Gwrych Castle is a Grade I listed country house in north Wales, one of the first attempts at replicating true medieval architecture in Europe. It stands in 250 acres of gardens and grounds and has extensive views over former parkland including a deer park and the Irish Sea.
Gwrych Castle was built by Lloyd Hesketh Bamford Hesketh, heir of the Lloyds of Gwrych, from c.1810, incorporating his family’s ancestral home, with the work continuing over four decades. The castle then passed to the Earls of Dundonald by marriage to the Bamford Hesketh heiress, Winifred. During World War II the castle was requisitioned as part of Operation Kindertransport and in 1946 was sold by the Dundonald family, ending nearly 1000 years of continuous family ownership. In1948, the castle was purchased by Leslie Salts who opened it as the ‘Showplace of Wales’ for a period of twenty years.
Following Salt’s sale in 1968, the castle was operated as a medieval entertainment centre with jousting, banquets and markets taking place in the grounds. This also heralded a period of slow decline which saw the building shut to the public in 1985 and the final joust taking place in 1987. In 1990, an American property purchased the estate with a view for creating an opera centre and hotel – nothing materialised. Instead, the castle was asset-stripped and vandalised to the point that its very future was uncertain.
As an eleven year-old child in 1996, Mark Baker, passed the castle daily and found the destruction so appalling that he went on to found the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust at the age of 12. The Trust forced the American absentee owner to sell the castle in 2006 to Clayton Hotels who had ambitious plans to convert the buildings into a luxury hotel. Work began but was halted by the credit crunch which also sadly saw Clayton Hotels enter receivership. The castle was once again purchased by another property developer who took the hotel development through the planning process. In 2018, the planning permission ran out and the castle was offered for sale by auction. Through the intervention of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Richard Broyd Charitable Trust, the castle was purchased by Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust, on behalf of the nation.