Gwrych Castle is a Grade I listed 19th century country house near Abergele in Conwy county borough, North Wales. Erected between 1819 and 1825 at the behest of Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh, grandfather of Winifred Cochrane, Countess of Dundonald. From 1894 until 1924, when the Countess died, it was the residence of the Dundonald family. The Countess left the castle in her will to King George V and the then Prince of Wales (who later became King Edward VIII). However, the gift was refused and the castle passed to the Venerable Order of Saint John. In 1928, the Earl of Dundonald purchased the castle for £78,000, selling the contents to meet the cost.
During World War II, the Government used the castle to house 200 Jewish refugees. Following the war, the castle left the Dundonald family and was open to the public for twenty years. It was called The Showpiece of Wales at this time, and attracted many visitors. It was also used as a training venue for the English World Middleweight boxing champion Randy Turpin in the early 1950s.
In the early 60s it was an occasional venue for the famous motorcycle dragon rally and in the 70s it was used as a centre for medieval re-enactments, attracting tourists with such events as jousting and mock banquets.
The castle was last open to the public in 1985. Thereafter, it started to decline. It was bought in 1989 by an American businessman (Nick Tavaglione) for £750,000. However, his plans to renovate the building were not carried out. As a result, the castle was extensively looted and vandalised, becoming little more than a derelict shell
During the period of Tavaliogne’s ownership, historian Mark Baker campaigned for the castle to be brought back to its days of glory—a campaign that he started when he was twelve years old. Baker was instrumental in forming the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust, dedicated to ensuring the castle’s future. The condition of the property was monitored by the Trust, who lobbied Conwy council to compulsorily purchase the property, eventually placing enough pressure on the American owner, who put it up for sale in March 2006.
City Services Ltd, trading as Clayton Homes and Clayton Hotels, bought the castle in January 2007 for £850,000, after it failed to reach its £1.5m reserve price at the 2 June 2006 auction. On 30 April 2007, Clayton Hotels announced a 3 year project, costing £6,000,000, to renovate the castle and convert it into a 90-bedroom 5-star hotel, creating 100 jobs. The project was subject to planning permission, but had the support of the Trust. Clayton Hotels spent about half a million pounds on its plans, clearing the site and rebuilding areas. City Services Ltd was placed into Administration on 12 August 2009, and the Castle sold by the administrators in April 2010 for £300,000 to Edwards Property Management (UK) Ltd of Colwyn Bay, who plans to continue the project to convert the Castle into a Hotel. Edwards Property Management. As of 2012 their subsidiary Castell Developments are in the process of securing planning permission for the Hotel.
As a photographer I would love to get in the castle and photograph it. There is a large security fence round the castle, albeit with several holes in it
However, there are enough dire warnings about the state of the buildings inside to make it a dangerous excursion and I’m not that stupid. Saying that, on the day I visited and walked round the grounds, which are open, I did see two vehicles go into the castle beyond the fence. The occupants of one of the vehicles told me they were the “Official Photographers” so there must be some areas you can access safely. They also told me a Luxury hotel would be open on the site by 2015.
I have been in touch with Mark Baker, mentioned earlier in this post, asking about access. Mark has passed my details to the owners of the castle but I suspect they will not allow access.
All of the information for this article has been taken from a Wikipedia Entry for Gwrych Castle apart from the last two paragraphs.
- VIDEO: Gwrych Castle set to be luxury hotel (bbc.co.uk)
- Wales News: New £20m hope for castle dubbed ‘showplace of wales’ (walesonline.co.uk)