in a wild-garden setting, which was begun before Williams-Ellis's time by the previous owner George Henry Caton Haigh and has continued to be developed since Williams-Ellis's death.

 
Battery Square

Portmeirion is now owned by a charitable trust, and has always been run as a hotel, which uses the majority of the buildings as hotel rooms or self-catering cottages, together with shops, a cafe, tea-room, and restaurant. Portmeirion is today a top tourist attraction in North Wales[4] and day visits can be made on payment of an admission charge.

The village was the setting of the inaugural Festival N°6, which took place in September 2012 and featured headline acts Spiritualized, Primal Scream and New Order. Since then, this festival is celebrated each year in September at Portmeirion.

ArchitectureEdit

 
Pantheon, also: The Green Dome

Architecture critic Lewis Mumford devoted a large part of a chapter of his 1964 book The Highway and the City to Portmeiron, which he called

an artful and playful little modern village, designed as a whole and all of a piece ... a fantastic collection of architectural relics and impish modern fantasies. ... As an architect, [Williams-Ellis] is equally at home in the ancient, traditional world of the stark Welsh countryside and the once brave new world of "modern architecture." But he realized earlier than most of his architectural contemporaries how constricted and desiccated modern forms can become when the architect pays more attention to the mechanical formula or the exploitation of some newly fabricated material than to the visible human results. In a sense, Portmeiron is a gay, deliberately irresponsible reaction against the dull sterilities of so much that passes as modern architecture today. ... [I]t is prompted by [the] impulse ... to reclaim for architecture the freedom of invention — and the possibility of pleasurable fantasy — it had too abjectly surrendered to the cult of the machine.[5]

 
Round House

Mumford referred to the architecture as both romantic and picturesque in Baroque form, "with tongue in cheek." He described the total effect as "relaxing and often enchanting" with "playful absurdities" that are "delicate and human in touch", making the village a "happy relief" from the "rigid irrationalities and the calculated follies" of the modern world.[5]

The houses Anchor, Arches, the hotel building, Lady's Lodge, the inside of the Pantheon and the vaulted ceiling of Gate House are decorated with murals and frescoes by the Frankfurt-born artist and friend of Clough Williams-Ellis Hans Feibusch.

Chronology of constructions in PortmeirionEdit

time building
19. century existing buildings: White Horses, former blacksmith's shop; Castell Deudraeth (the hospital in The Prisoner); main building; gardener's house, stables
1925 conversion of the main building into a hotel, gardener's house beacomes Mermaid; stables become Salutation
1925/26 Angel & Neptune
1926 Watch House, opening of the hotel
1927/28 Campanile; Prior's Lodging
1928/29 Government House
1929 Toll House
1930 Amis Réunis
1930er Jahre Hercules Hall; Pilot House; Battery Cottage, Dolphin; Fountain; Anchor, Trinity
1933/34 Chantry
1937/38 Camera Obscura
1954 Lighthouse (after the end of building restrictions during the war)
1954/55 Gate House
1956/57 Telford's Tower
1958 Bristol Colonnade; High Cloister (porch of the dome)
1958/59 Round House (residence of number 6 in the Prisoner), Bridge House
1959 Pantheon - dome, (the green roofing had to be removed after renovations in the 1990ies due to fire protection requirements)
1960 Belvedere
1961/62 Chantry Row
1962 Playhouse
1963 Triumphal Arch; Gothic Pavilion
1963/64 Arches
1964 Gloriette Balkon
1964/65 Unicorn
1966 Villa Winch; Central Piazza (replacing a tennis court)
1968/70 Cliff House
1977 New Toll Booth
1978 Terrace, self-service restaurant
1981 The hotel was destroyed by fire
1983 Centenary Gazebo; Prisoner information centre opened in the Round House
1988 Reopening of the hotel after reconstruction
1998 Tudor Room, annex to the Hercules Hall
1999 Prisoner Information Centre closed; second pay kiosk opposite Toll Booth; Castell Deudraeth reopened as hotel after renovations.
2001 New Prisoner shop in the Round House
2007 Caffi Glas (The Blue Café), Italian restaurant (built 1950 as garages for guests)
2016 permanent chess set, built in remembrance of Patrick McGoohan's series The prisoner next to the central piazza

Filming locationEdit

 
Battery Square and souvenir shops

Television series and films have shot exterior scenes at Portmeirion, often depicting the village as an exotic European location. Examples of this include the 1960 Danger Man episode "View from the Villa" starring Patrick McGoohan, the 1976 four-episode Doctor Who story titled "The Masque of Mandragora" set in Renaissance Italy,[6] and an episode of Citizen Smith in which the eponymous hero visits Rimini. In 2002 some scenes were filmed there for the final episode (at the time) of the TV series Cold Feet.[7] The town of Wiggyville in the Cbeebies series Gigglebiz is shot in Portmeirion as well. Just as well, the village of Llan-ar-goll-en in the Welsh preschool show of the same name on S4C, was shot there.[8]

Portmeirion has been the location for music videos and concerts. The 1980s Scottish band Altered Images used Portmeirion in their video "See Those Eyes". Siouxsie and the Banshees used Portmeirion as a setting in their 1987 music video for "The Passenger".

 
Hercules, a statue by William Brodie

The PrisonerEdit

In 1966–1967, Patrick McGoohan returned to Portmeirion to film exteriors for The Prisoner, a surreal spy drama in which Portmeirion played a starring role as "The Village", in which McGoohan's retired intelligence agent, known only as "Number 6", was incarcerated and interrogated, albeit in pleasant surroundings. At Williams-Ellis' request, Portmeirion was not identified on screen as the filming location until the credits of the final episode of the series, and indeed, Williams-Ellis stated that the levy of an entrance fee was a deliberate ploy to prevent the Village from being spoilt by overcrowding.[2] The show, broadcast on ITV in the UK during the autumn of 1967 and CBS in the US in the summer of 1968, became a cult classic, and fans continue to visit Portmeirion, which hosts annual Prisoner fan conventions.[9] The building that was used as the lead character's home in the series currently operates as a Prisoner-themed souvenir shop. Many of the locations used in The Prisoner are virtually unchanged after more than 40 years.

Because of its Prisoner connection, Portmeirion has been used as the filming location for a number of homages to the series, ranging from comedy skits to an episode of the BBC documentary series The Celts, which recreated scenes from The Prisoner. Other occasions include:

 
Amis Reunis


Panoramic view of the central piazza

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

Notes

  1. ^ Headley, Gwyn and Meulenkamp, Wim. Follies: a National Trust Guide Cape, 1986. p.156
  2. ^ a b "Portmeirion" a BBC Wales documentary, 2006
  3. ^ "Be Seeing You: Portmeirion, The Village from ITV's "The Prisoner", in 3D". Brooklyn Stereography. 22 September 2019. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 August 2006. Retrieved 26 August 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ a b Mumford, Lewis. "From Crochet Castle to Arthur's Seat" (1962) in The Highway and the City New York: New American Library, 1964
  6. ^ "The Welsh Connection: 5 Factoids about the Doctor and Wales". BBC. 1 March 2015. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  7. ^ "Portmeirion hosts Cold Feet finale". BBC News. 11 March 2003. Retrieved 17 September 2007.
  8. ^ "Llan-ar-goll-en".
  9. ^ "Number's not up for The Prisoner". BBC News. 3 September 1998. Retrieved 12 October 2010.

External linksEdit