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.

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.

Nurse Tubridy of Abergele Hospital in the 1950s

There was a nurse at Abergele Chest Hospital, or Abergele Sanitorium, in the early 1950s called Nurse Tubridy. Linda Ramsden has kindly shared some old photos from her personal archive of Abergele Hospital in the 1950s. we’ve been publishing Linda’s photos of life in the Hospital in Abergele Post during the past months. Many thanks to Linda:

Nurse Tubridy
Nurse Hughes and Nurse Tubridy

Abergele Hospital in the 1950s

Here are some more of the old photos Linda Ramsden shared from her personal archive of Abergele Hospital in the 1950s. Linda’s mother was Nurse Hughes, who worked at the hospital, also known as the Abergele Sanitorium, in the early 1950s. Many thanks to Linda:

Plas Uchaf June 11th 1950. Norman
Unknown Children.
Unknown Girl
JF Doran & Patients at Abergele
4 unknown Nurses
James Doran & Patients Abergele
Unknown Children
Unknown Nurse and Children
Unknown Nurse and Child
Fancy Dress Party

Remembering the people of Abergele who took part in WWI

On 11 November 1918, ‘the war to end all wars’ came to an end. Abergele is remembering this on Remembrance Sunday. The poppies and cutout soldiers as you drive into the town have been a thoughtful reminder for the past weeks. This website has published many articles about WWI (keep clicking the Older Posts link at the bottom to see all the biographies and articles)

Photo from @abergelecouncil Twitter account
Photo from @abergelecouncil Twitter account

We thought we’d look back at the Cofia Abergele Remembers project in which AbergelePost.com worked with local historian Andrew Hesketh and Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan learners to list and record the names in audio of the people of Abergele and surrounds who participated in WWI. Click the triangle at the top-lift of this Soundcloud widget to hear the audio recording.

 


emrysP1070439

Here’s a list of students who made the recordings:
Jordan Harwood
Chloe Merrison
Anna Humphreys
Teigan Thompson
Scott Carney
Alice Naylor
Chantalle Cox
Eleanor Lloyd
Iwan Coghlan
Cian Hanna
Mike White
Ben Stone
Sophie Peake
Laurie Wilson
Lara Wagstaff
Abbey Jacklin
Jamie Edwards

 

We’re grateful to Andrew Hesketh and the Emrys students for this touching tribute. We join with the whole nation, 100 years after its end,  in remembering those who participated and those who died in the First World War.

Nurse Hughes, who worked at Abergele Hospital 1950-1953

There was a nurse at Abergele Chest Hospital, or Abergele Sanitorium, in the early 1950s called Nurse Hughes. Her daughter Linda Ramsden has kindly shared some old photos from her personal archive of Abergele Hospital in the 1950s. we’ll publish more of Linda’s photos of life in the Hospital in Abergele Post during the coming months. Many thanks to Linda:

Nurse Hughes
Nurse Hughes with other nurse and unknown children
Nurse Hughes (far right) with unknown nurses
Nurse Hughes with unknown Children
Nurse Hughes and another nurse
Nurse Hughes and Nurse Tubridy
Nurse Hughes with unknown Children.

Father and baby dragged under the wild waters of the River Gele in the 1971 Abergele Floods

Lee Rowland Williams has been in touch with Abergele Post to tell his dramatic story as an 18-month-old baby when he and his father, the landlord (from 1967-72) of the Pen y Bont pub  in Abergele nearly drowned during the Abergele Floods of 1971. Here’s his story in his own words:

“My parents Sheela and Hugh Williams , ran the Pen-y-Bont pub on Market Street,
and the only pub that was built over the River Gele and during the flood , a car became stuck under the bridge , therefore causing massive build up of powerful water to engulf our pub.
“My parents decided enough was way too much and with myself (an 18- month-old baby)  my mum and dad and Brian left the pub. Within leaving the speed at which the river was so forceful, my father had me in his arms, but a broken log hit him waist high, and he was knocked underwater with me , into the black water, he couldn’t see me.
“My mum’s heart stopped for what seemed like years. Our friend Brian reacted so fast and, without a second thought, dived under the water and literally grabbed me and raised me up. It sounds dramatic, but it truly was. I went to hospital, but mum tells me that day she saw her only son and husband almost too close to loss, that it’s truly a miracle and also it’s such a huge part of that flood.

“I, Lee Rowland Williams can’t find any archive story of this major story of the history of Abergele. Please help if you can.”

So now Lee’s story is documented on this site. Thanks to him for sharing it.

Looking north along the River Gele towards the Pen y Bont pub during the 1971 Abergele Floods. Photo copyright John Emrys Williams
Looking north along the River Gele towards the Pen y Bont pub during the 1971 Abergele Floods. Photo copyright John Emrys Williams