A former Rydal Penrhos pupil has realised a childhood dream after purchasing a castle he is in the process of restoring.
Dr Mark Baker, who left the school in 2003, started a campaign in 1997 as a young pupil to secure the long-term future of Gwrych Castle, a Grade I listed site that was constructed by Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh between 1810 and 1822.
The 33-year-old has worked tirelessly with the Gwrych Preservation Trust, and he received the keys to the castle on Wednesday, June 13 after gaining two substantial grants to acquire the 250-acre site, which was listed at £600,000 before it was withdrawn from auction.
Speaking to the Daily Express, Dr Baker said: “The castle was like an apocalyptic scene, it had been broken into and parts of it burnt out.
“A mixture of New Age travellers, gypsies and vandals had taken most of the slate off the roof, together with the lead. They worked their way through the building asset-stripping everything from fireplaces to panelling and selling what they could. It was terrible.”
“I said, ‘Something has to be done – it’s an incredibly historic building and it’s in the process of being destroyed.”
Dr Baker sought guidance from Prince Charles to find the best way to return the picturesque castle to its former glory, and he formed the Trist more than 20 years ago despite being a schoolboy at Rydal Penrhos.
The trust said the UK government-funded National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) stepped in with a grant of £600,000.
In addition, it received a "major grant" from the Richard Broyd Charitable Trust.
“The Prince of Wales – who’s been extremely supportive and kind over the years – saw me the following year to discuss the castle’s future,” added Dr Baker.
“Prince Charles gave me a lot of good advice and put me in touch with people from his various charities, such as the Prince’s Regeneration Trust and the Phoenix Trust, which was hugely involved 15 or 16 years ago, and his encouragement personally drove me to keep going.
“The castle is on this great tourist route, the A55, which is the main artery along the north coast that heads into Snowdonia and so it sits at the gateway to this wonderful landscape.”
“It has not sunk in yet really.”