Also, be sure to check out photographer Niall McDiarmid‘s exhibition Celebrity Town at Oriel Colwyn. Some of our town’s residents are given the celebrity treatment by Niall and we get to see them and read their stories. Oriel Colwyn’s curator Paul Sampson teamed up with photographer to search out and highlight some of the local businesses, people and personalities of ‘Celebrity Town’. The website says: “the series of photographic portraits produced really does only just scratch beneath the surface of the town. It shows that if we look, there is celebrity in us all. ”
As you’ll probably be able to tell, the following photos aren’t by Niall McDiarmid; I took them with my phone in Abergele in this week before the live programmes begin…
The Abergele Visitor’s official photographer and one who documented many of Abergele and district’s marriages and events was Mr A. G. Sumner.
AbergelePost reader Tim Foster wrote to say: “I have a photo taken by Mr Sumner that I’m trying to put into context. It’s a large group photo including my father from around 1955-1965. The reference is FG26 if anyone is able to help with more details. I found a series of these group photos in various hotels around the UK when going through my late father’s papers. They all seem to have been taken at large hotels with a large formal seated group on the lawn. I’d love to know more about them.
“The two photos I found are attached. In the group shot my father is 6th from the right as you look at it. I suspect this one will tell you more than the one of just my dad. I suspect it was a church group trip of some sort. I have similar group shots from Weston-super-mare and Newquay where my father looks to be around the same sort of age. The ones from Newquay are dated 1958 and my father appears to be around 18-19 in all of them which would fit.“I’ve scanned the backs so you have the reference numbers too. If you, or any of your site visitors, are able to tell me anything about them that would be really great. The only info I have is what’s written on the back. From digging about in his other papers I know that he was fairly active with church youth groups, hence why I think it could be a church outing, but aside from that, I know nothing.”
Please add any information about these photos (such as where they may have been taken) or Mr Sumner in the Comments.
Here’s a set six of beautiful images from Karen Linley, from her own photographic archive. Here are some of the members of the Gwrych Castle Jousting company: the Crossed Lances of Abergele’s Gwrych Castle in the late 1970s. Beneath the photos is an essay by Karen’s daughter about her mother’s involvement in the Crossed Lances.
Karen’s daughter Sara writes:
Casting its shadow over the lands of Abergele is the Castle of Gwrych. It is the place where the Crossed Lances dwell, medieval entertainers who sword fight, joust, perform, sing and dance. They are the knights, damsels and people of the court.
But it is not the time of old it is the 1970s. The ordinary life of the 1970s, like going to the local pub, wearing lycra and denims and dancing to Saturday Night Fever, is balanced with the extraordinary, because these people live in a castle and for part of their days the group become medieval people in manner and dress. They spend their time living in two very different worlds.
Ghostly whispers and sightings in the castle, lead the group to call upon the spirits with an Ouija board to attempt to communicate with the ghosts of Gwrych. The message they receive forewarns them that they dwell near the ‘bloodiest battlefield of the dead,’ and that they ‘must leave or blood mark the hills once more.’ The group discover that the battlefield lies west of the castle and is known as ‘The Field of Corpses.’ When the warning is ignored, mysterious occurrences take place and a death amongst the Crossed Lances follows swiftly.
Did someone push the glass? Did someone murder the victim? Is the suspect of flesh and blood or was the death down to the ghostly beings that are said to wonder the grounds of Gwrych? Determined to find out Karina searches for the truth, but can she discover the reality of the situation before it is too late…or will she become the next target.
Karen’s daughter Sara goes on to say:
The reason for my interest in Gwrych Castle is that my mother was actually a member of the Crossed Lances, she was a damsel, horse groom, a cook, and she and the others all lived in and took care of the castle. The collaboration of the old medieval time and the modern time of the 1970s, the castle’s past and their present is what I feel can make a murder mystery story set there work well.
Abergele’s Gwrych Castle in the 1970s was used as a centre for medieval jousting and banquets. It was as a cast member and horse groom that Karen Linley came to Abergele to work. While she was here, she took these photos. We’re grateful to Karen for sharing these photos – for which she holds the copyright – with us.
Karen is understandably protective of her photographs and said in 2012 when we began corresponding: “Somebody decided to steal my pics and I wasn’t happy with that as they are my personal pics for my family. So I copyrighted them, as the pics were being used for personal gain, and I believe that wasn’t right. However, I do not mind them being used for free for non-personal gain, as long as Gwrych somehow benefits from it.”
When she wrote, Karen had fond memories of her time at Gwrych Castle in the 1970s and said: “I recently found out that one of my colleagues on the team at Gwrych is now in charge of entertainments at Warwick Castle and is a stunt rider and does take part in the shows there. Although I have tried to contact him I have not yet had any success.”
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 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!
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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.