The house was built in 1907 in the Arts & Crafts style for Charles Edwin Moore, a stockbroker from Worcester. Family legend has it he was Chairman of the Standard Motor Company, but we can’t find any proof of that (but read below). The house was punningly named “The Moorings”. The Moores had a seven-year-old son, Charles Ronald, who must have adored the beach.
Family legend also has it that Mr Moore built it as a summerhouse for his wife Kathleen von Kusserow Moore, but she preferred to spend her summers at Menton in the south of France.
In World War One son Charles joined the Royal Flying Corps as a pilot. On March 8th 1918 his RE8 went down in flames, killing him and his observer. He was just 18.
Whether this, or the attractions of Menton, was the reason for the sale of the house, we don’t yet know. It was bought by a Mr. T. Wilks.
In 1923 Mr. Wilks sold the house to Jane Williams, a draper who had a shop in Bethesda, a bleak mining town on the A5 south of Bangor. Frustrated by the house’s English (and inappropriate) name, she seized the suggestion of the postman and renamed it Murmur-y-Don — The Whispering of the Waves. The house had rather more land than its present acre-and-a-bit, and Jane gave Allt-y-Mor, the field in front of the house, to the National Trust to preserve the view in perpetuity.
In the 1950s Jane left the house to her daughter Maggie Headley. Twenty years later the council compulsorily purchased the front garden to widen the road. They forged 50 yards past the house, then gave up. When she died, Maggie left Murmur-y-Don in turn to her son, the Revd. Victor Headley, OBE.
Victor died in 1991, and the present owners are his younger son Gwyn Headley and his wife Yvonne.
A REMARKABLE COINCIDENCE
I (Gwyn) was having a huge office clearout in April 2016. As I emptied a fat file into the WPB, an Indenture of Sale fluttered out. It was the record of the purchase of Murmur-y-Don by my hên nain Jane Williams in 1923. As we knew, she bought it from a Mr. T. Wilks. We discovered his name was Thomas; we discovered he lived in Ewshot House, Ewshot, Hampshire, 250 miles away from Harlech.
So I rang my niece Emily.
Because five years ago, unaware of any connection, she bought Ewshot House, Ewshot, Hampshire.
I remain, literally, gobsmacked.
And there’s more: Emily immediately launched an investigation into Mr Wilks, and discovered he was a leather manufacturer. He had two sons, Spencer and Maurice, who played here in the garden and on Harlech beach. They grew up and went into the motor industry. Spencer became Managing Director, then Chairman, of Rover Cars, and a few years later so did Maurice.
In 1946, on Maurice’s farm on Anglesey, the brothers invented the Land Rover. So as you tool up to the house in your spiffy new Range Rover, just reflect that the forefathers of the marque lived, and breathed, and found their inspiration here.
Things we’ve learned.
- The house was named Murmur-y-Don before hên nain Jane bought it.
- It wasn’t the Standard Motor Company, it was the Rover company.
- Mr Moore wasn’t the Chairman of the motor manufacturer, it was the sons of Mr Wilks.
- Murmur-y-Don was a formative experience in the lives of two young boys who went on to create one of the most iconic marques in motoring history.