“I am not a number. I am a free man!” – Pathé Visits Portmeirion, Home of The Prisoner

“Today’s ice cream flavour is strawberry. Make sure to get yours from the kiosk this afternoon!”

There are a few fans of cult 60s TV series The Prisoner here at British Pathé, many of us had our own VHS recordings stashed away long before recent DVD box sets and Hollywood remakes. So we were delighted to discover that we have two clips of The Prisoner’s setting Portmeirion in North Wales, thanks to the blog Liberal England.

Take a look at these:

Portmeirion – Beauty And The Beast (1939)

Italy In Wales – Portmeirion Travelogue [Colour] (1962)

Both pre-date The Prisoner and it is clear to see that the village is already a thriving and quirky tourist destination, they’re even selling barmy Prisoner-esque hats! Everything is uttterly camp and ornate.

The later clip includes a very rare shot of Portmeirion’s architect and curator, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis sitting on a mosaic terrace whilst a group of men install a busk. He talks on the narration of the video too, and we see an anonymous artist painting a scene in The Village. British Pathé announces in the clip: “Literary imaginations in particular have thrived here; Shaw, Wells, A.P. Herbert and Noel Coward have all been inspired by this foreign beauty”

According to the 1920s reel, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis was yachting when he discovered the pine-covered valley. “All the warmth of a Mediterranean setting has been brought to Wales” boasts the narrator, who tells us that the doorways are made from the timbers of famous British warships. Lovely shots of the statues that “lending extra colour to The Village” can be seen too. “Linking imagination with artistry, Portmeirion is a resort that has an irresistible attraction to the more fastidious type of visitor”

Williams-Ellis was educated at the famous British public school Oundle and then went on to Trinity College, Cambridge although never graduated. Other works include the summit building on Snowdon, and he spent time living with the boys at Stowe school. Stowe’s website tells us:

“When J F Roxburgh came as first Headmaster with 99 boys, he was determined that this was the first of the new public schools to bring education and fair treatment into the 20th century. He was resolute that every pupil leaving Stowe would “know beauty when he sees it all his life.” Amateur architect, Clough Williams-Ellis, later of Portmeirion fame, was instrumental in turning an empty, 18th-century palace into a boarding school.”

Perhaps then William-Ellis appears in this Pathé clip of The Queen opening Stowe School:

England’s Youngest Public School (1927)

Portmeirion really is a wonderful village and a feat of British architecture. For more information, and for lovely hotel retreats there visit the official website here: http://www.portmeirion-village.com/

Be seeing you!

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