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Minehead’s Memorable Architect

The Strand and Queens Hall

William John Tamlyn born in 1870  in Stoke Rivers. His family had been Lords of the Manor of Luccott in the parish of Stoke Pero since the C 18. He was the eldest child of a North Devon farming family, who as a young child was taught by a Governess but at 12yrs old he went to a school in Barnstaple. 

He had no interest in farming and at the age of 15yrs he had become an architect’s assistant. By 1895 he moved to Minehead and practised for 37yrs as an architect and surveyor first from a small office near Minehead seafront and by 1897 he had designed a terrace of cottages No:s 105 – 113 Bampton Street
for J.Phillips.

Two years later he was commissioned to design an infant school in Holloway Street. Minehead was expanding with much new development and so the school population too was increasing. The Luttrells had set up a company to sell off building plots and with Minehead having the benefit of bricks works, sand, stone and clay tiles, lime burners with plenty of lime and coal, as well as access to slate, from across the estuary in Wales it was an attractive place for Tamlyn to settle. He moved to an office in The Parade in an upstairs room of what is now Toucan.

He was a prolific architect with great flair. Cartref, on North Hill , shows him at his most flamboyant. In just 5 yrs he designed over 300 Edwardian houses. He loved detail and making his houses aesthetically pleasing and individual. 

He liked to experiment with window design especially large centrally situated ones at first floor level imitating the continental style  ‘closed balcony’ and has left a legacy of them scattered about the town. Other tell tale trademarks are his use of red Bridgwater clay tiles, exposed roof rafters visible under the eaves, elaborate chimneys and clay-tile roofed verandahs. 

His work was not confined to houses but can be seen in shops, offices ,stables and public buildings. A competition was held to find a design for a new Market House in Minehead and it was Tamlyn’s design which incorporated the original clock from the old Market House, that was chosen. Built in 1903 its architecture has been recognised by Historic England having been granted Grade II listed status. 

The Queen’s Hall, The Strand (Esplanade) and The Courtyard (Bancks St) are examples of his work as well as houses such The Beacon, Northmoor, Broadmeadows , Capri (now called Wessex Lodge) and Kelton Lodge, in addition to houses in roads like Tregonwell and Blenheim and Bampton and Holloway Streets.

In the Summer of 1897 he was invited to design the Diamond Jubilee Memorial Fountain commemorating Queen Victoria’s 60 yrs on the throne. Made of Doulting stone it was situated at the bottom of the Avenue and regarded as ‘a decided ornament to that part of the town’. Sadly in 1935 it fell victim to road widening.

He built his own house (1906) in Northfield Road set between two mansions and called it Eden Lodge. In it he put all his favourite features – half timbered gables, timber framed ‘oriel’ windows, barge boards, corbels, fancy chimneys. He worked from an office there overlooking the garden. 

For a while his sister lived there with him. It was the threat of demolition to this house, now called Southlands, which was overturned at appeal following a public inquiry, that was the catalyst for the formation of  Minehead Conservation Society in 2003. 

This case brought home to people the increasing threats there were to the town’s heritage which would need to be fought. For this reason W.J.Tamlyn is embedded in the heart of the society.

In 1915 when Tamlyn was in his forties he enrolled in the Royal Field Artillery. He served in France and was awarded several medals.

He was a larger than life character. A keen musician, he founded the Minehead Operatic Society, was Chairman of the Choral Society, secretary of the Town Band and played in the Orchestral Society, conducted the Brotherhood Orchestra and was not above letting his hair down in comic songs and banjo solos at fund raising events. He kept meteorological records, ran a roller skating rink, painted scenery for plays and carnival floats and served for 20yrs as Almoner to the Exmoor Lodge. 

He founded the Minehead Improvement and Publicity Association for which he developed constructive and imaginative ideas for layouts on the seafront and other parts of the town.
He was a good artist and was often seen sketching around the town.His exuberance characterises his architecture

We could do with a 21C Tamlyn here in Minehead today. He too could avail himself of Bridgwater clay tiles from the newly opened Bridgwater Clay Tile Company and follow in the footsteps of  his illustrious forerunner. The brick and tile museum housed on an old Lime Kiln in Bridgwater is well worth a visit where you can view previous designs, some very ornate.

It is so sad to see Tamlyn’s Queen’s Hall, which he designed for J.B.and Sam B.Marley situated  in such a prominent seafront position languishing empty and unloved. Its construction began in August 1913 and it opened on June 1st 1914 with a play called ‘Oh, I say.’

Tamlyn was working on a plan for a row of houses in Alcombe when he died on 1933. His funeral service took place in St Michael’s Church which was attended by only two of his relatives, his brother and a nephew , however the Freemasons were there in force. He is buried in Minehead Cemetery.

Cartref Weirfield Road
Cartref, Weirfield Road
Capri now Wessex Lodge
Capri (now Wessex Lodge)
Queen Victorias Diamond Jubilee Fountain
Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Fountain

Compiled by Sally Bainbridge on behalf of Minehead Conservation Society.

Buy the book! Minehead & Beyond

minehead and beyond buy the book

This book is a compilation of articles written for this magazine by Sally Bainbridge on behalf of Minehead Conservation Society. It contains information about the richness of West Somerset’s history; culture; people; heritage; traditions and beautiful and varied landscape. The book costs just £5 and all profits go to Minehead Conservation Society. 

Available to buy from AR Computing, Park Lane Home Furnishing (in their Park Lane shop), Minehead Tourist Information Centre and Townsend House (Monday am).

Office: Townsend House, Townsend Road, Minehead TA24 5RG (01643 706258)  E-mail:  [email protected]

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