Irreplaceable Welsh castle saved from collapse thanks to £2.2m grant
An irreplaceable Welsh castle has been saved from collapse thanks to a £2.2m grant which will allow urgent repairs to be undertaken that had previously been halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Gwrych Castle has been given the funding lifeline by the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) as part of its Covid-19 Response Fund.
The impressive Grade I listed building is one of Britain’s most important castellated mansions and has been identified by Cadw as an irreplaceable cultural asset.
In more recent years, the castle has gained public attention by becoming the home of ITV’s ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ in 2020 and 2021.
The funding from NHMF will enable the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust to rescue the castle’s corps de logis (central building) from imminent collapse by undertaking urgent repairs that had been halted due to the closure of the castle and monetary support not being readily available, as a result of the pandemic.
The striking three storey space is flanked by two lower wings, boasting a suite of high status rooms – the state apartments, comprising a great entrance hall, library, drawing room, music room and a spectacular Italian marble staircase regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of Wales – which the funding will ensure is safeguarded for the UK public to marvel at for years to come.
The magnificent example of Gothic architecture was built and designed between 1812 and 1822 by Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh FSA as a memorial to his family, around an earlier house.
The historic site was retained within the same Welsh family for a thousand years and celebrates elements of the finest British castles.
The design of Gwrych Castle pays homage to the ancient castles of the UK with its gothic windows, crenellations, battlements, and towers.
It was based on King Hywel Dda’s early-medieval Welsh law of a ‘princely court’ of nine parts with the main house containing the ‘Great Hall’ and the family’s private apartments.
In 1845, the castle was extended with a new bedroom wing, staircase and porch, with the Craces furnishing the interiors.
A chapel, designed by George Edmund Street was added to the house in 1870s and much of the gardens were planted, whose Monkey Puzzle and Yew trees still remain today.
The state apartments were later redesigned including the construction of the marble staircase which forms a key part of the restoration work that the NHMF funding is making possible.
Gwrych Castle’s importance in design is matched by those who created it, visited, lived and worked there over the years.
Winifred Countess of Dundonald, the Hesketh heiress, owned and managed the estate single-handedly between 1894 and 1924. She was known for her passion for her Welsh heritage and language, as well as her philanthropic work supporting the Suffrage movement and founding the Bamford Hesketh Almshouses in Abergele.
During World War II, the castle was requisitioned as part of Operation Kindersport, providing a place of safety for around 200 Jewish children, and it was also used as the training ground of Randolph Turpin, the first Black boxer to win a World Championship title in 1951.
Dr Mark Baker, Chair of Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust said: “This vital grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, coupled with match funding from the Richard Broyd Charitable Trust, truly is a lifeline for Gwrych Castle in order to overcome the ongoing setbacks to the castle’s restoration that were caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The buildings are in perilous condition following the pandemic, during which development plans were limited and significantly delayed by the lack of funding streams and restrictions on construction work.
“This combined with extreme weather conditions has contributed to a decline to the roofless main building.
“With this substantial funding award, we can reverse the critical situation that the site is currently in, allowing Gwrych Castle to be returned to its former glory and offering our visitors the best experience when they come to learn about the fascinating heritage it has to share.”
Gwrych Castle is one of several Welsh heritage sites that have been successful in securing funding from NHMF
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