architecture, Clwyd, Folly, garden history, landscape, Obelisk, Sham fortification, Tower

The Obelisk, Bodysgallen Hall, Llandudno, Clwyd.

In February 1992 the North Wales Weekly News carried its usual list of planning applications. Among them was an announcement that Bodysgallen Hall Hotel wished to convert a barn and stable into accommodation, and to erect a new ‘leisure building, tower folly and obelisk’. No objections were received, and permission was granted by Aberconwy Council.

Bodysgallen Hall from the gardens.

In 1980 Bodysgallen Hall, former seat of the Mostyn and Wynn families, had become part of the small Historic House Hotels group, established by Richard Broyd. The house, gardens and estate buildings were restored, and Broyd wished to erect an obelisk as a ‘decorative asset to the landscape’. Plans were drawn up by his architect Eric Throssell, and both the stone and the stonemason, Henry Wilson, were local.

But as work got underway in autumn 1992 locals claimed that they hadn’t been properly informed of the plans, and a vociferous campaign was launched demanding that the Obelisk be demolished. There were genuine concerns, including that the planning officers had not realised that Ffrith Hill was a Site of Specific Scientific Interest.

Cowslips and orchid near the obelisk. Note the droplets and please applaud the Flâneuse for climbing up to the obelisk in wild wind and rain.

But among the odder complaints was the fact that the Obelisk ‘dominated the landscape’ – a strange criticism as obelisks are not usually shy and retiring types, and generally prefer to hog the limelight on an eminence. Even more bizarre was the opponent who suggested that placing the Obelisk near the edge of a former quarry encouraged men to ‘urinate over the cliff into the garden of a house 150 feet below’. Reporting this in the local paper, a journalist suggested that such a feat would merit entry in the Guinness Book of Records requiring as it did a ‘jet of some 25 feet’.

Meanwhile Richard Broyd was adamant that the correct procedures had been followed and he was prepared to fight, telling the Daily Telegraph that ‘he who builds an obelisk has to defend it’.

A view from the obelisk. Unfortunately it was very dull day, enlivened only by the golden glow of the cowslips.

In brief, the council began to get cold feet after the anti-obelisk campaigners made a complaint of maladministration, claiming the council should never have granted planning permission. Despite a barrister assuring the councillors that their decision was robust, and that Mr Broyd had followed the correct procedures, the Planning Committee voted to demolish the Obelisk. The matter then went to the full council and the proposal was defeated by just one vote. On 16 September 1993 the local paper ran the story under the succinct headline of ‘Obelisk is staying’.

There had been support for the Obelisk too, and some who had been concerned later admitted admiration for the completed structure, which stands 19.5 metres high. But some resentment remained, and there are locals who will tell you dark tales of a plot to blow the obelisk to pieces. Even now, some 30 years on, the structure seems destined never to be mentioned as anything but thecontroversial obelisk’.

The miniature obelisk produced as a souvenir by the hotel when the obelisk was first constructed. Normally an ornament to the desk of the Flâneuse, it enjoyed a brief foray into the sunshine for this photo opportunity.

The Folly Flâneuse took the Uncouth Companion to Bodysgallen Hall as a birthday treat soon after the obelisk was completed (he having long since learned that such jaunts had one, or more, ulterior motives) and walked up to the Obelisk. The photo’s from that pre-digital age have long since faded away, but this little model of the Obelisk, bought at the hotel, sits in the study as a memento of the trip. And of course a return visit was required in order to snap the shots needed for this post.

The Gothic Tower, built of pink rubble sandstone, seen from the woodland walk.

In all of the fuss about the Obelisk the little Gothic Tower, designed in the same period, has been overlooked. A sham ruin sits on raised ground in the woodland, and a climb up to the rooftop viewing platform reveals why this site was chosen. There’s lovely vista to the obelisk  – the only spot in the gardens from where it can be seen.

View from the top of the Gothic Tower to the Obelisk.

Richard Broyd had always intended that his hotel group would pass to the National Trust, and for all profits to benefit the charity. The three properties (the others being Middlethorpe Hall near York and Hartwell House near Aylesbury) were handed over in 2008.

Looking up to the Obelisk from the grounds of Pabo Bach.

Pabo Bach, once home to one of the most vocal objectors to the obelisk, is now a holiday cottage where you can enjoy dramatic views of the former quarry with the obelisk perched on the precipice.

A distant view of the obelisk from the marina at Conwy.

The Obelisk can be seen from the A55 and the Royal Welsh Way leading into Llandudno, as well as from across the estuary in Conwy, and there is public access. The Gothic Tower may only be seen by guests at Bodysgallen Hall Hotel.

For Bodysgallen Hall and the other Historic House Hotels see

For Pabo Bach see

Thank you for reading. Your thoughts and recollections are always welcome – please scroll down to the comments box to get in touch. Only your name will appear, your contacts details remain private. 


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15 thoughts on “The Obelisk, Bodysgallen Hall, Llandudno, Clwyd.”

  1. BRIAN WARD says:

    Bodysgallen is now a Warner’s adults only leisure hotel
    Presumably the locals did not object to plans to add bedroom blocks!

    1. Editor says:

      Good morning Brian. Bodysgallen is a Historic House Hotek, not a Warner’s, and I’m pleased to say that all bedrooms were carefully created within the existing historic hall and outbuildings.

    2. Gareth Hughes says:

      Bodelwyddan Castle is the Warner hotel

      1. Editor says:

        Thanks for clarifying that Gareth.

  2. Nic Orchard says:

    Hooray for Richard Broyd!

    [The fuller version of my comments would fill several pages and I am demonstrating compassion by keeping them to myself].

    1. Editor says:

      Three cheers are indeed in order!

  3. Lisababes says:

    Lovely post and wonderful photos. You and the Uncouth Companion have certainly covered some miles together since that first visit 💕

    1. Editor says:

      Hello Lisa. Thanks for the lovely comments. We certainly have! Hopefully many more to come.

  4. nicholas merchant says:

    Thank goodness there are still people with the flair and imagination to create such things. I am still smiling at the thought of an inconspicuous obelisk!

    1. Editor says:

      Hello Nicholas. I’m pleased the story of the obelisk made you smile. You are right – Richard Broyd is to be congratulated on his vision and perseverance.

  5. TOM GARDNER says:


    1. Editor says:

      Good evening Tom (or it is here anyway). Thanks for the encouragement to keep up my folly-spotting. I will do my best!

  6. Garance says:

    I applaud you and your perhaps not so uncouth companion since, to my knowledge, he is yet to get his name into the Guinness Book of Records

    1. Editor says:

      Hello Garance. Well as we are currently exploring the follies of Ireland, the Uncouth Companion certainly has Guinness on his mind!

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