I’m a Celebrity in Abergele

I’m a Celebrity in Abergele Gwrych Castle has meant there’s a palpable buzz in our town. And this might not be the end of Gwrych Castle’s connection with I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! internationally if local rumours are to be believed…

I'm a Celebrity mural by Drew on the wall of Ivy's flower shop Chapel St, Abergele.
I’m a Celebrity mural by Mr Drew on the wall of Ivy’s flower shop Chapel St, Abergele.

I spoke with Denise Marsden and Alan Alexander at Ivy’s Florist, Chapel St, when my wife was buying flowers there yesterday. I took this photo of the mural by Mr Drew on the wall of the shop.

Denise says the attention the programme is bringing to Abergele is fantastic.

Alan Alexander let me know about some of the stories going around Abergele about the series. It’s rumoured that, if this series goes well, a return to Gwrych Castle could be on the cards in 2022, after returning to Australia next year, all being well.

Even before then, we could see the German version of the programme coming from Abergele, if rumours are to be believed. That would be such an extra boost for our town.

Apart from Ant and Dec, there are 450-500 people associated with the production of I’m a Celebrity at Gwrych Castle in November 2020. It’s no wonder it’s so difficult to find a vacant hotel, B&B or Airbnb nearby!

Abergele artist Phil Jackson is selling original oil painings of Gwrych Castle and he says on this ebay page that a proportion of the sale will go to Gwrych Castle funds.

Phil Jackson oil paining of Gwrych Castle, Abergele.
Phil Jackson oil paining of Gwrych Castle, Abergele.

Phil says: “I have been doing these paintings during lockdown. I live in Abergele, very close to the castle. This has been the main motivation for me. Then when I heard about ‘I’m a Celebrity Get me out of here’ coming I had another big motivation.”

The contestants this year are:

AJ Pritchard Former Strictly Come Dancing professional
Beverley Callard Coronation Street actress
Giovanna Fletcher Author, presenter and blogger
Hollie Arnold MBE Paralympic javelin thrower
Jessica Plummer Former EastEnders actress and Neon Jungle singer
Jordan North BBC Radio 1 presenter
Sir Mo Farah CBE OLY Olympic long-distance runner and track athlete
Shane Richie Stage and screen actor
Vernon Kay Television and radio presenter
Victoria Derbyshire Journalist and television presenter

Let us know who you think will be crowned this year’s King or Queen of the Castle in the Comments below.

Full disclosure: the link to the painting on eBay is an affiliate link.

Boxer Randolph Turpin at Gwrych Castle Abergele 1950s

Boxer Randolph Turpin lived at Gwrych Castle Abergele in the early 1950s whilst preparing for his  fight against Sugar Ray Robinson.

Turpin met his second wife Gwyneth (née Price, 1925-1992) the daughter of a Welsh farmer whilst training for the Robinson fight at Gwrych Castle. They married in 1953 and had four daughters, Gwyneth, Annette, Charmaine and Carmen.

Randolph Turpin in 1951
Randolph Turpin in 1951

Here’s a British Movietone 30″ video clip of his triumphant return to north Wales after beating Sugar Ray :

He was born in Leamington in 1928 to a black Guyanan father and white English mother at a time when there were almost no people of mixed race in the country.

When European champion, Turpin won the world title after beating the legendary Robinson, widely regarded as pound-for-pound the greatest fighter in history, on a 15-round decision at Earls Court in July 10, 1951.

Randolph Turpin famously trained at Gwyrch Castle in Abergele in the summer of 1951 when preparing for his contests against the seemingly invincible Sugar Ray Robinson. The training sessions were always attended by hundreds of fans and tourists.

He became an instant celebrity and, for a brief period, spent each day being mobbed by fans at his Abergele training base at Gwrych Castle.

Laater in his career, he bought a pub on the summit of the Great Orme , Llandudno, which today keeps some artefacts from his boxing career. He was the registered licensee of that pub between 1952 – 1961.

According to articles, reports and a biography, Turpin couldn’t deal with the obscurity resulting from the loss of his crown. After being declared bankrupt , Turpin shot himself dead in May 1966.

It was a tragic end for a man linked with Abergele who did so much for British sport, for British Black History, and whose achievements as a boxer will never be forgotten.

Despite his life’s tragic ending, one-time Abergele resident Turpin had briefly been one of the most famous men in Britain and an inspiration for many ethnic minorities.

Turpin was inducted as a member of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in Canastota, New York in 2001. There is a statue of him in Market Square, Warwick.

Gwrych Castle, Abergele

Gwrych Castle is a fairytale mock medieval castle and 250 acre estate in Abergele, north Wales, which is registered as a Grade I Listed Building.

Gwrych Castle, Abergele
Gwrych Castle, Abergele. Photo by Gareth Morlais.

Early years

Gwrych Castle was built by Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh (1788-1861) in memory of his mother’s side of the family.

It was built on the site of a mansion called ‘ Y Fron ‘ which since 1810 had gone to ruin.

By the time Lloyd had married Lady Emily Esther Ann Lygon (the daughter of Beauchamp) in 1825 the new house had been built and finished. A number of planners and architects worked together on its planning, including Charles Augustus Busby and Thomas Rickman. In the 1840s Henry Kennedy raised a new wing. When Lloyd died, Robert Bamford-Hesketh (1826- 1894) and his wife Ellen Jones-Bateman became owners of Gwrych Castle.

Robert added to the grounds and by 1873. The family also owned a number of coal mines in north Wales.

Robert and Ellen had one daughter, Winifred Bamford-Hesketh (b. 1859). She married Douglas Mackinnon Baillie Hamilton, 12th Earl of Dundonald in 1878.

WWII and beyond

During the Second World War, Gwrych Castle was used by the Government to shelter 200 members of the Jewish Movement Bnei Akiva as part of Operation Kindertransport.

As the war drew to a close  the Earl of Dundonald had to sell the estate for death duties. The castle’s connection with the Dundonald family was broken and for twenty years it was open to the public. At this time it was called “The Showpiece of Wales ” and tourist flocked to Abergele to visit it.

It was also used as the training camp of the boxer Randolph Turpin in the early 1950s. In the early 1960s, it was occasionally used by ‘ Dragon Rally ‘ motorcyclists.

Many of Abergele’s residents and visitors will remember Gwrych Castle’s jousting tornaments and banquets of the 1970s with great affection.

Since the 1980s

The castle’s doors were closed to the public in 1985, and a period of decline followed, with the fabric of the castle becoming badly affected.

It was bought in 1989 by Nick Tavaglione, an American businessman, for £750,000. But restoration of the building was not carried out and as a result the castle became ruined by vandals and the weather.

It was used in 1996 as background to the film Prince Valiant, which starred Edward Fox, Joanna Lumley and Katherine Heigl.

The American owner was forced to sell in March 2006 and the castle was bought by City Services Ltd, trading as Clayton Homes and  Clayton Hotels, in January 2007 for £850,000. Half a million pounds was spent on its restoration, but after Clayton Hotels was placed in administration, new developers got new planning consent in November 2012 from Conwy County Borough Council for the castle to be converted into a luxury hotel with 75 bedrooms and associated facilities. This plan was not realised.

On 13 June 2018, Gwrych Castle and its estate was sold to Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust https://www.gwrychcastle.co.uk/, with the help of a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

– written 17 April 2020, with acknowlegement of Wikipedia and other sources.

 

Read more about Gwrych on this site.

Rhyl Motor Club: two films of Abergele on the free BFI archive site

Albert Roberts from Abergele but now living in Romsey wrote to say:
“Just noticed a site that may be of interest to you and other Abergelians, where old (some very old) films have recently been digitised and made available to the public. There are two free films of Abergele including one of the 1971 floods, there may be others which are not free – but I have not yet explored the whole site.

The films are available at: player.bfi.org.uk

Here’s a still showing one of the two films playing:

Rhyl Motor Club video still copyright BFI
Rhyl Motor Club video copyright BFI

 

Gun and dogs in photo of staff of Gwrych Castle, Abergele, long ago

Here’s a photo of the staff of Gwrych Castle Gate, Abergele, in the building’s very early days from the Dennis Parr Collection. Date unknown.

It’s great that the gamekeeper holds both a gun and a gundog or two. It’s quite a warm pose for the time, with people putting their arms around each other’s shoulders. The top hat on the back row  is a standout too.