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Cae Besi

A Grade II Listed Building in Harlech, Gwynedd

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Latitude: 52.8537 / 52°51'13"N

Longitude: -4.1127 / 4°6'45"W

OS Eastings: 257838

OS Northings: 330558

OS Grid: SH578305

Mapcode National: GBR 5Q.S9FL

Mapcode Global: WH55Z.SJRM

Entry Name: Cae Besi

Listing Date: 21 June 2001

Last Amended: 21 June 2001

Grade: II

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 25514

Building Class: Domestic

Location: On a triangular site between Fford Newydd and Ffordd Isaf, within its own walled and revetted garden.

County: Gwynedd

Community: Harlech

Community: Harlech

Built-Up Area: Harlech

Traditional County: Merionethshire

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Cae Besi was built for the eminent american photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn to designs by the Arts and Crafts architect Griffith Morris of Porthmadog. Coburn, originally from Boston, was one of the leading photographers of his day and, through his involvement with the avant-garde photography groups the Linked Ring and the Photo Secession, became a close friend of George Davidson, European Head of the Eastman Kodak Co. Davidson moved to Harlech at the turn of the century, buying Plas Amhurst before building the nearby Plas Wernfawr (later Coleg Harlech) in 1908. A frequent visitor, Coburn eventually decided to settle and built Cae Besi a short distance from Plas Wernfawr apparently in the 1920s; this was presumably before Davidson moved to the south of France in 1925.

Cae Besi belongs to a series of Arts and Crafts houses built in Harlech by Davidson's circle of friends who established an artistic and intellectual community centred around Plas Wernfawr. Amongst these were the composer Sir Greville Bartock, the Crown Agent, W H More and A P Graves (the War poet Robert Graves' father). Various members of the Fabian Society were associated with the Harlech group, most notably Sir George Bernard Shaw, who was a frequent visitor.


Medium-sized house in restrained Arts and Crafts style consisting of a main two-and-a-half storey section with a two-storey subsidiary wing set back to the L (N). The house is constructed of local slatestone; slate roof with projecting verges and stepped kneelers; central chimney with simple cornicing. The entrance is to the E, facing Fford Uchaf, below which the house is sited; steps lead down to it from the road level. The entrance is contained within a gabled projection off-centre to the R of the main block, the longer left-hand roof-pitch of which oversails to form a covered porch. The subsidiary wing, to the R, also has a gabled projection to the front.

The main elevation however faces Ffordd Newydd to the W. This has a pair of 4-part windows (of 6-pane sections) in a long, rectangular recessed bay on the first (principal) floor, with the outer lights canted. Above this is a large hipped-roofed dormer with 6-part window; the ground floor has a three-part window to the centre with a 2-part window to the R and a recessed entrance to the L. The S gable of the main block has a similar recessed canted bay off-centre L on the first floor. Above this is a tripartite attic window loosely in the form of a Diocletian window; the central section of this is a part-glazed door which gives access onto a cantilevered concrete balcony with low simply-decorative cast iron railings. The ground floor has a part-glazed door L of centre and a segmental open arch to the R.

The lower wing is set back from the main block on the W side, with a semi-circular, single-storey extrusion in the corner between the two; this with conical roof. Further recessed canted bay to the upper floor with cross-window to the R and 3-part window below.


The interior was not inspected at the time of survey.

Reasons for Listing

Listed as a particularly fine and largely unaltered inter-war Arts and Crafts house by the architect Griffith Morris of Porthmadog; one of a series of highly interesting architect-designed houses built around the former Plas Wernfawr (now Coleg Harlech) for the circle of the millionaire philanthropist and aesthete George Davidson.

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