Meet the man behind the historical Gwrych Castle, announced as the new home to I'm A Celebrity...

Updated: Sep 13, 2020

Jamie Bolton | 7 September 2020

Gwrych Castle is a 19th century grade I listed country house in the beautiful town of Abergele, Conwy County. Conwy boasts some of the area’s most well known tourist attractions such as Great Britain's smallest house, the medieval Conwy Castle and now one of the most talked about places in the UK right now, Gwrych Castle.

We're all talking about Gwrych Castle, which has been announced as the new home for the upcoming series of I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here, so we spoke to the remarkable campaigner Dr Mark Baker who started the campaign to save the historical castle at the age of 11 years old and later formed Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust when he was 13 years old.

It's easy to see why he has such a passion for the place considering the incredible historical past as Mark explains 'the estate offers 2000 years of history all on one site, from the pair of iron hill forts on either side of the Castle, a roman shrine, lead/silver mines and medieval battle sites'. 

We found out three interesting facts from the man himself.

You may not of known that the castle has played an important part in black history. The late Randolph Turpin is known to have trained at the castle in the 1950's prior to his fight against Sugar Ray Robinson. Turpin' was a British and Commonwealth middleweight champion and is reputedly the first black fighter to win a British boxing title.

The castle was also used to house 200 Jewish refugees during World War II, as part of the Operation Kindertransport programme and run by the Jewish Zionist youth movement Bnei Akiva. Following the war, the castle and estate was left to the Dundonald family and was later opened to the public as a visitor attraction.

At the heart of the castle was an Italian staircase, as seen below, which once had 52 marble steps and was named as one of the “7 Wonders of Wales”. The steps along with many other items such as fireplaces and stained-glass windows were stripped by vandals in 1990's. The people behind the current restoration have requested for anyone with historical objects or photographs to contact them directly in order to restore the place to its former glory.

Is Gwrych Castle haunted?

Gwrych Castle and Estate are deeply embedded in Welsh myths and the reports go back centuries from the Mabinogion to the ‘Wishing Chair’ located in the great hall. Mark told us the truth behind the headlines and myths, he said 'the castle’s most famous ghost is that of the ‘red lady’, whom, it is recorded, has been seen gliding through the grounds at dusk. Bruce Woodcock, the famous boxer, claimed he saw the red lady whilst in training for the world title fight against Lee Savold in 1950.'

'The story was that he saw the ‘red lady’ sitting in a brilliant long red dress on the terrace overlooking the Irish Sea. Woodcock was supposedly taking his evening walk and said he saw the lady weeping. He claimed to have been within five feet of her, when she looked up and stared at him before vanishing. The ‘red lady’s’ identity remains a mystery. Some believe it was the countess weeping at her sudden death whilst others maintain that the lady was so in love with the Castle that she demanded to be buried there.'

For more stories about the castle’s myths and legends click here to check out the guide book.

There's no doubt that the town of Abergele and the Gwrych Estate will benefit significantly from the arrival of the popular ITV show, Mark said 'the show will bring a huge boost to the economy of Conwy County as the area attracts a lot of tourists during the summer months, so we've lost a lot of business due to the coronavirus pandemic'.

Scaffolding is currently overhanging the castle due to urgent work required as Mark explains; 'the biggest job has been the emergency works which started prior to agreeing to I'm A Celebrity so the timing has worked out well. The Castle was purchased in 2018 after years of leasing it by the trust so that came with the responsibility of the repairs and a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund has helped to fund the work.'

Gwrych Castle is set to reopen in early 2021 and the bigger picture is to try and complete the works to the roof. Situated within the estate is an idyllic cottage (pictured below) with the most incredible coastal view which has been restored and the aim is restore the castle to this standard.

Click here to see our most recent post with information on how Ty Crwn could be your next staycation and see the before & after photos.

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