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Campaigner in decades-long battle to save historic castle honoured by PM


A man who started a battle to preserve a historic castle at the age of 11 has been honoured by the Prime Minister for his actions.

Dr Mark Baker, who set up the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust when he was 13, has been battling to secure the future of the castle near Abergele for 21 years.

Since 1985, the castle has fallen into disrepair and multiple attempts to bring it back to life have failed.

The trust, of which Dr Baker is chairman, stepped in to buy it in June with the help of a £600,000 grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

The 33-year-old has now been awarded a Points of Light award from Prime Minister Theresa May for his efforts.

The award recognises outstanding volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others.



Dr Mark Baker of the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust

Dr Baker said: “It is a great honour and rather humbling that the Prime Minister has selected my story to be chosen for the Point of Light award.

“I hope that this will encourage others to volunteer and protect their local culture and built environment.”

In a personal letter to Dr Baker, the Prime Minister said: “From launching the ‘Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust’ at just 13 years old, to finally receiving the keys to the castle this year, your remarkable determination and years of campaigning have saved an important part of local history.



The restoration is set to take 10 years and cost £15m

“I wish you all the very best with the restoration works which will preserve the castle for generations to come.”

The doors of the castle closed to the public in 1985, although parts have been opened in recent years thanks to work by the Trust.

Dr Barker has previously said that restoring the historic castle to its former glory will take 10 years and cost £15m.

Steps were taken this summer, as a small army of volunteers reopened more of the gardens and staged a medieval festival on the site.



Dr Mark Baker, of Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust, has helped to renovate the site's historic gardens and grounds with volunteers and partners.
Dr Baker has helped to renovate the historic gardens and grounds with volunteers and partners

Gwrych Castle was built between 1812 and 1822 by Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh as a memorial to his mother’s ancestors, the Lloyds of Gwrych.

Winifred Bamford-Hesketh, later Countess of Dundonald, inherited it in 1894 and when she died in 1924 it was given to St John of Jerusalem.

She had left it in her will to King George V and the then Prince of Wales but the gift was refused.

In 1925 the Earl of Dundonald (Winifred’s husband) bought back the castle and during World War Two it housed Jewish refugees.

The castle left the family’s hands in 1946 and was open to the public for twenty years, with middleweight boxing champion Randolph Turpin using it as a training base in the 1950s.



Gwrych Castle at Abergele

It fell into decline after closing to the public in 1985.

Californian Nick Tavaglione bought the castle it in 1989, with the hope of restoring into a hotel and opera house but this never happened.

Gwrych Castle Trust facilitated a sale to Clayton Hotels in 2006. Around £500,000 was spent on consolidating the site but they went into receivership.

Edwards Property Management bought the 200-year-old castle in 2010, with sister firm Castell Developments given the go-ahead for a massive restoration in 2012.

Their £25m dream for a five-star country hotel with 75 bedrooms and spa never materialised and it was then sold to the trust.


Source : DailyPost

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