With its own small, 22ft long platform, Coed y Bleiddiau was built as an intermediate request halt between the stations of Hafod y Llyn (replaced in 1873 by Tan y Bwlch) and Dduallt. At the railway’s peak, nine trains a day puffed merrily past.
The cottage originally had just three ground floor rooms, with a single first floor bedroom at the rear, for Superintendent T. Henry Hovenden. He would have two wives and seven children, and the Hovenden family lived here for many years, but by 1913 the railway no longer needed this intermediate stop.
Coed y Bleiddiau was then let as a holiday home, and here the associations of this humble cottage become more glamorous. From 1922 until 1935, it was rented by composer Granville Bantock, a leading figure in early 20th-century British music. Bantock was conductor of the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and moved easily through the international worlds of the arts and classical music, counting as his friends Edward Elgar, Richard Strauss, Thomas Beecham and Sir Henry Wood, founder of the Proms.
Bantock was knighted in 1930. He enjoyed many family holidays at Coed y Bleiddiau with his family and friends. Their daughter Myhrra wrote that ‘No one who stayed at Coed y Bleiddiau was anything but happy there. The lovely mountains all round, the feeling of peace and of being completely cut off from the civilised world was peaceful to the spirit.’
From 1930, Bantock’s friend Harry St John ‘Jack’ Philby became a visitor to the cottage, taking it over in 1835 and keeping his lease until 1948. Philby was a leading authority on, and sympathiser with, the Arab world, who might not, some felt, be relied upon to put his own country’s interests first. In 1939 he stood as parliamentary candidate for both for the Labour Party and the British People’s Party founded by Oswald Moseley.
In 1951 Bob and Babs Johnson took up the lease. Still remembered by many, they were a popular couple on the line, who tended a well-kept flower garden in front of the cottage. The Johnsons lived at the cottage until 2006, until finally their advancing years made this no longer practical.
Meanwhile, from 1955 the Ffestiniog Railway Trust was heroically reviving and then operating the railway line. This continues to absorb all their resources and Coed y Bleiddiau became a sad eyesore, too remote to justify repair for permanent occupation. They approached Landmark for help, and we have taken a long lease on the cottage, to allow anyone who choose to experience the magic of the place, and of occasional steam engines passing right by the front door.