Stephen Watts will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered…but he will quite happily write this guest post and provide some stunning images for Admit One about his visit to ‘The Prisoner’ country. All the more fitting that today is the 50th anniversary of the screening of that very first episode.
After a five hour drive on the motorway and stopping off for copious amounts of coffee and the odd slice of cake on the way, I approached the entrance to Portmeirion. Portmeirion is in North Wales and was built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in 1925 through to 1939 and was the location used for the sixties TV Series “The Prisoner” starring the enigmatic Irish actor Patrick McGoohan.
As someone who watched the repeat run in the 1980’s of the series, I was fascinated by both the series and the location itself. So when the opportunity to both visit and stay in the village (Portmeirion) I couldn’t resist. The first thing that struck me about Portmeirion was the scale of the place… it’s a lot bigger on screen than it is in reality.
This was probably due to the wide-angle lenses used at the time to shoot the series and the variety of angles they could be achieved due to the fact that at every turn the buildings look very different in style, it could be Venice, Italy, Greece.
As I walked through the narrow paths and climbed the steep cobbled steps, I couldn’t resist humming Ron Grainer’s iconic theme to the series. Walking through ornate arches and being amazed by the mish-mash of colours and architectural styles, it was a sight to behold and at every turn I saw a different statue or fresco. There is even more to discover on the outskirts such as a lighthouse, and a tower that had a Camera Obscura, which offered an amazing image of Portmeirion, a Pagoda and even a statue of Buddha in the piazza.
When the sun hit the nearby estuary it formed a perfect mirror of the blue sky and clouds. When I stepped on the beach that surrounds Portmeirion, I imagined “Rover” (the big white weather balloon that pursues any one who tries to escape the Village) chasing me.
All the time that I was there, it was very busy with day visitors and guided tours. There were plenty of souvenir shops for me to stock up on my Prisoner merchandise, such as a great book called “The Prisoner (The Essential Guide) by Rick Davy and published by Quoitmedia, which offered up many gems about the making of the Prisoner, and has some great behind the scenes photos of the series.
After six days I think I must have covered every inch of Portmeirion but I think there is still more to be found there. Portmeirion is unique and enigmatic, just like Patrick McGoohan himself and it’s difficult to separate the two.
Portmeirion is the expression of an individual, which is the very message that “The Prisoner” and Patrick McGoohan was trying to convey.