Gwrych Castle

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Gwrych Castle
Castell Gwrych
Abergele, Wales
Gwrych Castle’s east front.jpg
East wing of the castle
Coordinates53°17′00″N 3°36′31″W / 53.2833°N 3.6087°W / 53.2833; -3.6087Coordinates: 53°17′00″N 3°36′31″W / 53.2833°N 3.6087°W / 53.2833; -3.6087
TypeGothic revival
Site information
OwnerGwrych Castle Preservation Trust
ConditionDerelict, being restored.
Site history
BuiltOriginal building c.14th/15th centuries
Rebuilt 1810 onwards
Built byLloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh(1812-1822), Thomas Rickman(1819–20), Charles Augustin Busby & Henry Kennedy(~1840's), George Edmund Street(~1870's) & Detmar Blow(1914).
In useOpen to public
MaterialsCast Iron, Grey & White limestone.
Listed Building – Grade I

Gwrych Castle (Welsh: Castell Gwrych pronounced [ˌkastɛɬ ˈɡwrɨːx] meaning "Hedged Castle") is a Grade I listed 19th-century country house near Abergele in Conwy County Borough, Wales.[1] The castle and 250 acre[2] estate are privately owned.[3]

Pronunciation of Castell Gwrych (Welsh)
Pronunciation of Gwrych Castle (English)

Early history[edit]

The Lloyds (Llwyds) of Plas yn y Gwrych were the ancestral owners of Gwrych and could trace their ancestry back to the medieval period.[4] They were part of the royal house of Marchudd ap Cynan, founder of the VIII Noble Tribe of North Wales. The Lloyds also shared co-sanguinity with Llywelyn the Great.[5] Situated within the Gwrych Castle Estate are a pair of iron hillforts, a Roman shrine, lead/silver mines and medieval battle sites; the latter[6] are recorded on stone tablets at the principal entrance.[7]

The creation of the castle[edit]

Gwrych Castle was built between 1810 and 1825 by Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh (1787-1861), in memory of his mother Frances Lloyd and her ancestors. It incorporated an earlier house that had been in the ownership of the Lloyds since the late-medieval period.[8] From 1894 until 1924, Winifred Cochrane, Countess of Dundonald, the Hesketh heiress, owned the estate and it became the residence of the Dundonald family (family name of Cochrane). The Countess left the castle in her will to King George V and the then Prince of Wales (who later became King Edward VIII). However, the gift was refused and the castle passed to the Venerable Order of Saint John. In 1928, Douglas Cochrane, 12th Earl of Dundonald purchased the castle for £78,000 (calculated at ~£4,288,000 in 2019 after inflation), selling the contents to meet the cost.[9]

A page of Anne Wagner's scrapbook devoted to Mrs Browne of Gwrych depicting the original medieval building, Plas yn y Gwrych, prior to the erection of the castle, c.1800
Gwrych Castle in 1825, shortly after the Georgian castellated mansion had been completed
Gwrych Castle in the 1920s, viewed from the Hesketh Tower

During World War II, as part of the Kindertransport programme, the Government used the castle to house 200 Jewish refugees run by the Jewish Zionist youth movement Bnei Akiva.[10] Following the war, the castle and estate left the Dundonald family and was opened to the public as a visitor attraction.

The 'Headless Creature'[edit]

According to a few articles from 1913, the main road leading to Colwyn Bay passed Gwrych Castle, and a person claimed that he saw a headless creature in a field over a hedge. Another person claimed they heard a screech on the same road, but the headless creature turned out to be a black and white sheep that looked headless due to its black head blending with the shadows of the hedges; the screech turned out to be a broken branch of a tree being blown by the wind. This heightened fear caused many people to avoid that road completely, walking miles longer or taking a train instead. Men also took up arms, purchasing revolvers to protect themselves on their way to work.[11]

Visitor attraction[edit]

Gwrych Castle became known as "The Showpiece of Wales" and attracted many visitors.[12] It was also used as a training venue for the English World Middleweight boxing champion Randolph Turpin in the early 1950s.

The restored formal gardens at Gwrych Castle. Built in the 1830s they were based on Queen Eleanor's garden at Conwy Castle

In the early 1960s it was an occasional venue for the famous motorcycle Dragon Rally, and in the 1970s it was used as a centre for medieval re-enactments, attracting tourists with such events as jousting and banquets.[13]

Closure and decline[edit]

Between 1982 and 1986 the location attracted scooterists from all across Britain, and there are a few accounts of scooterists exhibiting their bikes and scooters. Although many of those who attended were peaceful, some were antisocial. There were many young people who were denied service from the Castle bar because of their age, but because there were very little staff hired, when they turned their backs they would then return to steal kegs from the bar and carry them outside where many would help themselves. It was also common occurrence for youths to swing from the chandeliers and jump on and break large antique tables. On another occasion someone rode their Lambretta scooter through one of the stained-glass windows. There was another occurrence of portaloos being set alight, the police attended the area regularly to keep the peace.[citation needed]

The castle closed to the public in 1987, and it started to decline.[5] It was bought in 1989 by Nick Tavaglione, an American businessman, for £750,000.[14] However, his plans to renovate the building were not carried out. As a result, the castle was extensively looted and vandalised, becoming little more than a derelict shell, although it was used in 1996 as the backdrop for Prince Valiant, a film starring Edward Fox, Joanna Lumley and Katherine Heigl.[15] It is currently open for guided and self-guided tours, but part of the site is closed as unsafe.[16]

During the period of Tavaglione's ownership, historian Mark Baker campaigned for the castle to be brought back to its days of glory—a campaign that he started when he was twelve years old.[17] Baker was instrumental in forming the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust, dedicated to ensuring the castle's future. The condition of the property was monitored by the Trust, who lobbied Conwy council to compulsorily purchase the property, eventually placing pressure on the American owner, who put it up for sale in March 2006.

Gwrych Castle and estate

City Services Ltd, trading as Clayton Homes and Clayton Hotels, bought the castle in January 2007 for £850,000, after it failed to reach its £1.5m reserve price at the 2 June 2006 auction. On 30 April 2007, Clayton Hotels announced a three-year project, costing £6,000,000, to renovate the castle and convert it into a 90-bedroom 5-star hotel, creating 100 jobs. The project was subject to planning permission, but had the support of the Trust.[15] Clayton Hotels spent about £500,000 on its plans, clearing the site and rebuilding areas.[18]

After Clayton Hotels was placed in administration, new developers obtained fresh planning permission in November 2012 from Conwy County Borough Council for the castle to be converted into a luxury hotel with 75 bedrooms and associated facilities.[19]

Rescue of the castle and estate[edit]

On 13 June 2018, Gwrych Castle and its estate was sold to Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust, a registered charity,[20] enabled by a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

Due to the large cost of repairs and restoring lost content, the trust relies on volunteers or/and philanthropists who are able to contribute their time, experiences, knowledge and skills.

Work on the castle to prepare for I'm a Celebrity filming
Work on the castle to prepare for I'm a Celebrity filming

In August 2020 it was rumoured that ITV had chosen the castle, for filming of the 20th series of I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! after the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the usual Australian location was no longer usable. This was confirmed on August 27 after Gwrych publicly confirmed this on their social media sites.[21][22]

Books about Gwrych Castle[edit]

  • The Rise and Fall of Gwrych Castle including Winifred, Countess of Dundonald - A Biography by Mark Baker
  • Gwrych Castle – A Pictorial History by Mark Baker
  • Myths and Legends of Gwrych Castle by Mark Baker

The Gwrych Castle Trust Archive and the National Library of Wales hold materials relating to Gwrych, including original plans and designs for the stained-glass windows.

In the media[edit]




  • Life and Liszt; the recollections of a concert pianist by Arthur Friedheim (1961)[29]

A book detailing the life of Arthur Friedheim, the closest associate to Franz Liszt, in the book he details how a recital was arranged for him by Giacomo Casanova's cousin; Lord Oranmore and it was taken at "the beautiful home of the Countess of Dundonald" (Gwrych Castle).[30]


  1. ^ Hayward, Will. "These houses helped shape Wales' history but are now crumbling". Wales Online.
  2. ^ "ITV confirms I'm A Celeb's move to Welsh castle". BBC News. 27 August 2020. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  3. ^ "Gwrych Castle – Abergele, North Wales". Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  4. ^ "Gwrych Castle Estate Records, - National Library of Wales Archives and Manuscripts". Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  5. ^ a b "History – Gwrych Castle".
  6. ^ "Gwrych Castle near Abergele –".
  7. ^ Stuff, Good. "Tan-yr-Ogof Lodge including adjoining walls and towers to S, E and W, Abergele, Conwy".
  8. ^ Binney, Marcus (27 August 2020). "Gwrych Castle: The astonishing fantasy castle saved by the dreams and bravery of a 12-year-old boy". Country Life.
  9. ^ "Castle to be auctioned for £1.5m". BBC News website. 29 March 2006. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
  10. ^ "Welsh haven for Jewish children". BBC News website. 26 January 2006. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
  11. ^ Temuka Leader, Issue 7333, 14 June 1913, Page 6
  12. ^ "Money boost for castle ruin fight". BBC News website. 11 May 2005. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
  13. ^ "Gwrych Castle: The astonishing fantasy castle saved by the dreams and bravery of a 12-year-old boy - Country Life".
  14. ^ Powell, David (2 June 2006). "£1.2m bid for castle but it's not enough". North Wales Live.
  15. ^ a b "Gothic castle to be luxury hotel". BBC News website. 30 April 2007. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
  16. ^ "Visit – Gwrych Castle".
  17. ^ "Teenager leads castle preservation campaign". BBC News website. 27 October 1999. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
  18. ^ "North Wales News - Latest news, pictures, video - North Wales Live". Archived from the original on 28 September 2012.
  19. ^ "Derelict Gwrych Castle to become luxury hotel". The Daily Post. 22 November 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  20. ^ Charity Commission. GWRYCH CASTLE PRESERVATION TRUST LIMITED, registered charity no. 1092035.
  21. ^ a b Nisbet, Megan (27 August 2020). "I'm a Celeb filming location confirmed as Gwrych Castle in Wales". WalesOnline.
  22. ^ ""I'm A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!" set to be filmed at Gwrych Castle". North.Wales.
  23. ^ "Mysteries of the Abandoned | Watch Full Episodes & More!". Science.
  24. ^ "Byw gyda anabledd cudd" – via
  25. ^ "Holiday on the Buses". 26 December 1973 – via IMDb.
  26. ^ "Prince Valiant". 24 July 1997 – via IMDb.
  27. ^ "Dragon Crusaders". 27 September 2011 – via IMDb.
  28. ^ "Saint Dracula 3D". 23 November 2012 – via IMDb.
  29. ^ Facsimile of Arthur Friedheim's edition of Franz Liszt's sonata in b minor. Carter, Gerard B. (Gerard Bede), 1943-, Adler, Martin., Friedheim, Arthur, 1859-1932., Liszt, Franz, 1811-1886. (Large study ed.). Ashfield, N.S.W.: Wensleydale Press. 2011. ISBN 978-3-8442-0890-0. OCLC 778321356.CS1 maint: others (link)
  30. ^ Friedheim, Arthur (25 October 1961). "Life and Liszt; the recollections of a concert pianist". New York, Taplinger Pub. Co – via Internet Archive.

External links[edit]