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Last Updated: Friday, 4 February, 2005, 13:13 GMT
Custody for Gothic hall arson
Fire (picture by Robert Jackson)
The fire destroyed the Gothic building (picture by Robert Jackson)
Two men have been jailed for burning down a hall described as one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture.

Christopher Szabo, 22, from Eglwysbach, was jailed for three years. Adam Kaluzny, 20, from Llandudno, was sent to a young offenders' institution.

They pleaded guilty to arson at the 140-year-old, Grade 1 listed Hafodunos hall near Abergele, in October 2004.

Sentencing them in Caernarfon, Judge Merfyn Hughes said it was questionable if the hall would ever be restored.

Caernarfon Crown Court had heard that a few hours after starting the fire with petrol, the men returned to the scene where one took a photograph with a mobile phone.

They had joked about being "proper gangsters."

Hafodunos Hall
Before the fire: the hall has been used as a school and college

The judge was told that the men's behaviour was out of character and that they had not realised Hafodunos Hall was so architecturally and historically important and that they were acting out of "youthful bravado".

The pair later fled for Spain, but realising that they had no money and would be on the run for the rest of their lives they returned and sought legal advice.

The court was told that the offence was out of character and both Szabo, a vehicle technician, and Kaluzny, a warehouse assistant came from good families and had never been in trouble before.

Hafodunos Hall was designed by architect Sir George Gilbert Scott in the 1860s.

He was commissioned by the Sandbach family to build it on the site of a manor house which dated back to the reign of Charles I.

Fire (picture by Robert Jackson)
The architect's other work includes the Albert Memorial (by Robert Jackson)

The architect's other works include London's St Pancras Hotel, and the Albert Memorial, in Kensington Gardens.

The hall had been used as a boarding school and an accountancy college, but fell into decline over the past decade and had been derelict.

Plans to turn hall into a hotel with 70 holiday lodges had previously been unveiled by developers.

The judge said it was now questionable whether the hall would ever be restored, with an estimate of 8m.

He reminded the pair that the maximum sentence for arson could be life imprisonment and hoped that the sentence would be remembered for the rest of their lives.

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