Linda Tipping is our wonderful manager, taking care of all the 'hands on' aspects of running the house. Living nearby, she'll be able to help with any practical concerns you have about your stay; you're welcome to get in touch if you have any queries.
Adam, Matthew and Susannah Barley, three of Hewlett Johnson's grandchildren, are now running the property. Adam teaches a dynamic movement meditation practice around the world known as the 5Rhythms, Matthew is a boundary-breaking solo cellist, who also presented BBC 2's Classical Star and Susannah lives in California with her family, as a professional violinist and integral parenting coach.
Matthew takes up the story:
All of us grandchildren are very proud of our grandfather: Dr Hewlett Johnson (1874–1966), the ‘Red’ Dean of Canterbury Cathedral. He bought the house and surrounding fields in 1931 (see photo above), about 10 years after it was built, attracted to the property both by its perfect position, and by the fact that his mother had come to the field before the house was built as a special place for being alone with nature with spectacular views (almost unchanged, as her great-great-grandchildren enjoy them today).
During the Second World War it was deemed too dangerous to stay at the Deanery in Canterbury so my grandmother was evacuated to Llys Tanwg, and it was during this period that my mother was born in the sitting room upstairs, which used to be a bedroom. From that time it became more and more of a second family home, with long summer holidays spent there after the 14 - 17 hour car journey from Canterbury. An extension was built above the downstairs kitchen, and in the 1960s, my great-uncle Stephen retired to Harlech. Stephen was always slightly scary for me as a child because he wore plus-fours and spoke rather strangely – however, he was a very keen birdwatcher, which I thought was cool. He also told me that the door halfway down the stairs led to a room full of sleeping giants that snored (the wind whistled in the sliding doors in those days) and of course I believed him.
With Stephen’s passion for ornithology, he saw many rare species of birds from their downstairs windows, including the first sighting of a hoopoe in North Wales since 1924. Stephen, like Nowell and Kezia, was also a fine painter (Nowell being a graduate of the Royal College of Art), and many of their paintings are hanging in the house. Stephen and Ruth moved away in the late 1980s, with the house in need of some substantial repairs.
Then began an era of tenants downstairs, one of whom, the local policeman and his family, who were nearly driven mad by my cello practice. After my studies at the Moscow Conservatoire I was unsure what to do next, so I lived in Llys Tanwg for some months and practiced like a maniac above their kitchen (before we put soundproofing in). Luckily it wasn’t against the law.
Spectacular storms can be seen coming across the bay, but the exposed position of the house, while providing the expansive views, meant that it was suffering weather-damage that needed repair. The lack of double-glazing or central heating, as well as the open chimneys and unused fires meant that the house was also getting damp and rotten. It’s funny how these things don’t bother you as a child: I have wonderful memories of returning from wet walks and huddling round a paraffin stove (what a great smell) whilst watching the windows steam up.
In 2002 the house was owned by my mother and her sister Kezia, whose family decided that they no longer wanted to keep their share of the house. Decision time. Donation to the National Trust was discussed, but in the end, it was decided that the house was too precious to lose. In particular my generation couldn’t bear the idea of our kids not having the kind of holidays there that we had.
So a concerted family effort began, and Keren bought Kezia’s share of the house in 2003.
Gary Fisher, a skilled and dedicated builder won the contract for complete renovation, and has overseen a top to bottom restoration of the entire house, carefully restoring existing window frames and other timbers, only replacing when absolutely necessary, as well as fitting brand new kitchens and bathrooms, and attending to the hundreds of small details that make somewhere special.
Gardeners brought the surrounding land back to order, and Gary built a spacious heated log games cabin for table tennis, pool and other games.
In 2010 a similar thing happened to 2002. Our parents decided they could no longer deal with the complications of running a holiday let from long distance, and we actually decided as a family to sell the house. We went for one last holiday there in April with our children (the fifth generation to enjoy the house...) but of course the magic of the place was too strong for us. Sitting upstairs (fate had provided us with a week of perfect sunshine and clear skies), surveying the extraordinary panorama that stretches from open sea, via the Lleyn Peninsula, over to Snowdonia’s mountains and the beach below, we watched the sunset and realised we just couldn’t let it go. The Llys Tanwg Trust now officially owns the house and, with the intention to keep it flourishing as a place for the family and the public for many generations to come, has now had the most incredible renovation taking the property to a whole new level altogether.
We hope you enjoy your stay here as much as we always do!