So what were Bysshe and Harriet Shelley doing in Tremadoc of all places? Traveling across Wales in 1812, they visited the port town of Portmadoc, where they discovered what Holmes calls “the site of an enormous building operation” in progress. It was actually a land-reclamation project, and workers were building and reinforcing an embankment (called the Grand Cob—cob meaning here a pile or heap) that allowed the existence of Tremadoc, a community planned and being built by William Alexander Madocs, a visionary investor, who had been living on the site in a house he’d called Tan-yr-allt (under-the-hill).
Immediately smitten by the project, Bysshe decided he would stay, that he would invest, that he would raise funds from others to support the project.
And better yet? Madocs, in financial difficulty, was in the process of selling Tan-yr-allt, and Bysshe swept in to buy it—or, at least, to obtain a lease. Bysshe, hounded by creditors, nonetheless convinced the locals of his intended generosity. He decided he would go to London to see about raising funds and supporters for the project.
And while he was there, he met for the first time one of his literary heroes, a man he had not been all that certain was even still alive at the time—William Godwin, father of you-know-who. On the evening of October 4, 1812, Bysshe and Harriet dined at the Godwins’. But young Mary Godwin, who had just turned fifteen, was still in Scotland, staying with the Baxters. But the London Godwins were so thrilled with Bysshe and Harriet that it was not long before Mary began hearing, via letter, about this wonderful young couple who had come into their lives. Godwin knew his bright and talented daughter would just love the Shelleys.