Elwy Road housing estate, Rhos-on-Sea

These hillside houses were designed by renowned architect Sidney Colwyn Foulkes (1884-1971). He had won a medal for an estate in Llanrwst, and his housing in Beaumaris had impressed NHS founder Aneurin Bevan. You can read about Sidney’s career and background on our page about his granite ‘postcard’ on the prom in Colwyn Bay, where he was based.

Photo of Elwy Road estate c.1958The Second World War left Britain short of housing. The government produced guidelines for new houses which improved living conditions and councils could afford to build in bulk.

Sidney adapted the guidelines by combining new and old architecture, inspired by his friend Clough Williams-Ellis’ work at Portmeirion village. In 1956 Clough brought Frank Lloyd Wright – one of the greatest architects of the century – to view the emerging Elwy Road estate. Frank, an American of Welsh ancestry, declared that the estate “perfectly charming” and quite unlike anything in the USA.

Photo of Frank Lloyd Wright and Clough Williams-Ellis at Elwy Road estateThe photos, courtesy of Conwy Archive Service, show the upper part of the estate c.1958 and the visit of Frank (wearing a hat) and Clough, with Sidney between them.

Sidney preferred terraced houses to semi-detached, partly as they were cheaper to build. His had extra-wide frontages and were less deep from front to back than usual, so that there was more daylight in the rooms, better ventilation and space for a parlour as well as a general living room. In 1952 he said each house would have a parlour. He had learned from meeting families that mothers wanted to be able to keep “some part of my house tidy”, where visitors could be entertained in comfort.

Photo of Frank Lloyd Wright and Clough Williams-Ellis at Elwy Road estateThe Elwy Road estate was built in two phases between 1952 and 1961. It provided 148 houses with two or three bedrooms. Unlike his earlier housing schemes, this one also included 90 flats with one or two bedrooms, in three-storey blocks.

The terraced houses were painted in pastel shades except for the ones at each end, where the walls are of bricks made specially by the Castle Firebrick Company, Buckley.

Original details to look out for include: carved figures from Alice in Wonderland and Edward Lear tales under ogee-shaped porch roofs; small round or square windows with decorative glazing above porches; and ornate pediments above the doors of end houses. Sidney used details from traditional construction, like the tumbled-in brickwork on the end-house gables and the swept valleys at roof intersections (where the tiles curve).

With thanks to Adam Voelcker

Postcode: LL28 4YY    View Location Map

Website of Conwy Archive Service