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.

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.

Gwrych Castle beachside bathing house Ty Crwn is being auctioned in London

Heather Dalton and Neil Lawless from Beresford Adams Estate agents in Abergele have been in touch with news of the sale of an historic local property at an auction in London with a guide price of £150k this month.

“We are currently marketing a property to go to auction on December 16th, this particular property may be of curiosity to you as it was built as a bathing house for Gwrych Castle. The property is called Ty Crwn and is on Llanddulas Road, Abergele.

“It is advisable that anyone wishing to bid on the property makes contact with Countrywide Property Auctions

DSCF2008

DSCF2044 DSCF2043 DSCF2042 DSCF2012

Gwrych Castle 9-10 May Open Weekend

The Gwrych Trust’s Jake Basford has been in touch with news of an Open Weekend  at the castle on 9-10 May 2015.

With children’s entertainers, costumed characters from Disney’s Frozen, and fire eaters alongside traditional Morris dancing, a bouncy castle and guided tours, the biggest amount of entertainment yet will be available throughout the weekend.

The opening hours are between 12 noon and  4pm on both the Saturday and Sunday. Entry is £5 for adults and parents can pay what they like for children under 12.

Medieval outfits are welcome. Here’s a list of everyone who’ll be there:

Harley the Clown
Kids Ghost Stories with Lucy
Bouncy Castle
Children’s Drawing Activities
Stilt Walkers
Organised Fire Eaters (battlements)
Ukelele Band
Morris Dancers
Martial Arts Display
Self-Guided Walks and History Guided Walks
Visits from ‘Frozen’ Characters in Costume

 

Photo by David Hughes
Photo by David Hughes

Late News: Here’s an update from the Trust on the advice of the Police:
‘Parking will be available on the day at Manorafon Farm, available through the archway at the corner of Tan-y-Gopa Road and Abergele Road, for a small fee on the day; behind Abergele Library; Water Street, near the Bowling Green; or, Pensarn Beach. Cones and ‘No Parking’ signs will be in place around Tan-y-Gopa Road, Llanddulas Road and the Main Castle Entrance to help local residents. No immediate street parking will be available on the day, so please plan parking in advance.’

Gwrych Castle consultation

The Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust has launched an online survey to consult with people in Abergele and all over the country about potential development of the Castle.

The Trust says it wants to assess the need for community space and for people to share their feelings on planned educational and artistic programmes to be included in the planned Gwrych Visitors’ Centre Project and cafe. The results will feed into a Heritage Lottery funding bid.

Some of the ideas to be submitted are brand new and Mark Baker, Chair of the Board of Trustees for Gwrych Trust, said: “Amongst our Trustees, Members, Volunteers and Staff we have an incredibly mix of talent and ideas that has created the current plans for the Visitor’s Centre Project. These include the formulation of an educational programme to bring the history of Gwrych to all in the local area, provide space for art installations and an archive of Gwrych Castle items collected by the Trust, bring training opportunities to the area for traditional skills, and, provide space for many community-led activities.

The Trust says it’s grateful to EPM UK Ltd and the Edwards family, the owners of Gwrych Castle and Estate, for their continued support with the Visitor’s Centre Project.

Photo of Gwrych Castle taken on one of the 2014 Open Days by David Hughes
Photo of Gwrych Castle taken on one of the 2014 Open Days by David Hughes

Gwrych Halloween

There are some ghostly happenings planned at Gwrych Castle this Halloween, organised by the Gwrych Trust, according to the Trust’s Jake Basford:

“Gwrych Castle has been famous for its ghostly happenings, with stories coming from famous boxers who trained there having spotted the Countess wandering the Gardens, and pictures of ghosts making headlines in recent years (only to turn out to be Hermione from Harry Potter). This is why Gwrych Trust is recreating the spooky experience with a series of Ghost Hunts, Walks, and, a special themed Open Day over Halloween.”

31 October (Halloween Night): Ghost Walks (6pm-9pm) running around the Castle, 50 people per guide, age 16+, costing £15 per person which includes a hot beverage and pumpkin soup. Ghost Hunts (9pm-2am) taking place in the Gardens, 30 people per group, age 18+, costing £30 per person.

1 November (All Saints Day): Open Day (12-4pm) at Gwrych Castle, no minimum age requirement, £5 per person, Halloween theme. Ghost Walks (6pm-9pm) running around the Castle, 50 people per guide, age 16+, costing £15 per person which includes a hot beverage and pumpkin soup. Ghost Hunts (9pm-2am) taking place in the Gardens, 30 people per group, age 18+, costing £30 per person.

 

Tickets are on sale from Gwrych’s ticketing site from 15 Oct 2014

Mark Baker, Chair of Gwrych Trust, said, “With the success of previous Open Days at the Castle we thought we would really go for it with Halloween this year. There are many ghost stories rampant about Gwrych, from previous owners to current volunteers, so it may be necessary to do a second edition of Myths and Legends one day!”

 

 

 

Gwrych Castle Open Day 28 June 2014

Gwrych Castle from Tan y Gopa's Doorknob by Gareth Morlais CC-BY-SA
Gwrych Castle from Tan y Gopa’s Doorknob by Gareth Morlais CC-BY-SA

Gwrych Castle’s gates are being flung open for visitors for the first time in ages on Saturday 28 June 2014.

Entry between noon  and 4pm will cost £5, which includes a tour of the castle and grounds and a catch up on the latest news from the owners of the Castle and Gwrych Trust. The tours are hourly.

Ice cream will be on sale as well as copies of Mark Baker’s latest book Margaret Sandbach: A Tragedy in Marble and Ink, written with Dewi Gregory.

Mark Baker, who is Chair of the Board of Trustees for Gwrych Trust and author of The Rise and Fall of Gwrych said, “It is very exciting that the castle will be open for the day and that we have an opportunity for people to learn about its history and what is proposed for the future”.

Jake Basford of the Trust, handling promotion, says that proceeds from the tours will go towards the planned Visitor Centre project.

Access  will be via the road shared with Manorafon Farm, but access will only be given to foot traffic. No parking will be allowed on site, at Manorafon Farm or Abergele Golf club, unless otherwise stated. If you have a disability and want to discuss access, just email gwrych (at) gmail.com before the day.