As a small child, Mark Baker would pass by the remains of Gwrych Castle in Abergele, North Wales, on his way back and forth from school. The enchanting mock medieval castle had fallen into a dismal state of disrepair, and was in danger of being lost. Baker was so taken with the Camelot castle that he founded the Gwrch Castle Preservation Trust, at the age of eleven.
Gwrych Castle was built in the early 19th Century by the Hesketh family, designed in the Gothic Revival style by prominent architects of the time. It was one of the largest buildings of its time, built with a 460 metre frontage and 18 battlemented towers. The main house would have had 120 rooms and the castle enjoyed extensive views over 250 acres of parkland and the Irish Sea.
In 1924, the castle was willed to King George V and the then Prince of Wales, later to become King Edward VIII. It was hoped that the castle would become a royal residence but the economic state of the 1920s meant it was instead passed to the Church of Wales, before being purchased back into the family in 1928.
The castle was home to 200 Jewish refugee children in World War II. In the 1970s, the impressive building opened to the public as a medieval entertainment attraction – the first of its kind in Britain. However, the attraction closed in 1985 and over the next few years the buildings fell into decline after being looted and vandalised, eventually becoming derelict.
In June 2018, after 40 years of being in serious danger of being lost, the Grade I listed castle seems to have been saved. Gwrych has been purchased by the Preservation Trust with government funding through the National Heritage Memorial Fund and a major grant from the Richard Broyd Charitable Trust.
Save Britain’s Heritage has long supported the Preservation Trust, and praised Mr Baker’s ‘determination, patience and resourceful thinking’ in saving and reviving the castle and its buildings.