Basic Biographical Details

Name: Merlyn Christopher Williams
Born: 13 December 1920
Died: April 2000
Bio Notes: Merlyn Christopher Williams was born in Blaengarw near Bridgend, Glamorgan on 13 December 1920. He was educated at county primary schools until 1932 when he started attending Garw Grammar School near Bridgend. From 1937-42 he studied full-time at the Welsh School of Architecture and Civic Design, the University of Wales in Cardiff with the assistance of a bursary scholarship for the first three years of the course. During the course he won prizes in Advanced Design, Construction and Civic Design. In all the long vacations Williams worked in the offices of private firms. He was awarded the diploma in architecture with distinction in 1942 and was elected ARIBA in 1944. From 1942 he had an appointment as assistant lecturer in the Welsh School of Architecture. In that year he was asked by the Ministry of Aircraft Production to work on the design and construction of flatted dwellings and all specialised buildings for scientific personnel and equipment at the new Radar-Location Headquarters rushed there from Poole, Dorset. From 1944-45 he held the post of senior architect in the Borough Architect’s Department, Swansea where he was in charge of the Education Unit responsible for the design and erection of two Multi-lateral Schools. He also worked on a new crematorium and 60 Ministry canteensand improvements to buildings under the 1944 education Act. Meawhile he continued to study on a part-time basis.

During the years 1945-47 he continued his part-time study but moved to the position of senior architect-planner in charge of the central area redevelopment of Birmingham. In this post he was responsible for the design of the first three Inner-ring, slum-clearance neighbourhoods, Bath Row, Deddleston & Nechells and Gooch Street areas. and supervised, under the City Housing Architect, the large Direct-Labour team on housing projects at Chard End. In 1947 he moved to the office of the Chief Architect, A G Sheppard-Fiddler, at Crawley New Town Development Corporation where he was responsible for the layouts and site working drawings of nearly 50 dwelling types for the first three neighbourhoods, West Green, Three Bridges and Southgait. He also worked on the main western industrial estate and on the implementation of the master plan prepared by A Minoprio.

In 1950 he moved again this time to the Department of the Chief Architect, E A Ferriby, of the Bracknell New Town Development Corporation, being employed there from its inception. He was in charge of the team working upon the preparation of all basic land use and other physical surveys. He negotiated with all Government and Statutory authorities and other private concerns, including Berkshire County Architect’s Office and with the chief architect responsible for the preparation of the master plans for the New Town. He supervised the design and erection of the first two housing areas (40 single double and multi-storey dwelling types). He also designed the first shopping precinct at Priestwood and began on the proposed design of the central area of the town. He also completed the designs for the layout and supervised construction of the major industrial area site at Bracknell.

During this period he continued his studies. In 1951-52 he took the part-time course in Landscape Architecture and sat the final exams at the University of Reading. He attended in 1952-53 a post-graduate course at University College London and submitted his thesis ‘The Layout and Design of a New Town Centre’ which was placed second to the Silver Medallist, being ‘Highly Commended’ and was later published. He was elected AMTPI later in 1953.

From January 1954 he moved into private practice as a partner with the long-established firm Thomas & Morgan & Partners, in Cardiff, Pontypridd and Bridgend. The firm was responsible for work for fifteen urban and rural district authorities and the work for them included design, layout and landscaping of several very large housing and commercial schemes, schools for Monmouthshire, Glamorgan and Somerset County Councils, two churches, a new council Office group for Clutton Rural District Council and social and sports centres for Chepstow. He prepared detailed designs for fifty dwelling types, including 8-storey flatted blacks, maisonettes and old people’s bungalows of both traditional and prefabricated construction. The practice also undertook much private work – banks, car showrooms, three hotel extensions, a co-operative department store, two churches two water-pumping stations for the Mid-Glamorgan and Rhondda Water Boards, one new hospital and further extensions to an existing hospital in Glamorgan, as well as a number of private houses.

In September 1957 Williams was appointed as Federal Architect-Planner for the new Federal Government of the West Indies. This was a five-year contract and as sole adviser to the Prime Minister, he was responsible for the design and construction of the new Federal Capital in Trinidad. The project, sponsored by British American and Canadian funds ran to £38 million and provided administrative, commercial educational, social, residential requirements. This project did not come to fruition because the Federal Government was dissolved after two and a half years. However he did complete a range of work as Federal Government Architect. He was responsible for the design and construction of a range of buildings including dwellings for Federal and UN officials, master plan for the capital at Chaguaramas, alterations to provide temporary offices in Port of Spain while the first office blocks were built, the design and erection of three office blocks to accommodate 8 Federal Ministries and also the Prime Minister’s and Governor General’s staffs, the redesigning of part of Government House and the Royal Suite, Trinidad, Government Parliamentary Chamber and all other work in connection with the Federal Inauguration visit of Princess Margaret in 1958. He also undertook the design of the Federal Secretariat, courts, two Parliamentary Houses and associated offices, including the interior furnishings. He also advised several of the Unit Governments on specific design and layout problems – the layout for tourist and residential resorts, air terminal buildings, schools, two new hospitals, fire Stations, motels, coastal sport centres and shopping and commercial schemes.

In early 1960 it became clear that the Federal Government would be ending and he was invited to join Anthony C Lewis in partnership in Trinidad. The practice undertook work throughout the nine islands of the Caribbean and the South Americas. While he was there he attended an Atelier Course (part-time over a period of 12 months) at the University of the West Indlies on professional Business Management and Motivation Study including Computer techniques.

In June 1962 he returned to the United Kingdom and entered as principle in partnership the practice Halpern & Partners in London. He was responsible for all the Town Planning aspects of the practice and initial design and supervisory work on the following; large commercial groups within Harlow, Basilsdon, East Kilbride, and Stevenage New Towns and in the older towns of Newport Tredegar, Niath, Pontypridd, Merthyr and Ebbw Vale in Wales and Maidstone, Bournemouth, Exeter, New Maldon, Stockport, Shrewsbury, Ipswich, Leicester, Lincoln and Southampton in England. He also undertook the research and prepared master plan projects for Bishop’s Stortford and Barry, Glamorgan and new railway stations and commercial developments for Crawley New Town and Tunbridge Wells. He also acted as advised to the Government of West Cameroons on the concepts and designs of their four major townships and was called as an ‘expert witness’ in planning and architectural enquiries there.

In January 1965 he moved to Glenrothes New Town as Chief Architect and Planning Officer. Williams’s department was a team of 100 architects and assistants, Quantity Surveyors, Planners and Landscape Architects. He was also responsible for the 240-strong Direct-Labour Department. His annual, budget was about £3.5 million with five of six contracting firms in use over and above the Direct Labour employees.

Initially the town was to accommodate 35,000 but one of Williams’ first tasks on arrival in this post was to re-draw the master plan to accommodate a population of 95,000-100,000. Glenrothes was at that time becoming one of the main Electronics Centres in Britain with seven American and English firms specialising in this field. Facilities geared to the needs of this emerging industry – educational, commercial and sociological – were developed. The road system was extended, segregating different types of traffic. In parallel with industry new housing areas were planned and constructed as well as new schools and the multi-level town centre. Two new primary schools were constructed each year as well as individual junior and Technical College and Sports stadium were also developed which required close co-operation with the County Architect’s Department.

Williams’ department under his direction was a member of the Joint Working Party for Scottish New Towns in the preparation of a library of Plan Shell ranges and joint contract negotiation. Williams was also Vice Chairman of the Technical Design Committee of the 35 Scottish Authority Consortium (SLASH). In 1967-68 he was Chairman of the architects and engineers Joint Committee for all New Towns in Britain.

Williams was elected FRIBA in 1969, proposed by Chessor Matthew, Lord Holford and Alwyn Gwilym Sheppard Fidler. He remained in Glenrothes until 1972. During the period he was in Scotland he taught subjects related to architecture and planning in day and evening classes in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

By 1982 he had his own practice in London under the name MCW Associates.

He died in the Spring of 2000, his death being registered in April of that year.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this :
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 3Glenrothes, FifeBusiness19651972 
Item 2 of 3Ty'n Yr Awyr, Orchard Drive, Alburne Park, Glenrothes, Fife, ScotlandPrivate1969 *  
Item 3 of 3MCW Associates/Tyn Ton/64, Langton Way, Blackheath, London, EnglandBusinessBefore 1982  

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 5Dr D A LloydAfter 1937Before 1942Assistant 
Item 2 of 5(Sir) Percy Edward ThomasAfter 1937Before 1942Assistant 
Item 3 of 5Swansea Borough Architect's Department19441945Senior Architect 
Item 4 of 5City of Birmingham Planning DepartmentJanuary 19451947Senior Architect 
Item 5 of 5Glenrothes Development Corporation (or Glenrothes New Town Development Corporation)19651972Chief Architect 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3Alwyn Gwilym Sheppard Fidler1 October 1969For Fellowship
Item 2 of 3(Professor Sir) William Graham Holford 1 October 1969For Fellowship
Item 3 of 3Chessor Lille Matthew1 October 1969For Fellowship

RIBA Proposals

This proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 1James Harry Routledge7 October 1970For Fellowship

Buildings and Designs

This was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 7 Golden Acorn HotelGlenrothes FifeScotlandChief architect
Item 2 of 71944Civic Centre  CardiffWalesWinner of competition for design of 'New Approach to the Civic Centre at Cardiff'.
Item 3 of 71945Community Centre for a Mining Valley Town   WalesWinner of open architectural competition at the Royal national Eisteddfod of Wales
Item 4 of 71945Design for Godstone Village and rural housesGodstone NorthamptonshireEnglandCommended designs in open competition - drawings on exhibition tour
Item 5 of 71947Design for a neighbourhood community of 10,000 persons  GlamorganshireWalesWinner of open Town and County Planning competition at the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales
Item 6 of 71967Glenrothes Development Corporation HeadquartersGlenrothes FifeScotlandIn overall charge
Item 7 of 71970Master Plan for GlenrothesGlenrothes FifeScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this :
Item 1 of 1Glendinning, M, MacInnes, R and MacKechnie, A1996A History of Scottish Architecture  p570

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this :
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1Building3 February 1967  p172

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this :
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers F no 6893 (combined box no 164) (this includes a long CV)