Our current in house exhibition highlights the records of J. M. Porter and Company, which is one of many private collections held here at Denbighshire Archives. These records are of great interest to the history of the development of Colwyn Bay, as the Company was involved in it from rural village to thriving seaside resort. In addition to his work as an architect and surveyor, J. M. Porter was much involved in the public life of Colwyn Bay and of the County of Denbighshire.
The largest section of the Porter papers is sale particulars, information cards and correspondence files relating to particular properties across North Wales. J. M. Porter’s own papers are concerned primarily with the management of the Pwllycrochan Hotel and his personal affairs.
In 1865 the Pwllycrochan and Bodlondeb estates, together comprising approximately 3,000 acres, were put up for sale and realised something in the region of £20,000. The Pwllycrochan mansion, demesne and most of the adjoining lands were bought by John Pender, a Manchester businessman who intended to develop a seaside resort of select marine residences which would attract the affluent middle classes of Manchester and Liverpool.
He was prevented from doing so by a financial crisis in his business affairs and so to raise the money needed to resolve this crisis he sold the Pwllycrochan estate to a consortium of Manchester businessmen, one of whom was Lawrence Booth, the architect. They formed themselves into the Colwyn Bay and Pwllycrochan Estate Company, divided the property into building plots, and imposed covenants on the purchasers which ensured that the character of the town would be that of a garden city.
One of the few lots not acquired by the Colwyn Bay and Pwllycrochan Estate Company was Pwllycrochan itself, which was bought by John Porter who had been John Pender’s agent, and who had converted the mansion into an hotel in 1866.
It was to become one of the principal establishments in the town, attracting a wide variety of visitors. It remained the property of the Porter family until 1938, when it was sold to Rydal School.
J. Porter remained the hotel’s director until his death in 1899, when his son John Merry Porter took over as managing director. Having attended school at Conway, J. M. Porter was articled to Messrs. Farrer and Company of Manchester, where he trained as an architect and surveyor. After he qualified in 1886 he returned to Colwyn Bay and became a partner with Lawrence Booth and Thomas Chadwick, architects, surveyors and estate agents, who had formed their original partnership in 1876 to act as agents for the ColwynBay and Pwllycrochan Estate Company. A Colwyn Bay office was opened under J. M. Porter as the local agent for the Manchester Company and was responsible for many of the buildings going up in the new town.
Information on our holdings can be found at www.denbighshire.gov.uk/archives