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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 May, 2005, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Money boost for castle ruin fight
Gwrych Castle near Abergele
The castle has been in American ownership since 1989
The fight to save a decaying castle has taken another step forward with the launch of a feasibility study.

Campaigners have been trying to restore the privately-owned Gwrych Castle in Abergele for almost a decade.

Now they are trying to persuade Conwy council to try to compulsorily purchase the early 19th Century 28-bedroom house which is falling into disrepair.

A 10,000 feasibility study has been started after the preservation trust received public funding.

The castle was bought by a US businessman in 1989 for 750,000 and has stood empty ever since, although he initially unveiled plans to develop it.

Mak Baker
Long term campaigner Mark Baker says the castle deserves saving

Before that the building had opened to the public for 20 years. It was named 'The Showplace of Wales' and attracted visitors on a large scale.

During its life it has also served as a training ground for boxer Randolph Turpin and also provided the backdrop to the 1996 film Prince Valiant, starring Edward Fox and Joanna Lumley.

But for the last decade it has been vandalised and fallen further into disrepair.

Bangor University history and archaeology student Mark Baker, 20, who is from Prestatyn, has been involved with the campaign to rescue the castle since he was around 10, and has written a book on it.

Mr Baker, secretary of the preservation trust, said they had been award 7,000 from the Architecture Heritage Fund, and another 1,500 from Cadw, the Welsh historic monuments body.

The rest of the cash had come from Abergele town council and members of the trust themselves, the largest one of its kind in Wales.

"It's such a fascinating building," said Mr Baker. "Architecturally, it's nationally important and for so long it has been ignored and dismissed as a folly.

Gwrych Castle
The folly has also acted as a backdrop for a film

He has taken the restoration campaign to the top, approaching both Tony Blair, and Prince Charles, who he said expressed his interest in the building.

But he said: "It's only in the last three to four years that people have started to take notice".

Mr Baker said the trust, whose president Lord Dundonald is a descendant of the castle's original owners, said until the feasibility study was complete, they would not know the best way to proceed.

"The problem is we don't know how structurally safe it is, but hopefully it can be rescued."

A spokesperson for Conwy Council said: "If we receive any approaches from the preservation trust then we will consider them at the time".

Cadw said they were pleased to be able to contribute almost 1500 to the group for the feasibility study.

A spokesperson said the castle had been in an "increasing state of disrepair in recent years".

Although funds had helped make the building safe and secure in the past, "this study should be welcomed as a step forward in securing the historical structure for the future".


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