Former Prime Minister David Lloyd George was familiar with Tŷ Newydd from his childhood in Llanystumdwy. Later in life, Pathé footage shows him striding the grounds in his 70s, musing on its purchase from the Broom Hall Estate.
In failing health, Lloyd George finally bought the house in 1942. It sits a mile or so down the lane from the Cricieth family home (‘Brynawelon’) which he had shared with his first wife Margaret, he was almost certainly coming home to live out the rest of his days. Remodelling and renovating the house was left largely in the hands of Frances, Lloyd George’s second wife. Never one to take a back seat, he kept a careful watch on the progress. Frances brought in the renowned architect Clough Williams-Ellis to design and work on the building, negotiating strict prohibitions on domestic building works decreed by the War Office.
Dormer windows were added, alongside the iconic wooden mouldings on the front top window and the Georgian portico which was salvaged from London Blitz damage. The external walls were rendered and whitewashed, the staircase was aggrandized with a vaulted ceiling, and the roof was refashioned with raised chimneys. Modernisation came in the form of bathrooms, an Aga range and a central heating system. The library became a focal point with a barrelled ceiling, chandeliers and semi-circular bow window.
Williams-Ellis created a house that reflected Lloyd George’s mercurial and contradictory character. By turns dramatic and flamboyant, then understated and peaceful, the rooms are light and airy, ideal for quiet contemplation, but with a power and a grace that reflect a life lived to the full. For a man in the twilight of his years this would have been a reassuring and reaffirming environment.
In September 1944, Lloyd George moved to Tŷ Newydd on a permanent basis. And it was at Tŷ Newydd, on the evening of 18 December, that a Royal Marine courier arrived with a message from Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The PM was hoping to recommend an earldom for Lloyd George in the New Year’s Honours List. Lloyd George, fighting all his socialist principles, decided to sleep on it. In the morning he accepted the honour, hoping to help with the WWII peace negotiations yet too weak to fight another election.
Lloyd George never took his seat in the Lords. He died, peacefully, on 26 March 1945, in the library at Tŷ Newydd, having asked for his bed to be moved there so he could see Cardigan Bay. He was buried barely half a mile away, alongside the River Dwyfor. His grave was initially marked only by a boulder and, later, by a monument designed by Clough Williams-Ellis.
Tŷ Newydd remains redolent of Lloyd George and Williams-Ellis. It is a place of history but also one where creativity flourishes and grows – exactly as they would both have wanted.