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The cosmopolitan connections of Llandudno

PUBLISHED: 17:46 15 September 2015 | UPDATED: 09:02 22 June 2017

Llandudno promenade and the beach

Llandudno promenade and the beach

Archant

Before Llandudno acquired its epithet ‘Queen of North Wales Resorts’, the Victorians called it ‘The Naples of the North’ in their guidebooks. The name stemmed from the majestic sweep of the bay between the Headlands of Great and Little Ormes; Llandudno boasts the beautiful mountains of Snowdonia nearby though thankfully, no Vesuvius.

By coincidence, Llandudno’s small but fascinating museum, owes its existence to a bequest from one of the resort’s major benefactors, Francis Edouard Chardon, son of a wealthy indigo planter. His mother was the daughter of a rich and influential Italian. Chardon spent several years in Naples where he studied pastel drawing and watercolour painting under the guidance of the Neapolitan artist Joseph Casciaro.

He died at Rapallo House in Craig y Don in 1925 and bequeathed his home and his landscapes and collection of objets d’arts from all around the world to the town of Llandudno. Rapallo House was converted into a public museum and an art gallery opened in 1927. In 1995 the museum moved to its current location in Gloddaeth Street in 1995.

Museum trustee John Lawson-Reay, vice-chairman of the Llandudno and Colwyn Bay History Society, said: ‘The new home gave us greater scope to merge Chardon’s collection with that of the local Field Club so that the emphasis became much more on local history through our fabulous archeological artifacts.

‘We are seeking Heritage Lottery funding to expand so that we can better cater for school parties from all over the country that come here.’

Great Orme TramwayGreat Orme Tramway

The lure of The Lighthouse

Fiona Kilpatrick was having a very busy morning. The telephone in the guesthouse she has run with her husband Ray for the last 12 years hadn’t stopped ringing.

‘We were on television again last night. Griff Rhys-Jones’s A Great Welsh Adventure is being repeated. Episode six begins here,’ she said. The B&B has been a magnet for television producers and presenters. The Cabinet minister turned traveller Michael Portillo stayed there after making his railway journey to Llandudno. Indeed Mr and Mrs Kilpatrick’s home is a magnet for visitors from all over the world...despite having only three guestrooms.

The Lighthouse B&BThe Lighthouse B&B

Ah but what rooms! And what views! For the B&B is housed in Llandudno’s former lighthouse, perched at the top of the cliffs on Great Orme’s Head - a dizzying 100m (328ft) above sea level. It was built in 1862 for the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board to provide a warning to ships passing one of the UK’s most dangerous stretches of coastline. Among the worst losses were the brig Hornby, dashed to pieces on new year’s day 1824 on the final leg of its voyage from Rio to Liverpool and the paddle steamer Rothesay Castle on a pleasure trip from Liverpool to Beaumaris on the 17th August 1831. The former wreck cost 14 lives and in the latter disaster, only 29 of the 150 on board survived.

The castellated Llandudno lighthouse was taken over by Trinity House in 1873 and throughout its working life used the original specially made lantern. After the light was switched off in 1985 the light was taken to Liverpool but returned to the resort in 1993 and is now on display in the visitor centre near Great Orme’s summit.

The lighthouse was bought at auction by local businessman John Callin who turned it into a B&B and 18 years later Mr and Mrs Kilpatrick bought it from him.

Mrs Kilpatrick said: ‘We had always intended to run a B&B when my husband retired and thought about a property in the Lake District or perhaps Yorkshire. Then my parents, who lived in Rhos-on-Sea, told us this place was up for sale. It was nine years too early for us really - my husband commuted to London for all that time - but the lighthouse was just so unique it had to be.’

The Lighthouse, reached from scenic Marine Drive, boasts the Keeper’s Hall with superb Canadian pitch pine panelling leading to the north-facing Victorian dining room where guests can look down the 100m vertical drop while enjoying breakfast. The four-poster Victorian-style Principal Keeper’s Suite offers impressive coastal views to the east; the original glass-panelled Lamp Room gives guests 280 degree panoramic sea views and the portholed Telegraph Room above it offers a similar spectacle via a ladder to the roof of the lighthouse.

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