Bodelwyddan Castle

Photograph © Dave Roberts

Bodelwyddan Castle, close to the village of Bodelwyddan, near Rhyl, in North Wales, was originally built around 1460 by the Humphreys family of Anglesey as a manor house, however many changes have taken place since then. It’s most important association was with the Williams family, which extended for around 200 years from 1690. It is now a Grade II* Listed Building.

The castle was bought from the Humphreys by Sir William Williams, Speaker in the House of Commons from 1680-1681. The castle which stands today was reconstructed between 1830 and 1852 by Sir John Hay Williams, who employed the architects Joseph Hansom (inventor of the Hansom cab) and Edward Welch to refurbish and extend the house. The castle has been described as one of Hansom’s most ambitious projects, “being wildly dramatic and owing noting to its predecessors”. At the same time works were carried out to construct an estate wall and formal gardens.

Further refurbishment work was carried out in the 1880s, however the Williams’ family fortunes had started to decline, due to the loss of the main source of income for the estate, lead mining. By the First World War, the estate has been rationalised, and the house was used as a recuperation hospital for wounded soldiers. During this time, the grounds of the estate were used by soldiers based at the nearby Kinmel Camp for trench warfare training.

Lowther College
In 1920 the house became a private school for girls, Lowther College. The school was formed in 1896 at Lytham St. Annes in Lancashire, by Mrs Florence Morris (later Lindley). The school originally moved to Bodelwyddan as tenants of the Williams family, however Lowther College purchased the property five years later, in 1925.

The school is thought to be one of the first private schools for girls to have it’s own swimming pool. It also had a private golf course. The Lowther College Tableux were well regarded within the community for their musical excellence.

Boys were admitted from 1977, however the school closed in 1982 due to financial problems.

Museum and Arts Centre
In the 1980s the site was bought by Clwyd County Council with the aim of developing the castle as a visitor attraction. Partnerships were formed with several prominent museums and art galleries, such as the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts, so that the castle could be used to display objects from these collections. In order to house these items, the interior of the castle was restored by Victorian expert Roderick Gradidge.

Part of the site was leased to the Rank Organisation in 1994 for development into a luxury hotel.

There have been many reports of ghost sightings at the castle, including that of a soldier in one of the galleries.

Sir John Hay Williams wrote in 1829 that, during a period of refurbishment, human bones were found near one of the chimneys. They were built back into the wall, which means they remain there to this day.

The castle has also been the subject of an episode of television’s Most Haunted.

The castle is set within a large area of parkland, and formal gardens, the most recent of which was originally designed by Thomas Hayton Mawson in 1910.

Bodelwyddan Castle – Reliving History: A Re-enactumentary

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