Historian's capital research

By Abigail Hughes
Abergele & St Asaph Visitor
March 28th, 2001

THE history of Gwrych Castle could never be described as dull and for one young historian recent trip to London unearthed some surprising links between the castle and one of the capital city's most glamorous addresses. ABIGAIL HUGHES talks to Mark Baker about a new chapter in the Castle's extraordinary past.

By an eerie coincidence teenage historian Mark Baker, who has spent much of his young life investigating the twisting path of Gwrych Castle, share his April 16 birthday with another of the building's most ardent fans, Winifred Bamford-Hesketh.

It was Winifred's wealthy grandfather who, during the 1820's, built the towering castle and throughout her life she returned every summer to her beloved family home. Now 75 years after her death, 15-year-old Mark has taken over her love of the building with an energetic campaign to preserve what is left of Gwrych in the hope that one day it may be restored.

Years ago, the castle played host to prominent figures like Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII, and Queen Victoria. Over a century later, Mark has met politicians, royalty and even sat on the famous Channel Four's
Big Breakfast sofa in his mission to make those with influence take notice of the castle once more.

Now his detective work has taken him out of Wales and into London where he has discovered a key link with a smart Knightsbridge town house on the doorstep of Harrods. Number 5, Cadogan Square was Winifred Bamford-Hesketh's winter home, where she lived with her five children after splitting from her husband, the 12th Earl of Dundonald.

With a personal fortune of millions, Winifred could easily afford to run both a vogue London pad and a rural Welsh
Although Mark knew of the Cadogan Square connection, it was only last month he tracked down the address for himself. "I didn't even know if it was still standing," he said.

Its prime location near Kensington Palace and the Royal Albert Hall gives a glimpse of the affluent and fashionable lifestyle Winifred enjoyed at the turn of the last century - a lifestyle she continued at Gwrych Castle. Not only was the electricity installed in the castle in 1900, she was one of the first people to have cars and receive a telegram.