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.