Clough Williams-Ellis

Sir Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis, CBE, MC (28 May 1883 – 9 April 1978) was a British architect known chiefly as the creator of the Italianate village of Portmeirion in North Wales.

Sir Clough Williams-Ellis
Clough Williams-Ellis
Born28 May 1883
Died9 April 1978 (aged 94)
ProjectsCreator of the Italianate village of Portmeirion in North Wales


Origins, education and early career

Village Hall, Stone
Village Hall, Stone. Clough Williams-Ellis, 1910.

Clough Williams-Ellis was born in Gayton, Northamptonshire, England, but his family moved back to his father's native North Wales when he was four. The family have strong Welsh roots and Clough Williams-Ellis claimed direct descent from Owain Gwynedd, Prince of North Wales.[1] His father John Clough Williams Ellis (1833-1913) was a clergyman and noted mountaineer while his mother Ellen Mabel Greaves (1851-1941) was the daughter of the slate mine proprietor John Whitehead Greaves and sister of John Ernest Greaves.[2]

He was educated at Oundle School in Northamptonshire. Though he read for the natural sciences tripos at Trinity College, Cambridge, he never graduated. After a few months at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London in 1903–04 (which he located by looking up "Architecture" in the London telephone directory), he worked for an architect for a few months before setting up his own practice in London. His first commission was probably Larkbeare, a summer house for Anne Wynne Thackeray in Cumnor, Oxfordshire, in 1903-4 (finished 1907) which he designed whilst a student.

Plas Brondanw, Pisé and Portmeirion

Panorama of Portmeirion, designed by Clough Williams-Ellis during the 1920s

In 1908 he inherited a small country house, Plas Brondanw, from his father, restoring and embellishing it over the rest of his life, and rebuilding it after a fire in 1951. He served with distinction in the First World War, serving first with the Royal Fusiliers and then the Welsh Guards, with whom he was awarded the Military Cross. Postwar he helped John St Loe Strachey (who became his father in law) revive pisé[1] construction in Britain, building an apple storehouse followed by Harrowhill Copse bungalow at Newlands Corner (photos) using shuttering and rammed earth. During the 1920s, he began work on Portmeirion, later the location for The Prisoner (1967–68) TV series.

Later life

Views of Portmeirion (26275785812)
Clough Williams-Ellis at Portmeirion in 1969

A fashionable architect in the inter-war years, Williams-Ellis's other works include buildings at Stowe in Buckinghamshire; groups of cottages at Cornwell, Oxfordshire; Tattenhall in Cheshire; and Cushendun, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Williams-Ellis is also known for his design (in the 1930s) of the former summit building on Snowdon, which — after unsympathetic alteration in the 1960s and a long-term lack of maintenance — was described by Prince Charles as "the highest slum in Wales".

During this period Williams-Ellis wrote his book England and the Octopus (published in 1928); its outcry at the urbanization of the countryside and loss of village cohesion inspired a group of young women to form Ferguson's Gang. They took up Williams-Ellis's call for action and from 1927 to 1946 were active in rescuing important, but lesser-known, rural properties from being demolished. Shalford Mill in Surrey, Newtown Old Town Hall on the Isle of Wight and Priory Cottages in Oxfordshire were all successfully saved due to the Gang's fundraising efforts. The Gang endowed these properties and significant tracts of the Cornish coastline to the care of the National Trust. The Gang's mastermind Peggy Pollard (known within the Gang by her pseudonym Bill Stickers) and Williams-Ellis became lifelong friends.[3]

In 1929 Williams-Ellis bought portrait painter George Romney's house in Hampstead.[4]

Williams-Ellis served on several government committees concerned with design and conservation and was instrumental in setting up the British national parks after 1945. He wrote and broadcast extensively on architecture, design and the preservation of the rural landscape.


In 1915 Williams-Ellis married the writer Amabel Strachey. Their son, Christopher Moelwyn Strachey Williams-Ellis (1923-13 March 1944), a Lieutenant in the Welsh Guards, was killed in action in Italy during the Second World War and was buried in plot VIII, row C, grave 24 at Minturno War Cemetery.[5] Their elder daughter, Susan Williams-Ellis, used the name Portmeirion Pottery for the company she created with her husband in 1961.

Welsh language novelist Robin Llywelyn is his grandson and fashion designer Rose Fulbright-Vickers is his great-granddaughter.[6] Sculptor David Williams-Ellis is his great-nephew.[7]


In 1958 Williams-Ellis was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire "for public services".[8] He was made a Knight Bachelor in the New Year Honours 1972 "for services to the preservation of the environment and to architecture".[9] At the time, he was the oldest person ever to be knighted.[10]


Sir Clough Williams-Ellis died in April 1978, aged 94. In accordance with his wishes, he was cremated, and his ashes went to make up a marine rocket, which was part of a New Year's Eve firework display over the estuary at Portmeirion some twenty years after his death.




  • Reconography (by student in BEF, pseudodonym Graphite) Pelman (1919 and 4 editions)
  • England and the Octopus, London, Geoffrey Bles (1928)
  • Cottage Building in Cob, Pise, Chalk and Clay: a Renaissance (1919)
  • The Architect, London, Geoffrey Bles (1929)
  • Cautionary Guide to Oxford, Design and Industrial Association (1930), 32 pages
  • Cautionary Guide to St Albans, Design and Industrial Association (1930) 32 pages
  • Laurence Weaver – a Biography, London, Geoffrey Bles (1933)
  • Architecture Here and Now, London, T Nelson and Sons (1934)
  • The Adventure of Building: being something about architecture and planning for intelligent young citizens and their backward elders, London, Architectural Press (1946), 91 pages
  • An Artist in North Wales, London, Elek (1946), pictures by Fred Uhlman, 40 pages
  • On Trust for the Nation (2 vols), London, Elek (1947), pictures by Barbara Jones, 168 pages
  • Living in New Towns, London (1947)
  • Town and Country Planning, Longmans, Green, London and British Council (1951), 48 pages
  • Portmeirion, The Place and its Meaning, London (1963, revised edition 1973)
  • Roads in the Landscape, Ministry of Transport (1967), 22 pages
  • Architect Errant: The Autobiography of Clough Williams Ellis, London, Constable (1971), 251 pages
  • Around the World in Ninety Years, Portmeirion (1978)
With others
  • Clough & Amabel Williams-Ellis, The Tank Corps (A War History), London (1919)
  • ____ The Pleasures of Architecture London, Jonathan Cape (1924)
  • ____ and Introduction by Richard Hughes, Headlong Down the Years, Liverpool University Press (1951), 118 pages
  • Susan, Charlotte, Amabel and Clough Williams-Ellis, In and Out of Doors, London, Geo Routledge and Sons (1937), 491 pages
  • With John Maynard Keynes, Britain and the Beast, London, Dent (1937), 332 pages
  • With John Strachey, Architecture (1920, reprinted 2009), 125 pages
  • With Sir John Summerson, Architecture Here and Now


  1. ^ Clough Williams-Ellis family tree (Glasfryn) : Portmeirion - Welcome to the official Portmeirion village web site Archived 8 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Dr Ioan Bowen Rees in Dictionary of Welsh Biography at
  3. ^ Polly Bagnall & Sally Beck (2015). Ferguson's Gang: The Remarkable Story of the National Trust Gangsters. Pavilion Books. ISBN 978-1-909-88171-6.
  4. ^ Historic England. "Romneys House (1379069)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
  5. ^ CWGC - Casualty Details
  6. ^’s-deep-influences.html
  7. ^ "Sculptor David Williams-Ellis on studying in Italy and why he never eats in restaurants". The Daily Telegraph. 28 November 2014.
  8. ^ "Supplement to the London Gazette". London Gazette. 31 December 1957.
  9. ^ "Supplement to the London Gazette". London Gazette. 31 December 1971.
  10. ^ Chronology : Portmeirion - Welcome to the official Portmeirion village web site Archived 12 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine

External links

Ash Sakula Architects

Ash Sakula Architects is a small architecture practice based in London, founded in 1996.. The practice is known for projects that are community-focused, environmentally sustainable and materials-driven.

Ash Sakula was formed by architects Cany Ash and Robert Sakula. Ash previously worked for the Greater London Council and Burrell Foley Fischer, and in Berlin and New York. She is an external examiner for Cambridge University. Sakula graduated from Liverpool University before working for Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, David Lea and DEGW Architects.

Ashtead potters

The Ashtead Pottery was opened in 1923 and continued in operation until 1935. It was based in Ashtead, Surrey, England at the Victoria Works. The operating firm, Ashtead Potters Ltd., employed disabled ex-servicemen recruited via labour exchanges across the south of England.

The founder was Sir Lawrence Weaver, who received assistance from Clough Williams-Ellis and politician Stafford Cripps. At its beginning the firm had four employees, expanding later to a workforce of up to forty men. Workers with families were housed in sheltered housing in Purcell Close.

A wide range of wares was produced, including figures and commemoratives and a range of tableware. Designers included Phoebe Stabler (Poole Pottery and Royal Doulton) and Percy Metcalfe. The firm exhibited at the Wembley "British Empire Exhibitions" of 1924 and 1925, selling souvenirs bearing the Wembley Lion designed by Frederick Charles Herrick (1887-1970).The Ashtead Pottery closed in January 1935 due to a downturn in trade in the 1930s, and the death of Sir Lawrence. Victoria Works was demolished in 1985 and the site redeveloped as a sheltered housing project. A plaque commemorates Ashtead Potters Limited.

Conwy Falls

Conwy Falls (Welsh: Rhaeadr y Graig Lwyd) is a waterfall on the River Conwy at Bro Garmon in Conwy County Borough in Wales. The falls and surrounding area are a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The nearby cafe, adjacent to the A5, is an interesting example of the work of the Welsh architect Clough Williams-Ellis, of Portmeirion fame.

Dalton Hall, Cumbria

Dalton Hall is a country house near Burton-in-Kendal, Cumbria (formerly Westmorland) in northern England.

The hall has been in the ownership of the Hornby family since the late 18th century. Major additions were made to the large Georgian mansion in 1859–60 by Edmund Geoffrey Stanley Hornby (1839-1923), a Deputy Lieutenant for Lancashire, son and heir of Edmund Hornby (1773-1857), MP, to the designs of the Lancaster architect Edward Graham Paley. The building was demolished in 1968 and replaced in 1968–72 by a much smaller new house designed by Clough Williams-Ellis, his last commission. Pevsner described it as "a stately doll's house" which "sits inside the ghost of its predecessor". The outbuildings have been converted to serve a number of commercial purposes, including rental cottages, a self-storage facility, and the Dalton Hall Business Centre.


Eardisland ( URDZ-lənd) is a village and civil parish on the River Arrow about 5 miles (8.0 km) west of the market town of Leominster in Herefordshire. The civil parish includes the hamlets of Upper Hardwick, Lower Hardwick and Lower Burton.

Eardisland is part of The Black and White Village Trail, which explores the villages of half-timbered, black and white houses to be found in this area of northern Herefordshire. The parish is characterised by rolling arable and pastoral farmland and ancient apple and cider apple orchards.

The A44 Oxford to Aberystwyth road bypasses to the south of Eardisland. (It formerly ran through the village centre, crossing the River Arrow there.) To the east the A4110 runs north/south, a little to the east of the course of the Watling Street Roman road which here marks the eastern boundary of the parish.

The Church of England parish church of St. Mary the Virgin has an early 13th-century nave, two early 14th-century tomb recesses and a 14th-century porch. The architect Henry Curzon substantially renewed the building in 1864.

Just north of the church is the overgrown motte of Eardisland Castle, surrounded by a moat.

Eardisland has a 17th-century dovecote, two public houses, tea rooms and a restored AA box which is the oldest in England. On 1 May 2010 a community shop was opened on the ground floor of the 17th-century dovecote, staffed and run by volunteers.

Burton Court, about 1 mile (1.6 km) south of Eardisland, includes an early 14th-century hall. Much of the remainder of the house was added in the 18th century. The architect Clough Williams-Ellis added the Tudor Revival front in 1912.

John Strachey (journalist)

John St. Loe Strachey (9 February 1860 – 26 August 1927), was a British journalist and newspaper proprietor.

Strachey was the second son of Sir Edward Strachey, 3rd Baronet, and his wife Mary Isabella (née Symonds), and the brother of Edward Strachey, 1st Baron Strachie, and Henry Strachey. He was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, and later called to the Bar, but chose to take up journalism as his profession. Between 1887 and 1925, he was editor of The Spectator. He was a close friend and confidant of the diplomat, Sir Cecil Spring Rice, with whom he corresponded for many years.Strachey also edited (1896–1897) the Cornhill Magazine.Strachey's son John became a Labour politician and government minister.

His daughter Amabel married the architect Clough Williams-Ellis.

Llanfair Talhaiarn

Llanfair Talhaiarn (Welsh: Llanfair Talhaearn), abbreviated to Llanfair TH, is a village and community approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Abergele in Conwy county borough, Wales. Until 1974 it was included in Denbighshire.

The village derives its name from the church dedicated to Mary "Llanfair" that was founded by a monk called Talhairn from Valle Crucis Abbey (according to local legend). The original church has long disappeared. It is a popular misconception that the "Talhairn" in the village name was derived from the bardic name of the poet and architect John Jones (January 1810 – October 1869). Jones was born at the Harp Inn (now known as Hafod y Gân) in Llanfair. However, a name which is centuries old cannot be based upon the name of someone born in the nineteenth century.

The village is situated on the River Elwy (Afon Elwy). The population was 979 in 2001, increasing to 1,070 at the 2011 census with 44% being Welsh language speakers. The community includes the hamlet of Moelfre, Conwy.

Llanfair is accessible from the Abergele to Llanrwst road via an ancient three arch bridge that spans the Elwy and leads directly into the heart of the village, where can be found two old pubs, The Black Lion and The Swan Inn.

About 100 yards north of the old bridge is a more modern bridge that carries the main Abergele to Llansannan road across the river.

Nearby is Mynydd Bodran, a 287 m (942 ft) hill which towers above the River Elwy. From the hill are fine views of Snowdonia and the North Wales coast.

The village was once part of the estate of Garthewin. The first written records of Garthewin date to the fourteenth century,

but both that house and a later Jacobean house were replaced in the 18th century by the present building,

which was subsequently altered in 1930 by Clough Williams-Ellis. It was from the 18th century until the late 20th the home of the Wynne family and notable for a private theatre constructed in the stables by R.O.F.Wynne which in the 1950s saw the first performances of several of Saunders Lewis's dramas.

Nant Gwynant

Nant Gwynant is a valley in north Wales. The A498 road descends 600 feet (180 m) into the valley in about two miles (3 km) from Pen-y-Gwryd; it follows the Nant Cynnyd, the Afon Glaslyn and alongside Llyn Gwynant, then beside the Nant Gwynant river to Llyn Dinas and passing below Dinas Emrys to Beddgelert. The road continues through the Aberglaslyn Pass to Porthmadog.

The upper section of Nant Gwynant, from the site of the Roman fort and marching camp situated at the junction with the modern A4086 Caernarfon to Capel Curig road, follows the valley of Nant Cynnyd to a viewpoint (in about a mile) overlooking the Cwm Dyli hydro-electric power station, which was built over 100 years ago by the North Wales Power and Traction Company to supply electricity to the Porthmadog, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railway that failed before it was completed. The power station however still uses the waters of Llyn Llydaw to generate electricity for the National Grid (UK).

A mile further and the road passes Hafod Lwyfog, the summer homestead built in the 1540s, the birthplace of Sir John Williams, goldsmith to King James I, who in 1610 presented the Church of St Mary in Beddgelert with a fine chalice. In 1938, the then owner, Clough Williams-Ellis presented part of the Hafod Lwyfog land to the National Trust in anticipation of the establishment of the Snowdonia National Park. A campsite now operates at the head of Llyn Gwynant, and the balance of the farm is managed as a conservation estate by descendants of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis.

Between the two lakes is Hafod-y-Llan (bought by the National Trust in 1998) with the Watkin Path climbing above Afon Cwm Llan to the summit of Snowdon. The path starts in South Snowdon Quarry, which was later the intended destination of that never completed narrow gauge railway from Porthmadog. The path, which was ceremonially opened in 1892 by William Ewart Gladstone the then Prime Minister, was specially constructed for Sir Edward Watkin, railway entrepreneur and Victorian pioneer of the Channel Tunnel for the benefit of guests at The Chalet, his summer retirement home in the woods.

Another National Trust property in the valley is Craflwyn. It stands below the hill of Dinas Emrys to which according to tradition, in retreat with his adviser Myrddin Emrys, came an unhappy Vortigern, the Romano-British King who first encountered the Anglo Saxon immigrants.

Oare House

Oare House is a Grade I listed house in Oare, Wiltshire, England.It was built in 1740 for a London wine merchant, Henry Deacon. It was largely remodelled in the early 1920s by the architect Clough Williams-Ellis, for Sir Geoffrey Fry, 1st Baronet, private secretary to Bonar Law and Stanley Baldwin. Its gardens, which include a summerhouse also designed by Williams-Ellis, are listed Grade II on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. To the west of the gardens stands the Oare Pavilion, completed in 2003 and the only British building designed by I. M. Pei.It is owned by Sir Henry Keswick.


Pentrefoelas is a village and community in Conwy County Borough, Wales. The village lies on the A5 road between Betws-y-Coed to the west and Cerrigydrudion to the east. The Afon Merddwr river, a tributary of the River Conwy, flows through it. The community had a population of 356 at the time of the 2011 census, 70% were able to speak Welsh. It has an area of 53.86 km2 and covers a large region around the village including part of Mynydd Hiraethog, Llyn Alwen and part of Alwen Reservoir. It is in the electoral ward of Llangernyw.

The name of the village comes from pentre (Welsh for "village") and a nearby hill, Foel Las ("green bare-topped hill"). The hill is the site of a motte built around 1164 in the time of Owain Gwynedd. Old Voelas House (or Plas Foel Las), mansion of the Wynne family, was built at the foot of the hill in 1545. It was demolished in 1819 and a new site was established two kilometres to the west. The current Voelas Hall was built in 1961 and was designed by the architect Clough Williams-Ellis.Other buildings around the village include:

Plas Iolyn, home to Rhys Fawr ap Maredudd, his son Robert ap Rhys (the chaplain to Cardinal Wolsey), his grandson the 16th-century MP Elis Prys (known as Dr Coch and notorious for his oppression of the district) and his great-grandson, the poet Tomos Prys. It is now a farmhouse.

Gilar, built in the 16th century for the poet Rhys Wyn ap Cadwaladr (fl. c. 1600), perhaps by his father Cadwaladr ap Maurice after receiving a substantial grant of land from Henry VIII in 1545-6, which included the land later occupied by Plas Iolyn and Old Voelas House.

The village had a chapelry of Ysbyty Ifan built in 1766 and known as Voelas Chapel. The Parish Church was built on the same site in 1857-9.

The Pentrefoelas watermill (Melin Voelas) for grinding flour dates from 1815 and was restored by Clwyd County Council as part of a heritage scheme. The ironwork for the external overshot waterwheel was originally cast by the Llanrwst Foundry probably sometime in the 19th century

Plas Brondanw

Plas Brondanw (grid reference SH616422) in Carreg Llanfrothen, Gwynedd, North Wales, was the family home of Clough Williams-Ellis, creator of the Italianate village Portmeirion, and elements of similar architectural styles can be seen at both locations. It is a grade II* listed building. The gardens, in a series of garden rooms enclosed by yew hedges and open lawns, linked by carefully planned vistas, is one of only three Grade I listed gardens in Gwynedd.Plas Brondanw stands on the road to the tiny village of Croesor and the distinctive Snowdonia mountain named Cnicht, within the Snowdonia National Park.


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.

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.

Robin Llywelyn

Robin Llywelyn (born 24 November 1958, in Llanfrothen) is a Welsh novelist, writing in both Welsh and English. His works include From Empty Harbour to White Ocean, winner of the National Eisteddfod Prose Medal. He is also the managing director of Portmeirion Ltd which runs the Italianate village of Portmerion built by his grandfather Sir Clough Williams-Ellis.

Llywelyn was educated at University of Wales, Aberystwyth, studying Welsh and Irish. Llywelyn has written three novels in Welsh; Seren Wen ar Gefndir Gwyn (1992), which won the 1992 National Eisteddfod of Wales prose medal and the Arts Council of Wales Book of the Year Award; O'r Harbwr Gwag i'r Cefnfor Gwyn (1994), winner of the 1994 Eisteddfod of Wales Prose Medal and BBC Writer of the Year Award; and Un Diwrnod yn yr Eisteddfod (2004).

Romney's House

Romney's House at 5 Holly Bush Hill, Hampstead, Camden, London was the home of the artist George Romney and then of the architect Clough Williams-Ellis. It is a Grade I listed building.

The house was designed for Romney by Samuel Bunce in 1797-8, as a studio and gallery. It was constructed on the site of the stables of an eighteenth century mansion, No.6 The Mount. Sold by Romney some years before his death, it was then used as The Hampstead Assembly Rooms.

In 1929-30, the house was substantially remodelled by Clough Williams-Ellis as his own home and as the office for his practice. The house is now subdivided, part being run as a public house, and part in use as a private residence.

Romsley, Worcestershire

Romsley is a village and civil parish in the Bromsgrove District of Worcestershire, England, on the east side of the Clent Hills about 4 miles south of Halesowen. In 2001 it had a population of 1,601.The nave of St. Kenelm's church continues directly into the chancel, both are from the 12th century and built of red sandstone. A 15th-century tower is of greenish sandstone, and the church has a timber porch. The chancel is built over a crypt that once contained the shrine of St Kenelm.

Hammer Hill House in Romsley, built in 1923, was designed by Clough Williams-Ellis.

The village and its area attract walkers, campers, and caravaners on the Clent and Walton Hills and on the Cuckoos Corner site.

The main road that runs through Romsley is called Bromsgrove Road. There are limited local amenities including a post office, a butcher, a pub-restaurant, and a hairdresser.

The village is served by the 147 bus service which connects the village to Halesowen and Catshill. It is operated by Worcestershire County Council, but is to be taken over by Kev's Bus and extended to Bromsgrove Railway Station on 26 February 2018.

Stone, Buckinghamshire

Stone is a village in Buckinghamshire, England. It is located southwest of the town of Aylesbury, on the A418 road that links Aylesbury to Thame. Stone with Bishopstone and Hartwell is a civil parish within Aylesbury Vale district and also incorporates the nearby settlements of Bishopstone and Hartwell.

The architect Clough Williams-Ellis designed the village hall in 1910.

Summit (SMR) railway station

Summit is the southern, upper terminus of the Snowdon Mountain Railway, located within yards of the summit of Snowdon.

The line starts in the valley bottom at Llanberis at an altitude of 353 ft (108 m). Summit station stands at 3,493 feet (1,065 m), 68 feet (21 metres) below the summit of the mountain, to which it is connected by a short stepped path.

The station opened with the railway on 6 April 1896, but both closed the same day following an accident. They reopened a year later, on 9 April 1897.

During the 1930s, many complaints were received about the state of the facilities at the summit and in 1934/5 a new station and building were erected in two phases. It was designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis and included rooms for visitors and a café. The other operators were bought out and the ramshackle collection of buildings on the summit was cleared.

The station operated until 2005 except during World War II. In 2006 the station and associated buildings were demolished for complete rebuilding, passenger services terminating at Clogwyn until the new visitor centre of Hafod Eryri and station were opened by Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan on 12 June 2009.

The station has two platforms.

Ynys Gaint

Ynys Gaint is a small island in the Menai Strait connected to the town of Menai Bridge on Anglesey by a causeway (which still exists today) and also a concrete bridge erected by Sir William Fison (a previous owner of the island) in the 1930s. Literally translated Ynys Gaint mean Kent Island.

Ynys Gaint lies close to the Anglesey shore at OS reference SH561725, between Ynys Faelog and Ynys Castell. Between 1942 and 1944 the island housed a Royal Air Force air-sea rescue unit, with several high speed launches, and a small part of the island is still occupied by the MOD, housing a Royal Naval Auxiliary Service (RNXS) unit until 1994. A quasi-military presence remains on the island in the form of an Army Cadet unit and the Maritime Volunteer Service. There are also two privately owned residential properties on Ynys Gaint. One of these had a portion of its garden designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, of Portmeirion fame.

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