|Owner||Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust|
|Condition||Derelict, being restored|
|In use||Open to public|
|Materials||Cast iron, grey and white limestone|
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. The castle and 236 acre estate are privately owned but a portion of the land is leased to Natural Resources Wales on a 999-year term.
The Lloyds (Llwyds) of Plas yn y Gwrych were the ancestral owners of Gwrych and could trace their ancestry back to the mediaeval period. 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. Situated within the Gwrych Castle Estate are a pair of Iron Age hillforts, a Roman shrine, lead and silver mines and mediaeval battle sites; the latter are recorded on stone tablets at the principal entrance.
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. From 1894 until 1924, Winifred, 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 Edward VIII). However, the gift was refused and the castle passed to the Venerable Order of Saint John. In 1928, the 12th Earl of Dundonald purchased the castle for £78,000 (equivalent to £4,734,000 in 2019), selling the contents to meet the cost.
According to a few articles from 1913, on the main road leading to Colwyn Bay near Gwrych Castle, a person claimed that he saw a 'headless monster' 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.
During the Second World War, 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. Following the war, the castle and estate left the Dundonald family and was opened to the public as a visitor attraction.
Gwrych Castle became known as "The Showpiece of Wales" and attracted many visitors. It was also used as a training venue for the English World Middleweight boxing champion Randolph Turpin in the early 1950s.
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.
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 few 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 a 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. On another occasion a portable toilet was set alight. The police attended the area regularly to keep the peace.
The castle closed to the public in 1987, and it started to decline. It was bought in 1989 by Nick Tavaglione, an American businessman, for £750,000. 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. It is currently open for guided and self-guided tours, but part of the site is closed as unsafe.
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. 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.
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. Clayton Hotels spent about £500,000 on its plans, clearing the site and rebuilding areas.
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.
On 13 June 2018, Gwrych Castle and its estate was sold to Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust, a registered charity, enabled by a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.
The aims of the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust is; 'to preserve for the benefit of the people of north Wales and of the nation, the historical, architectural and constructional heritage that may exist in and around Gwrych Castle, Abergele, North Wales in buildings (including any building as defined in Section 336 of the Town & Planning Act 1990) of particular beauty or historical, architectural or constructional interest.', further aims were also explained in a Welsh article where their hopes are to promote Welsh-based crafters, artists, musicians, and other creative avenues; "It's clear which path we want to follow - one that supports Welsh culture."
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.
In August 2020 it was rumoured that ITV had chosen the castle, for the 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 27 August after Gwrych publicly confirmed this on their social media sites. Giovanna Fletcher was crowned the first-ever Queen of the Castle at the end of the series.
After arsonists destroyed power-lines in 1995 by setting an old caravan alight, In June 2021, new transformer & pole ware installed.
Due to the ongoing covid pandemic and restrictions of filming in Australia, in August 2021, ITV confirmed that I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! would be returning to Gwrych for the second time, ensuring that further funds would help restore the castle.
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.