Mark Baker (author)

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Mark Baker
Born (1985-04-16) April 16, 1985 (age 31)
Nationality United Kingdom British
Alma mater Cardiff University (MA, PhD)
Occupation Architectural historian and author
Years active 1996–present

Mark Baker (born 16 April 1985) is an architectural historian and an author of several books on country houses, estates and their families. Baker has contributed to several television series and programmes.[1]

Early years and Education[edit]

Baker was educated at Rydal Penrhos School, Colwyn Bay and later attended the University of Wales, Bangor, in 2003; here he graduated with a BA in history and archaeology in 2006.[2] Baker's MA was taken at Cardiff University and focussed on the Gothick Revival in Wales.

Baker is currently working on a PhD, researching the development of Welsh Country Houses, funded by Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain.[3] The PhD has been supervised by Professor Denys Pringle and Professor Judi Loach. During research for his PhD, Baker discovered the earliest known image of Hafod Uchtryd, Devil's Bridge.[4] Baker was made a member of the National Trust Committee for Wales in 2009 (later renamed, Wales Advisory Board).[5] In 2011, Baker curated 'Welsh Architecture from the Salisbury Collection: A Selection of Original Artworks' from Cardiff University archives.[6]

Gwrych Castle, Abergele[edit]

Historical research[edit]

Baker's first book was published at the age of 13 in 1999 on the Rise and Fall of Gwrych Castle, Abergele by Gwasg Helygain, making him one of Britain's youngest published authors.[7] Baker went on to publish further books on Gwrych Castle in 2000, 2003 and 2006.[8] Through research at Royal Institute of British Architects it was discovered that the marble staircase at Gwrych Castle had been designed by Detmar Blow as part of a major refurbishment of the castle in 1914. This research was presented as a lecture at the National Museum of Wales, Cathays Park, Cardiff, as part of their St. David's Day celebrations in 2012.[9]

Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust[edit]

In 1997 ASFOG (A Society For the Friends of Gwrych) was founded by Mark Baker and in 2001 it changed its name to Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust and became a registered charity.[10] The Trust had been founded to raise awareness of Gwrych’s plight and also to establish a solution for the conservation and preservation of the castle. Through much hard work, a huge amount has been achieved and the profile of the castle has been significantly raised with supporters from all over the globe. Baker spearheaded a high-profile campaign for the building's restoration.[11] This proved fruitful when the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust precipitated the sale of Gwrych Castle by pursuing compulsory purchase action. This earned Baker recognition within the heritage world and he was made the youngest honorary life member of SAVE Britain's Heritage and has been campaigning for the protection of historic buildings.[12] Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust, working with Gwrych Castle owners, EPM UK, have begun work on the conservation and restoration of the castle.[13]

Hafodunos, Llangernyw[edit]

In 2005 Baker published a history of Hafodunos, Llangernyw, a masterpiece of Victorian gothic architecture and the only example of domestic architecture to be built in Wales by George Gilbert Scott.[14] Baker has been working with the current owner of Hafodunos on its restoration.[15]

Plas Teg, Pontblyddyn[edit]

Baker published a detailed study of Plas Teg, near Mold, in 2006.[16] The first pressing sold out at a total of thirty three copies and is now in its second edition.[17] The architectural history of Plas Teg and Ruperra Castle were further explored in an academic article in 2012, entitled Archaism and modernity: identity and country-house design in seventeenth-century Wales.[18] Baker contributed to Plas Teg's appearance on Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners: Country House Rescue Series 4 Episode 2, shown on Channel 4 in July 2015.

Llwynywermod, Myddfai[edit]

The front cover of A Royal Home in Wales: Llwynywermod

A Royal Home in Wales: Llwynywermod is the first book to explore the history of The Prince of Wales’ new home in Wales. Llwynywermod, then known as Llwynywormwood, was purchased by the Duchy of Cornwall in 2006 and is currently undergoing restoration. Published to coincide with HRH The Prince of Wales’ 60th birthday celebrations on 14 November 2008, the book covers the entire history of the Llwynywermod estate from its founding days to being the Welsh residence of Prince Charles. It was originally commissioned by the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust, who presented a special leather-bound copy to the Prince of Wales in February 2008.[19]

On Monday 10 November 2008, A Royal Home in Wales was officially released. The official launch was on 21 November at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.[20] The original cover artwork, by Ceri Leeder, was given by the Georgian Group as a gift to Charles, Prince of Wales to commemorate his purchase of Llwynywermod.[21]

Y Plas: The Story of the Welsh Country House[edit]

In March 2013, Baker was appointed historical researcher for S4C living history television series, Y Plas. The research was based on Baker's PhD and featured houses such as Llanerchaeron, Gwrych Castle, Hafodunos, Plas Teg and Brynkir.

In November 2013, to coincide with the release of the television series, Y Plas: The Story of the Welsh Country House was published.[22] The book was co-authored with Dewi Gregory and Sian Price.[23]

Margaret Sandbach: A Tragedy in Marble and Ink[edit]

Margaret Sandbach (1812-1852) was a prolific author and playwright, who died of breast cancer in 1852.[24] She was the granddaughter of William Roscoe, daughter of botanical illustrator Margaret Roscoe and became wife of Henry Robertson Sandbach of Liverpool. Margaret was later to become patron of John Gibson and Penry Williams. Hafodunos, Llangernyw was her marital home and was rebuilt in memory by Sir George Gilbert Scott.[25] With the aid of an Arts Council Wales grant, Mark Baker worked with Linda Lamb on a collection of songs based on the poems of Margaret Sandbach of Hafodunos which was released as an album in 2012.[26]

A book, based on Sandbach's life, was co-authored with Welsh film maker, Dewi Gregory, and published in 2013, featuring the photography of Manuel Vason.[27][28] The book featured a foreword by Antoinette Sandbach, who sponsored the book launch at Senedd.[29] Baker led a project based around Margaret Sandbach, John Gibson and Hafodunos which involved school children from the villages of Llangernyw and Eglwysbach, as well as adult art groups from north Wales.[30]

Brynkir, Dolbenmaen[edit]


In 2012, Baker led a Cardiff University archaeological dig at Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen, in order to record the historic fabric of the two mansion houses.[31] Again, in 2013, Baker went back to excavate Brynkir and discovered that the site had originated as a deer park, possibly created by Llywelyn the Great as part of a wider hunting landscape associated with the royal court at Dolbenmaen.[32] The project featured collaborations with a variety of groups and organisations including Bangor University, National Museum of Wales, Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales, Welsh Historic Gardens Trust, Dating Old Welsh Houses and Gwynedd Archaeological Trust.[33]

After a third season of excavation in 2014, an edited collection of essays by leading academics, was published by historic buildings charity, Love My Wales, with Baker acting as editor.[34] Dafydd Elis-Thomas provided a foreword for the book, and sponsored its launch at Senedd on 24 February 2015.[35] A second edition of the book has been announced for release during the summer 2015, following another season of excavations at Brynkir.

Artistic Collaborations[edit]

Since 2006, Mark Baker has been developing artistic collaborations with a variety of artists for work with historic sites.[36] Notably, Ceri Leeder, of Eglwysbach, Conwy, has worked several times with Baker, providing the cover images for Llwynywermod: A Royal Home in Wales and Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen.[37] Antonia Dewhurst has also had a long-standing collaboration with Baker, and her photography work has been featured in Margaret Sandbach: A Tragedy in Marble and Ink, Y Plas: The Story of the Welsh Country House and Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen.[38] North Wales artist, Liz Bolloten, contributed several paintings of Plas Brynkir, which were featured during an exhibition at Golan, Dolbenmaen, Gwynedd, the launch of Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen, in December 2014.[39]

In 2014, Baker collaborated with Marc Rees, for [40] The artwork of J. Walkter Richards, which had been discovered by Baker in 2013, was featured in displays throughout Llandudno for the duration of the LLAWN02 festival.[41]

Heritage campaigning[edit]

On 1 September 2008, Forgotten Welsh Houses, was published by Hendre House Publishing, with a foreword by HRH Charles, Prince of Wales. The book was sponsored by the Georgian Group and SAVE Britain's Heritage.[42] To coincide with this release, the Georgian Group commissioned Baker to research and write Welsh Country Houses Illustrated.[43] Baker is a regular commentator on Welsh architectural and heritage matters.[44] Following the devastating fire at the listed Grange Hotel, Rhyl, it was proposed by Baker that the historic hotel should be restored.[45] Baker has been involved with the restoration of Hay Castle, Hay-on-Wye,[46] and has presented at the Hay Festival.[47]

Plas Dulas[edit]

Plas Dulas, Llanddulas was built on the site of an earlier farmstead by Elizabeth Easthope, daughter of Sir John Easthope, 1st Baronet M.P., in the 1840s.[48] The house and garden was extended by Elizabeth's brother-in-law, Andrew Doyle and his son, John Andrew Doyle up to the mid-1870s.[49] In 1907, the estate passed to a first cousin, Professor Richard MacGillivray Dawkins, internationally famous archaeologist and author, who through his extensive travels and excavations in the Mediterranean experimented with plant importation during the early twentieth century at Plas Dulas.[50] Evelyn Waugh is believed to have visited Plas Dulas, whilst working at Arnold House School, Llanddulas.[51][52]

Plas Dulas was purchased in 2001 for conversion into a private home, but plans were submitted in 2009 for its demolition.[53] These were rejected by Conwy Council.[54] An eighteenth century barn was demolished subsequently amid protests from heritage organisations, such as Save Britain's Heritage, Victorian Society and Welsh Historic Gardens Trust.[55] In 2011, another planning application was made which included demolition of the main house.[56] In 2014, permission was granted for a housing development.[57] As of March 2015, Plas Dulas has not been demolished.


Forgotten Welsh Houses formed the basis for BBC One's 'Hidden Homes of Wales', broadcast in 2010, and for ITV Wales's Grand Declines, broadcast in 2012.[58] Baker has participated in programmes such as The Big Breakfast, Country File, Newsround, That's Esther, If Only Walls Had Ears, Russell Grant's Postcards, ITV News, BBC News and Snowdonia 1890.[59]

Published works[edit]

  • 1999. The rise and fall of Gwrych Castle. Prestatyn: Mark Baker.
  • 2000. Gwrych Castle, Abergele and Llanddulas – A pictorial history. Prestatyn: Mark Baker.
  • 2003. The rise and fall of Gwrych Castle, including Winifred, Countess of Dundonald – a biography. Prestatyn: Mark Baker.
  • 2005. Hafodunos Hall, Llangernyw – Triumph of the Martyr. Prestatyn: Mark Baker.
  • 2006. The Myths and Legends of the Gwrych Castle Estate. Prestatyn: Brampton House Publishing.
  • 2006. Plas Teg – A Jacobean Country House. Hope: Brampton House Publishing. (Revised Second Edition released 2007)
  • 2007. Abergele & District – A Pictorial Past. Cardiff: Brampton House Publishing. (With Michael Roberts)
  • 2008. Forgotten Welsh Houses. Llanrwst: Hendre House Publishing.
  • 2008. A Royal Home in Wales: Llwynywermod. Cardiff: Accent Press.
  • 2008. Welsh Country Houses Illustrated. London: Georgian Group.
  • 2013. Y Plas: Story of the Welsh Country House. Cardiff: Truth Department.(With Dewi Gregory and Sian Price)
  • 2013. Margaret Sandbach: A Tragedy in Marble and Ink. Abergele: Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust (With Dewi Gregory)
  • 2014. Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen. Cardiff: Love My Wales. (Editor)
  • 2015. Fifty Buildings that Built Wales. Cardiff: Graffeg. (With David Wilson and Greg Stevenson)


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