Former home of motoring pioneer William Letts, Llandudno

Former home of motoring pioneer William Letts, 51 Church Walks, Llandudno

In the early 20th century, this hillside villa of red brick was home to motoring pioneer Sir William Malesbury Letts and his family. It’s a private house – please enjoy the view from the pavement and don’t enter the grounds.

He was born in Brackley, Northamptonshire, and moved to this house, called St Katherine’s, in 1902. He later lived at Eryl Fryn, Bodafon (east of Llandudno).

The first car he drove, in 1897, was a belt-driven Cannstatt Daimler. Within a few months of becoming manager of the Coupe Company, he had sold nearly a thousand light steam cars. He then turned his attention to the new technology of petrol models.

In 1903 he drove an Oldsmobile up and down the steps leading to the terrace of the Crystal Palace in London. In September 1904 he took the same vehicle to the summit of Snowdon in 1 hour 27 minutes – including 31 minutes for stoppages!

Meanwhile he and his associate Charles Jarrott amalgamated their businesses, and in turn both joined Crossley Motors of Stockport. They were the first to show the War Office that cars could repalce hoses for army transport, and so began the Motor Volunteer Corps.

William was a founder member of the Automobile Association, formed because motorists were being prosecuted for speeding. Letts thought police speed traps jeopardised the future of motoring, and therefore his business. From among his staff, he formed a squad of 20 cyclists who went out onto the Brighton Road every Sunday morning to operate a private system warning motorists of the whereabouts of police traps.

During the First World War, Crossley Motors supplied aeroplane engines and vehicles for the war effort from the huge new factory which William had built at Heaton Chapel, near Stockport. In 1922 he became High Sheriff of Caernarvonshire and received the KBE. His local interests included: Llandudno Hospital; the National Savings movement (of which he was president in 1944); Llandudno Horticultural and Gardener’s Society; and Llandudno Amateur Operatic Society.

Before his wife died in 1943, prominent guests to their Llandudno home included former Prime Minister David Lloyd George and stage personality Sir Harry Lauder.

With thanks to Adrian Hughes, of the Home Front museum

Where is this HiPoint?

Postcode: LL30 2HL

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