A historic property listing for Gwrych Castle, made famous by this year’s series of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! has been uncovered, ahead of Explore Your Archive Week (Saturday 21st – Sunday 29th November 2020).

Gwrych Castle 1910, North East Wales Archives

The 19th century castle and estate, which is based near Abergele in Conwy, is the first UK location to be used in the returning popular entertainment show usually filmed in the warmer location of Australia.

The discovered property listing and accompanying photographs is dated 1946, and offers the Castle for auction.  Described as the “The Well-known Picturesque Castle”, the listing gives us a valuable insight into how it would have looked over 80 years ago. The document states that the castle was built during the Regency Period by Lloyd Bamford Hesketh, Esquire, and “is reputed to have cost a fortune”.

Images of the property listing for Gwrych Castle, North East Wales Archives


It details 26 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms, within an estate that covered 1400 acres including outbuildings, lodges, gardens, woodland and parkland.

The Castle has had a long and varied history, as the family home of the Earls of Dundonald, as a tourist attraction, and with proposals in the 1990s to turn it into a luxury hotel.  During World War II it served as a safe haven for hundreds of Jewish children as part of Operation Kindertransport.  It is now in the custody of The Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust who were able to purchase it in 2018 on behalf of the nation.

Gwrych Castle, Gwynedd Archives Service
Gwrych Castle, Gwynedd Archives Service

This insight into the castle’s past has been shared by the North East Wales Archives with accompanying pictures provided by the Gwynedd Archive Service as part of Explore Your Archive week, which is organised by the UK Archives and Records Association, and supported in Wales by Archives and Records Council Wales. The annual week-long campaign encourages people across Wales to discover something new and exciting within the nation’s archives, whether that’s delving into your own family history or finding out the stories about the people and places at the heart of Welsh communities.

Sarah Roberts, archivist from the North East Wales Archives, said: “Gwyrch Castle had kept the Dundonald family in lavish surroundings since the 1870s and would have been a much more comfortable place to live than the viper vaults the I’m a Celebrity contestants are putting up with right now.

“Following the Second World War, when the property was used as part of the Kindertransport programme to house Jewish refugees, the family decided to auction the house. Despite numerous attempts over the years to turn the building into a hotel or tourist attraction the house fell slowly into disrepair until taken over by The Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust. It’s brilliant to see it reach households all over the country now and viewers can explore its story and others like this by looking into their local archives.”

Gwrych Castle staff -1890, North East Wales Archives
Gwrych Castle workers – 1912, North East Wales Archives
Gwrych Castle Map, North East Wales Archives

Alongside the Gwrych Castle listing, Archives Wales is sharing a letter from pre 1879 using an early form of emojis, documentation of the 1866 Caernarfon cholera epidemic, and the household staple from the 1960s, a Green Shield Stamp booklet.

Archives Wales promotes the work of Welsh Archive Services and the country’s rich documentary heritage. Ordinarily, services across Wales, based in local authority record offices, national institutions and universities would invite the public to join them at a variety of events, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s campaign will be held digitally. People across Wales and the world are being encouraged to log on to online archives to connect with the country’s past.

The Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Lord Elis-Thomas, said: “Archives remain a vital resource for understanding our national, community and personal histories in these unprecedented times.  While people may not be able to visit our archive services physically at the moment, this campaign will highlight how we can still access our rich archival heritage online. I would encourage everyone to take this opportunity to find out more about what our archives offer for them, and explore the stories of local people, families, businesses and organisations held within these records.”  

Hayden Burns, Chair of Archives and Records Council Wales, said: “We are delighted to participate in the Explore Your Archives week once again this year. The campaign provides an excellent opportunity to educate everyone about the value of archives and the importance of protecting and preserving our documentary heritage. 

“The historic collections held by Welsh archive services are the documented memory of the people, events and places of Wales. They tell our stories and in doing so, they connect us with the past and give us a sense of identity.”

To start exploring, why not visit your local archive service online – https://archives.wales/welsh-archive-repositories/      

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