Former home of Cob engineer John Williams, Ynys Tywyn, Porthmadog

Link to French translation

This building was erected c.1808 so that John Williams had lodgings and an office near where Porthmadog Cob was being built, under his supervision.

The building, now the headquarters of holiday lettings company STS Holidays, is named after the small island (‘Ynys’) which is now on the far side of the river from here. The river was diverted this way for the Cob’s construction. Before then, Ynys Tywyn stood amid the sands of Traeth Mawr (‘Large beach’). Tywyn means dune or strand.

View of Porthmadog showing Ynys Towyn in centreThe building was originally a row of four properties. Landowner William Madocks was keen on aesthetics and ordered that Ynys Tywyn be limewashed in a yellow ochre shade. The building was extended c.100 years later, in the same style, towards High Street. It’s in the centre of the old photo.

William Madocks' vision of a long embankment here was made reality by John Williams, son of an Anglesey farmer. John, born in 1778, had moved to William’s Tan-yr-Allt estate in Tremadog in search of work. William noticed John’s talents and soon had John supervising construction of his model settlement, now known as Tremadog. He also depended on John to manage the running of Tan-yr-Allt in his long absences (he was MP for Boston, Lincolnshire).

John managed the Cob’s difficult construction over four years while William struggled to find enough money to finish the job and keep creditors at bay. In 1812, less than a year after completion, John had to organise a massive effort to repair the Cob after the sea broke through.

He remained the Tremadog estate’s agent for the rest of his life (and was succeeded by his son). In the 1820s he helped William develop Porthmadog harbour where the river’s new course had scoured a deep channel below the sluice at Ynys Tywyn.

By 1832 John’s home was Tu Hwnt i’r Bwlch, on Porthmadog’s western edge. In 1841 he lived there with his wife Anne, two labourers, three cooks, a groom, gardener, carpenter and errand boy.

John died aged 73 at Tu Hwnt i’r Bwlch in November 1850. More than 2,000 people attended his funeral at Tremadog church. One of the pallbearers was James Spooner, who had engineered the Ffestiniog Railway in the 1830s and lived in Morfa Lodge, near Tu Hwnt i’r Bwlch. At the local eisteddfod in 1851, a £10 prize and medal were offered for the best elegy in John’s memory.

With thanks to Dr Hazel Pierce, of The History House. Sources include the National Library of Wales, and ‘Madocks & the Wonder of Wales’ by Elisabeth Beazley, Faber & Faber, 1967

Postcode: LL49 9PG    View Location Map

Website of STS Holidays 

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