History of Deganwy Group – Visit to Gwydir Castle, Thurs 21st July 2016 at 2.30pm
Owners Peter Welford and Judy Corbett. 18 members and some non members in attendance
Our informal talk was given by Judy Corbett
This “castle” or fortified manor house belonged to one of the most powerful families in Wales in the 15th & 16th Centuries. The family was descended from the Princes of Wales and Maredudd ap Ieuan ap Robert reoccupied nearby Dolwyddelan Castle and bought Gwydir sometime before 1500.
Over the centuries the family had close connections with the Stuart dynasty and had connections overseas in Europe. At the dissolution of the monasteries Sir John Wynn got permission to buy much of the stone from the demolished Maenan Abbey near Llanrwst.
The Wynns did many good deeds including building the almshouses and the bridge at Llanrwst. One of the Wynns, Robert, started building Plas Mawr in Conwy in 1525. Another wrote the history of the Wynns of Gwydir.
Sir Richard Wynn, who built Gwydir Uchaf Chapel in 1673 had a daughter who married Lord Willoughby de Eresby, the 1st Duke of Ancaster adding 100,000 acres to their portfolio and then Gwydir became empty. The timber framed service buildings around the courtyard were cleared after a fire. Part of the house destroyed by fire was remodelled by Charles Barry (builder of the Houses of Parliament) in 1828.
In 1896 Gwydir was sold to a cousin Lord Carrington (of Lincolnshire) and later two interiors were sold, the panelled Stuart dining room and the oak room both being sold to Randolph Hearst the American newspaper magnate. Both interiors were packed away in cases ready for reconstruction but only the oak panelled room was used, but history doesn’t record where. In 1922 another fire struck the house and the areas where the interiors originated were badly damaged. Hearst left the panelled dining room contents to the Metropolitan Museum, New York and the present owners managed to trace and obtain the packing cases and negotiate with the Museum to return the interior to its home of Gwydir. Hearst emerges as an accidental saviour of the historic artefacts of Gwydir.
Judy & Peter have been working on Gwydir since they bought it in 1994 and their trials and tribulations are recounted in Judy’s book “Castles in the Air by Judy Corbett published by Ebury Press 2004. The gardens have some fantastic cedars planted in 1642 and there are other features of a Tudor garden under restoration worth seeing. All in all it was a very worthwhile trip.
Elan M Rivers
Sources: Judy Corbett, Haslam, Richard & others Gwynedd, Anglesey, Caernarvonshire and Meirioneth – Gwynedd Buildings of Wales Series 2009
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